Sporty girls are making historic milestone that is a testament to the value of supporting women in sports on the 40th year of Title IX. The United States Olympic Committee revealed that for the first time in the 116 year history of the modern Olympic Games American women outnumber the U.S. men heading to London this summer on July 10.
It only took 76 years after women heading to the Olympic games were stranded holding the purse and starving to tip the scale. This year, 269 women will represent the U.S. compared to 261 men. The 530-member U.S. Olympic team – men and women – will compete in 246 out of 302 medal events 25 different sports.
Six of seven returning athletes eyeing medals this year are women.
Women also round out the age spectrum with the oldest member of the team equestrian Karen O’Connor, 54, and swimmer Katie Ledecky, 15. The average age of women American Olympic Team members is 27.
Another historic first for the Olympics this year is Saudi Arabia will send its first female athletes to the games in London.
Scott Blackmun, CEO of the USOC, expressed pride in the accomplishment of Title IX, the law that opened the courts and fields to women in sports across America passed in 1972.
“I’m … proud that for the first time in history, the U.S. Olympic Team features more women than men – a true testament to the impact of Title IX, which in its 40-year history has increased sport opportunities for millions of females across the United States,” says Scott in a news release on July 10 announcing the roster of the U.S. Olympic team.
According to the International Society of Olympic Historians 306 men and 282 (588 total) women were sent to Beijing and 279 men and 254 women (533) went to Athens. Out of 586 athletes who sent to Sydney in 2000, 332 were men and 253 were women, reported the New York Times.
You’ve come a long way baby
The modern day Olympics were reintroduced in the 19th century with the first games held in Athens in 1896 and every four years after, according to the History Channel’s website. The summer and winter Olympic Games were separated and alternated every two years in 1994.
The Paris Olympic Games in 1900 marked women’s entrance into competing in the event in lawn tennis and golf. It took 28 years for women to be able to compete in gymnastics and track. The women’s track team experienced a setback in 1936, facing a deficit the American Olympic Committee slashed the team from 17 to four runners, reported the New York Times in 1936.
The rumor lead to women athletes having to “pay their own way, in part or in full” in order to compete in the Olympics, reported the Times at the time. Five days later, the newspaper reported that, “some of the girls who qualified for the team are virtually stranded in New York and are on the verge of hunger.”
Progress was slow and more setbacks were seen long before Title IX came into existence. The women’s track and field team experienced another setback in 1960 when unconfirmed reports of a female runner collapsing after running more than 200 meters rollback the progress made in competing in track and field of the Olympics, historian Bill Mallon told the Times.
Going for the gold
So, who are the U.S. women athletes?
Some names are recognizable multi-Olympic medal winners, such as sister tennis pros Serena and Venus Williams and 11-time Olympic medalist and international swimmer Natalie Coughlin to first time Olympic competitors, such as world-champion swimmer Kate Ziegler.
Natalie is out to match or surpass medal winners Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres as the “most decorated females in U.S. Olympic history,” according to the USOC.
Women even outnumber the boys returning to claim a medal among the seven American athletes who are returning for another medal or two this year. The five women eyeing the gold include high jumper Amy Acuff, who will compete in track and field; indoor volleyball player Danielle Scott-Arruda; O’Connor, who is the oldest competitor; archer Khatuna Lorig; and shooter Kim Rhode.
Sister acts include the famous tennis pros the Williams sisters along with field hockey players Julia and Katie Reinprecht, swimmers Alyssa and Haley Anderson, and water polo players Jessica and Maggie Steffans.
Taekwondo athlete Diana Lopez and sailor Paige Railey will join their brothers Steven and Zach, respectively.
Rounding out family matters, 13 of the women athletes are moms.
Forty-five states will be represented at the summer Olympic Games. An outstanding number, 128 athletes are from California, while New York and Pennsylvania boast of 35 and Texas gives a, “yeehaw,” to its 32 athletes.
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