Girl Power hit a whole new high in the 2012 Olympic games. Just ask the women of the United States Olympic team.
In an Olympiad with a bevy of talent from around the world, and a reputation of American dominance to uphold, the ladies – for the most part – failed to disappoint. Despite some setbacks – the indoor volleyball team getting the silver medal earlier this evening, or Jordyn Wieber’s disappointing gymnastics meet, for example – the women of these Olympic games brought dramatic flair, record-breaking performances, and a new sense of national pride to America.
Along with a bevy of Olympic medals. Case in point:
- The US Gymnastics Team. Coming into London known as “The Fab Five” – with no relation to the Michigan Men’s Basketball team of the ’90s, of course – the squad comprised of reigning world champion Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas, Mckayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Kyla Ross. Speculation was that this assembly had a real chance of taking home the team Gold Medal for the first time since USA’s “Magnificent Seven” in 1996. Even with stiff competition in Russia, Romania and China, the “Fierce Five” did not disappoint. They walked away from London with the Team Gold, along with the Individual All-Around title – not from Wieber, as expected, but from the beaming 16-year-old Douglas, who wowwed with her solid performances.
While Raisman and Maroney also walked away with Olympic medals in individual events, their Team Gold – the first in 16 years – may have been their most impressive feat.
- Olympic Soccer’s USWNT. After the disappointment of last year’s Women’s World Cup, the top-ranked Americans, led by top American goal-scorer Abby Wambach, had something to prove, and unfinished business with one team, in particular – the current world champions from Japan. After blowing through their preliminary pool (as chronicled in recent posts), the United States ran into a Canadian team headed by Christine Sinclair, who scored three goals in their semifinal match. If not for a last-second header by Alex Morgan, the Americans may have been eliminated. However, they got their grudge match against the Japanese, all too fittingly, in the Gold Medal final. While there were many tense moments, there would be no disappointment – holding off the Japanese attack, and getting two goals from attacker Carli Lloyd, the Americans found their redemption, and won the gold medal, 2-1.
- Missy Franklin & The US Swim Team. The 17-year-old, 6-foot-1-inch dynamo from small-town Colorado made, arguably, the biggest splash – no pun intended – of these Olympic games. Drawing comparisons to one of the greatest swimmers of all-time – Michael Phelps – Franklin justified said comparisons with her stellar performance in London. Overall, she walked away with five medals – four of them gold – along with three American records and two World records. However, Franklin was not the only successful American woman in the pool.
Rebecca Soni set the world record in the 200m breaststroke not once, but twice, and became the first woman to break the 2:20 mark for the event, en route to three Olympic medals. Butterfly specialist Dana Vollmer set the world record in the 100m butterfly final, winning the gold, ultimately winning three gold medals in London. Freestyle specialist Allison Schmitt had an impressive meet, walking away with five Olympic medals, including a world-record performance with Franklin, Soni and Vollmer in the 4x100m medley relay. Then there was 15-year-old Katie Ledecky, who shocked the field with a gold medal in the 800m freestyle – missing the world record by a mere 0.53 seconds. It was a veritable haul for the US women.
- Olympic Women’s Beach Volleyball. It is safe to say that the beach volleyball tandem of Misty May-Traenor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings had already cemented their legendary status coming into London. In their final Olympic competition, the pair went out with a bang. Defeating countrywomen Jennifer Kessy and April Ross in an unprecedented All-American final, Kerri and Misty won their third straight gold medal in straight sets.
Even more impressive, in their 12-year domination over the sport, the dynamic duo went undefeated, losing only one set in Olympic play. Kessy and Ross, meanwhile, unexpectedly took down the top-ranked Brazilian team of Juliana and Larissa en route to their first-ever gold medal match. They are most likely in line to take May and Walsh’s place as top American team.
- Allyson Felix & US Sprinting. Despite Jamaica’s current reign – in both men and women’s sprint events – over the last four years, the American team, led by veteran sprinter Allyson Felix, had high expectations heading into London. Staring down Jamaican powerhouses like Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Veronica Campbell-Brown, the Americans didn’t flinch – at least, for the most part. Carmelita Jeter bagged three medals – one of every color – in her first Olympics. Felix, herself – who had lost the gold medal to Campbell-Brown in the 200m at the last two Olympic games – found a sense of redemption, in winning this year’s gold over her Jamaican nemesis. Then there was the 4x100m relay final: Along with fellow sprinters Jeter, Tianna Madison and Bianca Knight, and with a time of 40.82 seconds, Felix blew away a world record, set by East Germany, that stood for 32 years (41.60 s). They also found themselves with a gold medal in the 4x400m relay final.
- USA Women’s Basketball. It must have been a daunting task, to hold up the banner as best Olympic team in the world. After all, the United States Women had not lost a single game at the Olympic games since the Barcelona Games in 1992 – a period of two decades. However, with players like Diana Taurasi, Candace Parker and Tamika Catchings, there was little doubt they would duplicate the gold medal feat. With Australia being their only major threat, the US women blew through their competition, winning their games by an average of 34 points a game, and ending with a 36-point blowout of undefeated France to take the Olympic title. While their dominance can most likely be attributed to the immense talent gap between the US and the rest of the world, it doesn’t seem like it will end any time soon – with their incoming young talent currently playing in the WNBA, they are sure to be prohibitive favorites come 2016, in Rio de Janeiro.
In a society where women are still vying for a measure of equality in the arena of sport, it is refreshing to see they can dominate them with poise and grace.
So, what do the US women have in store for the Olympics come Rio? I, for one, can’t wait to find out.