While the 2008 Beijing Olympics was plastered with news of the powerhouse victories of Michael Phelps, The Campanil would like to focus on the record-breaking achievements of 42% of the athletes – the female Olympians.
According to the InternationalOlympic Committee, this year’s Olympics had the highest turnout of female athletes with 4,845 women – 500 more than the last Olympic games and a big step from the opening of the first modern Olympic games in 1896, which barred women from participating.
The promotion of women in sports has been one of the main mission statements of the IOC, with President Jacques Rogge mandating every country to find ways to increase female participation.
The United States was able to turn out 285 women this year, 26 less than male athletes. Of the 285 female participants, 53 women won medals, of which 15 were gold, 23 silver, and 15 bronze, according to an article in the Washington Times.
Of the American medalists, one of the remarkable achievements was the gymnastic dynamic duo – Russia-born Nastia Liukin and Iowa native Shawn Johnson.
Liukin took gold in the individual all-around title while Johnson took silver. The entire gymnastics team itself took home eight gold medals.
The American women’s swim team shattered a 17-year-old record set by the East German team in 1987 when they finished the women’s 4×200 freestyle relay. By swimming 800 meters in 7:53.42, they beat the old record of 7:55.47.
Dara Torres, a swimmer on the Olympic team, has a history of breaking world records in and out of the pool, according to the New York Times. She has won 12 medals, four gold, four silver, and four bronze. She’s also the only swimmer to have medaled in five Olympic games. At 41-years-old, the mother of a 2-year-old daughter is the oldest US Olympic swimming medalist in history.
It wasn’t just American female athletes taking the spotlight however. Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba became the first woman to win double events in a single Olympic game, clinching gold medals in the 5000 meter with a time of 15:41.40 and the 10,000 meter race with a time of 29:54.66.
The Brazilian volleyball team edged out the U.S. for gold in a dramatic game which was tied multiple times in the fourth set. With a score of 25-15, 18-25, 25-13, and 25-21, Brazil’s volleyball team was able to secure their first gold medal in the Olympics.
In the lesser publicized arena of archery, it was the graceful skill of the South Korean team, which included Yun Ok-Hee, Joo Hyun-Jung and Park Sung-Hyun, that succeeded in smashing the world record with 15 of 26 arrows landing in the center ring, giving South Korea the gold for the sixth year in a row.
Estimates from the IOC state that in the 2012 Olympics in London, the number of women competing will equal the number of men for the first time in history.
It’s a long time coming.