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January 21, 2018

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Year of the woman? U.S. female athletes are raking in the medals



United States’ 4 x 100-meter medley relay team, from left, Allison Schmitt, Dana Vollmer, Rebecca Soni and Missy Franklin pose with their gold medals at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Aug. 4, 2012.

Abby Wambach and the rest of the U.S. women's soccer team lined up and bowed one by one to receive their gold medals.

It's becoming an increasingly familiar scene for American women at the London Games.

There are three full days of Olympic competition left, and female Olympians from the United States already have 51 medals. They're assured of no worse than silver in the women's basketball and volleyball competitions. That means they'll likely at least match the 53 prizes won by American women in Beijing four years ago.

Women outnumber men on the U.S. Olympic team for the first time, and they're coming up big on the international stage.

"The exposure for women in sports has never been greater," U.S. women's track coach Amy Deem sad. "Those that are competing in London have had the advantages of growing up with female athletes that they can identify with."

It shows. It would be surprising if the total of 53 from Beijing wasn't passed, especially with events like track relays — where the Americans are typically a power — remaining.

"It's a celebration for women all over the world, not in just the United States," Wambach said after her team topped Japan 2-1 in the gold-medal match on Thursday night. "Title IX is obviously a huge thing."

Sure does seem fitting that this year, the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the 1972 law that increased opportunities for women in sports across America, U.S. women have storylines all over the Olympics.

Entering Friday, the U.S. had won 90 medals, 10 more than China, the nation many thought would end the American stranglehold of the Olympic standings during these games. The Americans have 39 golds, two more than the Chinese so far.

So far in London, U.S. women have won 26 golds, nearly one in four of every one awarded to women at this point. The total of 26 equals the amount won by the U.S. and British men combined. And the 51 medals actually awarded to American women so far also is leading in London, just ahead of China's 47.

Swimmers Missy Franklin and Allison Schmitt played a role in the U.S. winning five of those golds — two individual wins by Franklin, another by Schmitt and two more in relays in which they both competed. Even the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic team in London, 15-year-old Katie Ledecky, got in on the gold haul with another swimming victory.

"Our team has come a long way," 22-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps said on the night his competitive career ended. "We have a lot of rookies on our team, a lot of new faces and they've been able to come in the spotlight and swim awesome. Look at Missy, look at Allison, look at Katie. All of them have been able to step up at the highest level."

Gymnast Aly Raisman won three medals, Serena Williams won two at Wimbledon to complete her Golden Slam, Misty-May Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings won their third straight gold in beach volleyball and the women's soccer team won its third straight Olympic title — before a crowd of 80,203 at iconic Wembley Stadium.

"Eighty thousand people for a women's final? That says a lot about women's sports," said midfielder Carli Lloyd, who scored both American goals in the win over Japan.

And to think there's almost certainly more to come.

"What we can do now is appreciate the people who came before us, our friends, our family, the athletes that were left off the roster, the athletes that were injured in qualification," Wambach said.

"There's so much that we accomplished in these Olympic Games, women especially," she added. "I think Title IX and the women who started that venture should feel really good and really proud of themselves for allowing us to have the opportunity to win as many medals and have the life-changing experiences that we're having right now."


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