The women on the U.S. Olympic team have been unequivocally named the winners of this year's Olympiad. For the first time ever, they outnumbered the men on the team. And after the final medal counts were released, it was clear they more than earned their places: Women won 29 of the 46 gold medals for the U.S., a whopping 63 percent.
In total, U.S. women earned 58 of the 104 medals won by the nation, topping the medal totals — men and women combined — of every other participating country except China, Russia, and Great Britain. Many women athletes interviewed in several reports credited Title IX with playing a part in their achievements, recognition that illuminates just how significantly the tides have turned for women in sports.
Early on, this year's U.S. Olympic team was nicknamed "Team Title IX," a reference to a federal provision enacted in 1972 ensuring equal rights and access to education regardless of gender. Adhering to Title IX in educational programs is required for schools to receive federal funds, and because of this, equal access was extended to school athletics.
"I think it's a big deal to come so far," two-time Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh told USA Today in late July. "I don't even know how many women would have been on the 1972 Olympic team, when Title IX was just starting. And now, to think of this. But I think we celebrate the growth and then we stop comparing."
Participation of U.S. Athletes in Olympiads, Men vs. Women
This article is part of our Next America: Higher Education project, which is supported by grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation.
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