The 2016 Rio Olympic Games have officially come to a close and what an incredible few weeks it has been! The Opening Ceremony inspired and wowed us as athletes from around the world came together under one roof to kick off the XXXI Olympiad. This summer Team USA boasted a roster of 558 strong made up of 264 men and 294 women (53%), marking the most women to ever compete for any nation at a single Games and just the second time in history the U.S. Olympic roster featured more female athletes than male.
Ginny Thrasher for USA Shooting got Team USA going with the first gold medal of the Games and the USA never looked back. The Women’s Sports Foundation was well represented with members of #TeamWSF competing and commentating across a variety of sports. During the course of the Games #TeamWSF racked up a total of eleven medals with a total of 9 more women making it to the finals.
Kayla Harrison, grant recipient of our Rusty Kanokogi Fund for the Advancement of U.S. Judo, made history becoming the first American judoka to win back-to-back gold. Travel & Training Fund (T&T) grant recipient Claressa Shields followed suit in her respective sport becoming the first United States man or woman to win back-to-back boxing gold. Rower and T&T recipient Gevvie Stone raced her way to the finals in the single sculls event earning a silver medal at her first Olympics appearance. In the gym, T&T grantee Gabby Douglas became the first American gymnast, alongside teammate Aly Raisman, to be part of two all-around gold-medal winning teams.
Already poised to make history as the first American athlete to wear a hijab while competing at the Games, T&T grantee Ibtihaj Muhammad went even further by earning a bronze medal in the women’s team sabre event. In track and field, T&T grantee Kristi Castlin took part in the first USA women’s podium sweep as she brought home the bronze in the 100m hurdles with teammates Brianna Rollins and Nia Ali earning gold and silver respectively.
In the pool, #TeamWSF continued to make a splash with Team USA Swimming captain and T&T grant recipient Allison Schmitt earning a gold and silver, while fellow grant recipient Cierra Runge also brought home a gold medal. As a team, the U.S. Women’s Water Polo successfully defended their Olympics title by defeating Italy 12-5 in the finals to win their second straight gold medal.
Another team in the business of winning Olympic gold is the U.S. Women’s Basketball Team. The women dominated in their final game against Spain winning 101-72 to claim their sixth straight Olympic gold. Following the win, WSF Board of Trustees member Tamika Catchings and teammates Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi joined Teresa Edwards and Lisa Leslie as the only athletes in history – male or female – to earn four Olympic gold medals in basketball.
A series of record-setting performances and historic moments, the Rio 2016 Olympic Games did not disappoint – and the Team USA women stole the show. The United States finished with a total of 121 medals, 61 of those won by women, including 46 gold medals with 27 of those gold won by women. It is important to note that the dominance of American women is, in large part, due to the United States being one of the few countries to embed sports within the public education system. Equitable access to sports in federally funded programs is protected through Title IX legislation. The implementation of Title IX in 1972, accelerated sports participation by girls and women and has had a major impact on the Olympic Movement in the United States. Team USA’s women, both athletes and coaches, are incredible role models for future generations of girls in this country and abroad.
The Rio Olympics not only highlighted the incredible growth and success of female athletes in the United States but also the growing diversity amongst these athletes. We watched as Simone Biles won four Olympic golds; teammate Laurie Hernandez became the first U.S. born Hispanic athlete since 1984 to compete in women’s gymnastics; Simone Manuel inspired millions as the first black woman to win Olympic gold in an individual swimming event; and, Ashleigh Johnson of U.S. Women’s Water Polo showed the boundless options for little girls as a gold-medal goalie for a sport that has been historically white. The possibilities are truly endless. It is our job to help more girls see it, so that one day every girl can make her dream of competing at the highest level a reality.
Congratulations to all the amazing men and women who competed in the Rio Olympic Games this summer! Next up…tune in for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games kicking off on September 7. Follow us on our social and digital channels for further #TeamWSF updates!