Women Make Good On Advance Olympic Billing - NBC New York
London 2012

London 2012

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Women Make Good On Advance Olympic Billing

Women rule the roost in the first Olympics where they represented every country



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    From soccer fields to swimming pools, there was a lot to celebrate for Olympic women.

    Way back in July, before Mr. Bean and a parachuting Queen Elizabeth kicked off the Olympic Games, we made a prediction that the biggest storyline of the London Games was going to be the ascension of women in sports.

    With apologies to Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps, whose performances were more about their place in history than just dominating the headlines of the past two weeks, that prediction has come to fruition. Everywhere you looked during the Games, there was a woman in the center of attention.

    There was Gabby Douglas becoming the first African-American all-around gymnastics gold medalist and British star Jessica Ennis winning the heptathalon in front of an Olympic Stadium crowd that made the kind of joyful noise that no one who heard it will ever forget. There was Serena Williams capping off a career Golden Slam and the inimitable Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh Jennings team winning beach volleyball gold for the third straight time.

    While we'd like to say that the prediction was made because of superior foresight and an inate understanding of sports we see once every four years, we know that such a response would lead to McKayla Maroney unimpressed faces by anyone who read it. History made it clear that we had reached the moment for women to take on the leading role.

    It is the 40th anniversary of the landmark Title IX legislation that allowed women equal opportunity to scholastic sports in the United States, a decision that eventually led to much more gender equality in Olympic sports and the backbone of the U.S. team (47 of the 90 medals won through the end of Thursday) in these games. It is also the first Olympic Games to take place with women representing each of the countries, a moment that could one day be seen as the world's Title IX moment.

    You could have written that story regardless of what went on during the Games, however. The reason why we can throw out our shoulder patting ourselves on the back is because of the way the women competed and shone when the gun went off.

    On the track, you had Allyson Felix, Sanya Richards-Ross and Brittney Reese making up for disappointments in 2008 while Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce showed that jaw-dropping dominance of sprints is something for Jamaicans of both genders. Missy Franklin, Katie Ledecky and Rebecca Soni were marvels in the pool with the 17-year-old Franklin and 15-year-old Ledecky already creating thoughts about golden moments in Rio come 2016.

    Alex Morgan seems destined for Mia Hamm-level stardom after her thrilling goal to beat Canada in the semifinals, unless Jersey-born Carli Lloyd's two goals in the Gold Medal game make her the next big thing in U.S. soccer. Claressa Shields and Marlen Esparza kept U.S. boxing from being completely shutout of the medals and there may not have been a more emotionally satisfying moment of the entire Olympics than watching Kayla Harrison, who bravely spoke out about being sexually abused in order to help others, celebrating the United States' first Judo gold.

    U.S. women won gold in soccer, water polo, gymnastics, beach volleyball and doubles tennis (another gold for Serena) and they will play for gold in both indoor volleyball and basketball this weekend. Put those achievements together with what the women did on the track, in the pool and in the ring and you've got a staggeringly diverse set of achievements that would have been unthinkable a decade ago.

    The saddest thing about one of the more controversial articles of the Games -- the Times' takedown of Lolo Jones -- is that you had to go out of your way to find an Anna Kournikova-type among all the true achievers of the U.S. team. And Jones finished fourth, which is hardly something that happens when you're just around because you're easy on the eyes.

    It felt like something out of another era, one where women were only valued if they fit some kind of strict feminine ideal. As Allison Schmitt, Aly Raisman, Kim Rhode, Jennifer Suhr and so many others let us know over the last two weeks, there's no such thing as a singular feminine ideal in a world where women are able to do everything.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.