Female athletes shine the brightest for Team USA at the Rio Olympics
Simone Manuel, Katie Ledecky, Ibtihaj Muhammad, and the “Final Five” women’s gymnastics team, among many others, make headlines…or at least sub-headlines
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This post includes a name written in both the English alphabet and the Arabic abjad; the Arabic transliteration is courtesy of Google Translate.
AUTHOR’S NOTE #2: The Olympic medal counts include medals earned in the 2016 Summer Olympics on or before August 15, 2016.
The first Olympic medal of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil was awarded in the women’s 10m air rifle shooting event, and an American woman, Virginia Thrasher, won the gold medal in that event.
Since then, American women have kept winning medal after medal in the Rio Olympics.
In the swimming competitions, Katie Ledecky won four gold medals and one silver medal, often winning with a massive margin of victory over her nearest competitors. However, at least one American newspaper ran a story from the Associated Press (AP) that featured Ledecky’s world record-setting victory in the 800m freestyle swimming event as a subheadline to American male swimmer Michael Phelps finishing in a three-way tie for his only silver medal of the Rio Games:
Ledecky wasn’t the only American female swimmer to win big in Rio. Simone Manuel won two swimming golds in Rio, overcoming America’s long-standing swimming pool racism against black people in doing so. When Manuel won the first of her two golds in the women’s 100m freestyle swimming event (tying Canadian swimmer Penny Oleksiak for gold; both Manuel and Oleksiak received gold medals), she became the first black female American swimmer to win Olympic gold. When Manuel, Lilly King, Dana Vollmer, and Kathleen Baker won gold in the women’s 4 x 100m medley relay, they earned Team USA’s 1,000th Summer Olympic medal since the beginning of the modern Olympic Games. King also won individual gold, defeating, fair and square, Russia’s Yulia Efimova in the women’s 100m breaststroke swimming event. Maya DiRado also won swimming gold for Team USA, winning an individual gold in the women’s 200m backstroke swimming event, and winning gold as a member of the women’s 4x200 freestyle relay team that also included Ledecky, Allison Schmidt, and Leah Smith.
The artistic gymnastics program has been dominated by what, for the foreseeable future, will be the final five-woman gymnastics team to win Olympic gold (in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, the women’s artistic gymnastics team event will feature four-woman teams). Team USA’s Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez, Gabby Douglas, and Madison Kocian won the women’s team event in artistic gymnastics with a strong performance. In addition to winning team gold, Biles also won two individual gymnastics medals by winning the individual all-around competition and the vault competition.
In fencing, Ibtihaj Muhammad (Arabic: ابتهاج محمد)became the first American fencer to compete while wearing a hijab, which is a headscarf worn by Muslim women, and she also became the first American fencer to win an Olympic medal while wearing a hijab when the U.S. women’s sabre fencing team, which included Muhammad, Dagmara Wozniak, Mariel Zagunis, and Monica Aksamit, defeated Italy by a score of 45 to 30 to win the bronze medal match.
These are just a few of America’s female Olympians who have gone on to win Olympic medals in Rio. Despite suffering from a nosebleed during the event, Kristin Armstrong, 43 years young, won gold in the women’s individual time trial road cycling event. Michelle Carter won Team USA’s first track and field gold of the Rio Games by winning the women’s shot put competition. Kayla Harrison won Team USA’s only Judo gold of the Rio games in the women’s 78kg weight class competition. Regarding London, the host city of the 2012 Summer Olympics, as if it were part of Europe, American skeet shooter Kim Rhode became the only Olympian to win medals on five different continents (North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia) by winning bronze in the women’s skeet shooting event in Rio. In the women’s eight rowing event, Amanda Elmore, Tessa Gobbo, Elle Logan, Megan Musnicki, Amanda Polk, Emily Regan, Lauren Schmetterling, Kerry Simmonds, and Katelyn Snyder won gold for Team USA. Those are just some of the medals earned by American women.
As of August 15, American women have won a plurality (37 female, 35 male, and 3 mixed team) of the 75 total American medals, and a majority (16 female, 9 male, and 1 mixed team) of the 26 Olympic gold medals for Team USA. In fact, if American women were considered a separate country, American women would rank ahead of the entire Russian Olympic team in both total medals (Russia has 35 total as of August 15) and gold medals (Russia has 11 gold as of August 15). That is phenomenal!