Wednesday August 22, 2012
Women the big winners
There were no female competitors at the ancient Olympics in 776BC and even when the modern Olympics started in 1896.
Even as recently as the 1996 Atlanta Games, more than two dozen countries did not field a single woman athlete.
But London 2012 changed all that. There were more female athletes, from more countries, contesting more medals than ever before.
Three of the five biggest delegations, the United States, China and Russia, brought more women athletes than men, and the women came through in a big way.
American women won 29 of the 46 golds won by the US, who topped the medals tally, while female competitors accounted for 20 of second-placed China’s 38 golds.
For the host nation, Britain, London 2012 proved one of the most successful Games ever, especially for its women athletes. They won gold in, among others, cycling, equestrian and rowing events, several for the first time, helping Britain to its third placing in gold medals and its best medal tally since 1908.
For the first time Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei entered female athletes. Each of the 204 nations sent at least one female competitor, and every one of the 26 sports had female competitors.
There were outstanding feats galore by the women competitors that will always be remembered.
Two 16-year-old females made history: China’s swimmer Ye Shiwen produced the first world record of the London Olympics, winning the 400m individual medley on opening night and another gold in the 200m individual medley, setting an Olympic record.
Equally stunning was US swimming sensation Melissa Franklin, called “Missy the Missile,” who won five medals, including four golds, setting world records in the 200m backstroke and the 4x100m medley relay — the most successful woman athlete of London 2012.
India, too, created history in badminton and boxing when Saina Nehwal won bronze in the women’s singles, and Mery Kom Chungneijang Hmangte won
bronze in the flyweight division in the newly introduced women’s
US teenager Gabby Douglas, 16, rewrote the record books by winning for the first time for her country the most coveted title in women’s gymnastics — a gold in the women’s individual all-round competition. She later won another gold in the team competition.
South Korean fencer Shin A-Lam heroically turned defeat into triumph. After losing her semi-final match due to a technical timing error, and losing her appeal, she refused a consolation medal and later returned to win gold in the team competition.
“A perfect race” was what some sports commentators called the US women winning the 4x100m relay, breaking the 27-year-old world record by a sizeable margin. A member of that team, Allyson Felix, won three track gold medals, only the second woman in Olympic history to do so.
And let’s not forget our own Pandelela Rinong Pamg’s heroic bronze medal win in the 10m diving event, our first winner of an Olympic medal in any sport besides badminton, and our first female athlete to do so.
London 2012 may be remembered for Michael Phelps winning his 22nd medal and becoming the most decorated Olympic athlete, and the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt becoming the first athlete to retain three sprint gold medals at successive Olympics.
But what the women achieved is well worth celebrating as they changed the face of the Games forever.
As US judoka gold winner Kayla Harrison said: “To be able to say I’m a strong, confident young woman and I’m an Olympic champion feels great. I hope we have a million little girls inspired by that.”
Let’s remember the enormous strides women have made and look forward to their breaking even more barriers and records next time.