Zachary Thomann, Staff Writer
London 2012 was originally the end of Michael Phelps career. After receiving 22 medals in three Olympics, 18 of them being gold it was time to call it quits for one of the greatest Olympians ever.
Then Phelps stormed back on the scene shortly before the 2016 Olympics in Rio were about to take place. This was set to be his last Olympics for sure and stirred up a tremendous amount of hype for each event. After taking most of the attention in the previous three Olympics, the return of Phelps was destined to take the spotlight from many young Olympians with an abundance of talent.
Then, like every Olympics, magic happened. The country fell in love with the women’s gymnastics team; American women outran Jamaica in two relay races, while Katie Ledecky swam her heart out. In an era in which men get a lot of attention, society continues to see more people focusing on our women athletes. Michael Phelps, did in fact, lead the medal count for America. What captivated the people watching at home was the emergence of new athletes.
To crunch the numbers on how well U.S. women did in this Olympics, Professor Paul MacArthur from Utica College provided some helpful facts. This year was the second summer Olympics in a row that the U.S women earned more medals than men (52.6%). Without even including every medal the U.S. men won, the women earned more medals than every country but China. When MacArthur was asked if this would continue to be a trend for many Olympics to come.
“We are looking at the ramifications of a long term impact from Title IX,” MacArthur said. “But as more countries continue to put more women on their Olympic teams, the dominance of are women may decline.”
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Title IX, it is the law that prevents people from being excluded in any event or denied benefits based on gender. MacArthur expressed this because the United States continues to succeed against countries with less women compared to men. This takes nothing away from the U.S. women’s athletes who work extremely hard to compete.
Simone Biles took over the sport of gymnastics in 2016, earning a gold medal in three individual events, (vault, floor exercise, and all-around). This is truly an incredible accomplishment because of the difficulty to train for the all-around but still excel in individual events. Simone Biles made history after becoming the first American woman to win gold in the vault and the second to win gold in the floor exercise.
After all the years of idolizing male swimmers such as Ryan Lochte, Nathan Adrian, and of course, Michael Phelps, 2016 was also the year of Katie Ledecky. Let’s put into perspective on how dominant Ledecky really was. Ladecky earned four gold and one silver while also setting a world record in the 400 and 800 freestyle. In the two events where she set a record, Ledecky finished with a sizeable lead. In the 400, Ledecky had second place by five seconds and in the 800, she won by a whopping 12 seconds. For the people who don’t know about the usual swimming competitions, the difference between first and fifth could come down to a tenth of a second.
Katie was so heavily favored that the announcers were trying to figure out who would place second before the race even started.
Asking around Utica College, most girls had the same opinion on the U.S. athletes.
Comments such as “They are always good” and “We are the best” were a couple general answers. It was obvious that everyone knew that the United States has tremendous women athletes, but do they know why?
Taking the questions deeper, students were asked if they knew what Title IX was. The idea was to see if they understood the importance of women succeeding in Rio would have on society. Out of the few women asked, only a couple had an idea about what Title IX was. It seems that society may take for granted on how fortunate this country is. Things may change in the next Olympics as more women are participating from every country. Title IX may start to be recognized, as the United States has to fight harder for each medal.
When asked if the fans should expect the same performance next year out the United States, MacArthur was hesitant to agree.
“Let’s not forget that most of Russia was disqualified from this year’s Olympics,” MacArthur answered. “They earn a high amount of medals, especially in the winter games.”
Looking ahead to 2020, it is safe to say that the U.S. women will continue to succeed.
Although it is not set in stone if the United States will lead the medal count for the next Olympics, they can be counted on as a front-runner.