By JULIE JAG
LONDON – As the United States and Japan women’s soccer teams prepared to square off Wednesday for the gold medal before an Olympic-record crowd of 80,205 vivacious, flag-waving fans, a familiar Beyonce tune thumped through at Wembley Stadium.
Who run the world? Girls!
The women aren’t just running the world at these Olympics, they’re jumping throwing, punching, swimming and kicking their way onto the podiums and into the spotlight.
For the first time in history, the United States sent more ladies than men to the Games, and the women have shown they’re not letting that opportunity go to waste. With one day left, they’ve collected 58 of the country’s 102 medals. In Athens in 2004, for comparison, the U.S. earned 101 medals, 39 of which came in women’s events. In Beijng 2008, the number was split.
“I’m thrilled to see how the women have done, thrilled to see how the United States has done. It’s amazing to be a part of something so much bigger than myself,” said judo champion Kayla Harrison. “To be able to say I’m a strong, confident young woman and an Olympic champion is amazing, and I hope we have a million little girls who are inspired right now.”
Harrison played a big part in elevating the medal count by winning the country’s first gold in judo. The 3-meter synchronized diving duo of Kelsey Bryant and Abby Johnston brought home the first medal in that event and Santa Clara native Hayley Anderson won the USA’s first marathon swimming medal. Both took silver.
Also for the first time, the U.S. nabbed two medals in the three weight classes of women’s boxing, which made its debut at these Games. Middleweight Claressa Shields took gold and flyweight Marlen Esparza snatched a bronze.
In addition to their success, athletes with a history of bringing home hardware pushed the envelope, especially the teams. Women’s water polo, for example, finally found gold after taking silver in 2000 and 2008 and bronze in 2004. The USA women’s volleyball team also notched a silver after losing to Brazil on Saturday. The women’s soccer team three-peated for gold, while the basketball team won its fifth Olympic championship.
“I play a team sport so easy to connect yourself with all the other female athletes, but I’m just proud to see everyone doing so well and I’m just proud to see USA as a whole is doing awesome,” said water polo player Brenda Villa, a Stanford graduate. “So, it’s not just the females. But does it give you a smile? It does.”
But girl power isn’t just the result, it’s also the catalyst.
Sanya Richards-Ross basically ran a victory lap in the anchor leg of the 4×400-meter final Saturday after her teammates gave her a behemoth padding over the field. It was her third gold medal in the event, but also the most dominant, something she attributes to a closer connection with her teammates.
“Everybody was kind of in their zone and I think it was rubbing off,” Richards-Ross said. “I think this was the most time I’ve spent with my teammates at a Games, and I think we encouraged each other a whole lot and I think that makes a big difference.”
Scott Blackmun, CEO of the United States Olympic Committee, said the outburst from the ladies is a product of Title IX.
“If you look at the U.S. medal performance over the last 10 to 20 years, a lot of the success we’ve had in comparison to other nations is our women. We’re very proud of that,” he said. “I think Title IX really gave us a head start because of our national commitment to make sure women were getting the opportunity to be involved in sports.
It’s something we’re proud of but I think the rest of the world has clearly gone the same way at this point, but we’re glad we got ahead of the curve.”
True, the U.S. isn’t the only country tapping into its female talent. China, which is second in the medal table with 87 total has gotten 49 of those from women. Russia, fourth on the table with 78, got a whopping 43 from its females.
On the opposite end of the scale stands the host country, Great Britain. While third on the medals table with 67, just 19 of those were won by women. Then again, after the other three countries were through, there weren’t many more to go around.
“Our success here kind of speaks for itself,” said 17-year-old swimmer Missy Franklin, who won four golds and a bronze in her Olympic debut in London. “We’re proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish not only as a women’s team but as the USA team.”
The question is, will what the women accomplished on the Olympic stage bleed over to life after the Games. The most recent incarnation of a women’s professional soccer league collapsed in 2010, the year Santa Clara team FC Gold Pride won the WPS title. Women’s professional basketball continues to draw a fraction of the crowds that turn up for the NBA and female cyclists get paid pennies on the dollar when compared to their male counterparts.
But Theresa Edwards, the USOC’s chef de mission for the London Games, said all that’s needed is a little time before girls start running the sports world outside of the Olympics.
“I just think that a lot of things take time,” Edwards said. “I think you just have to keep trying and working hard for it, but you can’t belittle the fact that we’ve come a long ways as women in sport and we enjoy doing what we do and we enjoy being the absolute possible best at what we do. And think personally we’ve got to keep doing that and allowing opportunity for young girls to come behind us and keep doing the same thing.”
Posts Tagged With: USA
By JULIE JAG
By JULIE JAG
LONDON — Cal’s Alex Morgan put the ball at Carli Lloyd’s feet and put the USA up early, Hope Solo put a force field around the goal and then Lloyd also put on the exclamation point. The USA women’s soccer team got its sweet revenge — and the gold — with a 2-1 win in the Olympic championship match Thursday night at Wembley Stadium.
Lloyd scored her first goal in the seventh minute on Morgan’s near-goal cross in traffic and she put the USA up 2-0 with her insurance shot in the 54th. Hope Solo seemed seven times wider than her svelte frame would suggest as everything the Japanese sent her way was tipped out. Shinobu Ohno, determined all match to find a way to score, finally uncovered a hole in the 62nd. She cut in for a wide open shot on the right side. Solo stopped that one, but the ball dribbled behind her slightly and was cleared by another USA player … right back to Ohno. She then crossed it over to teammate Yuki Ogimi for the goal.
That would be it for the Japanese, though. They attacked viciously in the first part of the second half, but the USA defense controlled the tempo and the ball most of the way until the end.
Canada, whom the USA defeated 4-3 on a Morgan goal in overage time in the semifinal, took bronze.
It is on! The rematch of the World cup match that the USA lost to Japan is taking place for Olympic gold at Wembleystadium.
Cal’s Alex Morgan had played a huge role in getting the USA to this game, scoring the winning goal against Canada, and she has already pitched in here. In traffic right in front of the goal she shot a cross to Wambach who shot it in with the side of her foot. 1-0 USA.
The crowd here is amazing. Seems like a few more USA fans than Japanese, but actually it’s pretty close. Chants of USA everywhere and a constant excited hum. The pints must not have settled in yet.
Hope Solo is doing more than just looking pretty in goal. She’s made two punching saves that have kept the USA in front. On another, she got a little help from Rampone when a shot went wide. 39:00 and still 1-0 USA.
HALFTIME: USA 1, JAPAN 0
Japan’s keeper Miho Fukumoto has had to make, unofficially, four good saves. She just let that one early one through for Wambach.
Solo’s had a couple of doozies herself, and this is still anyone’s match.
Carli Lloyd gathers up the ball and sends a high fier from the left to the right side, right into the goal. USA up 2-0. Then, she rushes to the far end to celebrate with the bench.
Yuki Ogimi in the right spot for an easy goal after Shinobu Ohno cuts in and gets a perfect pass. It’s deflected by Solo and a Team USA teammate picks up the dribble but her clear goes right back to Ohno, who sends it over to Ogimi for the score.
FINAL: USA 2, JAPAN 1
An epic game. Japan pressured the USA women the entire time, especially Ohno, but Hope solo woulcn’t let anything through and revenge — and gold —
belongs to the Americans.
Here we go, the women’s gymnastics all-around final is beginning now. I will update posts here.
Gabby Douglas breaks in the vault with a solid performance with just a small hop and a big cheer afterward. She and teammate Aly Raisman are wearing sparkly magenta outfits. Gabby might have gotten an even bigger cheer than the British girl on the beam. She also scored 15.966.
Raisman is up next on vault. Much more height, but a big bounce afterward. she gets a 15.900.
Those are the two highest scores recorded so far in any event.
The camera that zips alongside the vaulters is really crazy. It shows you that they really are running fast, but reminds me of an old-school typewriter.
Japan’s Tanaka has a really crazy and kind of cool zebra striped red, black and white unitard on, while dancing to the Pink Panther theme on floor exercise. Very animalistic.
We’re on to the second rotation with Douglas still leading. Raisman is in second and Komova of Russia sits in third with 15.466 points after also competing in vault. Aliya Mustafina of Russia, 15.233, is in fourth.
Raisman’s about to go up on the uneven bars. Lots of cheers of Go Aly! and American flags in that corner, so that’s good for the USA girls.
Superb. It looked just about perfect to me. Lots of height, some difficult moves and she nailed the landing. She scored a 14.333 for a total of 30.233
Here comes Komova. She leapfrogs Raisman for a total of 31.432 to lead all competitors. Douglas hasn’t gone yet. She’s last on UB.
Deng Lin of China just put up a nice uneven bars routine.
Here comes Gabby …
Beautiful, that’s not going to hurt her chances. Yep, 15.733. That puts her first in that event and first overall with 31.699 points. Komova second, Mustafina third and Raisman in fourth.
Komova up second on beam. Fairly major loss of balance, but she recovers beautifully. I have to give it to these girls for now graceful they are and focused. Perfect landing by Kosmova. She gets a 15.441.
Douglas needs a 15.174 to regain the lead. Raisman needs 16+.
Mustafina scores 13.633 … she’s not happy.
Gabby’s up next She’s had to wait quite a while for Mustafina’s score, but her coach keeps her company and is smiling. She’s beautiful up there. A few wobbles, but solid overall.
She lands to cheers with nothing else happening at the same time. her score ….15.500, but no smile from the usually bubbly girl.
Raisman follows immediately. A less than perfect routine. It starts with her losing balance on a backflip and leaning over to nearly touch the bar as she balances on one leg. That started a chain of wobbles and a step to the left on her landing. Not good for her chances. She’s being comforted by her coach. She moves to fifth with 44.433.
Douglas leads with 47.199, the Komova 46.873, Mustafina with 44.966 and Deng Linlin with 44.466.
FOURTH AND FINAL ROTATION
This is it. If Gabby Douglas can nail this, she’s the all-around champion.
Barely stayed int he lines there for a second, but she managed to do it. In fact, that seemed to energize her. She completed it to a huge roar and unless Komova does something out of this world, she’ll be the third straight USA All around champion. How crazy is that?
Douglas’ score …15.033, giving her 62.232.
Raisman’s fighting for a medal with this floor routine. She nails a 15.133, putting her in third ahead of Izbasa of Romania. But there area couple more girls to go, including Komova, who is up next.
I guess Komova didn’t like getting 28th in this event in qualification. She’ll likely knock Raisman out of the medals, but will that bump off Douglas?
NO! Douglas wins! 62.232 points. Komova second with 61.973. Mustafin ais third and Raisman fourth.
Raisman actually tied for fourth, but she lost on a tiebreaker. Heartbreaking.
By JULIE JAG
LONDON – History will be made Saturday when a pair of women climb through the ropes and into the ring for the first women’s boxing match of the modern Olympic era.
Carina Moreno wanted to be there. And in a small way, she will be.
The Watsonville boxer sparred with Marlen Esparza, who will represent Team USA in the flyweight [112 pound] division, to prepare Esparza for the hard hits some of the European fighters will deliver during the course of the next week. More significantly, as one of the first generations of female boxers, Moreno beat back obstacles on the way to helping the sport make its debut in the 2012 Games.
“I think it’s great, it’s about time they make it in the Olympics,” Moreno wrote in an email. “I just don’t know why it took so long.”
Moreno took up boxing in 1999, two years before the creation of the first women’s world championship. Even then, she dreamed of being an Olympian. By the time the International Olympic Committee approved women’s boxing as an Olympic sport 10 years later, however, she had, for financial reasons, already turned professional. In Olympic boxing, unlike basketball, beach volleyball and a myriad of other sports, that makes her ineligible to compete.
“It’s very disappointing to see all the attraction and endorsements they are getting, because if they would of had it when I was an amateur, I know for sure that I would be in their position,” wrote Moreno, referencing Esparza’s sponsorship by Nike, Coca-Cola, Proctor and Gamble [Cover Girl] and McDonald’s. “But this doesn’t affect me at all. I think it will help all the women boxers.”
Many expect the addition of the women’s boxing to the Games and the attention sponsors are paying to vault a sport that has been experiencing waning interest on both the male and female sides back into the spotlight. Team USA men’s and women’s coach Basheer Abdullah said the Olympics will give young girls someone like them to look up to in the sport, someone to show them there is a future for them in it, whether it be at the amateur or pro level.
“I think after this Olympics our gyms are just going to be flooded with women boxers,” he said. “I think the timing of bringing women on board in an Olympic sport and the sport of boxing is great because the talent has improved immensely. I think that we’re going to see some great, exciting boxing in the women’s program at this Olympics.”
Neither Moreno nor most of the 36 women fighting for the first gold medal in each of three weight divisions, knew of a female fighter they could look to for guidance as they grew up in the sport.
Moreno mimicked a male cousin who boxed. Team USA veteran Quanitta “Queen” Underwood, a 28-year-old lightweight [132 pound], found a role model in Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, 17-year-old Claressa Shields, Team USA’s welterweight [165 pounds], modeled herself after Sugar Ray Leonard and Joe Lewis.
In fact, Shields doesn’t even like to be compared to other female fighters.
“I figure I’m the best female boxer out there,” she said. “I know there’s not one male in this world that’s seen me box that’s said I fight like a girl.”
Esparza, meanwhile, now admires Lucia Rijker, but she grew up idolizing Horace Chavez.
“That’s who I tried to emulate when I was little. That’s how I learned about boxing,” said Esparza, 23, who took up the sport at 11 at her boxing-fanatic father’s urging. “I used to call boxing ‘Chavez’. I’d say, ‘Chavez is on, Chavez is on!’ and my dad was like, ‘Those are just boxers.’
“I definitely only knew about boxing when I was little. I’m talking about as far as I can remember, like until 5 years [old]. I thought that was part of everybody’s life. I thought that was life. Guess I was a little wrong.”
So few girls boxed at the time that Esparza says she now realizes how lucky she was to find a trainer, Rudy Silva, who would take her on as a student. Unfortunately, she added, not much has changed since then.
“It’s still hard. My trainer literally gets attacked for time,” said the Houston native. “He got laughed at a lot for paying attention to me. He got told one time, ‘Why do you even pay attention to her? She’s just going to get pregnant.’ That sort of thing, and he didn’t care. To run into something like that was close to impossible.”
Esparza, who got started around the same time as Moreno, said she hasn’t enjoyed being a trailblazer.
“It would have made my life a lot easier growing up” to have a female role model, said Esparza, who plans to give up the sport after these Olympics and her degree at a university. “There were so many days of: Am I doing the right thing? Should I just go to school? Should I just forget about this? Am I going to go anywhere with this? Is it going to be worth it? So, it was a lot of those days where it was like, ‘Why am I doing this?’ If I would have had somebody there, it would have given me something solid to go on versus just wishing and hoping and gambling.”
In the long run, though, that wishing and hoping and gambling worked. It delivered her right where she wanted to be – fighting for an Olympic medal. She and Shields received first-round byes, so their opening bouts will be Aug. 6. Underwood will fight in the first day of competition Sunday.
But Esparza is one of the lucky ones whose weight class will be featured. The Women’s International Boxing Federation features 18 weight classes, but only three made the Olympic cut.
So, the women of boxing aren’t taking their hand wraps off just yet. In fact, they’re warming up for another battle: to bring in all weight divisions..
“It’s always a struggle. They‘ve been fighting for this moment for years. And I don’t think they’re finished fighting,” coach Abdullah said. “I think they want more and they deserve more. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some more weight classes emerging, too.”
Just getting boxing into the Olympics is a start, though. In addition to creating more competition, it presents something both veterans like Moreno and burgeoning starts like Esparza can be proud of.
As Abdullah said, “The Olympic Games don’t define them as role models. They were role models before they got to this point.”