For first time in history, U.S. sends more females than males to Olympics

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer
Natalie Coughlin, left, congratulates Missy Franklin after swimming in a women's 100-meter backstroke semifinal at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials. Both will swim in London. (AP)

The United States Olympic Committee has released the canonical roster of the athletes our fair country is sending to London later this month.

It's 530 talented, fit, hardworking, famous and non-famous, determined, lucky, dedicated, acutely skilled, chiseled people deep. And of that 530, 269 are female, meaning 261 are male, meaning more women than men will rep the Red, White and Blue at the XXX Olympiad. That majority is meaningful. Beyond meaningful, it's pretty symbolic and significant, especially in 2012, the 40-year anniversary of Title IX, a U.S. mandate that allows women equal opportunity in sports to men. Never before have females outnumbered males for the United States of America at an Olympic Games.

It's cause for pause and celebration, absolutely. Without Title IX, there's no way the 2012 Olympic roster steadies out to 269-261, advantage ladies.

Some standout, veteran females from this year's catalog, all five-time Olympians: Amy Acuff (track and field); Khatuna Lorig (archery); Emil Milev (shooting); Karen O'Connor (equestrian); Kim Rhode (shooting); and Danielle Scott-Arruda (indoor volleyball). Only one male, equestrian Phillip Dutton, is also a five-time Olympian in this year's pool of American athletes. These women are in a select group of approximately two dozen Americans to participate in five Olympiads.

No Olympian is anticipated to partake in more events than 17-year-old Missy Franklin, the American female swimming icon of the future. Triple-jumper Amanda Smock will have an awesome 30th birthday. She'll celebrate by partaking in the Opening Ceremony.

America's oldest (54-year-old O'Connor) and youngest (15-year-old swim sensation Katie Ledecky) participants are female. Thirteen moms occupy the field. Sister siblings abound as well, from swimmers Alyssa and Haley Anderson to Julia and Katie Reinprecht (field hockey), Jessica and Maggie Steffans (water polo) and of course the Williams sister in tennis.

One of the primary faces of this year's Games for the American women is four-time Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin. She's already hauled 11 Olympic necklaces in her career. If she gets one more, she'll share the record of 12 with Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres. All swimmers, are with more medals than any other women in U.S. Olympic history.

Swimming and gymnastics in general represent the U.S.'s more embraceable stars. This go-round should be no different. But the point here is, we're seeing rising numbers across the board for female athletes.

It's not just the U.S. that's getting good news on this front. Finally, Brunei Darussalam is stepping into a new era by finally allowing a female to compete. Only two countries remain stuck in the Paleozoic when it comes to women's inclusion to the Games: Qatar (yet it's deemed worthy enough to host a World Cup. Laughable.) and Saudi Arabia. The world has ways and laws to go to catch up with female equality in sports, but it's good to see tangible signs of social evolution.

Other general nuggets: The U.S. has an athlete in 38 Olympic "disciplines," (25 out of 26 events/sports) meaning 346 out of 302 medal events will include an American. Rounded up, that's 82 percent of the Games' games. The average age of an American Olympic athlete? Twenty-seven. And 228 of the 530 competitors wearing America's colors have been to the Olympics before. It'd be no surprise if the majority of that 228 was also female.

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