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ON THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF TITLE IX, FEMALE U.S. OLYMPIANS DEMONSTRATED IN POWERFUL AND UNMISTAKABLE TERMS HOW EQUAL ACCESS TO RESOURCES AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES TO COMPETE CAN PAY OFF ON THE PODIUM. FOR THE FIRST TIME WOMEN OUTNUMBERED MEN ON THE U.S. OLYMPIC TEAM, AND THEIR 29 GOLD MEDALS IN LONDON ACCOUNTED FOR TWO THIRDS OF THOSE WON BY THE U.S. HERE'S A LOOK AT THE DISTINCT CHARACTERISTICS THE AMERICAN WOMEN SHOWED US—IN PERFORMANCES RANGING FROM THE UPLIFTING TO THE DOWNRIGHT DOMINANT—OVER THE COURSE OF TWO HISTORIC WEEKS IN LONDON
Oozing flair, grace and poise, the Fierce Five—Jordyn Wieber, 17, Gabby Douglas, 16, McKayla Maroney, 17, Aly Raisman, 18, and Kyla Ross, 16—led from the first rotation of the team finals and won the gold medal in dominating fashion, marking the first Olympic team title for U.S. gymnasts since 1996.
The team's performance in London—in addition to team gold, Douglas won the individual all-around title, Raisman won gold in the floor exercise and bronze on the beam, and Maroney won silver on the vault—inspired an extended victory lap around the U.S. that included a 40-city gymnastics tour, appearances at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Late Show with David Letterman. They rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange and cartwheeled onto the set of Stephen Colbert's TV show just to give him a pen. The Jewish Daily Forward listed Raisman as one of the year's five most influential Jewish Americans. All-around champ Douglas appeared on the Today show with her four teammates and The Tonight Show with Michelle Obama.
The five team members are contemplating a return to the Olympics in 2016, but it won't be easy to go back to the grind of training after experiencing the spoils of celebration. "The Olympics opened up so many doors," admits Douglas. "There's no way to top this."
Kim Rhode, Shooting
An elite athlete's career can be cruelly short, but don't tell Kim Rhode, the 33-year-old who's been an Olympic regular since 1996. A perfect round in the women's skeet shooting final at the Royal Artillery Barracks, on a day in which she missed just a single clay pigeon, earned Rhode her third Olympic gold medal and pushed her through the gates of history, as she became the first American to win an individual medal in five straight Games. She won gold in the double trap in '96 and 2004 and bronze in that event in '00, plus silver in the skeet in '08.