I was thinking about doing a “breakout stars” post for the Olympics, listing those that I felt have exploded on to the scene. And, as I flipped through the list of characters - looking at early crop of gold medalists - it hit me: Women. Women are the breakout stars.
23 of the 34 U.S. gold medals currently hang around the neck of female athletes and teams. They’ve been the face of the Olympics: Gabby, Missy, Jordan, Kerri & Misty-Mae…
I’m not taking anything away from the fellas, Phelps, Lochte, Aries Merritt, the Bryan brothers - they’ve been fantastic. But look at the commercials, the ads, the two and three minutes vignettes… it’s the girls. It seems like every time I see Bob Costas in his mood-lit lounge, he’s flanked by women of varying ages. And I love it, because there’s nothing like watching Bob Costas engage in a 90 second discussion of Justin Bieber, or pretend he knows who Flo Rida is.
Now there are those out there that will try and tell you otherwise. They’ll point at Lolo Jones, and either complain about her looks, her attention, or her fourth place finish, even though two other Americans medaled. They’ll tell you that the attacks on Gabby’s hair, or Allison Schmitt’s voice have overshadowed their accomplishments. They have not.
The Olympics are not come cure-all for the inequalities and harsh realities of the universe. Plagues, wars, racism, and oppression do not kneel at the sight of five interlocking rings. Sarah Attar running a heat in the 800 isn’t going to raise the quality of life for her gender in Saudi Arabia. Female athletes will continue to make less money than their male counterparts. They’ll score better sponsorships, and get more money for public appearances. But that doesn’t take away what’s been accomplished.
There have been great performances in spite of anonymity-cloaked internet jackassery. These games have been great despite the efforts of a few op-eds and attention seeking contrarians. And racist tweets won’t erase a gold-medal, just as a gold medal won’t stem racism. The Olympics may be about the steps. The steps on the podium, the steps in a routine, the steps in a race, and the steps that take place years and years before anyone even dreams of representing their country. Because everything that’s ever been accomplished, any great achievement - Olympic or otherwise - is in fact the culmination of a thousand small steps.
It makes me feel sorry for those that watch the games and focus only on the leaps. They’re missing everything.