- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Lisa Leslie, the captain of the U.S. Olympic basketball team, ended her stellar career with four gold medals draped around her neck. When the American women’s basketball team defeated Australia to win gold for the fourth straight time in Olympic history, this was not just a triumph for Mrs. Leslie, her team, or the United States. This was also emblematic of the record-breaking performances of women around the globe in these Olympic games.

According to the International Olympic Committee, 42 percent of the 10,500 athletes who entered the competition were women. This is the highest number of females to participate in the event to date. IOC President Jacques Rogge mandated that each national committee find ways to increase the number of female athletes. As a result, many countries around the world sent more women than in previous years. For the first time in world history, in the 2012 Olympics in London, the number of women who compete in the games is expected to equal the number of men.

Among the many remarkable achievements of U.S. female athletes this year was the performance of the Russian-born American gymnast, Nastia Liukin, who won gold in the all-around title. She is celebrated as a supreme artist and athlete. Her teammate, Shawn Johnson, won gold for her performance on the balance beam. The American gymnastics team won a total of eight medals, one of their best performances in Olympic history. The U.S. women’s beach volleyball team, led by the indomitable Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh also secured gold. The pair never lost a set in the games and won 108 consecutive matches. The women’s soccer team won their third gold medal in four consecutive Olympic games. The U.S. women’s track team won a total of nine medals; they won three golds which is equal to the most they have won over the past four Olympics.

The U.S. sent a record number of female athletes to the games this year: 285. This is just 26 short of the number of male athletes who participated in the competition. American women kept pace in securing medals. The U.S. won a total of 110 medals; women won 53 medals - 15 gold, 23 silver and 15 bronze. The U.S. had the highest total medal count of any nation. This overall Olympic victory is due to the powerful performances of America’s female competitors - and to the gender barriers that have rightly come tumbling down.