Editorial: Secret to U.S. Olympic success: Expand opportunities for all to succeed
Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016: American success at the Rio Olympics showed opening opportunity brings golden rewards.Posted — Updated
It could be the start of a joke: Did you hear the one about the two African Americans, a Latina, a Texan and a Jew who walked into the gym?
Well, as the world knows now, that group – Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Lauren Hernandez, Madison Locian and Aly Raisman – were all business in Rio, taking the women’s gymnastics team Olympic gold medal for the United States.
It was a uniquely American unit – a look and composition in such a sharp contrast to most other nations that send athletes to the Olympic games. But it was a team that looked like the rest of the U.S. Olympic team, and America -- diverse, determined and competitive.
What’s made America so competitive in athletics? It’s a lot of things, but look to the nation’s sense of fair play and equal opportunity – particularly in the development of women athletes.
A government policy, Title IX,* in 1972 outlawed discrimination in education programs on the basis of sex. As a result, in the realm of sport, colleges had to greatly expand athletic offerings and scholarships to women.
Opportunity knocked. At this Olympics Simone Manuel became the first African-American woman to win an individual gold medal in swimming. She said it is about opportunity, not anointment.
“The title ‘black swimmer’ makes it seem like I am not supposed to be able to win a gold medal,” Manuel told an interviewer. “I am not supposed to be able to break the Olympic record. And that is not true, as I work as hard as anybody else and I love the sport and I want to win, just like everybody else.”
There is no secret formula to the success of U.S. athletes – women and men -- on the global stage. It is as simple and as old as our nation’s founding: clear the way so nobody is excluded from the opportunity to do their best. It is a formula that equals 121 U.S. Olympic medals.
We are proud of the U.S. team and our new network partner NBC. It is great to be the "Olympic Station."
- 121 overall medals – next closest was China with 70.
- 46 gold medals – next closest was Great Britain with 27.
- 27 gold medals won by U.S. women. If the U.S. women were a nation unto themselves, they’d have tied Great Britain for most gold.
- The first gold medal of the games went to a U.S. woman, Ginny Thrasher of West Virginia, in shooting.
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