Beyond Golf — 10 August 2012 by Bob Sherwin
London Olympics: Girls rule

It’s been a man’s arena for millenniums. The ancient Olympic games in Greece didn’t allow female competitors. Even female spectators were banned for most events.

The first ‘modern’ Olympics in 1896 was an all-male club, as the feeling was women sports would be “uninteresting” and ”impractical.” Four years later, the 1900 Olympics in Paris finally had a handful of female competitors – in lawn bowling, tennis, golf, equestrian, yachting and croquet. Yes, croquet.

Over the decades, more events were added for women, such as swimming (1912), gymnastics (1928) and track (1928), marathon (1984) and, over the past couple decades, women now compete in traditional men’s sports such a wrestling, weight-lifting, judo and, the introduction of boxing in London.

For the first time, women and men compete in all the same sports. Also for the first time, every country has sent female competitors to the Games as Muslim countries Qatar, Brunei, and Saudi Arabia agreed to allow female participants.

It’s been a long hard fight for equal participation, equal rights and equal representation. Now at the London Olympic Games, it seems the gender imbalance has returned. But it’s the men who have faded. The women, at least in London, rule. They have taken over the spotlight in just about every sport.

Team gold medalists, the U.S. gymnastics team.

Pick a sport and the images generated are those of the women athletes, particularly American women.

How about gymnastics? Those five American girls – led by effervescent Gabby Douglas – led all competitors in athleticism, drama and diva-ness. We don’t remember the men doing much of anything.

How about soccer? The U.S. women’s extra-time 4-3 victory over Canada in the semifinals stands alone as the Games most compelling event. Then the Americans battled Japan Thursday for the gold medal in another remarkable game, a 2-1 victory. The men, because there is a 23-under age restriction, was regulated to apathy. Without the game’s greatest players, who cares?

Lolo Jones failed again to win a medal.

How about beach volleyball? Misty May Treanor and Kerri Walsh won their third straight gold medal and no doubt cleaned up in the TV ratings. The men – not so much.

Swimming? Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Nathan Adrian and Cullen Jones had their moments but so did a parade of competitive and compelling women, Missy Franklin, Jessica Hardy, Allison Schmitt, Rebecca Soni, Dana Vollmer and Natalie Coughlin. The women just seem more spirited and more engaging, as you can see in the video the swim team put together (at the bottom of this story).

Hope Solo, the keeper for the gold-medal-winning U.S. soccer team.

Track & Field? Like swimming, there are great stories on both gender sides. World fastest human Usain Bolt and world’s fastest prosthesis Oscar Pistorius are terrific stories. But they couldn’t match the drama of Lolo Jones, Allyson Felix, winning her first gold in the 200-meters in her third opportunity, and South Africa’s 800-meter champion Caster Semenya, who has had some questioning her gender side.

By Wednesday, the U.S. had won 34 gold medals. Of those, 23 were won by women.

The women are simply more interesting to watch, and easier on the eyes, such as New Zealand field hockey star Charlotte Harrison (at the top), who is among most of the ‘hottest” athletes lists this week.

Women were handed an unfair start to the Olympic experience but they’ve made up the stagger on the men and taking them on stride for stride.

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Bob Sherwin

Bob grew up in Cleveland, an underdog city with perennial underdog teams, and that gave him an appreciation and an affinity for the grinders in golf, guys such as Rocco Mediate, Jhonattan Vegas and star-crossed John Daly. This is the 46th year for Bob as a sportswriter, the first 34 working for newspapers throughout the west, Tucson (Daily Star), San Francisco (Examiner) and Seattle (Times), and the past 10 years as a freelancer. He has covered just about every sport, including golf tournaments, Tucson Open, Bing Crosby/AT&T Pro-Am, the 1998 PGA Championship, the 2010 U.S. Senior Open, the 2010 U.S. Amateur the 2015 U.S. Open and the annual Champions Tour Boeing Classic. He also writes articles for golf magazines. For most of his 20 years at the Seattle Times his primary beat was the Mariners. He then picked up Washington men’s basketball in the winter. He also was the beat writer for the Sonics, including 1996 when they played the Bulls for the NBA title. After a lifetime hacking on public courses, he finally gave in and joined a country club in 2011, the Members Club of Aldarra near Seattle. Despite (or perhaps because) of his 14 handicap, he won the ‘Super Senior” (65 and older) championship in 2017. He has a pair of aces – 37 years apart – and in 2009 came agonizingly close to his ultimate golf goal of scoring in the 70s when he finished with an even 80. He lives in Seattle, and spends part of his winters in Marco Island, Fla.

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