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As Title IX turns 41, nine notable US female Olympic athletes

Jun 23, 2013, 12:14 PM EDT


Call it a double. June 23 is Olympic Day and the 41st anniversary of the passage of Title IX. Here, to commemorate, are nine female Olympians who made an impact in their sport.

  • One of the greatest female athletes of all time, Jackie Joyner-Kersee left a lasting impression on the sport of track and field with her six Olympic medals in heptathlon and long jump. Between 1988 and 1996, Joyner-Kersee collected three golds, one silver, and two bronze medals at four straight Olympic Games. Her heptathlon score from the 1988 Seoul Games still stands as the women’s world record.
  • On the track, Florence Griffith Joyner’s speed won her five Olympic medals, but it was the sprinter’s style that captured the attention of the American public. Flo-Jo, who won three golds and two silvers at the 1984 and 1988 Games, still holds world records in the 100m and 200m.
  • In her fourth and final Olympic appearance at the 1994 Lillehammer Games, speed skater Bonnie Blair became the first American woman with five gold medals, capitalizing on the two-year gap between Olympics due to the change in the Winter Games cycle. Blair, who collected three Olympic titles in the 500m, is still the only American to win the same individual event at three consecutive Olympic Winter Games.
  • The Williams sisters’ dominance in the sport of tennis is felt on every level of competition, including the Olympics, where they have had unmatched success. Venus and Serena have each won a singles title at the Games — Serena most recently in London — but they are unstoppable as a doubles team, going 15-0 at three Olympics on their way to three gold medals.
  • The U.S. has almost always been a basketball powerhouse at the Games, and Lisa Leslie was one of the sport’s stalwarts from 1996-2008, when the women’s team won four straight golds. She closed out her Olympic career with 488 points, the most of any American — male or female — at the Games.
  • Beach volleyball duo Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor pocketed three Olympic gold medals from 2004 to 2012. Their relentless pursuit of perfection led to a 21-0 record at the Games, with only one dropped set ever in Olympic competition.
  • The most decorated American gymnast of all time, Shannon Miller grabbed two silver and three bronze medals at the 1992 Barcelona Games, but it was her contributions to the team at the 1996 Atlanta Games that are most memorable. Her balance beam performance, for which she won an individual gold, also helped the U.S. win its first women’s individual all-around title at the Olympics.
  • Quite possibly the most well-known women’s soccer player ever, Mia Hamm (pictured above) was also one of the best. She scored 158 international goals over 275 games, which stood as an all-time record until Abby Wambach surpassed her last week. She made her final Olympic appearance at the 2004 Athens Games, where she won her second gold and third overall medal.
  • Defenseman Angela Ruggiero saw the women’s ice hockey tournament through its first four Olympics, winning a medal at each Games, including a gold in Nagano, where the event made its debut. Though she retired in 2011, she remains involved in the Games by serving as a member of the International Olympic Committee.
  1. samonelastains - Jun 23, 2013 at 1:44 PM

    Dara Torres, Jenny Thompson, natalie Coughlin. All swimmers who are not mentioned but are the most decorated female Olympians of all time. Give respect where it is rightfully due, these women made a huge impact too.

  2. nothanksimdriving123 - Jun 23, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    Extremely honorable mention to Cammi Granato, member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, US Hockey Hall of Fame and International Hockey Hall of Fame. She was captain of the US team that stunned Canada in the first ever Olympic Gold Medal game in 1998 in Nagano.

  3. arrooo - Jun 23, 2013 at 9:52 PM

    Add in all the wrestling teams now extinct because of title 9.

  4. mogogo1 - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:02 AM

    The sad thing is that even 41 years in, it’s still impossible to have an honest conversation about Title IX. Yes, it allowed women’s sports to flourish in a way that simply would not have happened without it. I fully support that outcome because we all know that there’d be next to no women’s sports at the university level if you let the schools themselves decide. But the way universities were allowed to implement it, by cutting lesser men’s programs to either create the funds for the women’s programs or to make it look like everything was equal, has been a travesty. Wrestling has been decimated, to name just one example. And many other men’s sports exist on shoestring budgets and limited scholarships. And meanwhile football and men’s basketball get virtually anything they want while all the other sports–men’s and women’s–fight over the scraps.

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