Feb 16, 2022 - Sports

American women lead the way in Beijing

Photo illustration of Team USA members Chloe Kim, Erin Jackson and Ashley Caldwell against a background of stars and stripes.

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Wang Haofei/Xinhua, Mao Jianjun/China News Service, Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

For the second time in seven months, American women are ensuring that Team USA comes home with plenty of hardware.

State of play: As of Tuesday night, women had won 13 of Team USA's 17 medals in Beijing, with nine coming in women's events and four coming in mixed events.

By the numbers: 108 of Team USA's 224 members are women, marking the 11th consecutive Winter Olympics that the U.S. has tied or broken the record for most women competing for a single nation.

  • The U.S. is also the only nation to have four different women win individual gold in Beijing: Jacobellis, Kim, Humphries and Jackson.
  • American women were similarly impactful last summer in Tokyo, comprising 54% of the team (329 of 613) and winning 58% of the medals (66 of 113), including 23 of 39 golds.

The backdrop: This is a momentous year for American women's sports, with Title IX turning 50 in June. That legislation directly impacted the Olympic pipeline by making college athletics more accessible to women.

Percentage of Olympians that have been women, 1900-2020
Data: International Olympic Committtee; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

The big picture: Women's increased Olympic presence is hardly limited to the U.S. Representation has steadily grown since the first modern Games in 1896, the last time women were barred from competing.

  • Women comprised just 2.2% of athletes in their first Summer Games (1900) and 4.3% in their first Winter Games (1924). They didn't crack 10% until 1936, 20% until 1960 or 30% until 1994.
  • Now, the Olympics are nearly gender equal: A Winter Games-record 45% of athletes in Beijing are women, and 49% of athletes in Tokyo were women, a Summer Games record.
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