The 2016 U.S. Women’s Olympic team pose for a photo after the team trials at SAP Center: front: Laurie Hernandez, MyKayla Skinner, Simone Biles, Ragan Smith; back: Ashton Locklear, Aly Raisman, Madison Kocian,Gabby Douglas. (Photo: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports)
Quick, name a superstar female athlete who doesn’t play tennis or golf.
The odds are good that if you were able to come up with a name at all, she was an Olympian.
That’s because with few exceptions women’s sports are relegated to obscure cable channels (if they are televised at all) and rarely shown in coveted prime-time slots, and thus struggle for sponsors, money and a toehold in America’s sporting consciousness.
Once every four years, however, the Summer Olympic Games give female athletes the platform and exposure they otherwise rarely get. More than 219 million people in the U.S. viewed the 2012 London Games, a record for one event.
For 17 days in Rio de Janeiro, starting with the opening ceremony Friday night, women will be on (almost) equal footing with men. Their stories will be told by NBC, their races will be shown in prime time — Rio is two hours ahead of Central Daylight Time — and their names will appear in newspaper headlines from coast to coast.
“We don’t really care about women’s basketball during the summer when the WNBA is playing,” said Cheryl Cooky, president of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport, “but we’ll tune in and watch the same women play in the Olympic Games.”
And we will be reminded, once again, how good U.S. women are at running, rowing, swimming and tumbling.
In London, women outnumbered men on the U.S. Olympic team for the first time in history (269-261), and women’s teams won gold medals in basketball, soccer, beach volleyball,