The anticipation for Team USA’s performance reached epic levels this year, buoyed by some historic events, matchups, and promises: Mikaela and Lindsey battling it out; the last Olympics for Lindsey, Ted, Shaun, and other legends; promising talent that could finally win us gold in our underdog sports (ahem, biathlon and cross-country skiing). Yet when the country failed to nab enough gold, many patriotic haters (ignore them!) expressed frustration at America’s lackluster performance.
But that attitude fails to summon proper Olympic pride for the true heroes of the Games: the U.S. women.
This isn’t just a girl-power pitch, although fantastic women athletes have been underappreciated for too long. This is a reminder of cold, hard numbers. Women and women’s teams won 12 of the U.S.’s 21 medals (that’s not counting the two mixed-sex teams that won us ice-dancing medals) and five out of eight gold. The math says more than half of our medals came from Team USA’s women, who only make up 45 percent of that group. Talk about disproportionately pulling your weight.
Here’s another thing only the women can lay claim to: we ended three medal droughts. Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins won gold in women’s cross country skiing; the women’s long-track speed skating team won bronze; and our women’s hockey team finally beat Canada in their most treasured sport. (Suck an egg, Canada!)
But it’s not just about the victories—it’s about the Olympic spirit, which America’s women also owned this year. They wowed spectators with athletic feats while charming them with good humor and clear grit. Even casual spectators know just how unprecedented both Shiffrin and Vonn’s domination is. Both also showed toughness in the face of high-pressure personal moments, with Shiffrin fighting through pre-race barfs onto the podium and Vonn making a tearful but graceful last Olympic run (and winning bronze, thank you very much). Jamie Anderson won gold and silver in snowboarding while having the sunniest (and most lingo-riddled) manner we’ve ever seen, and Chloe Kim continues to inspire a new generation while making gold-medal runs look easy with mid-competition ice cream cravings. After beating Scandinavians at one of the most grueling winter sports in the world, Randall and Diggins even performed a joyful podium dance and won our hearts all over again.
It’s not that our men weren’t great too. They were. But our women were unforgettable.