London will never be lonely. The Olympic crowds may have come and gone, leaving the city lesser for their departure. But the usual post-Olympic depression will modify in time as the memories made take center stage.
For the United States, what stands out is the performance of its female athletes. More than one reporter has dubbed these the Title IX Games. That landmark 1972 law provided myriad opportunities for young women to participate in sports. Their achievements reached an extreme in London. Only China (38) won more total gold medals than the American women (29) on their own. They helped fuel a winning medal count of 46 gold, 29 silver and 29 bronze -- 56.7 percent of our country's total medal count (104) with 59 medals in all.
There are too many brilliant performances to count: the dominance of the women's basketball team, which won gold for the fifth Olympics in a row; the women's water polo team, silver medalists in Beijing who earned gold in London; and the women's soccer team, which took gold in dramatic fashion thanks in part to a semifinal win over Canada that was a game for the ages.
Team sports weren't the only ones thriving. It's hard to forget performances like that of Gabby Douglas, the 16-year-old gymnast who helped her team to a gold medal and won the individual all-around competition. Or Missy Franklin, whose dominance at age 17 with four swimming gold medals portends a brilliant career with the bar set high now. Bethesda's own Katie Ledecky burst onto the scene with her gold-medal winning, American-record time in the 800-meter freestyle. She's just 15.
The 4x100 relay team set a world record of its own on the track en route to gold. Sprinter Carmelita Jeter screaming and pointing at the clock as she crossed the finish line was an iconic moment. That group of female track stars that included Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards-Ross dominated throughout the competition in several events.
The United States had never won a gold medal in judo, but it happened for the first time thanks to Kayla Harrison. Claressa Shields did the same in middleweight boxing. The future is bright for the American women as the clock starts toward Rio.
- Brian McNally