Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images ; Drew Hallowell/Getty Images; Al Bello/Getty Images
Before any medals have been handed out, the women competing at the London Games have already made history. For the first time, every nation participating in the Olympics will have female athletes competing – women will actually comprise 40 percent of the 10,500 athletes in London.
It’s easy to forget how recently women’s participation in sports has become so widely accepted. The New York Times reports that as recently as 1984, women were barred from running marathons, and in 1996, 26 countries had no female athletes in the Games. Today, the United States has more female athletes competing than male athletes, with 269 women competing, and 261 men. Also groundbreaking: Middle Eastern countries Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Brunei are sending women for the very first time.
There are still great strides to be made in everything from uniforms (boxing skirts? Really?) to making sure the advances at the Olympics take root permanently in their home countries. Female participation in sports in Saudi Arabia, for example, is still banned; the country’s representative in the 800-meter running event, 19-year-old Sarah Attar, was born and raised in California and trains in the United States.
Even so, we’re already proud to see so many outrageously talented and driven women stepping up this year, and we can’t wait to see them on the podium in the coming weeks!
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Kate Winick is a lifestyle writer, editor, and social media obsessive living in NYC. Follow her on twitter at @katewinick.