But it was a Saudi judo competitor, Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani, who was the subject of much attention in the Games' first week, even though she competed for 82 seconds before being thrown by her Puerto Rican opponent.
"Hopefully this will be the start of bigger participation for other sports also," she said after the match. "Hopefully this is the beginning of a new era."
IOC President Jacques Rogge took the extraordinary step of trumpeting the presence of women on each of the 205 national teams at the opening ceremony.
His record on the advancement of women is mixed; on his watch, the IOC eliminated softball, a women-only sport, but he is to be given credit for brow-beating the reluctant Saudis into finally bringing women to the Games.
"This emerging generation of women athletes here in London is 'standing on the shoulders of giants' -- benefiting from the pioneering work of those who have come before them," Rogge wrote in an e-mail.
"Unlike their predecessors, the present group of young women have grown up with female athletes as role models and part of the 'sporting scenery.' After these Games, for the first time, we will have had women competing from all teams and in all sports. For a young girl watching at home, thinking of becoming an athlete, it has never been a more natural choice to compete," he wrote.
British discover women's soccer
The image of a little girl watching these Games at home is never far from the minds of the women competing here.
Take the unprecedented focus on the Great Britain women's soccer team, which was riding high until it lost to Canada in the quarterfinals. While millions here live and die with men's soccer, the women's game was banned for 50 years, until 1971, and has basically been ignored since. A few years ago, when a cabbie was asked about England's women's soccer team, he replied, "We have a women's team?"
Guaranteed, he knows there is a team now. Soccer started on the Wednesday before the Games began, the British women won, and there were those front pages again -- women's soccer as the lead story across the land.
"By simply seeing someone who looks like you, if you're a 12-year-old girl, you're in Britain, you see your women's soccer team win, I guarantee you the numbers will spike next year," Ruggiero said. "If there are fathers out there who didn't know Great Britain played women's soccer, or didn't respect it, if they went to a game or saw it on TV, they would see the level of play is different than the bias they carried into it."
American women's swimming has been a respected power for generations, but rarely has there been a team as strong as the one that competed here for eight days. The U.S. women won eight gold medals, the most they have won in the Olympics in 28years, when the Americans won 12 in the 1984 Los Angeles Games that were boycotted by the East Germans and the Soviet Union, according to research conducted by Bill Mallon, founder and past president of the International Society of Olympic Historians.
For the first time, the U.S. women's team was coached by a woman, University of California head coach Teri McKeever.
"I'm not standing here as the head coach of this team if Title IX doesn't happen," said McKeever, who was born 10 years before President Richard Nixon signed the law June 23, 1972.
Her team believes it wouldn't have done as well here if she hadn't been their head coach.
"This is definitely the most bonded team I've ever been a part of," Olympic gold medalist Dana Vollmer said. "I think having Teri McKeever as our head coach, she created a space for all of us that we could actually open up to one another and really learn each other's stories and learn what motivates each other and what makes each other nervous.
"To be able to be truly honest with all of your teammates is really an awesome feeling. We've really tapped into each other's energies and excitement and we're bringing that into every race."
'A watershed Olympics on a lot of levels'
When the Games close, the challenge will be to not lose the momentum that was built here.
"Hopefully there is a spillover after the Olympics," Ruggiero said. "That's my hope. Otherwise, you have all that success, then, when the Games end, it tends to go away."
But many believe too much history has already been made to see it evaporate this time.
"I think it's a watershed Olympics on a lot of levels," said former Olympic gold medalist Donna de Varona, who has worked on the issues of the advancement of women in international sport for decades.
"They really get sports here, and to see women athletes embraced like this, it's a new day. I hope someday, people are talking about what happened at the London Olympics as a turning point in the acceptance of women in sports throughout the world," she said.
If that happens, Coe said it would be "a wonderful legacy" for these Games.
"In historical terms, the London Games in 1948 with the appearance of Fanny Blankers-Koen (the winner of four gold medals who was known as 'The Flying Housewife') helped start to move the post-War agenda for the enablement of women," Coe said.
"History doesn't always repeat itself, but it occasionally aligns. I'd like to think that London has once again moved the cause of women in sports a little bit further," Coe said.
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