From Gabby Douglas to Alex Morgan, women are being hailed as the stars of the 2012 Olympics, at least for American audiences. The Baltimore Sun notes that this year the US sent more women than men to the Games, for the first time ever, and that many of the breakout stars in London — Douglas, her teammate Aly Raisman, swimmer Missy Franklin — have been women. And the New York Times just devoted a largely adoring profile to the "imperfect" but much-beloved women's soccer team. As much as viewers love to ogle (and mock) Ryan Lochte, many of the most-talked-about athletes of the Games have been female.
Maybe that's partly because for many casual sports fans, watching female athletes is something of a novelty. While the faces of the men's Olympic basketball team are familiar to most due to their NBA fame, the women's basketball players are far less well-known — most play for the WNBA, but that league has struggled to get mainstream attention (though attendance was up last season). And while Olympic women's soccer has, in the words of Sam Borden of the Times, "inspired incredible emotion from fans of all types," no fan of any type could watch women's pro soccer in the US this season, because the league folded (men's soccer, by contrast, is doing well, but the US men's team didn't make the Olympics).