The the 2012 Summer Olympics are now just a few short days away, and you know what that means: for the next 20 days or so, we’re all going to become experts on sports we previously knew nothing about, going on and on about how this diver arched her back too much as she entered the water, or how that gymnast really is a balance beam specialist. And I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t change this for the world. Becoming a temporary expert on obscure sports like badminton is one of the best things about the Olympics—right up there with the pageantry of the opening ceremonies and inspirational McDonalds commercials.
Anyway, I thought today it would be nice to get into the spirit of the Olympics by forming strong opinions about things we didn’t care about 6 weeks ago. So to that end, I present you with this list of the 13 greatest female (summer) Olympians of all time. As with all lists of “the greatest” anything—teams, movies, albums—this one is debatable. But not that debatable. Trust me, I did the research.
You won’t find any bias toward countries, here, but you will find a very just bias toward sports. That’s because it is easier to win multiple medals in some sports (like swimming and gymnastics) than others (like fencing or track and field). Moreover, there are individual events and then there are group or team events—relays in swimming and track, the all-around team competition in gymnastics. So we can’t just go by medal count alone. Ten medals in gymnastics might be like 8 in swimming or 5 in track and field—or something like that.
But you get the idea. So let’s get to it, then.