"But the most important thing we've done is send the message out to little girls and little boys that girls can grow up to become athletes."
The next step, said three-time U.S. Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes of Silver Spring, will be for some of those countries without strong traditions in women's sports to become competitive with countries such as the United States.
It worked in reverse in women's gymnastics for the United States, where legions of young girls were inspired by the Soviet Union's Olga Korbut in 1972 and Romania's Nadia Comaneci in '76. Dawes, who competed in the 1992, '96 and 2000 Olympics, said she was drawn to the sport not so much by the United States' Mary Lou Retton in 1984 but by Romanians Daniela Silivas and Aurelia Dobre in '88.
"We might be a little ahead in some sports and a little behind in others," said Dawes, president-elect of the Women's Sports Foundation. "But that's the great thing about sports - is that athletes find a way to compete."
Track: Baltimore native Bernard Williams advances to the final of the 200-meter dash.
Coverage, Pages 1C, 6C-9C
Wrestling: American Rulon Gardner fails to repeat as gold medalist, signals his retirment.
Soccer: The U.S. women's team faces Brazil in the gold-metal match.
Basketball: The U.S. men meet undefeated Spain in the quarterfinals.