Thousands filled Trafalgar Square Tuesday afternoon to honour the heroes of Team GB and their success at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. More than 300 Olympic and Paralympic athletes took the stage to thunderous applause and roaring cheers, but the biggest cries came when host Ore Oduba recognised the dedication, talent, and triumph of the 164 female Olympians that competed this year.
“There are some incredibly inspirational, fantastic women up there,” Oduba told the crowd. “We have so many represented on this stage, and so many that represented at Rio.”
130 British athletes medaled in Rio, and approximately 41% were women. In total, Team GB racked up 67 medals — 27 were gold– while Paralympians brought home 147. More than 60 of the Paralympic medals were won by females.
Among the champions were the gold-medal winning women’s hockey team, Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds, and two-time gold medalist Nicola Adams, who were all on stage to celebrate.
Double Olympic defender Adams told onlookers how excited she was to be a role model for so many “girl boxers” out there. “We need a lot more of you winning medals, and I hope there’s some of you out there in the crowd today,” she exclaimed. “The next generation- let’s do it!”
Also on stage were Natasha Baker and Sophie Christiansen, representing the Paralympic equestrian team. “The five women on the team won three gold medals, so we’re like the new Spice Girls,” joked Baker. She also expressed the importance of “promoting” female athletics. “I think it’s great to put women’s sports out there and encourage girls to follow their dreams.”
Paracyclist Kadeena Cox, field hockey goalie Maddie Hinch, rowers Katherine Grainger and Victoria Thornley, and sailors Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark also addressed the crowds.
“It’s awesome to see how much support we have,” said Cox, who won four medals in two different sports at the 2016 games. She was chosen as the flag bearer for the closing ceremonies, an event which she described as “an honour.”
Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, ended the celebrations on an enthusiastic note: “Team GB and Paralympics GB, you inspire us. You inspire people who are not ordinarily involved in sports, and you are inspiring the next generation. Thank you so much for the memories.”
This year featured the most female athletes in the history of the Olympics. 45% of Olympians were women, breaking the record set during the London 2012 games. With that number expected to rise, Tokyo 2020 promises more exciting memories, even more female Olympians, and hopefully, a few more medals.