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The First Olympic Gold: It Was 20 Years Ago Today …

The first-ever Olympic gold medalists in women's soccer, August 1, 1996 at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia. Credit: YouTube.

The first-ever Olympic gold medalists in women’s soccer, August 1, 1996 at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia. Credit: YouTube.


It was twenty years ago today that I sat in front of my full-size, non-flat-screen television (remember those?) and waited patiently through track & field and gymnastics highlights to watch the only glimpses that NBC would provide of the gold medal game for women’s soccer. There was no live streaming, no Twitter, no smartphones capturing the moment in Athens, Georgia – but there was a then-record crowd of 76,489 fans in the stands. The success of this tournament convinced FIFA that the 1999 Women’s World Cup should be staged in larger venues in the USA, unlike the small stadiums used in 1995 in Sweden.

The 1996 Atlanta Olympics were the first to include women’s soccer. The eight teams in the first Olympic tourney qualified based on their performances at the 1995 Women’s World Cup, so not all confederations were represented. The USWNT faced China in the final, defeating the Steel Roses 2-1 off goals from Shannon MacMillan and Tiffeny Milbrett. Afterwards, Bob Costas spoke with the players live from the field (highlights of both goals included):


In last week’s Mixxed Zone podcast, host Jen Cooper spoke with 1996 USWNT backup keeper Mary Harvey, who was also the starting keeper for the 1991 WWC championship team. Harvey later worked at FIFA to develop the u17 Women’s World Cup. Tomorrow’s Mixxed Zone podcast will feature a interview with 1996 USWNT starting keeper Briana Scurry.

Jen Cooper also chatted with former US Soccer and USOC board member Marty Mankamyer, one of the three women responsible for organizing a US women’s national team and getting women’s soccer added to the Olympics.

Last but certainly not least, be sure to check out the video clips of 10 of the most memorable USWNT Olympic goals.

The 2016 Olympic women’s soccer tournament kicks off this Wednesday! Download an interactive schedule & standings chart here. All games stream live on; all USA games air live on NBC Sports.




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