Women outnumber men on London-bound U.S. Olympic team

Wed Jul 11, 2012 12:14am EDT

Natalie Coughlin swims from the pool after winning the women's 100m butterfly semifinal during the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in Omaha, Nebraska, June 25, 2012. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT SWIMMING)

Natalie Coughlin swims from the pool after winning the women's 100m butterfly semifinal during the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in Omaha, Nebraska, June 25, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT SWIMMING)

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(Reuters) - The United States will send 530 athletes to the London Olympics as part of a massive team that will feature, for the first time, more women competitors than men, officials announced on Tuesday.

The team will feature 269 women and 261 men competing in 25 of the 38 disciplines during the July 27-August 12 Games where the United States are expected to challenge China as the leading nation on the medals table.

"They are our nation's greatest athletes and embody what it means to be American," U.S. Olympic Committee Chief Executive Scott Blackmun said in a statement.

"I'm also proud that for the first time in history, the U.S. Olympic Team features more women than men."

More than half of the team will be competing at their first Olympics. Of the returning athletes, seven are attending their fifth Olympics and another 21, including Michael Phelps, will be appearing at their fourth.

Phelps already holds the record for the most gold medals at a single Olympics (eight) and a career (14) and needs to medal in three of his seven events in London to surpass Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina's overall record of 18 total medals.

Natalie Coughlin needs just one more medal to join fellow swimmers Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres as the most decorated American female Olympian with 12 medals.

The oldest competitor is 54-year-old equestrian rider Karen O'Connor, while the youngest is 15-year-old swimmer Katie Ledecky.

"Whether competing at their first Games or fifth, the athletes on this team have made countless sacrifices, dedicating themselves to the pursuit of their Olympic dreams and to being their best both on and off the field of play," said Teresa Edwards, the team's chef de mission.

(Reporting by Julian Linden in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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