US heading for win over China in both medals races
With a surge of medals in track and field, the United States has
sprinted ahead of China and is poised to finish atop the medals
table at the London Olympics – maybe with the most golds ever
collected by the Americans on foreign soil.
Heading into the final weekend of competition, the U.S. leads
both the gold and overall medals races after trailing the Chinese
most of the games.
The Americans pulled further ahead Friday. At the end of the
day’s events, the U.S. led China 94 to 81 in total medals and 41 to
37 in golds.
Bill Mallon, a veteran American medals prognosticator, believes
the U.S. will win the overall race by 12 to 15 medals and the gold
count by three to five.
Four more golds would equal the highest U.S. total on foreign
territory in Olympic history – 45 at both the 1968 Mexico City
Games and the 1924 Paris Games.
The gold haul in London is already the best for the United
States since it won 44 in 1996 in Atlanta. Its highest gold count
was 83 at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, which were boycotted by the
The late U.S. charge in London has been spurred by the track and
field team, with 26 medals, including eight golds, through
The Americans picked up four medals Thursday night with 1-2
finishes by Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee in the decathlon and by
Christian Taylor and Will Claye in the triple jump. They grabbed
two more Friday night – gold in the women’s 4×100-meter relay and
silver in the men’s 4×400 relay.
Away from the track, wrestler Jordan Burroughs won gold in the
men’s 74-kilogram freestyle.
The success could validate the projection of 30 medals by USA
Track & Field, the national governing body for the sport, which
had been widely maligned as too ambitious.
With two more relays and a few other chances coming up, the
United States could exceed 30 medals – even after being shut out in
the men’s 200 and 400 meters, two events where the Americans
”A lot of people thought 30 medals was crazy,” said Steve
Roush, the U.S. Olympic Committee’s former chief of sports
performance, who served on USA Track & Field’s ”Project 30”
He added: ”It was the big question mark coming in. It turns out
we are going to be right there. If there is a surprise, it’s just
how well the U.S. has done in track and field.”
Though closely tracked by Olympic teams, fans and the media, the
medals race is an unofficial competition. The International Olympic
Committee doesn’t even recognize the medal count.
The U.S. Olympic Committee has also been reluctant to talk up
the medals chase – until the end of the games, anyway. It stresses
that its job is to enable as many Americans as possible to stand on
the podium and represent the country.
”We are fortunate to have had success in both team and
individual sports,” spokesman Patrick Sandusky said. ”The Olympic
Games is a competition between athletes, not nations. With that
said, we are very proud of our American athletes in London.”
China beat the U.S. in gold medals, 51 to 36, on home soil at
the 2008 Beijing Games, while the Americans prevailed 110 to 100
Many thought China would sweep both lists in London. And the
Chinese started strong, racking up medals in their traditional
sports of badminton, table tennis and diving. But medal chances are
drying up in the final days, and China can’t compete with the U.S.
in track and field.
”China’s big challenge is in swimming and track and field,”
Roush said. ”There are so many medals at stake.”
This is still China’s best gold medal showing outside Beijing,
better than the 32 it collected at the 2004 Athens Games. But there
is a clear sense of disappointment back home.
The Communist Party’s official Guangming Daily newspaper
complained of unfair judging. Several papers cited the result in
the men’s gymnastics rings event, in which Chen Yibing settled for
silver behind Brazil’s Arthur Zanetti.
”We need to shout out loud: London Olympics, under the Olympic
rings, please view all participants equally,” the paper said.
In interviews with Chinese newspapers, the country’s deputy
sports minister, Cai Zhenhua, has also accused judges of
discriminating against Chinese athletes.
”We need to solve the problem now or risk more judges adopting
a biased view,” Cai said.
Britain, meanwhile, is assured of finishing third in gold
medals, benefiting from a home-country boost that has produced its
best medal performance in more than a century – 25 golds and 57
Not since the 1908 London Olympics has Britain racked up medals
at this pace. Back then, only 22 nations showed up, compared with
Britain, heavily promoting its athletes as Team GB, has excelled
particularly in rowing and track cycling, thanks in large part to
generous funding from the national lottery and the
government-backed U.K. Sport body. U.K. Sport allocated $470
million for sports federations and athletes ahead of the London
”GB cycling is a model of what can be done, and the rowing is
phenomenal,” Roush said. ”It’s been a combination of home-field
advantage and U.K. Sport support.”
Britain’s rise has come at the expense of once-powerful Russia,
which will finish out of the top three in golds for the first time
since before the Soviet Union began competing at the Olympics.
In 1912, the Russian team had no golds and five total. The
Soviet Union began competing at the 1952 Helsinki Games. Since
then, the Soviet or Russian team has finished in the top three in
golds every time – until now.
The Russians had only 15 golds through Friday, compared with 23
in Beijing. They have won plenty of silver and bronze and are third
in the overall count with 62, but that’s not good enough for a
country that will host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
”The Russians are rebuilding,” Roush said. ”The old Soviet
system produced such strong talent and coaches, but the coaches and
athletes are starting to retire.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise has been South Korea. The country
of 50 million people – roughly the population of California,
Washington and Oregon put together – has charged into fourth place
with 13 golds, asserting itself as an Asian power.
The South Koreans have invested heavily in Olympic sports,
coaches and training and will do even more as they prepare to host
the 2018 Winter Games in the city of Pyeongchang.
Japan has performed strongly, with 35 medals, but has failed to
turn them into gold, picking up only five.
Australia and Germany have been among the biggest
disappointments. The Australians had hoped to finish in the top
five in both golds and total medals, but are lagging that pace with
only seven and 31. Germany, which had a target of 28 golds and 86
medals, has only 10 golds and 42 total.
Associated Press writer Christopher Bodeen in Beijing
contributed to this report.
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