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The medal count: U.S., China creating 'parallel Olympics'

Lin Dan of China during the men's gold medal match in badminton. Lin won.

BEIJING -- U.S. athletes are doing well in the sports their country traditionally cares about.

Chinese athletes are doing well in the sports their country traditionally cares about, plus some in which they have created instant tradition based on success.

“What we have here is a parallel Olympics,” said David Wallechinsky, author of “The Complete Book of the Olympics.”

“We in the United States are focused on swimming, track and field and basketball, and we hardly notice that China just won five gold medals in sports like badminton, shooting and women’s weightlifting.”

While pool swimming (as opposed to open water) and track have by far the most medals at stake, U.S. dominance there likely will not be enough to keep China from topping the gold medal count.

“A lot of people are saying China is traditionally not as strong in the second week, but traditionally they don’t win xx gold medals in the first week,” said Steve Roush, chief of sports performance for the U.S. Olympic Committee.

“I’m not sure tradition is the best predictor of the future where China is concerned.”

China led 35-19 in the gold medal tally after Sunday’s action, the final day of pool swimming, in which the U.S. won 12 of 32 golds and China just one.

It is no surprise that Chinese media are among many worldwide that list the medal standings by gold rather than total medals, where the United States leads 65-61.

Roush and other USOC officials long had predicted that China would have exceptional results based on its Project 119, which identified 119 potential medal events and focused time and money on them.

“For the non-believers, it is reality that the Chinese investment over the past six or seven years has proved to be successful in events where they typically had not succeeded on the international level,” Roush said.

While U.S. athletes should win several gold medals in team sports that end later this week, their only hope to surpass China depends on doing better in track and field than seems reasonably possible — especially after failing to win the men’s shotput and both the men’s and women’s 100-meter dash.

An everything-goes-right view would have the United States winning 31 gold medals in the second week of the Olympics, which would make the total 48, or a whopping 12 more than the total four years ago in Athens.

China won 32 golds in Athens. While many sports they have dominated here are over, the Chinese should add to their current total with three more golds in table tennis, three more in diving, and one or more in boxing and gymnastics, with others possible in canoe-kayak and track and field.

These are possible places for the United States to add to its gold total.

Beach volleyball, two; baseball, one (unlikely); basketball, two (expected); BMX cycling, one; gymnastics, two; equestrian, one; sailing, one; soccer, one; softball, one (expected); taekwondo, one; volleyball, one; and water polo, one.

The United States has a shot at 16 gold medals in track and field, but its athletes are favored for only seven: men’s and women’s 400 meters, women’s 200, men’s 400 hurdles, decathlon and both 1,600-meter relays.

“Our Olympic team is performing well,” Roush insisted. “This isn’t a matter of the United States losing the gold medal count but of China stepping up and winning it.”

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: Lin Dan of China during the men's gold medal match in badminton. Lin won. Credit: Indranil Mukherjee / AFP / Getty Images

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Comments (169)

Hey South America, the correct term for "soccer" or "football" is in fact "association football". For your information, "soccer" is an English word. It was created in the 1890's to differentiate association football from other football codes such as rugby union football.

In countries that had a local football code prior to the introduction of association football, association football was often called "soccer" to differnetiate it from the local code that was already nick named "football". Just because many countries could not create their own football code prior to the introduction of association football doesn't give you the right to criticise other nations for calling it "soccer".

In fact, the fact that they call it "soccer" displays an originality of ideas which clearly is not the case in most of Europe or South America who had to take on an English developed game as they were too stupid to create their own!

Currently China has 45 golds to USA's 27 but the US leads the medal table. Go Team USA !

It's a great relief to see a number of Americans adding posts stating that the US media (most, not all) are using the wrong medal table. It is the arrogant bad-losers in America that the rest of the world has such a serious problem with. Perhaps the problem is that for most Americans, winning is just a fact of life. Likewise the Aussies seem rather bitter at the fact that we (Britain) have blown them out of the water when we so rarely beat them at anything. However, they did not resort to using an alternative medal table when they were ahead on overall medals.

Please US media, don't be retarded, you make your country look bad.

Link one: USA Today's medal table of Athens 2004
Notice how China are second and Russia third, yet Russia had more medals overall.

Link two: USA Today's medal table for Beijing 2008
The slanted table.



OK, now that many of us have beat up on the good ole USA and Mr. Hersh... let's get away from ridiculous technicalities like how the medal count is displayed.

Hmm, perhaps we could take about genetic engineering and communist dictator run athletic "factories" where the almighty State decides what happens to your child and whether you won't see much of them for the next 10 years or so while they train six days a week under Big Brother.
Or maybe, we can talk about incentives, like if you win a gold for the glorious State, your family will be well cared for.
Or we can talk about the all wise national leaders deciding which events athletes will be DIRECTED to participate in, under a nationaly DIRECTED strategy.

So please, let's get away from all the wonderful host PR (that stands for Public Relations or People's Republic--your choice) and get back to Orwellian reality.
By the way, if you think I am full of it, I dare you to try to get a permit to protest in Beijing in one of their "designated" zones. I don't think your family will hear from you for a while.
Yes, the US may do dismal in the Gold Medal count, especially if you take away one American who won 8 Gold Medals. But each of our athletes participated in the orginal spirit of the Olympics. The sport they chose and the personal initiative and sacrifice they took should far outweigh the color of the medal (and jade) they ultimately were awarded.

PS Don't get me started about "Judged" events like gymnastics...

These comments are shameful.

Concentrate on the competition, not the coverage. You'll find guts and inspiration under every flag, and the sweat all smells the same.

If medal counts threaten your sense of well-being, go watch a movie and tear into another bag of chips.

Well i don't really mind what the United States point out to be relevant. I guess many countries have their own pride, and all of them try to show their population only the pretty face, it's ok.
Anyway, everybody knows that the winner is the one who gets the gold medal, so the winner in counting medals should be the one with more gold medals.
But we're not going to change the position of the United States, because they never do, so let them fool themselvs (and they don't if youask me, they KNOW they're behind) and let them be proud of something else, just like everybody does.
Even in my country we try to celebrate every match won, and take count only the things at which we do well. And it's not easy for the United States, or anybody, to loose a place you've earned many many times.


"The US have all the power, the money, the technology, the influence and even the experience, although the impressive number of chinese trainers that we can in your teams, to smash every country in competition sports, specially a "superpower proyect" in the very long run as China... considering that, i can observe that there is something worst that an arrogant winner(US in the past)... a sore loser (US 2008)."

What??? Was that supposed to make sense?

If we rank by gold then the US wins in 1964 against the Soviets and loses in 2008 against China. If we rank by total then the USA wins in 2008 against China but loses in 1964 against the USSR.

And if we rank by gold then Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian. If we rank by total then Larissa Latynina of the USSR is the most decorated Olympian. Unfortunately, athletes from small countries have no chance to win this title, because they have no chance in the team competitions - even the best athletes need strong comrades to collect lots of team gold medals.

All media in the world, except the US ranks the number of gold medals before number of silvers, bronze..

You shouldnt act as bad losers, you should be proud of coming second :-)

U.S. media= pro-U.S., UK media= pro-UK, Chinese media= Pro-Chinese.
This is the natural order of things. Most people of any given nationality will believe their country is better. Period.

We all know that in America coming 2nd is perceived as being a LOOSER. I therefore propose a new way of ranking the medals table: The net number of winning to losing medals. GOLD MEDALS - (SILVER + BRONZE Medals)

This would give us (as of 22nd Aug)
CHINA: +9 (46-15-22)
US: -40 (30-35-35)

This means the US is the clear NET LOOSER, whilst China is a clear NET WINNER.

Simple as that.


To those who suggested that the US wins more medals per capita.

On the medals per capita basis the US would lag many countries in the medals league. For example the UK:
UK: 0.30 gold medals per million population (or 0.68 total medals per million)
US: 0.11 gold medals per million population (or 0.37 total medals per million)

I have not done the maths, but the same must be true for Australia, Germany and Jamaica, they would all lead the US.

But maybe it is also relevant to look at who wins more medals PER ATHLETE TAKING PART?

US Team sent 596 athletes to the games, China 639, and the UK sent 313.

This view puts the US 3rd in the Medal table!!!:
(As of Aug 22nd)
1. Chinese Team: 7.2% of their athletes received a gold (46 Golds)
2. UK Team: 5.7% of their athletes received a gold (18 Golds)
3. US team 5.0% of their atheletes received a gold medal (30 Golds)

I think that is conclusive, whichever way you look at it.

loser is someone who refuse to face reality
Today we know very clearly who is loser

Why is it so hard to view the games as intended. When countries unite and compete every four years out of pride for themselves and their country.
America is without a doubt the best country ever and I have great pride in this country. You want to know what defines America is the want and the ability to help countries in need even after they spit in our faces we shake it off and go help. The amount of pride in this country is still huge today and no matter what remarks you may make I surely hope that you change your mind when America is called to come help something or someone you love because you can bet they will be there.
If China wins they deserve to win they have done very well and congrats to not China but to the athletes who competed to earn their medals.

Sigh... live and let live..

I'm from India myself and have been ranking the countries from lowest to highest based on per capita... so India tops the ranks... :) .come on...how do you think I get out of bed on monday mornings?

Everyone to their own I say..

As for watching the olympics coverage... I enjoy watching it on a channel where I don't understand the language so the biased commentry doesnt annoy me.. or I use the blessed mute button..

Hurray for Boston Celtics and the New York Giants (World champions 2008)..
Oops.. everyone to their own? :)

The only thing I am upset about is that the US changes its way of ranking countries in such a way that we always stay in first. Well, if you want to stay ahead, then *be* the first, not manipulate the numbers. Olympic games have always been ranked like Gold medals first, then silver, then bronze, then using total medals only to break ties. It's a shame to manipulate numbers to be the first place, either accept the fact you are second or *do* something in the field to get back in the game.

Total number of medals (gold only or sum of all colors) is not a good way to measure "success" or whether one country is "better" than another at sports. First, major team sports are not weighted properly (one medal for basketball, volleyball, etc... when a team has 10 or more players on it while weightlifting, swimming, etc... have several medals awarded). Second, there's any number of sports that go unrepresented or are not taken seriously by a particular country. The only way to measure if one country is "better" is to look at head-to-head competition in sports where both countries actually compete against one another. Third, population size and economic size are not considered. If you factor these in, then US and China both suck!

come on US media
stop fooling around
you can lie us but you cannot lie yourself
the winners are those who can face reality and accept it

For all the people commenting about China leading the medal count and how the US reports the medal counts wrong, the US media always reported the medal count this way (total medals). Even on occasions when the US won more gold medals than the Soviet Union (1964) the Soviet Union is listed first because they won the most medals...

it's sad look at american's medal table showing china in a second place. The entire planet knows that China is gonna win the olympics. The gold medals rules and if you check the olympics rules you will realized. I agree that maybe it is not the best way to decide a winner, but for sure a bronze medal worth exactly the same as a golden one. Perhaps the gold medal shoudl get 10 points, silver 5 and bronze 1. But if you think that 3rd place is the same than 1st place in gonna say that 10th place is the sane than 3rd so all the countries are winning the olympics.
I think USA is still a great competitor but you should get used to lose for the future, because in less than 20 years China will become in the most important country all over the world.

wow, full of sore losers, clearly the winner of the olympics have always been determined by gold medal count, and on all the usa websites and nbc they put usa as first and china as second. I am canadian and even cbc uses the gold medal count. Even if you put it this way, gold=3 points silver=2 points and bronze=1 point, china would still be dominating the us. Seriously usa(usa media) is selfish and has no respect for the rest of the world.

I was hoping China would surpass USA in total medal count, just to see US media rank the medals by silver or bronze to make themselves appear #1 as always.

Enough heart felt slander against the US. JUST THE FACTS PLEASE:

The following shows USA got their usual compliment... which means China took EVERYONE elses :-)


YEAR G S B Total

1992 37 34 37 108

1996 44 32 25 101 (home field advantage in Atlanta)

2000 36 24 31 91

2004 36 39 27 102

2008 34 37 36 107 (as of Sat 23 Aug 08)

(Note: 2008 China with 49 with home field advantage vs 1996 USA 44 with our home field advantage--not a huge difference, especially when we know China targeted medal-rich events this Olympics)
(Note: Hosting nation automatically qualifies for all Olympic events)

Hmmm... let's go back even further for Gold medals for USA:
1948 38
1952 40
1956 32
1960 34
1964 36
1968 45 (Held in Mexico City-- a-typical but also a VERY good year for USA!)
1972 33
1976 34
1980 0 (Boycott by USA)
1984 84 (USSR and most of Eastern Block nations Boycotted / home advantage in Los Angeles)
1988 36

AVERAGE: 35.5 Gold medals per Olympics and remarkabley consistent (excluding home advantage and boycott Olympics) since 1948.

Conclusions about USA performance:

-- USA: Why is the overall medal count important? USA has won approx. one out of every six medals awarded at the Summer Olympic Games, historically (2188 of 12793 awarded in total, not including 2008)

-- USA: Most Gold medals in history by more than a two to one margin over next ranked competitor. (894 Gold USA vs 395 Gold USSR). Does not include 2008.

-- USA: Most Gold medals and second-most Golds by a single athlete in a single Olympics. (Phelps and Spitz)

-- USA: Most Gold medals by a single athlete, overall. (Phelps)

-- USA: All this, despite HAVING had to do well in "timed" events like track and field, swimming, because of questionable prejudice in "judged" events in the past, especially during the Cold War.

-- This Olympics:Most medals won by US overall during a single Olympics in last 16 years
-- This Olympics: Very traditional and respectable Gold medal standing for US, based on performance since 1948.
-- This Olymics: Most Gold Medals by any country except the host nation
-- KEEPING UP A PROUD TRADITION, despite facing a nation of 1.3 billion people whose athletes are State sponsored.

-- GO USA!



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