U-S-A: The Real Olympic Medal Count From WhatIfSports.com image


The Real Olympic Medal Count
By Shawn Kumar
August 28th, 2008

The widely successful Beijing summer games have been done for the past week or so. The Americans reigned above the rest with 110 total medals. China came in second with 100 and Russia rounded out the top 3 with 72 medals. After diligently watching most of the events, stories and controversies unfold, I couldn't help but notice that the American medal count was wrong, it should be considerably higher. Just as a heads up I am not going to be writing about the fact that the Chinese gymnasts were too young to compete and should be stripped of all their medals and rewarded to the USA, although it is certainly a viable point. No, this will be about what the real medal count should be, how it should be determined and what the IOC needs to change.

It is not a stretch to say that America has the best athletes. While watching the announcers going through each person that is about to compete in the event, I couldn't help but notice how many foreign athletes have gone to college here, trained here or have a coach that lives here. In fact with further research the numbers became staggering and then it became evident, those medals belong to the USA. For a woman from Zimbabwe, training in the facilities there can be extremely difficult. The resources, the money and the coaching are simply not good enough for Olympic glory. So why not apply to the best swimming program in the best swimming country, train there for years, practice against the best of the best, train from the elite of the elite, exploit the finest resources and facilities and use those skills harnessed instead for your Olympic dream? This is exactly what Kristy Coventry did. From a destitute Zimbabwe to Auburn University. She went from finishing last in Olympic trials to winning 1 gold and 3 silver medals. How did she complete this amazing turn-around? America. As far as I am concerned, if you come from another country, train against our athletes, use our facilities, ask our coaches for advice and do not wear USA on your body, that medal does not belong to you. And the list does not end there. Here is a list of people that represent other countries, but train in the USA:

  • Churandy Martina Netherlands Antilles All-American at UTEP Won Silver Medal 200m run
  • Pricilla Lopes-Schliep - Canada Went to Nebraska Won Bronze in 100m Hurdles
  • Kristy Coventry Zimbabwe Went to Auburn University - Won 1 Gold and 3 Silvers in swimming
  • Richard Thompson - Trinidad and Tobago Went to LSU Won a Silver 100m run
  • Nick Willis New Zealand Went to University of Michigan Won Bronze in 1500m run
  • Tasha Danvers Great Britain - Went to Southern Cal Won Bronze in womens 400 m hurdles

And this is just a small sample of people. There are more that won medals and many more that did not medal, but all trained in the USA.

I would understand someone's argument that a person should play for the country they are from, but isn't it more important to show appreciation for the country that made you able to compete at such a high level? That is why people have shown so much respect for Bernard Lagat, a Kenyan that ran for the Kenyan team who decided to go to the USA for education and advancement in his running. He is the reigning world champion in the 1500m and 5000m run. Kenyans now strategize against him, but he did the right thing and his success is proof enough.

Besides America getting all the medals they deserve, another point comes to mind. Medal counts should be measured individually, not by event. Every time a person earns a medal, even if on a team, that should count in the overall standings. The International Olympic Committee is unlikely to do this, however based on tradition and long standing rules. Nevertheless, let's say hypothetically that this rule was initiated before this Olympics, which would mean the USA would have a whopping 124 Gold medals to China's 74 Gold Medals. Sure the Chinese won more events, but they were all more or less the same. A ten meter dive vs. a three meter dive, tomato tomahto. And it goes on like that. The medal count should be based on how many medals that country is bringing home, not how many events are won. Also, it is preposterous that coaches are not awarded a Gold medal for their team's victory. Apparently to the IOC, if you don't play you don't deserve a medal. That coach had just as important a role on the team than any single player. You really think the "Redeem Team" would have had so much success without Mike Krzyzewski at the helm? Everyone involved with the winning team for whichever sport should get a medal. They were as integral a part of the success of the team as the players themselves.

The IOC should really review their rule platforms once and a while, they have 4 years in between to do it, and it seems that their only job is to pick a city for the Olympics anyway. Let's just hope that in the IOC will do something by London 2012.

The WIS Playbook is a collection of sports articles generated by authors from within the WhatIfSports community. Contributors will include Paul Bessire and Nicole Green of WhatIfSports.com, other guest writers and even registered WIS users. In the Playbook, you will find unique content that varies from our typical predictions and hypothetical matchups. If you are interested in submitting articles for the Playbook, please contact us at BtB@WhatIfSports.com.

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