|The Beijing Games brought about the second-worst medal output for the United States since 1980. (AP)|
The United States has won 2,237 medals, 930 of them golds, since the modern Olympics began in 1896 Athens. Those tallies are more than any other nation, of course. (America, F yeah!)
But how have we done in contemporary times? I wanted to know, and I wanted to see what events we could expect success from in London, using the past seven Olympiads as a precedent. So, since the U.S. boycotted the '80 Games, I began in 1984, when the U.S. had its second-best showing in a Summer Olympics, winning a ridiculous 83 golds and 173 total medals. This showing was only bested by that iconic -- c'mon, you know you know it -- 1904 Olympiad in St. Louis, when the U.S. won 239 medals. But even then it didn't have as many golds as '84, taking a heaping 78 at the 1904 Games.
Recently, the United States has lost its grip on the medal chase, as 2008 saw the Red, White and Blue fall to host China (we totally dominated in the silver and bronze, though!).
And 1992 carries an asterisk of sorts, as the Unified Team, a rogue set of nations comprised of nearly all the former republics of the Soviet Union, competed as one. So, in that sense, the U.S. lost out. But against all other individual nations, the U.S. finished first, beating out Germany 37-33 in gold and 108-82 in overall. Nevertheless, the record book puts the Unified Team as one, so technically '92 was a silver season for the U.S.
Overall, in the past 28 years, the U.S. comes out on top in golds and overall medals with a plus-47 and plus-114 advantage, respectfully.
Here's the U.S. medal tally for the past seven Olympics.
|Year||Golds||Overall||Gold margin||Overall margin|
|1992||37||108||-8 (Unified Team)||-4 (Unified Team)|
|1988||36||94||-19 (USSR, East Germany)||-38 (USSR, East Germany)|
It's fair to believe that we'll never have another year like 1984, but that's in part because a lot of nations boycotted those games. In general, the Olympiads of the '80s are tainted because of all the boycotts and steroids that wiped out records and appearance from so many competitors/nations.
Now, let's look at all the sports and see where the U.S. thrives. This isn't just a look at Beijing and Athens. We're effectively spanning two generations worth of results at the Summer Games.
Impressions from the findings: First off, I gotta be honest. I had no idea we were so inept at javelin. You're telling me Aaron Rodgers can't huck a spear 90 meters right now? Let's get him out there and stop embarrassing ourselves. Inversely, somebody long ago should've told me we were such bosses out on the open water. That's right: sailing! Cue the Christopher Cross.
The lack of dominance in gymnastics was eye-opening, but our wimpy ways in weightlifting wasn't at all. We are a nation of dainty pretty boys, relatively speaking, and I am certainly proof of that. Watch me as I fail to carry an air conditioner with any sort of grace or husk.
In terms of biggest medal inventory per Olympiad, men's and women's swimming combined averages 28 medals per Olympics. Athletics -- which most naturally call "track and field" -- hauls in 26 coins per Games.
The percentages and events listed below were tallied out of available/possible medals that could be won in a given sport/event/discipline. So, for example, the women's volleyball team can't win three medals, just one. But in theory the women's 200-meter could be swept in medals. The volleyball is only tallied for one medal possibility, whereas the 200-meters is accounted for three.
There will be 302 total events, meaning nearly 1,000 medals are up for grabs in London beginning this Saturday. Yes, that's a helluva lot of hardware. So, in the past seven Games/28 years, how has the U.S. fared in each sport? When you track how America does in metal total everywhere in London, use this as a modern gauge. From best percentage to worst, here's how we do.
Basketball: 7 for 7 in medaling (100 percent); 1.0 medals per Games. Five golds.
Synchronized swimming: 9 for 13 (69 percent); 1.3 medals per Games. Five golds.
Water polo: 5 for nine (56 percent); .7 medals per Games. Zero golds.
Volleyball: 14 for 28 (50 percent); 2.0 medals per Games. Eight golds.
Sailing: 31 for 68 (46 percent); 4.4 medals per Games. Ten golds.
Wrestling: 51 for 134 (38 percent); 7.3 medals per Games. Twenty-two golds.
Soccer: 4 for 11 (36 percent); .57 medals per Games. Three golds.
Tennis: 17 for 48 (35 percent); 2.4 medals per Games. Nine golds.
Swimming: 197 for 594 (33 percent); 28.1 medals per Games. Ninety-one golds.
Athletics (men): 121 for 462 (26 percent); 17.2 medals per Games. Forty-nine golds.
Rowing: 26 for 125 (21 percent); 3.7 medals per Games. Four golds.
Equestrian: 24 for 126 (19 percent); 3.4 medals per Games. Six golds.
Archery: 10 for 52 (19 percent); 1.4 medals per Games. Four golds.
Diving: 19 for 120 (16 percent); 2.7 medals per Games. Six golds.
Athletics (women): 61 for 395 (15 percent); 8.7 medals per Games. Twenty-six golds.
Gymnastics: 48 for 346 (14 percent); 6.9 medals per Games. Twelve golds.
Cycling: 35 for 304 (12 percent); 5.0 medals per Games. Eleven golds.
Boxing: 35 for 336 (10 percent); 5.0 medals per Games. Fifteen golds.
Shooting: 21 for 258 (8 percent); 3.0 medals per Games. Ten golds.
Taekwondo: 6 for 80 (8 percent); .9 medals per Games. Two golds.
Field hockey: 1 for 14 (7 percent); .1 medals per Games. Zero golds.
Triathlon: 1 for 18 (6 percent); 0.1 medals per Games. Zero golds.
Fencing: 9 for 192 (5 percent); 1.3 medals per Games. Two golds.
Canoeing: 8 for 312 (3 percent); 1.1 medals per Games. One gold.
Weightlifting: 4 for 254 (2 percent); 0.6 medals per Games. One gold.
Judo: 8 for 340 (2 percent); 1.1 medals per Games. Zero golds.
Table tennis: Fail.