U.S. Medal Count at Tokyo Olympics Is Relatively Low
TOKYO – The Summer Games forced the Olympians to prepare for despicable heat and pandemic protocols that added stress and complicated the normal rigors of preparation.
Americans’ efforts have produced results that may be the envy of the world, but that have not lived up to their recent high standards.
The US Olympic team is at risk of losing the gold medal race for the first time at the Summer Olympics since 2008.
Ready to win around 106 medals based on the final rounds of the competition until Sunday, he will return to roughly 2012 levels, where he won 104 medals. The team won a record 121 medals in 2016, including 46 gold, two behind the Chinese mark for gold medals in 2008 in Beijing.
Blame for the shortfall can be widespread. The much-vaunted track team won 32 medals in Rio, but only got 22 going into the final night. The American men have failed to win a gold medal in the speed events which have been their daily bread since the days of Jesse Owens.
The reigning two-time World Cup champion American women’s football team lost twice and settled for a bronze medal. Simone Biles, the greatest gymnast of all time, missed most of the competition as she struggled with mental stress. The American rowers failed to reach the Olympic podium for the first time since 2008. Even in rowing, the eight-boat women’s team, the three-time reigning gold medalists, remained empty.
With only a handful of events remaining, the Americans have won 31 gold medals and 98 in total this year, although there were more events than ever at these Games, with several new competitions in sports in which Americans were supposed to be good, like surfing. and skateboarding, but didn’t.
There were 339 events in Tokyo, compared to just over 300 at the Rio Games in 2016.
With the slide of American dominance, several other countries, notably Japan, whose athletes have played at home and have not had to deal with the hassle of travel, and China, have increased.
Japan, with 51 medals until Friday night, topped their total of 41 medals, including 12 gold, won in Rio. In these Games, he has 24 gold medals. In skateboarding alone, he won five of 12 medals, including three gold.
Host countries generally do better than usual because they invest heavily in sport in the years leading up to the Games, but almost doubling a double-digit gold medal count (doping-free) is unheard of in the world. recent Olympic history.
Moreover, after eight years of turning back the clock, China’s Olympic sports machine is back. The Chinese, with 36 gold medals against 31 for the United States, have a chance of winning the gold medal race for the first time since 2008.
Australia are also having very good Olympics, thanks to their best performance in the pool, winning 20 swimming medals, including nine gold, after years of frustration.
Notably, these three countries experienced the pandemic in a very different way than the United States.
And yet, for the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, these numbers are both important and not. Its leaders say they want to win as many medals as possible, but after the Games postponed for a year and pandemic home restrictions, officials said simply bringing athletes to Tokyo, competing and to come back safely would be a victory.
“Given the high degree of uncertainty until recently as to whether these games would even take place, de-training when the Games were postponed, then retraining, then focusing on testing, then coming here and working on all of them. the countermeasures and the guidelines and the testing, facing it all to perform as well as we did, I’m incredibly proud of this team, ”said Rick Adams, Head of Sport Performance for the Olympic Committee .
For years, winning medals has been the singular priority of USOPC leaders and have even received bonuses based on athletes’ performances at the Olympics.
That all changed after the sexual assault scandal perpetrated by Lawrence G. Nassar, the longtime USA Gymnastics doctor, who is serving what amounts to life in prison for abusing hundreds of girls and young women. The case forced the resignation of top officials from the Gymnastics Federation and the U.S. Olympic Committee after being criticized for prioritizing victory over athlete health and safety.
Their message is evolving, apart from the goal of winning lots of medals.
“Does the United States come here hoping to win a lot of medals? You bet we are, ”said Sarah Hirshland, executive director of the organization. But, she added, “competitive excellence in Tokyo may simply be a personal best for American athletes.”
Preparing for these Games for American athletes was far from ideal. They have faced a series of intermittent blockages and the repercussions of social and political upheavals which a number cited as causing them to lose their balance mentally.
The Olympic Committee, which is based in Colorado Springs, Colo., Took a rigorous approach to how athletes prepare for the Games. Long after Colorado lifted restrictions on swimming pools and gyms, the Olympic committee continued to limit access to its Olympic training facility.
USA Swimming was unable to hold its usual spring camp at the high altitude training center. A training facility that could accommodate hundreds of athletes had around 70 residents, with a long period of quarantine required for anyone who arrived as officials feared a coronavirus outbreak among potential Olympians.
“We have said all along that we are going to put the health and safety of our athletes first and we have done it,” said Adams.
With facilities shutting down intermittently across the country last year, athletes had to improvise.
Boxers had to install rings in malls. With tracks closed in California, veteran sprinter Allyson Felix has spent months roaming the boulevards of Los Angeles, where she lives.
“It’s been a long year,” said Noah Lyles, the US sprinter, another world athletics champion who left Tokyo without a gold medal. After winning the bronze in the 200 meters, Lyles spoke emotionally to reporters about using and stopping antidepressants over the past year and struggled not to let his race times and medals define it.
“I’m not the next Usain Bolt,” he said.
Grant Holloway, who clinched silver in the 110-meter hurdles, summed up his performance as many of his teammates have described theirs over the past two weeks.
“Not the result I wanted,” Holloway said.
In June, Holloway, 23, was one hundredth of a second away from breaking the world record. He is the reigning world champion and hadn’t lost a hurdle race all year until Tokyo.
The US track team chose not to hold a training camp before the Olympics, a guarantee against one showing up with Covid-19 and exposing the whole team, a decision which has been called into question these last days. Max Siegel, director of USA Track and Field, declined to comment.
Several athletes spoke of losing the joy that usually comes with training and competing, of seeing Olympic preparation turn into work, which many do, although usually not.
Pat Hinchey, managing director of USA Swimming, said he was surprised that America’s swimmers performed so well, winning 30 medals, down from 33 in Rio, and 11 gold, down from 16 five years ago. as well as several fourth places.
The squad had 16 newcomers, its biggest ever Olympic debut crop in some time, including 11 teenagers. Several became faster between the US trials in June and the start of the Olympics a month later, thanks to an intense camp in Hawaii.
“What we all went through was going to present challenges for everyone,” Hinchey said. “These kids have been out of the water for months. They had to go through another year and find ways to compete. “
Amanda Krauss, managing director of USA Rowing, said not producing medals will prompt careful consideration of what could be done differently in the future.
“It’s the million dollar question and my inbox is filled with a lot of people telling me they know exactly what happened,” said Krauss, who took over the organization in November.
If there is a ray of hope, it may be that the next Summer Games will be held in just three years. All those teenage swimmers and young runners in their twenties won’t have to wait long for their next stroke.
“I introduced myself, but it just wasn’t good enough,” said Michael Cherry, 26, a track athlete who was fourth in the 400 meters. “We are a young team. We just have to grow up.
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