The Real Medal Count

Okay, now that the Olympics are over, there’s been quite a bit of chatter about who really won the medal count competition this year.  For overall number of medals, the U.S. won, 110 to 100.  Looking at just event winners, gold medals, China dominated impressively, to the tune of 51-36, a 41% victory.  If you click through the link, the author counted ‘medal points’, with each bronze being worth 1, each silver 2, and each gold medal being worth 4 points.  By this counting system, which seems reasonable enough, although 1-2-3 is also defensible, China wins.

However, keeping in mind that, a few days back, I wrote about the hierarchy of sports, and how there are three separate tiers of sports quality.  In that light, I think it’s appropriate to stick with the gold medal count only, with a weighting system dependent on the quality of the specific sport in question.  I’ll give 3 points for tier 1 golds, 2 for tier 2s, and 1 point for a third-tier sport.  Also, a few sports receive a special ‘craptacularity’ multiplier for their sheer ridiculous, ‘I can’t believe they’re calling this a sport’ nature.

First, the final news, which is that the final score is China 91.0402, USA 79, a 15% victory for China.  Below the fold, I’ll give the breakdown of which sports got which qualifications, along with a few extra comments.  Any questions or criticisms are welcome in the comments.

China Count

Tier 1 golds (total 15):

  • Badminton (x3)
  • Boxing (x2)
  • Fencing
  • Judo (x3)
  • Table Tennis (x3)
  • Tae Kwon Do
  • Wrestling

Tier 2 golds (total 17):

  • Kayak
  • Rowing
  • Sailing
  • Shooting (x5)
  • Swimming
  • Weightlifting (x8) (this was a really surprising result to me)

Tier 3 golds (total 12):

  • Gymnastics (x9)
  • Diving (x3)
  • Synchronized Diving (x4), received 0.01 craptacularity multiplier
  • Trampoline (x2), received 0.0001 craptacularity multiplier

USA Count

Tier 1 golds (total 9):

  • Basketball (x2)
  • Beach Volleyball (x2)
  • Fencing
  • Soccer
  • Tennis
  • Volleyball
  • Wrestling

Tier 2 golds (total 25):

  • Road Cycling
  • Equestrian
  • Rowing
  • Sailing
  • Shooting (x2)
  • Swimming (x12)
  • Track and Field (x7)

Tier 3 golds (total 2):

  • Gymnastics (x2)

And there you have it.  If I have more time, maybe I’ll do a fuller breakdown later, including the silvers and bronzes along with the quality multipliers, but that’s more energy than I have tonight.

I was impressed that China actually won the Tier 1 golds competition, which wasn’t what I expected.  I wasn’t at all surprised to see that they dominated Tier 3 – I saw several examples of judging that ran from silly to absurd when it came to Chinese athletes, the top example of course being the Chinese gymnast who landed a vault on her knees and still ended up with the bronze.  I’m sure many of those wins were deserving, but I’m equally sure that some of them were not.  I’m really almost proud of how few Tier 3 wins the U.S. had, and very proud that they didn’t run up their medal count at all with pretend non-sports like synchronized diving and trampoline.  I mean, come on – trampoline?  What the hell is next – rope skipping?  Hula hooping?  Olympic hopscotch???

Of course, the U.S. dominanted Tier 2, even with a sub-par performance on the track.   Phelps alone accumulated almost half the Chinese Tier 2 total.

So, in all, I would say the Chinese got the better of us in this Olympics.  Which really shouldn’t be a big surprise – in a country of over a billion people, with a national program of recognizing promising athletes, removing them from their families, and putting them in full-time athletic training academies, they really ought to, in the end, produce more top-tier athletes.  So, second place is probably something the U.S. ought to get used to.


3 Responses to The Real Medal Count

  1. LT says:

    I hate to say it, but “hula hooping” is in the Olympics. It’s one of the things that the rythmic gymnasts use. And yes rhythmic gymnastics is obviously on the carptacular list.

  2. claire says:

    I have to say I’m surprised by some of your rankings – why do you consider Equestrian a “Tier 2” sport, in the same tier as swimming? Frankly, I found the equestrian events entertaining only because I loved seeing the beautiful animals, not what they had been trained to do by the sack-of-potatoes on their backs. The swimming events were pretty exciting, but that could be because I used to swim a lot and can watch the way some of these swimmers execute the strokes and be VERY impressed.

    About gymnastics – am I the only one who remembers that the floor routines used to involve grace, a sense of rhythm, and fluidity, rather than the somewhat mechanized skill-to-skill routines that were at this competition? Why bother having music at all? I like watching gymnastics, I really do, but I wasn’t nearly as impressed with this year’s events as in past years. However – the level of athleticism and dedication required equals that of many other events in the Olympics. Is it expressed differently? Yes. Are you going to love gymnastics if your ideal sport is a team sport like basketball or soccer? Maybe not. Doesn’t mean, as Dave implies in his rankings, that it is a trivial waste of time. :)

  3. […] Defense Of My Rankings Commenter claire weighs in on yesterday’s attempt to ascertain the true quality of Olympic accomplishment, writing that […]

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