The Olympics have just come to a close, which is probably a bit of a relief for Team USA
We were only able to earn 23 medals this Olympics, good for fourth place among competing countries, which is our worst total since the 1998 Winter Games (which featured 68 events as opposed to this year’s 102).
This is one of the most disappointing finishes by the United States in any Olympics ever. In fact, the US Olympic Committee anticipated a minimum of 25 medals, while the actual expected target was 37 medals.
What’s worse, the Associated Press predicted we would earn 40 medals.
To be fair, Americans weren’t getting blown out of the water in most events. We had 35 fourth, fifth, and sixth place finishes. At the Olympic level, the difference between getting a medal and finishing in these positions is often a fraction of a second or the slightest deduction by a judge.
Still, we didn’t get the job done. It’s especially difficult to justify our incredibly unsatisfactory finish given the fact that the Olympic Athletes from Russia were only a shell of what the country usually brings to the games.
So what happened? Why did we finish so badly at this Olympics? I think the best way to determine what we did poorly is to work backward and look at what we did well.
For starters, the U.S. women outperformed the men (12 medals to nine, with two in mixed events), which is surprising given the fact that the ladies were outnumbered 135-109. If the guys had performed at the same rate (and the mixed events remained unchanged) we would’ve finished with about 29 medals.
In fact, perhaps our most meaningful medal came by beating Canada in the women’s hockey gold medal game, ending Canada’s streak of four golds in a row in that event.
Additionally, we performed quite well in the up-and-coming freestyle skiing and snowboarding events. 11 of our 23 medals came out of these events (and five of our nine golds). The young daredevil freestylers (and Shaun White) did an exceptional job, and provide a group of athletes to build on heading into the next Winter Olympics.
This leaves traditional men’s events as the probable place where we fell short. And since we took gold in curling, silver in luge and silver in Short-Track speed skating, it seems the blame has to shift to the traditional skiers.
As it turns out, Team USA failed to medal in any men’s cross country or alpine disciplines this Olympics, our worst showing in 20 years. Not only that, but in the alpine disciplines, we only came away with one top ten.
However, it’s not hard to see that we’ve been spoiled with success in the Olympics, given the fact that a fourth seems so terrible.
Hopefully Team USA can take this experience and use it to make our next showings much stronger.
Tyler Dean is a junior studying business administration.