Team USA takes Rio Olympics medal race with ease
Sun., Aug. 21, 2016
RIO DE JANEIRO – The U.S. Olympic Team made itself right at home in Rio.
The British, they had a Games to savor as well.
The host Brazilians got soccer gold that they craved, the Russians struggled on the heels of the exposure of a state-sponsored doping program, and the Chinese finished well below expectations.
So went the medal race at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, where the Americans – with women leading the way – dominated both the gold and overall totals. The U.S. finished with 46 gold medals and 121 medals overall, its 51-total-medal margin over second-place China the largest in a non-boycotted Olympics in nearly a century.
“This experience has been the dream of a lifetime for me,” said U.S. gymnast and closing ceremony flagbearer Simone Biles, who won five medals, four of them gold, in her first Olympics.
For the fourth consecutive games, U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps left with more medals than anyone else. He won six in Rio, while Biles and U.S. swimmer Katie Ledecky each won five to lead to lead a big haul from American women.
U.S. women left Rio with 27 golds – by far the most among any team of female Olympians at these games – and 61 medals total. U.S. track star Allyson Felix, now a six-time gold medalist and a winner of nine medals in all, was particularly delighted to learn that women are bringing more medals home to American than the men.
“Got ’em,” Felix said, smiling.
By now, the Americans winning the medal race is almost commonplace. But the significance in Rio were the sheer amounts of hardware.
The previous record for U.S. medals at a fully attended Olympics was 110, set at Beijing eight years ago. And the margin between first and second in the overall medals race this year tops all others (the boycotted games of 1980 and 1984 excluded) since the Americans won 67 more medals than Italy did at the 1932 Los Angeles Games.
“We weren’t sure we were going to have that kind of success coming in,” said USOC CEO Scott Blackmun, noting the track and swimming teams had plenty of first-time Olympians.
But Blackmun was thrilled by the results, and he wasn’t the only one leaving Rio happy.
Even with far fewer athletes competing in Rio than it had in London four years ago – and no home-field advantage this time, either – Britain got more medals than ever in the modern games. The British won 67 medals in Rio, 27 of them gold.
“The atmosphere at the GB house has been amazing in the village,” said Mo Farah, who won gold for Britain in the 5,000- and 10,000-meter races to match the feat he pulled off at London in 2012. “Winning medals and just one after the other. Gold, silver, bronze. The atmosphere has been brilliant. To be able to go even further than London, I think as a nation we should be proud.”
The Russians and the Chinese probably didn’t feel the same.
China won 26 golds, just over half as many as it won in Beijing in 2008. Russia – with its track team told to stay home because of the doping probe and a cloud hovering over its athletes who were in Rio, some of whom got publicly called out by competitors – finished with 19 golds and 56 medals overall, both well below its normal showings.
U.S. swimmer Lilly King beat Russia’s Yulia Efimova for the 100-meter breaststroke gold, doing so after saying the games should have no room for dopers. Efimova has twice been banned.
“I stand by what I said,” King said.
“It was not positive,” Efimova told the BBC. “It was like war.”
There were plenty of positives for others, however.
Usain Bolt finished off his triple-triple – three Olympics, three sprint golds in each – for Jamaica, in what he said was his last games. Neymar’s game-winning penalty kick decided a shootout and clinched the men’s soccer gold medal for Brazil, a host that wasn’t a factor in the medal standings but got the gold that it probably wanted most.
And 10 teams – including the independent team – won their first golds, including Monica Puig in women’s tennis for Puerto Rico.
“That island has given me so much,” Puig said. “So much love and support throughout my career and I just wanted this one for them.”
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