The Santa Clara
March 1, 2018
The United States left Pyeongchang with 23 medals, the lowest medal count since the mere 13 earned in 1998. This number looks even worse when you consider all the new American-friendly sports such as big air snowboarding, freestyle skiing and mixed doubles curling that have been added to the Winter Olympics this year.
A leaked internal document obtained by The Associated Press set a target goal of 37 medals, with a minimum of 25. Neither of these targets were met.
Alan Ashley, the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Chief of Sport Performance wasn’t impressed with the result either.
“We’re going to take a hard look at what occurred here,” he said Sunday at the USOC’s closing news conference.
Ashley was joined at the conference with a number of U.S. medalists, including bronze medalist Lindsey Vonn—who believes the U.S. Olympians should not be judged solely on the number of medals collected.
“To quantify it in how many medals you have is not appropriate and doesn’t respect the athletes and what they’ve put in to be in these games,” Vonn said.
Vonn’s statement is predictable, considering common consensus states that her Olympic performance was a bust. She arrived at Pyeongchang widely considered the best female Alpine skier ever, expected to win a gold medal in the downhill and possibly another medal in the Super-G. However, she left with only a bronze.
“I’ve been injured so many times that the fact I’m even here is a victory in itself,’’ Vonn, 33, told reporters. “As a racer, as a person I have to remember that as well because I do want to win and I’m usually not satisfied with a bronze. In this situation, I think I can be very happy with what I’ve accomplished.’’
While she has had multiple injuries, she was healthy enough to win the last two World Cup downhill races before the Olympics. In fact, even her father sounded a little disappointed with her performance.
“She needed to go for it a little bit more,’’ he said. “She needed to risk more.’’
Despite the lackluster performance of the U.S. this Olympic season, it could have been even worse. Through Thursday, Team USA had only won eight medals. However, U.S. dominance in extreme sports lead to a historically impressive second half comeback.
This included a gold medal in women’s cross-country skiing, the first ever win and second ever medal in this discipline for the country, and a gold in men’s curling after the team reached the final for the first time in Olympic history.
The team arguably did worse this year than they did in 1998. They earned only 12 medals in sports that existed before freestyle and snowboarding. That’s one less than they had in 1998. Alan Ashley said the USOC will consider emulating what other successful countries have done this year.
Learning from Team Norway might be a smart idea, considering they earned 38 medals this year—breaking the Winter Olympics record (37 medals) that the United States set in 2010. Despite the disappointments, this Olympic season was extremely enjoyable with remarkable performances from athletes like Shaun White and Jessie Diggins and a beautiful closing ceremony. I agree with Lindsey Vonn’s stance that “medals aren’t everything” but it is important that we consistently strive to earn as many podium spots as possible if we want to stay relevant in the world of Olympic sports.
Jay Mehta is a sophomore economics major.