Fourth-Place Medal

United States leads China in ‘real’ medal count

Chris Chase
Fourth-Place Medal

(Getty Images)

Through 11 days of the Olympics, China leads the United States in the official IOC medal count. But in Fourth-Place Medal's "real" medal count, a tally that ignores judged activities masquerading as sports, Team USA has a commanding lead over its Asian counterparts.

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Our real medal count ignores Olympic disciplines like gymnastics and diving and instead focuses on sports where winners are determined on the field of play. When Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps wins a race, the result is objective and undeniable. Gabby Douglas winning the women's all-around was one of the most memorable moments of the first week. But why did she win a gold over Victoria Komova? Because some judges said she was 0.259 better? It wouldn't be so insulting if we weren't the rubes who accept it like it's real. Gymnastics wins aren't victories, they're subjective decisions based on objective-sounding rules.

So factor all of that out when talking about medal counts. China isn't ahead, the United States is. When you factor out all the judging nonsense in gymnastics, diving, trampoline and judo, Team USA is the decisive leader.

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[Related: 22 facts about Michael  Phelps' 22 medals]

The bulk of the difference comes from diving and a trampoline. Chinese divers won five golds and six overall medals in London (compared to zero and three for Americans) and four overall medals in trampoline (Americans earned a goose egg).

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We've heard the arguments: Tennis has chair umpires and basketball has referees. A bunch of judges peer at the target after every arching round to see whether an arrow is on or over the line. Every sport on the Olympic slate has some judge or official making decisions that can affect the final outcome. But except in very rare occasions -- like a gold-medal basketball game in Munich -- they don't pick the winner. Like rubes, we mindlessly accept that Jordyn Weiber was somehow determined to be 0.232 worse than Douglas in the gymnastics all-around qualification. When diving judges give a 9.0 instead of an 8.5, it's treated like Missy Franklin touching the wall first.

No more! The real medal count cuts through the nonsense and politics. Winning a competition on the field of play is the only way to get to our medal stand.

Note: This post was updated from Monday's original.

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