February 19, 2010
What's the key to the United States putting on its best performance in Winter Olympic history? According to the Winter Games debut of Fourth-Place Medal's "real" medal count, it has a lot to do with judged sports.
When throwing out the results of all events tainted by the influence of judges, the U.S. loses its commanding lead in the only medal tally that means anything: golds. Both Germany and Norway have more victories in Vancouver than the United States, despite the American lead in the standard medal tally. This stands in stark contrast to the Beijing Games, when the United States moved ahead of China in the gold derby after counting sports that can only be decided on the field of play.
That's the way we like it: medals determined solely by the athletes and not by faceless men and women in garish blazers. In a perfect world, judges would be impartial and fair and every event would be decided by the same set of criteria, but they're not. Judges are humans who are influenced by outside factors like reputations, nationalities and fan support. This often manifests itself in judging, which makes the results of these sports controversial. Nobody asked whether Lindsey Vonn deserved to win the downhill gold, she just did. Evan Lysacek's victory in men's figure skating was questioned within seconds.
In our tally of the Winter Olympics we've thrown out the results of all events in which judging plays a role in determining the outcome. Nine of the 44 events completed so far fall into this category: figure skating (men's and pairs), halfpipe (men's and women's), moguls (men's and women's), ski jumping (men's and women's) and Nordic combined (men's). The new-look medal count is as follows (totals as of Sunday morning):
Based on our revised count, the United States loses a whopping nine medals, almost 40 percent of its total haul of 23 thus far in Vancouver. That's as many medals in judged events as the next nine countries on the list combined.
Germany only has one medal in judged sports, cleaning up in sports like skiing, luge, and biathlon instead. Norway, which currently leads in the "real" gold medal count, loses no awards, not surprising since the European countries tend to be stronger in traditional sports rather than the extreme sports in which American Winter Olympians thrive. Korea has moved up the list thanks to its dominance in short track speed skating.