By any reasonable measure the American medal count is impressive as hell, leading its closest rival Russia by 23 medals as of Friday morning. The lead at the moment in golds is only 28 to 25 over China, but the total medal lead over China is about 30, and recall that China has well over a billion people AND a sports system now similar to that of the former Soviet bloc, where promising athletes are farmed off to (hopefully benign) athletic concentration camps and their entire waking life is devoted to training for their sport.
The fact that Chinese diver Guo Jingjing was wrenched from her family at age 11, 11 years ago, was reiterated ad nauseum on NBC’s coverage last night.
So, by any measure, that the U.S., with under 300m people and a non-dictatorial sports system, would lead the world in medals by a wide margin is a fine indeed.
But what stuck out last night in particular is the number of athletes representing other nations who live and train in the U.S., many going to college here.
In fact, based on the divers — the “Russian Texans” Vera Ilyina and bronze medalist in the women’s 3m springboard Yulia Pakhalina, for example — and track athletes — 400m hurdles gold medalist Felix Sanchez was born in the U.S., has always lived in the U.S., but competes for the Dominican Republic, ALL of the Caribbean runners seem to train in the U.S. — in action on NBC last night last night (and in the swimming events, basketball, baseball, etc. etc), it seems easier to name the top competitors who DON”T have a strong U.S. connection.
And NBC, you can be sure, doesn’t miss this angle, focusing in particular on the athletes with U.S. connections when there isn’t a strong American in that event.
When you combine the actual American medalists with the “virtual” American medalists in the Games, you get a much truer picture of American dominance in the world of (summer, anyway) sport.