U.S. team is showing less luster than in past

Gold-medal count drops as rest of world catches up

Athens 2004

August 29, 2004|By George Diaz | George Diaz,ORLANDO SENTINEL

ATHENS - Although the United States has already hit its projected target of 100 Olympic medals, the color scheme no longer reflects world domination.

The U.S. gold-medal count stands at only 34, pending today's results.

It is down from 40 gold in Sydney in 2000 and 44 gold in Atlanta in 1996, and may reflect the worst gold total since 1976, when the United States won 34 gold in Montreal. Americans won 97 overall medals in Sydney in two fewer Olympic events, and 101 in Atlanta in 1996.

Entering an Olympics with unprecedented security concerns, it appears the only injury of consequence the Americans are going to leave Athens with is a nick in their pride.

"Never in my wildest dreams - in a negative sense," the astute reflection from track star Marion Jones after her crushing disappointment Friday night, may be the universal tag line for the rest of Team USA.

There wasn't much sympathy for U.S. struggles from the 201 other countries competing here. Despite the Miss Manners approach the past few weeks, it seems much of the rest of the world still holds the opinion that the Americans are arrogant.

"They did the same with the 1927 Yankees, the best baseball team in history," said Bob Condron, a U.S. Olympic Committee official. "We are the universal target as far as people want to emulate us, but they love to boo us."

Despite the hiccups, there were plenty of red, white and blue snapshots to gush over back in the States. The Golden Girls - the softball, soccer and basketball teams - hit the trifecta on the podium. The men's and women's gymnastics teams would win all-around individual golds after failing to medal in Sydney.

And then there was the North Baltimore Aquatic Club's Michael Phelps, the new Poseidon in Greek mythology. Among 13 individual medals contested in swimming, Phelps won four of them, the most of any country.

Australia and the "rest of the United States" were second with three medals.

But, overall, the world is closing fast on the United States.

China will finish second in the medal count, a foreboding signal to the United States that things could get worse by the time everyone gets together for another group hug in 2008 in Beijing.

A nation of 1.2 billion will pursue the next Olympics with a purposeful pride, marking the first opportunity for China to host a global sporting event.

The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.