US Olympic Medal Count 2012: Team Sports Give USA Edge over China
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Team sports give the United States a decisive advantage over China as the two countries continue to battle for superiority in the 2012 London Olympics medal count.
China and the U.S. pulled away from all other medal count competition early in the Games. They seem to trade places at the top of the medal count standing daily as neither can find a way to distance itself from the other.
Here's how the medal count stands as of Tuesday morning.
Expect the back-and-forth battle to continue until the final day. China holds the medal count lead now, and will likely continue to do so for most of the week. Once the team sports begin wrapping up, however, expect the U.S. to surge to the top of the medal count leader board by the end of the week.
Here is a breakdown of seven key events that will make this happen.
Abby Wambach and the U.S. women's soccer team leave a trail of fallen opponents in their wake.
Stanley Chou/Getty Images
Predicting that the U.S. women's soccer team will help America pass China in the medal count is cherry picking.
Rising striker Alex Morgan headed the U.S. into the gold medal match against Japan with her tie-breaking goal in the 123rd minute of a semifinal against Canada. The timely header in extra time ensures a medal for the Americans.
China, meanwhile, did not even compete in this Olympic event.
The U.S. will be looking for revenge against Japan after losing to them in the World Cup final. They have a flair for the dramatic, but the only uncertainty now is what color medal will hang around their necks.
LeBron James and the U.S. men's basketball team represent as close to a guaranteed medal as you can find.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
McKayla Maroney's fall during during the women's gymnastic's vault finals illustrated how nothing is guaranteed at the Olympics. Maroney was considered a lock for gold but walked away with silver.
The U.S. men's basketball team is even more of a favorite to win gold. Lithuania's fourth-quarter lead against the United States again reminded us that even this team is vulnerable. Seeing LeBron James and the cast of NBA stars lose would be shocking, but it's not out of the question.
That being said, it would be the upset of the 2012 London Olympics if the U.S. men didn't medal in basketball. They finished an undefeated round of group play with a 126-97 thrashing of No. 3 ranked Argentina powered by a 42-17 third quarter.
China, meanwhile, doesn't feature a single NBA player on its roster. The Chinese finished 0-5 in group play and failed to qualify for the knockout rounds.
The Americans are so much better than everyone else that they can probably continue to street ball their way into the medal rounds. A gold medal will be there for the taking if they ever decide to stop standing around the three-point line and start running a real half-court offense when an opponent keeps them out of their dynamic transition game.
Diana Taurasi and the U.S. women's basketball team sprinted by China.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
A head-to-head meeting between the U.S. and China revealed everything there is to know about how women's basketball will affect the medal count.
The United States routed China 114-66 to finish undefeated in group play. China fell to 3-2 and enters the quarterfinals as the No. 3 seed from Group A paired up with No. 2 Australia (4-1) from Group B.
Like the men, the U.S. women are the clear gold-medal favorites. China still has a chance to keep pace, but isn't even favored to advance to the semifinals. France (5-0), Turkey (4-1) and Australia all sit as top contenders to medal behind America.
The U.S. rules the basketball world. Two expected gold medals will help the Americans shoot up the medal count standings past China.
The U.S. men's volleyball team isn't a medal favorite, but it sure is playing like one.
A No. 5 world ranking means the U.S. men's volleyball team isn't a favorite to defend its gold medal from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. They aren't even favored to medal, especially not after drawing the proverbial "Group of Death" with top ranked Brazil and No. 2 Russia.
The Americans apparently didn't get that memo.
Team USA swept past No. 7 Serbia and No. 10 Germany with decisive 3-0 victories before upsetting Brazil 3-1. The Americans were one point away from sweeping Russia to clinch the group title before dropping three consecutive points and the next two sets. That group title was later sealed with a 3-0 sweep of Tunisia on Monday.
There is still a lot of volleyball left to be played. Earning a medal of any color is far from a lock. Winning a fiercely competitive group loaded with two historical rivals ranked No. 1 and 2 in the world, however, shows that the U.S. still has what it takes to advance to the semifinals and perhaps even defend its gold medal in the finals.
This is another event in which China did not qualify. The end result on the medal count can only be a wash if the Americans bow out early.
Jordan Larson and the U.S. women's volleyball team will bump up their country's medal count.
A quick glance at the preliminary round standings shows that the United States and China finished first and second in Group B.
Don't let that fool you into thinking this competition is close.
Team USA won all five of its group play games. One of those victories included a 3-0 sweep of China. The U.S. only lost two sets during the five-match round, while China finished 3-2 overall.
China retains a good chance to advance to the medal rounds with a quarterfinal match up against Japan. Undefeated Russia will then likely meet China in the semifinals. Italy took two sets off the Russians and would make for a tough bronze medal opponent.
Both China and the U.S. remain in the medal hunt, so this event could easily result in a wash for the medal count. But Team USA looks headed for gold or silver while the Chinese must come up big just to medal at all.
Losing out on the gold medal in 2008 Beijing Olympics only keeps the Americans hungry to return to the final for a second chance.
Women's Beach Volleyball
Kerri Walsh (left) and Misty May-Treanor (right) look poised to win a third consecutive gold medal.
Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
Women's beach volleyball offers some real drama for the medal count.
Three of the four remaining teams hail from China or the United States.
Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor continue their quest for a third consecutive gold medal with a semifinal against China's Chen Xue and Xi Zhang. The winner secures a medal while advancing to the finals. The loser plays for bronze with no guarantee of a spot on the podium.
No matter what happens, however, the U.S. knows it will come away with at least a one-point boost in the medal count. That's because fellow Americans April Ross and Jennifer Kessy also advanced to the semifinals to give the United States two of the final four teams.
China's duo is the only team remaining that did not win its group. They are the clear underdog, but still sit just one match win away from medaling. Knocking off Walsh and May-Treanor could ensure China stays even in the medal count from this event if Ross and Kessy also lose.
But America clearly has the upper hand. A more likely scenario is that China strikes out while the U.S. comes away with two teams on the podium.
Walsh and May-Treanor have never lost an Olympic match and only recently lost a single set for the first time. A Cinderella Chinese team doesn't pose much of a threat to that run. Either team from the other semifinal would be a heavy favorite for the bronze medal as well.
Men's Water Polo
The U.S. men's water polo team is a long shot to medal, but they advanced to the quarterfinals while China didn't even compete.
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
The U.S. men's water polo team finished fourth in its group to barely qualify for the quarterfinals against top-seeded and undefeated Croatia.
That paints a bleak picture for any hopes of a medal, but at least the Americans are still at large. China did not even compete in the event.
America's worst-case scenario in the pool is a wash for the medal count. A Cinderella run through the elimination rounds would land some unexpected hardware.
Women's Water Polo
The U.S. women's water polo team sits one win away from a medal.
Michael Regan/Getty Images
The U.S. women's water polo team finished second in its group and won a quarterfinal against Italy to advance to the medal rounds.
China finished fourth in the same group before losing to top-seeded and undefeated Australia in the quarterfinals.
Now America must take on that same solid team from down under in the semifinals. It leaves a slim chance for a U.S. gold or silver medal. But Hungary also snuck through to the medal rounds despite finishing just 1-2 in group play. It faces group winner Spain in the semifinals.
The two group winners will likely meet for the gold medal, leaving Hungary and the U.S. to fight over bronze. Team USA barely won its group match against Hungary 14-13. A second meeting will have much more riding on the outcome, which will make for a thrilling battle in the pool.