London 2012: The Top 10 Most Dominated Summer Olympic Sports of All Time

Adam MillerContributor IIIAugust 13, 2012

London 2012: The Top 10 Most Dominated Summer Olympic Sports of All Time

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    Now that the London 2012 Games have come to a close, let's take a look at the most dominated Summer Olympic events and the countries who have the stranglehold on the podium.

    For some events, it does not even seem fair. 

    Every four years it's a given that Jamaica will be the favorite in men's sprinting or that the USA will be the team to knock off in women's hoops.

    You simply know going in which countries to watch for and who is likely to at least medal in their sport.  

    At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, rugby and golf will be featured for the first time since the early 1900s.  Cricket, baseball/softball and mixed martial arts await their opportunity.  Who knows which countries will consistently be winning those medals.

    In the meantime, these are the top ten most dominating countries in the Olympic Summer Games history and the sport they excel at, with some help from NBCOlympics.com.

10. Women's Gymnastics, Russia/USSR

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    All-Time Medal Count: 36 gold and 94 total medals

    London 2012 Result: Second with one gold and eight total medals

    When the country was known as the Soviet Union, it was a force to be reckoned with.  They first made noise in gymnastics in 1952 and were one of the better countries at the sport until the dissolution of the country in 1991.

    In 1964, in Tokyo, Larisa Latynina won six of 18 medals.  Her most notable Games were four years later at Mexico City, winning seven gold medals.  

    At Munich, in 1972, the sport of gymnastics really began to develop popularity and the Soviets were at the center of it.  The tiny Olga Korbut became the first gymnast to do a backwards somersault on the uneven bars en route two golds and a silver.  

    Russia has continued the Soviet's gymnastic success. They have earned four gold medals and 13 total medals in women's gymnastics in their short history.  

    At Sydney, in 2000, Svetlana Khorkina came in as arguably the top gymnast in the world.  Despite various mistakes and landing faults, she became the first woman to defend an Olympic apparatus title in 20 years.  

    At London, Russia as a team captured the silver.  Aliya Mustafina led the way earning a bronze in the women's floor exercise, gold in the uneven bars and bronze in the individual all around.  

9. Men's Diving, USA

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    All-Time Medal Count: 47 gold and 128 total medals

    London 2012 Result: Second with one gold and three total medals

    America's period of dominance spanned from 1920-1992.  The USA took home gold in the men's three-meter springboard 15 times in that span, including 11 Olympics in a row from 1920-1968.  They often took all three medals, including 1920, 1924, 1932, 1936, 1948, 1952 and 1964. The story is a similar one for the men's 10-meter platform.  

    At London, China beat out the USA by one gold and two total medals.  David Boudia took first place in the 10-meter platform and also earned a bronze with Nick McCrory in the men's synchronized platform.  

8. Men's Shooting, USA

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    All-Time Medal Count: 45 gold and 94 total medals

    London 2012 Result: Third with one gold and two total medals

    While the USA has been sporadic lately, most of the medals were won in the first half of the 20th Century.  The events that America has most excelled at are the men's 50-meter rifle prone, 50-meter pistol and trap shooting.  

    After botching his chances in three-position shooting at Athens and Beijing, Matt Emmons was happy to finally earn the bronze in London.  

    While the marksmen sport is growing, so is the USA's resurgence.  

7. Men's Judo, Japan

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    All-Time Medal Count: 26 gold and 41 total medals

    London 2012 Result: Second with one gold and seven total medals.

    In 1964, at the Tokyo Games, the Japanese won three Olympic judo classes and have enjoyed periodic success every since.  They have been most successful at the heavyweight and extra lightweight classes.

    In 2000, Japan claimed four of the possible 14 judo gold medals.  

    At London, the Japanese had four medalists in their respective weight classes but none of them managed to bring home the gold. 

6. Men's Basketball, USA

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    All-Time Medal Count: 13 gold and 16 total medals

    London 2012 Result: gold

    Team USA Basketball is well documented.  

    They were the only team to win gold from 1936-1968 and have only failed to win it four times, including 1980 when they did not compete.  

    After the 1988 Olympics, the rule was changed to allow professional basketball players in the the Olympics.  At the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona, the legendary Dream Team won every game by an average of 43.8 points and did not call one timeout. 

    Since pros have been allowed to compete, the USA has only lost three times and all of those came in 2004.  

    The sport of basketball is relatively young compared to the majority of Olympic competitions.  It is interesting to think about the possibility that Americans have an advantage because the game was invented in the USA.  Not enough time has passed for it to be as popular in other countries as it is in the States.  

    In London, the Americans once again swept through most of the competition, including a scare against Lithuania and edging out a Spain squad full of NBA players by seven in the championship.

5. Men's Weightlifting, Russia/USSR

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    All-Time Medal Count: 44 gold and 71 total medals

    London 2012 Result: Second with six total medals

    Once again the now non-existent USSR accumulated enough medals to still be the top in the sport of weightlifting.

    Like gymnastics, Russia continues to carry the torch.

    The Soviet Union's dominance began in the 1960s.  Notably, Vasily Alexeyev went unbeaten in the clean and jerk from 1972-1978, winning his first gold in 1972 at Munich.  Even though they only competed at nine Olympics their superiority was indisputable.  Soviets were often competing against fellow Soviets for medals, rather than competitors from other countries.  In Montreal in 1976, eight different Soviets won medals for their weight classes, including seven golds.

    In Beijing, Evgeny Chigishev earned a silver medal after a clean and jerk of 551.2 pounds.  At London, Russia finished behind China with the third most medals at four.

4. Women's Archery, South Korea

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    All-Time Medal Count: 12 gold and 21 total medals

    London 2012 Result: First with five gold and eight total medals

    The women's archery team from South Korea has been the heavyweight for more than 20 years.  At London they took home the gold in the only two events: individual and team.  Ki Bo-Bae led the South Koreans, a team that has won women's team gold at every Olympics since 1988, the first year of the event.  They set world records every year since, except 2004.

    This year at London, they were almost toppled for the first time.  China was ahead by 25 points and South Korea only had three arrows left. They scored 26 to take their seventh straight gold and continue to define dominance.  

3. Men's and Women's Table Tennis, China

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    All-Time Medal Count: 20 gold and 41 total medals

    London 2012 Result: First with four gold and six total medals

    It is not even close.

    South Korea and Sweden are the only other countries that have managed to come out on top.

    China has had an unquestionable reign of superiority by winning the majority of medals in the event since it became an Olympic sport in 1988.  

    In London, the Chinese men's and women's teams won all four table tennis medals. 

2. Men's and Women's Swimming, USA

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    All-Time Medal Count: 214 gold and 489 total medals

    London 2012 Result: First with 16 gold and 31 total medals

    Where to start? 

    With Michael Phelps racking up hardware, swimming has been slightly criticized as a sport that is less difficult to accumulate medals simply because there are so many events. The Olympic Games now has 32 different events in swimming.  

    True or not, that does not affect the USA's dominance. 

    From 1960 to 2008, the USA only failed to win gold in the 4x100-meter medley relay once.  The story is similar on the women's side.

    And that is just one race.

    USA's Olympic swimming history is littered with greats in almost all of the events.  From Mark Spitz in the 1970s to Michael Phelps in the 2000s, America has truly been the team to beat in one of the most popular sports.  

    London saw the breakouts of Missy Franklin and Allison Schmidt on the women's side.  In total, the US women earned eight gold and 15 total medals while the men's team captured eight gold and 16 total medals.  

1. Men's and Women's Track and Field, USA

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    All-Time Medal Count: 310 gold and 730 total medals

    London 2012 Result: Nine gold and 29 total medals

    Maybe there should be a Top 10 list of most dominated events just within track and field.  

    America would still be on top in a majority of categories.

    Going all the way back to Jim Thorpe, the USA has excelled in a number of events, particularly on the track.  

    In 1936, Jesse Owens completely dismantled Hitler's idea of Aryan superiority in Berlin.

    At Rome in 1960, Wilma Rudolph became the first woman to win three gold medals in one Olympics after not being able to walk until age seven.  

    In 1972, Steve Prefontaine ignited the popularity of distance running while coming up short in the 5000-meter race at Munich.  

    Carl Lewis won four gold medals on American soil in 1984 and went on to earn nine total gold medals.  

    In 1996, Michael Johnson became the first man to win both the 200- and 400-meter races, breaking the 200-meter world record by an astounding 0.34 seconds.  

    At London, Allyson Felix claimed her first gold medal in the women's 200-meter race and her second in the 4x100-meter relay.

    While the USA enjoys success at several sports in the Summer Olympics, there is no question that they are most dominant at track and field.