Winter Olympic Medal Droughts the U.S. Would Like To Break in Vancouver

Bryan FlynnAnalyst IFebruary 12, 2010

WHISTLER, BC - FEBRUARY 11:  Sandra Gasparini of Italy competes in the women's luge practice held at The Whistler Sliding Centre ahead of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics on February 11, 2010 in Whistler, Canada.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

The XXI Winter Olympic Games are set to start Friday, February 12 in Vancouver for the 2010 games. This is the 21st installment of the winter games and the third time Canada has hosted the games overall and second time it has hosted the winter games.

While there will be a lot of coverage of the host country and how well the Canadians do on home soil. There is also a chance for Americans to have another good medal haul at the Winter Olympics.

The past two winter games the United States have had their best two medal counts in the Winter Games. In the Salt Lake games held on U.S. soil in Utah the U.S. won 36 medals and in Turin, Italy the U.S. won 25 medals.

Even with all the success the U.S. has had in the past two Winter Olympic Games, there are some events that Americans have had no or very little success in. So with the opening ceremonies upon us here is a look at the winter sports the U.S. look to end medal droughts in.

To break down these winter sports, here is the individual sport and the last gold medal won by a U.S. athlete plus the last medal overall. Also, we will look at the American athletes who will get a chance to break the medal droughts in these winter sports as well as the countries that are considered traditional powers that the U.S. athletes will have to beat to win a medal.

Nordic Combined

Last U.S. Gold Medal: None       Last U.S. medal overall: None

The Nordic Combined is one of two sports that American athletes have never medaled in at all. To compete in the Nordic Combined an athlete must be a good cross-country skier and ski jumper. This event is also a male only event.

There are three different events in the Nordic Combined, which are the Individual Large, and Individual Normal, Team. Only the Individual Large event has been at every Olympics while the Team event has been in the last seven and Individual Normal event makes its first appearances in these Olympics.

The U.S. Nordic Combined team is made up of five men. These men are Johnny Spillane, Bill Demong, Todd Lodwick, Brett Camerota, and Taylor Fletcher.

This U.S. team might be the best chance the United States has ever had at winning a medal in the Nordic Combined. The U.S. athlete with the best chance over all could be Lodwick, who came out of retirement in 2008, and won the World Championship in 2009.

For the U.S. to win a medal in the Nordic Combine they must fend off challenges by the traditional powers in this sport. Those traditional powers are Norway, Germany, Finland and Austria.

Norway has dominated this event by far winning the most gold medals with 11 and the most overall medals with 26 total medals. Finland is a distant second to Norway with four gold medals and 14 total medals.

Biathlon Men’s and Ladies’ Event

Last U.S. Men’s Gold Medal: None           Last U.S. Men’s Medal Overall: None

Last U.S. Ladies Gold Medal: None          Last U.S. Ladies Medal Overall: None 

The Biathlon is the other Winter Olympic event that no U.S. athlete has ever won. A biathlon is the term used for sporting events that consist of two disciplines.

In this case the two disciplines are cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. There are five events for both the men and women in the Olympics.

For the men there is the Men’s Individual (20km), Men’s Relay (4x7.5km). The next three events are intertwined starting with the Men’s Sprint (10km).

The top 60 finishers of the Sprint race qualify for the next event with is the Men’s Pursuit (12.5km). This event starts with the winner of the Sprint race followed by each of biathlon athletes at the same time interval they trailed the sprint winner.

The top 30 finishers of the Men’s Pursuit are qualified for the Men’s Mass Start (15km). This event has a single start for all the athletes.

In the Ladies’ Biathlon Events the distances are different but the events are the same. The Ladies’ Individual is (15km), Ladies’ Relay (4x6km), Ladies’ Sprint (7.5km), Ladies’ Pursuit (10km), and Ladies’ Mass Start (12.5).

The Men’s Biathlon is made up of five members. These members are Tim Burke, Jay Hakkinen, Jermey Teela, Lowell Bailey, and Wynn Roberts.

Of these five athletes Burke might have the best chance to end the medal drought in any of the five Biathlon events. In December of 2009, Burke became the first America Biathlon athlete to ever lead the overall Biathlon World Cup.

The Ladies’ Biathlon team is made up of four team members. These members are Haley Johnson, Sara Studebaker, Lanny Barnes, and Laura Spector.

None of the four Ladies Biathlon team members have had much success in any of the events. If the U.S. is going to get a medal from the Ladies’ Biathlon it might come from Spector the only woman to qualify for the U.S. based on her performance in the overall World Cup standings.

To win a medal in either the Men’s or Ladies’ Biathlon, U.S. athletes will have to find away to get past the teams from Germany, Norway, and Russia. These three countries have had a lot of success in this event.

Germany has had the most success in the Biathlon, winning 14 gold medal and 38 overall medals. Norway is second in the medal count overall behind the Germans with nine gold medals and 24 overall medals. If Russia counted the medals won by the U.S.S.R. it would lead the medal count with 16 gold medals and 36 overall medals.

Luge Men’s and Ladies’ Singles  

Last Men’s Single Luge Gold Medal: None    Last Men’s Single Luge Overall Medal: None

Last Ladies Single Luge Gold medal: None    Last Ladies Single Luge Overall Medal: None

The U.S. has won a Luge medal in the Doubles event four times and all four in two Olympic games. These games were in 1998 in Nagano, Japan and 2002 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

 All four of the medals won by American athletes in those two games were a silver and bronze. No U.S. athlete has ever won a gold medal in the Luge in any of the three events.

The Luge first made its Olympic appearance in the 1964 games in Innsbruck, Austria. This event has been in every Olympic game, since the games in Austria.

In the last 46 years the U.S. Men’s and Ladies’ single Luge teams have not been able to break through to reach the medals podium. It took the U.S. 34 years just to win a medal in this event.

The Men’s Single Luge team is made up of three members. Those members are Tony Benshoof, Bengt Walden, and Chris Mazdzer.

Benshoof is the U.S. best chance for a medal in the Men’s Single Luge event. While competing in the Turin games, Benshoof, finished fourth. This is the best finish ever for and American athlete in the Men’s Single Luge.

The Ladies’ Single Luge team is made up of three members as well. These members are Erin Hamlin, Julia Clukey and Megan Sweeney.

Hamlin has the best chance of the Ladies’ in the Single Luge Event. She finished 12th overall in the Single Luge in Turin four years ago.

If the Americans want to medal in any Luge event they will have to find away to bump the Germans off the podium. In the Olympic history of the Luge event it has been owned by the German Team.

No matter what flag the Germans have competed under they have dominated this event. Overall under every flag Germany has won 25 gold medals and 65 medals overall.

Men’s Two Man Bobsleigh

Last U.S. Men’s Two Man’s Bobsleigh Gold Medal: 1936    

Last U.S. Men’s Two Man’s Bobsleigh Overall Medal: 1952

While the U.S. men have not won a Gold Medal in the Four Man Bobsleigh Event since 1948, the American Men have medaled since then. In the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City the U.S. Four Man Bobsleigh team won a silver and bronze medal.

It has been 62 years since the U.S. last won gold in Four Man Bobsleigh it has been even longer since they won a gold in the Two Man Bobsleigh. The U.S. men have not won a gold medal in the Two Man Bobsleigh in 74 years and no medal overall in 58 years.

The U.S. has qualified three sleds in the Two Man Bobsleigh. Most of the American Two Man Bobsleigh team will also compete in Four Man Bobsleigh team as well.

To find a place on the medal podium the U.S. Men Bobsleigheder’s will have to find away to get past Switzerland and Germany. The good news is that the U.S. is third in overall medals in the Bobsleigh events with 18 overall. Those 18 medals are also with the Women’s two Ladies Bobsleigh team medals as well.

Switzerland is the best country in this event as far as medals go. The Swiss have won nine gold medals and 30 medals overall.

The Germans are also strong in this event under any flag as well. Germany has won 15 gold medals and 37 medals overall under different flags.

Men’s Ski Jump: three events (Large Hill Individual, Normal Hill Individual and Large Hill Team

Last U.S. Ski Jump Large Hill Individual gold medal: None   

Last U.S. Ski Jump Large Hill Individual overall medal: 1924

Last U.S. Ski Jump Normal Hill Individual gold medal: None

Last U.S. Ski Jump Normal Hill Individual medal overall: None

Last U.S. Ski Jump Large Hill Team gold Medal: None

Last U.S. Ski Jump Large Hill Team overall medal: None 

The U.S. has not had very much success in these three events. Only one medal in these three events and the last medal came 86 years ago.

The Large Hill Individual is one of ten sports that have been in every Winter Olympic Games. All the U.S. has to show for it is one bronze medal won in 1924 by Anders Haugen.

Vancouver could chance that for the U.S. with a strong three man team. This team is made up of Nick Alexander, Peter Frenette and Anders Johnson.

Alexander won first place in the U.S.  Men’s Ski Jump Championship in 2009. Frenette is a dark horse who has not competed in the Ski Jump World Cup.

Johnson is a returning Olympian who finished in the top 50 in all three events in Turin in 2006 and his best finish was a 14th place in the Large Hill, Team. This team could steal a medal if they make strong jumps and get some breaks from the best ski jump countries.

For the Americans to get in the medal race they will have to find away to beat three strong countries in the ski jump events. Those countries are Finland, Norway and Austria.

The Fins have won 10 gold medals and 22 medals overall. Norway has won nine gold medals and 28 medals overall.

Austria has won five gold medals and 20 medals overall. These three countries are the only ones to win double digits in medals in this event.

Men’s and Ladies’ Cross Country Skiing  (events: individual, team, speed and relay)

There are 16 Men’s and Ladies’ Cross Country Skiing Events combined. The U.S. has only managed one medal in Cross Country Skiing. 

Last gold medal in any Cross Country Skiing Event: None

Last overall medal in any Cross Country Event: 1976

Cross Country Skiing is another Winter Olympic event that the U.S. has struggled in. The last time an American won a medal in Cross Country Skiing of any time was 1976.

The U.S. has men’s and Ladies’ Cross Country Ski team. There are six members of the men’s team and five members of the ladies team.

Winning a medal in this event will be a long shot for the U.S. in these games. There are five countries who have won double digit medals in this event.

If the U.S. is going to get any medals they will have to find away to beat Finland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Italy. These five countries dominate the Cross Country Skiing Events.

The U.S. has one medal which was a silver medal and won by Bill Koch in the Men’s 30 km. This event was changed in 2006 to a 30 km double pursuit.

Other Winter Olympic Events That the U.S. Is In A Medal Drought: 

Pairs Figure Skating:

Last Gold Medal: Never             Last overall medal: 1988   


Men’s Alpine Skiing:

Men’s Downhill last gold medal: 1994     Men’s Downhill last overall medal: 1994

Men’s Slalom last gold Medal: 1984        Men’s Slalom last overall medal: 1984

Men’s Super G last gold medal: None     Men’s Super G last overall medal: 1994


Ladies’ Alpine Skiing:

Ladies’ Downhill last gold medal: none    Ladies’ Downhill last overall medal: 1994

Ladies Slalom last gold medal: 1972         Ladies’ Slalom last overall medal: 1972

Ladies Super G last gold medal: 1998      Ladies Super G last overall medal: 1998

Ladies Combined last gold medal: none   Ladies Combined last overall medal: 1948


Ladies’ Speed Skating:

Ladies’ 500 meters last gold medal: 1994   Ladies’ 500 meters last overall medal: 1994

Ladies’ 3000 meters last gold medal: none   Ladies’ 3000 meters last overall medal: 1980

Ladies’ 5000 meters last gold medal: none   Ladies’ 5000 meters last overall medal: none


Ladies’ Short Track Speed Skating:

Ladies’ 500 meters last gold medal: 1994     Ladies’ 500 meters last overall medal: 1994

Ladies’ 1000 meters last gold medal: none   Ladies’ 1000 meters last overall medal: none

Ladies 1500 meters last gold medal: none    Ladies’ 1500 meters last overall medal: none

Ladies’ 3000 meter relay last gold medal: none  

Ladies 3000 meters relay last overall medal: 1994 


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