While the host nation Canada has so far failed in its quest to “own the podium” at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, with just six days remaining before the Olympic flame is extinguished, the United States sits poised to do something it has not done since 1932—win the overall medal count at the Winter Olympics.
The U.S. team has won 25 total medals—seven of them gold, eight silver, and 10 bronze. Germany, the pre-Olympic favorite to win the most medals, sits just behind with 21. Canada, which was expected to win somewhere in the vicinity of 30 medals and compete with the Germans in the overall count, sits fifth in the overall standings behind Norway and Russia and has won just 10 medals to date compared to the 24 the nation won four years ago in Torino.
The United States has historically flourished at the Summer Games and dominated the medal picture until the 2008 Beijing Olympics when host nation China topped the gold medal count by 15 medals and finished just 10 medals behind the United States in the overall standings.
But American success at the Winter Olympics is a new revelation that began in 2002 when the United States hosted the Games in Salt Lake City and won 34 medals—21 more than it had ever before at a single Winter Olympics.
Four years later, the United States collected another 25 medals in Torino. In both 2002 and 2006, the United States placed second overall in the medals behind Germany.
Prior to Salt Lake City, the U.S. team had finished no better than third in the medal standings over the previous 30 years. Over the span of eight Winter Games from 1972 to 1998, the U.S. placed third once—in 1980 when they hosted the Olympics in Lake Placid and won 12 medals—fourth once, sixth five times, and a national worst ninth at the 1988 Calgary Olympics when the team won just six medals.
Germany on the other hand has stood as the benchmark for success at the Winter Olympics over the last four decades.
From 1972 to 1988, the German team was split between East and West Germany. In the five Winter Olympics contested between those years, the East German team finished second in the overall medal table to the Soviet Union four times and first in 1980. The combined medal tally of East and West Germany would have ranked first at all five of those Winter Games.
Competing again under a single flag, Germany once again topped the medal standings in 1992, 1998, 2002, and 2006. Only at the 1994 Lillehammer Games did the Germans lose the overall medal race to host nation Norway by a mere two medals.
A United States victory in the overall medal count would be historic to say the least.
It would not only mark the first time that the United States accomplished that feat since 1932, but it would also be the first time that a nation other than Norway, Germany, or the Soviet Union has done so since those Lake Placid Olympics more than 75 years ago.
It would also be the first time since 1968 that a nation not hosting the Olympics topped Germany or the combined East and West Germany in the medal count.
Both nations have numerous medal opportunities in the final 32 events of the Vancouver Games and the overall medal leader may not be determined until the final day of the Olympics on Sunday.