By qualifying for tomorrow’s gold medal final in the speedskating team pursuit and by earning a spot in Sunday’s gold medal hockey game, Team USA is assured of no less than tying its record 34 medals won at Salt Lake City in 2002.
The record for most medals won by a nation in a single Olympic Winter Games is 36, set by Germany at those same 2002 Olympic Winter Games, but the U.S. still has time to add to that prospective total of 34 with athletes in the hunt for silverware in the final days of competition.
Should Team USA top the medal count throughout the last few days of the Games, they will have led from tape to tape, equalling the feat achieved only once before when the Soviet Union owned the medal count from start to finish at the Innsbruck 1976 Olympic Games.
In fact, in the 20 previous Winter Games, the U.S. had led the medal count outright on just seven days: five times at the Lake Placid 1932 Olympic Winter Games; on Day Five of the Grenoble 1968 Olympic Winter Games; and on Day Four of the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
Fifteen days into the 17-day extravaganza, Team USA is on pace to leave its mark in sporting history. And headlining the final charge is none other than Apolo Ohno.
Ohno, the most decorated Winter Olympian in U.S. history, is among the American athletes with medal opportunities remaining. He will compete twice this evening: in the 500 meter and the 5,000 meter relay, looking to build on his national record of seven medals in his Winter Olympics career.
Regardless of how Ohno fares tonight, America—which entered today’s competition with 32 medals (eight gold, 12 silver, and 12 bronze)—earned a spot in Sunday’s gold medal hockey final with a 6-1 win over Finland, assuring itself no less than a silver medal. The U.S. will face the winner of tonight’s Canada-Slovakia match.
Shortly after the men’s hockey team locked up its medal, the U.S. also qualified for tomorrow’s gold medal final in men’s long track speedskating team pursuit with its semifinal victory over the Netherlands. That also assures them no worse than silver.
Therefore, Team USA has won medals in at least nine different events: alpine skiing, bobsled, freestyle skiing, figure skating, ice hockey, nordic combined, snowboarding, speedskating, and short track.
They fell short of a medal in biathlon, cross country, curling, luge, skeleton, and ski jumping.
Prior to the Vancouver Games, the most medals the U.S. had ever won at a non-U.S. hosted Winter Games was 25 at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games. They smashed that in Vancouver, even if they entered Canada with only modest expectations of a large medal haul.
The U.S. has topped the medal standings at only one other Olympic Winter Games—the 1932 Lake Placid Winter Games, when U.S. athletes brought home 12 medals. It's safe to say that they have more than a chance of repeating history this weekend.