The China-USA medal count battle and Olympic projections: Don’t panic!

You may have noticed that China is leading the USA in the medal count through 200 of 302 events. The total numbers* are:

China 73
USA 70

So you may then look at the various medal projections and say, “Gee, I guess Infostrada was right — China will get more than the USA.”

I maintain that the Wall Street Journal projections are looking better than the rest. Here’s why:

For all of China’s success, they’re running only six medals ahead of my projection, and the USA is only three medals behind. My projection was:

USA 113
China 84

So if I have no more errors (ha!) in the projections, it would finish like this:

USA 110
China 90

Now let’s say the results tell us China is stronger than I anticipated and the USA is slightly weaker. That’s not such a dumb thing to say — where I had two athletes who were pretty close, I often went against the Chinese athlete, figuring results in London would be worse than results in Beijing.

We’re roughly two-thirds of the way through the Games, and China is six medals ahead. Let’s extrapolate from there and say they end up nine medals ahead. The USA would end up 4.5 medals behind — let’s call it five. We get this:

USA 108
China 93

What did the Wall Street Journal project?

USA 108
China 92

Freaky. So how is this possible?

Let’s take a look at the remaining medals I’ve projected for China:

Athletics, Men’s 110 m hurdles, Bronze
Table tennis, Men’s team, Gold
Taekwondo, Women’s 49 kg, Gold
Wrestling, Women’s 48 kg free, Bronze
Wrestling, Women’s 63 kg free, Bronze
Boxing, Flyweight (women), Silver
Boxing, Lightweight (women), Bronze
Diving, Women’s 10 m platform, Gold, Silver
Taekwondo, Women’s 57 kg, Gold
Wrestling, Women’s 72 kg free, Bronze
Synchro, Women’s team, Silver
Athletics, Women’s 20 km walk, Bronze
Boxing, Light flyweight, Gold
Boxing, Heavyweight, Bronze
Diving, Men’s 10 m platform, Gold
Volleyball, Women’s team, Bronze

And the remaining medals projected for the USA:

Athletics, Women’s 200 m, Gold, Bronze
Athletics, Men’s 110 m hurdles, Gold
Athletics, Women’s 400 m hurdles, Gold
Athletics, Women’s long jump, Gold
Volleyball, Women’s beach volleyball, Gold, Bronze
Wrestling, Women’s 48 kg free, Bronze
Wrestling, Women’s 63 kg free, Bronze
Athletics, Men’s triple jump, Gold, Bronze
Athletics, Men’s decathlon, Gold, Silver
Athletics, Men’s 200 m, Bronze
Athletics, Men’s 800 m, Bronze
Boxing, Middleweight (women), Bronze
Football, Women’s team, Gold
Taekwondo, Women’s 57 kg, Bronze
Volleyball, Men’s beach volleyball, Gold
Water polo, Women’s team, Gold
Wrestling, Women’s 72 kg free, Bronze
Athletics, Women’s 4×100 m relay, Gold
Athletics, Men’s 4×400 m relay, Gold
Basketball, Men’s team, Gold
Cycling, Men’s BMX, Gold
Cycling, Women’s BMX, Bronze
Taekwondo, Men’s 80 kg, Bronze
Wrestling, Men’s 74 kg free, Gold
Athletics, Men’s 5000 m, Bronze
Athletics, Men’s 4×100 m relay, Silver
Athletics, Women’s 4×400 m relay, Gold
Athletics, Women’s high jump, Silver
Basketball, Women’s team, Gold
Diving, Men’s 10 m platform, Silver
Sailing, Elliot, Gold
Volleyball, Women’s team, Gold
Wrestling, Men’s 84 kg free, Bronze
Wrestling, Men’s 120 kg free, Bronze
Boxing, Flyweight, Bronze
Volleyball, Men’s team, Silver

Quite a difference, isn’t it?

China’s top sports have been swimming (10 medals), badminton (8) and diving (8). Swimming and badminton are done, and diving has only two more events.

Of the remaining 102 medal events, 24 are in track and field. Another 13 are in boxing, 12 in canoe/kayak sprint, 11 are in wrestling and eight are taekwondo. Take a look at one compilation of Chinese athletes and how they’ve fared so far, and you’ll see China has scant medal hopes in track and field (particularly with Liu Xiang’s unfortunate injury). They’re going to get less than my projected four medals in boxing. (The USA has already matched my boxing projection of two.) They have five wrestlers in 11 events. They’ll get three at most in canoe/kayak sprint. No country can have more than four in taekwondo; China has three.

So while the USA is well on its way to breaking 100, China would practically have to win out to get there.

* – Yes, I’m using total numbers for this. I could do a second analysis just for gold medals to appease the pedantic folks who insist that medal counts should be ranked by gold, but I don’t see much point. China might stay atop the gold-medal count if the U.S. track and field squad comes up with a whole bunch of silver.

Published by

Beau Dure

The guy who wrote a bunch of soccer books and now runs a Gen X-themed podcast while substitute teaching and continuing to write freelance stuff.

15 thoughts on “The China-USA medal count battle and Olympic projections: Don’t panic!”

  1. Hi Beau,

    Been following your daily updates. Good Stuff!

    My final projection for China is 94 Total medals with 40 Gold. They are running out of events and the US Track Team is Stronger than the one in Beijing.

    USA looks like 105 Total medals with the Gold at 43 (+ or – 3).



  2. I agree with Doug – in 2012 both China and the USA should end up in the 40 gold area, but USA might edge it, and will almost certainly win more total medals.

    It’s not a surprise really, given the Chinese no longer have their 2008 home court advantage and have this time entered around 130 fewer athletes than the US. It will be interesting to see what happens if similar sized teams are sent to Rio in 2016.

  3. I’m sorry, but counting total medals is just plain stupid. I’ll tell you why: because it’s moronic to say that first place is equal to third! Even a weighted scoring system is stupid because then you say: 3 bronze is equal to one gold. Oh yeah? why not 4? or six?
    What counts is gold, if those are equal, then and only then we look at silver and bronze.
    but at the moment: America, BRONZE medal champion of the world! Hip hip hurray!!

  4. It’s amazing that with so much less athletes China manages to be STILL in the lead at this point. My guess is they will be overtaken in the end (basket, volley, decatlon, boxing), but still……… AND their GDP per capita is a staggering SIX times lower than that of the USA(8,000 vs 48,000), so it’s even MORE impressive! With 130 less people and 40,000 dollar per person LESS money they still have more medals! Not counting the huge experience disadvantage they also have.

  5. Oh, please don’t do a “just gold” analysis, keep sticking to this totals stuff, which is completely irrelevant ….
    And Btw, the US has LOST the majority of Games since WW2, to the Soviets and to China. one time even to Eastern Germany!!

  6. Why would China have an experience disadvantage? Their teams compete in all the major international events — sometimes moreso than their U.S. counterparts. (See USA Boxing and its funding problems.)

    It’s just a medal prediction. Believe me, I don’t dislike China. Loved visiting in 2008.

  7. I think Jack is referring to the fact that modern China only really entered the Olympics starting 1984. Not sure if that is truly relevant, but it is true.

    @Jack: Not sure if you’re from China like me, but either way you come across like a China troll! Let’s try to be friendly here man, everyone roots for their own country but no need for for stuff like “bronze medal champion of the world”…

    My view is that the medal rivalry – both gold and overall – is just going to get really interesting over the next few Olympics. China may lose total dominance in some of their traditional strongholds but will make gains in other sports. The US will not dominate the pool forever, just as their track prowess is already being challenged.

    Here’s to a US-China handball final in 2024 😉

  8. This is so juvenile. Get a life. Seriously.

    Also, hate (well…) to burst your bubble of solipsism. But you guys are the only people on earth who go by total medal count. It’s so counter-intuitive. By that reckoning, a bronze is worth the same as a gold. China’s leading, both in gold and in silver, ergo they are leading in the medals table. Get over it.

    But y’know, whatever you wanna tell yourself to make yourselves feel better I guess …

  9. I’m not the one making it juvenile. I did a lot of research to predict all the medals, and I showed all my work. Rank them however you want when everything’s done. (Some people are doing a “real” medal count, omitting sports played at a serious level only in Asia. THAT’S juvenile.)

    This post was done in response to people who were making a story of China leading the overall medal count. I’m just pointing out that the remaining events favor the USA.

    And AS I SAID IN THE POST, it’s possible China will end up leading in the gold medal count. As a rough guess, I’d say China has a 25 percent chance of finishing on top in the gold-medal count.

    Personally, I prefer checking both golds and overall medals. Right now in the gold-medal count, South Korea (25 medals, 12 golds) is ahead of Russia (53 medals, 11 golds). That says to me two things — South Korea is getting the most out of the events it emphasizes, and Russia has the deeper overall Olympic squad. That’s a hardly a surprise, since Russia is much bigger than South Korea, but it’s true.

  10. USA will definitely win in both overall medal and gold medal counts. Team USA has never been this strong since 1996, and China is weaker than 2008. Next time in Rio we might not have it so easy, since her swimming team has peaked this time and has nowhere to go but down.

    GB and South Korea are having amazing Olympics considering their sizes.

    This Olympics will be remembered for the worst judging ever. In soccer, gymnastics, boxing, taekwondo, etc etc. Maybe it will be remembered as part of Usain Bolt’s illustrious career also. I am sorry to say that Phelps would not be remembered around the world with the same love bestowed upon Bolt. His personality is just so horrible.

  11. As things stand China should get 3 more golds, putting them at 40. The USA looks like it will get to around 45. So roughly it will end up with China down 10 golds and USA up 10 golds from Beijing.

    GB will have their best ever Olympics – but will then go down at least 20% in Rio. It seems to me sports like cycling and rowing have especially strong home team advantage.

    South Korea very impressive. And they must be a favorite for women’s golf next time round!

  12. I think OVERALL medals is more important than how many golds. Take a Decathalon athlete… He can compete in various events with success… China is good at certain events, but not all-around great as the U.S. I’d rather be associated with the team that is more “multi-faceted” than one that is not… Especially in track & field… And also especially since the Chinese start/force a lot of their athletes into sports camps as early as 6 years old. U.S. Athletes compete because they wanna… Chinese compete because they have to… They put so much emphasis on winning the Olympics that they cheat also… Sorry to sound sexist, but no way a 16 year old female rookie outswims an older, stronger, taller, more experienced male…

  13. Well, I kinda have to be associated with my country’s team. I don’t know if the sports system is the best, but there’s a whole lotta different incentives and motivations facing elite athletes everywhere. Read Friday Night Lights.

    As for doping, come on man. Marion Jones, Antonio Pettigrew, Justin Gatlin… it’s something all countries have to deal with and stamp out. Cyclist Tyler Hamilton just had his 2004 gold medal stripped. Was that reported widely in the US?

    I don’t know if Ye Shiwen is on drugs, But I do read the media on both sides and retain an open mind.

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