Perpetual Medal Count

Years ago, I did a USA TODAY feature called the Virtual Medal Count, which compiled results from World Championships and similar events to track how each country’s Olympic athletes were doing as we headed into Athens. But Virtual Medal Count — well, Table — is now a feature at Gracenote.

What I did back then and what I’m doing now is considerably simpler than Gracenote’s awesome database-and-projection service. I’m simply tracking who wins what, and I’m comparing it to how each country fared in the last Olympics. (For now, it’s summer only — winter will be done sometime soon, I hope.)

And it’s ongoing. Hence the new name: Perpetual Medal Count.

The PMC awards medals to the most recent gold, silver and bronze medalists in each event, whether it’s from World Championship competition or some other top-level event. If no such event has been held since the last Olympics, the medals still belong to those who won them in the Olympics.

For example:

  • In the men’s 100-meter freestyle swimming, the 2016 medalists were Kyle Chalmers (AUS), Pieter Timmers (BEL) and Nathan Adrian (USA). In the 2017 World Championships, the medalists in that event were Caeleb Dressel (USA), Nathan Adrian (USA) and Mehdy Metella (FRA). So the USA lost a bronze medal but gained a gold and silver. Australia and Belgium each lost a medal, while France gained one.
  • Switch to the women’s 400-meter freestyle. In 2016: Katie Ledecky (USA), Jazmin Carlin (GBR) and Leah Smith (USA). Ledecky (of course) won again in 2017, so the USA keeps that gold. Smith moved up from bronze to silver, so the USA swapped one for the other. Britain lost its medal to China — Li Bingjie took bronze.

Bear in mind a few caveats:

  • The Olympics have plenty of new events in 2020 — surfing, sport climbing, baseball, softball, karate and a lot of mixed relays.
  • World Championships in a given sport may have more events than the Olympics. I’m only listing Olympic events. In sports like taekwondo (eight events per gender in the World Championships, four per gender in the Olympics), that means a lot of Olympic medal contenders won’t be competing for spots here.
  • Some sports don’t have World Championships that draw all the best athletes.

So it’s inexact. But it gives us a general sense of how athletes are faring, and someone can claim bragging rights for the most current championships in Olympic events in between the Games.

Look for updates on the Duresport blog. The most recent Google Sheet, with collated results from Rio 2016 and World Championships of 2017, is at the bottom of this page.

Still to come in 2017:

  • Aug. 21-26: Wrestling, World Championships
  • Aug. 21-27: Badminton, World Championships
  • Aug. 21-29: Modern pentathlon, World Championships
  • Aug. 23-27: Canoe sprint, World Championships
  • Aug. 25-Sept. 3: Boxing, men’s World Championships
  • Aug. 28-Sept. 3: Judo, World Championships
  • Sept. 5-10: Mountain bike, World Championships
  • Sept. 13-17: Canoe slalom, World Championships
  • Sept. 16-24: Road cycling, World Championships
  • Sept. 17: Triathlon, World Triathlon Series finals
  • Sept. 24-Oct. 1: Rowing, World Championships
  • Oct. 2-8: Gymnastics, World Championships
  • Oct. 13-15: Rhythmic gymnastics, World Championships
  • Oct. 15-22: Archery, World Championships
  • Nov. 8-12: BMX (urban cycling), World Championships
  • Nov. 9-12: Trampoline, World Championships
  • Nov. 18-26: Field hockey, women’s World League final
  • Nov. 28-Dec. 5: Weightlifting, World Championships
  • Dec. 1-17: Handball, women’s World Championships
  • Dec. 2-10: Field hockey, men’s World League final
  • Dec. 8-20: Surfing, World Surf League final
  • Year-end: Golf, tennis and women’s soccer world rankings

Here’s the math …