Russia up, Canada down in Perpetual Medal Count

The USA did just fine at the World Track and Field Championships in London. Maybe better than fine. No one dropped a relay baton, so that’s an improvement.

And the USA is still the runaway leader in the Perpetual Medal Count. But Russia is gaining on China, with a small asterisk.

Quick reminder of how this works: The Perpetual Medal Count starts with the 2016 Olympic medal count. As we have World Championships or similar events, each country “defends” its medals like championship belts in boxing or MMA. A lot of sports haven’t had a major competition since the Olympics, so those medals have not changed. Others have changed quite a bit, and we’ve added all the new events (skateboarding, sport climbing, mixed relays in everything) to the Perpetual Medal Count.

Here’s the current table, comparing the 2016 Olympic medal count with the PMC:


The major changes since the debut Perpetual Medal Count after the aquatics World Championships:

  • The beach volleyball World Championships didn’t change much. Brazil matched its two medals from Rio, and the USA and Germany matched their one medal each. But Russia picked up one medal, inching it closer to second place.
  • The women’s volleyball World Grand Prix final saw the USA and China each lose a medal.
  • Track and field changed a lot.

But we have a caveat: The medals assigned to “Authorized Neutral Athletes” in the World Championships have been assigned to Russia in the PMC. They’re all Russian athletes, and their “neutral” status is left over from the Great Russian Doping Scandal of 2014-16. The PMC is designed to tell us the relative strength of each country’s Olympic team, and these athletes won’t be “neutral” forever.

So that accounts for a six-medal swing for Russia. Little wonder they’ve almost caught China.

Other notes on the current tally:

  • Reminder: The USA picks up a lot of medals here in new events like skateboarding.
  • The World Championships did not include a mixed relay, even though that’s a new Olympic event. It did include a women’s 50k walk, which is not yet in the Olympics and therefore not included in the PMC.
  • Canada had six track and field medals in 2016. This year, none. Andre De Grasse’s injury was a killer.
  • The other big winners from track and field were Poland (up 5) and the Netherlands (up 3).
  • The other big loser from track and field was Jamaica (down 7). It wasn’t just Usain Bolt — the sprinters were virtually shut out across the board.



Presenting the Perpetual Medal Count

How are each country’s Olympic athletes trending in World Championship and other competition? Glad you asked.

As it stands now, U.S. athletes are doing quite well, tracking a good bit ahead of how they finished in Rio 2016. So are Russian, Australian, Chinese and French athletes. British athletes, on the other hand, are falling rapidly.


What does this mean?

Check out the Perpetual Medal Count, which adds up each country’s performance in Olympic events through all relevant World Championships. Each country starts with its medal count from the Rio Olympics, then gains or loses medals depending on how its athletes do in those events. In the chart above, the Rio medal count is on the left, and the Perpetual Medal Count on the right, with a plus/minus category at far right.

So if there’s been no relevant competition thus far (as in archery, badminton, basketball, boxing, canoeing, mountain bike, road cycling, equestrian, field hockey, golf, gymnastics, women’s handball, judo, modern pentathlon, rowing, rugby sevens, sailing, shooting, tennis, some volleyball, weightlifting, wrestling, and — until next week — track and field), the medals are still in the hands in the countries that won them in 2016.

Here’s how things stack up in some of the events that have been contested so far:

Track cycling: A huge 10-medal loss for Great Britain, which dominated in Rio and barely missed a shutout in worlds. Australia gained four.

Diving: More losses for the USA (-3) and Britain (-2); big gain for Russia (+4).

Swimming: Believe it or not, the USA broke even — 33 medals in 2016, 33 medals in Olympic events (including open water) in 2017. Add the new Olympic events, and the USA gets two more. The other major countries also came close to matching their Rio totals.

And the new events throughout the Games give the USA a huge boost — 15 medals total, though it’s tough to tell whether the skateboarding competition for the Olympics will resemble any other competition.

This will be updated every couple of weeks while we still have a lot of World Championships going on, then more sporadically in 2018, then picking up again in 2019.

Next up: the winter version.