USA falls way short of projected medals
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea
It was a sweeping goal, spelled out on a colorful, full-screen slide and presented to leaders of the U.S. Olympic Committee in a meeting last year.
Sports executives in America targeted athletes on Team USA to win 37 medals at the Pyeongchang Games.
Heading into the final 48 hours of action, the United States had 21. Even if things were to go well over the handful of remaining events, the team will fall more than 10 medals short of the goal.
The information on the slide, obtained by The Associated Press, offers a slice of the data the USOC board uses to set expectations and approve funding for an upcoming Olympics.
Providing resources to help athletes win medals at the Games is one of the federation’s foremost missions. It spends more than $60 million every four years, delivered from several different revenue streams into a variety of different programs, to fund Winter sports.
But the USOC has long been reluctant to make its predictions public, essentially stepping away from the numbers game since the departure of former chairman Peter Ueberroth, who always urged executives to under-promise, then over-deliver.
The USOC’s chief of sport performance, Alan Ashley, acknowledged the 2018 team will not reach its goal, while also saying “we’re doing fine.”
“I look at it and I go, ‘OK, medals are one story, but if you look at the depth of everything that’s going on, and the number of people who are fourth and fifth place, and the commitment level and intensity of the athletes, you can’t ask for more than that,” Ashley told AP.
Heading into Friday night’s action, 21 U.S. teams or athletes — including Mikaela Shiffrin, Nathan Chen and Lindsey Jacobellis — had finished fourth or fifth in their events, which accounts for part of the gap between expectations and reality.
Lindsey Vonn was one of the Americans with the most medal potential. She finished third in the downhill, tied for sixth in the super-G and DNF in the combined. She insisted that America’s performance shouldn’t be judged strictly by the medal count.
“The expectation of winning gold medals is pretty out of whack and I think we need to be proud of all of our athletes for how much they’ve sacrificed and put in to be here,” she said. “Medals — they’re not necessarily what the Olympics are all about. ...
“To quantify it in how many medals you have is not appropriate and doesn’t respect the athletes and what they’ve put in to be in these games.”
To be sure, the U.S. has enjoyed its share of inspiring success stories, including a cross-country victory by Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins and the women hockey team’s shootout victory Thursday over Canada to halt a 20-year stretch without a gold medal.
Hockey and cross country were among the sports in which the USOC did not over-promise in its internal document. It predicted both sports would garner only one medal, with a “stretch” goal of two in each sport.
Under that same “stretch” scenario across all sports, the document said the U.S. could win 59 medals, which would’ve shattered its 37 medal haul in 2010, the all-time mark for any Winter team. It set a minimum goal of 25 medals.