Team USA Sets Several World Records at 2016 Rio Olympics
by The Milton Measure on Friday, September 30th, 2016
The United State’s performance at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil embodied American Exceptionalism, for better or for worse. American athletes dominated the medal count. According to official Olympic Committee closing tallies, Team USA finished with a record high total of 121 medals, beating second-place China by a whopping 51 medals. Team USA won 46 gold medals, creating the largest medal margin in 76 years. Alan Ashley, USOC chief of sport performance and Team USA chef de mission, says “This has been an incredible Games for Team USA by any measure, and I’m so proud and amazed by the spectacular performances of our athletes, the quality our coaching and the way our organization came together to support them.”
Individually, American athletes climbed to historical levels. Michael Phelps absolutely dominated the swimming competition this year, taking home six medals — the most of any Olympian in Rio. His high medal count was not specific to the Rio games alone; he has won the most medals in every Olympic venue since 2004. Michael Phelps is widely considered the most accomplished Olympian of all time.
American women had an outstanding run as well; they set a record of 61 medals, and won more than half of the American golds. Simone Biles is the first American gymnast to win five medals at a single Olympic Games. Katie Ledecky won five swimming medals, setting historic world records on the way. Gwen Jorgensen and Helen Maroulis won the first gold US medals in the triathlon and women’s wrestling, and Kim Rhode (shooting) became the first woman from any nation to win medals at six straight Olympic Games. Kerri Walsh Jennings (beach volleyball) and Venus Williams (tennis) became the most accomplished Olympic female athletes in their respective sports with four and five total Olympic medals each.
Such exceptional results clearly raise the question: why are American athletes so successful in the Olympics? In reality, the answer is quite simple: when examining how countries succeed in the Olympics, the Washington Post concluded that “those with more wealth and larger populations do better. After all, rich countries with more people produce more top athletes and have more money to support them.” That is certainly the case with the United States. Not only does the United States have the third largest population in the world, but it has also spent roughly $50 million on investment and training for Olympic athletes according to Bloomberg News. When you mix Team USA’s superior financial support, large population base, and Americans’ tremendous appetite for competitive sports, the recipe for the United States’ record-breaking success in this year’s Games was very clear.
However, all of the American success did come at a price beyond the sweat, tears, and money. Ryan Lochte embarrassed himself and our nation by contriving a story that infuriated the host nation and drew international media attention, claiming that that he was robbed at gunpoint at a local gas station. In reality he and two other US swimmers had vandalized the gas station bathroom in a drunken bender. After the news broke about Lochte’s deception, many US athletes were jeered in their remaining contests. This was not a positive closing feel for the exceptional, record-breaking Team USA.
Despite the actions of Lochte and his teammates, Team USA set records and made us proud. Americans should look forward to what our team has to offer for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
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