RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The medal race at the Rio Olympics will likely remain close going into the final weekend.
For second place, that is.
The U.S. — which has left the last five Summer Games with more medals than any other country — is about to make it six in a row, and the Americans seem like they’ll do so emphatically. With a handful of events left Tuesday night, the U.S. had 83 medals, 33 more than Britain and 34 more than China.
Take away the games that dealt with boycotts in 1980 and 1984, and the Americans are on pace for the biggest medal-count romp since outdistancing Sweden by 40 medals at the 1948 London Games. Incidentally, the all-time medal-count-margin record is way out of reach, that being the U.S. win by 220 medals at the St. Louis Games of 1904.
“We are the United States. We come here with an enormous presence and a lot of advantage and privilege,” swimming gold medalist Anthony Ervin said after he prevailed in Rio de Janeiro, part of a huge pool medal haul for the Americans. “Our staff is unbelievable. The amount of people that help us … I don’t think the other teams are necessarily getting that. It starts there.”
There’s no shortage of reasons why.
Russia’s Olympic team surely is missing some medal contenders because of the sanctions and fallout that came after a state-sponsored doping program was brought to light. China won 100 medals in Beijing eight years ago and 89 more at the 2012 London Games, though has struggled — by its recent standards, anyway — in Rio. Host Brazil has been a non-factor, with just 11 medals through Tuesday evening.
Meanwhile, U.S. women have won 40 medals themselves, more than most full national teams. China is second on the women’s medal chart with 27 through Tuesday evening.
“When one of us succeeds, we all try to succeed that much more,” Ervin said. “When your teammates are doing it, it becomes easier to believe.”
That sort of thinking isn’t confined to swimming, though what happened in the pool certainly set the tone.
“I think we each feel an enormous responsibility to get things started off right,” U.S. swimmer Nathan Adrian said.
The U.S. has 33 swimming medals from Rio, took 12 more in gymnastics and were up to 11 in track and field through Tuesday evening — that number almost certain to rise over the coming days. Fencing delivered four medals and sailing saw Americans take medals after going 0-for-London four years ago. And some chances have slipped away, too, as evidenced by the Americans failing to win a single gold on Monday after winning at least one in every full day of the London Games.
The top three medal winners so far in Rio are Americans: swimmer Michael Phelps got six, gymnast Simone Biles and swimmer Katie Ledecky took five apiece.
“It’s very crazy,” Biles said. “It’s been an amazing experience and I don’t think I could be more proud.”
There’s a whole lot of her red, white and blue-clad compatriots who feel the same.