The United States’ meager medal count in PyeongChang was its worst haul in 20 years. With only 23 medals as the Closing Ceremony nears, the U.S. Olympic Committee vowed to examine what went wrong and how to resolve their issues moving forward.
On Sunday, the USOC’s chief of sports performance, Alan Ashley, who measures success in medal counts like its the Dow Jones, addressed the performance of US athletes during the USOC’s closing news conference.
“We’re going to take a hard look at what occurred here,” Ashley said Sunday.
Via Associated Press:
“Everything we’re responsible for, and everything that is basically under my responsibility, is focused on how to help our top athletes achieve success,” he said. “I’m accountable for that, and I’m not going to shy away from that.”
He also said he derived hope from the 35 athletes who finished fourth through sixth over the two-plus weeks in South Korea.
“It’s not as though we were in these situations where you’re saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to do this great achievement,’ and then we were 20th, 40th, 70th, whatever,'” he said.
The day before, the Associated Press leaked an internal USOC spreadsheet, which set a goal of returning with 37 medals, with the minimum set at 25 total medals. Suffice to say, the United States fell short of both targets.
There didn’t appear to be a complex algorithm for how those expectations were set though. The 37 medal goal was simply the U.S.’ previous Olympic record, set in 2010, and their low benchmark matched the USOC’s total for fewest medals won in a Winter Games in the last 20 years. With Russia’s doping operation sidelined for 2018, perhaps the USOC seemed to believe they’d wrangle a few more medals.
The USOC spends more than $60 million over the course of an Olympic cycle to support athletes and their organizations. However, Ashley has re-allocated a greater portion of that money towards the sports with the highest medal counts. Ashley also raised the idea of emulating what worked for 2018 medal leaders, Norway, Germany and Canada.
After winning only 13 medals in 1998, the U.S. Olympic Committee made changes that resulted in its medal count soaring to 34. Of course, one Olympics does not constitute a pattern and this could wind up being a bad beat. Ashley also noted that 35 U.S. athletes finished between fourth and sixth place in PyeongChang.
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