Vancouver Olympics final medal count: Who won?

The US and Canada split the overall and gold-medal count lead at the Vancouver Olympics, with the US breaking the record for overall medals won in a Winter Games and Canada winning a record number of golds.

Vancouver Olympics Men's Curling- Canadian fan watches his team beat Norway and win a gold medal in Men's Curling finals at the Vancouver Olympics on Saturday. Canada's gold medal count broke records at these Olympic Games.
Lindsey Vonn of the United States, shows the gold medal she won in the Women's downhill, during the medal ceremony at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. The US broke the record for overall medals won in a Winter Games and Canada won a record number of golds.

The best Olympics ever.

The Vancouver Olympics medal count suggests that both the United States and Canada can claim that title.

Canada’s 13 gold medals ties Norway’s 2002 effort for the most ever in a single Winter Olympics – and Canada is favored to get a 14th Sunday in the men’s hockey final against the United States.

It's a US-Canada cross-border rumble on Games' last weekend.

Whatever happens in that game, the United States will win at least a silver, giving it 37 overall medals, which will break the record of 36 set by Germany, also in 2002.

Before we start anointing this Olympics with superlatives, though, it bears noting that, by another measure, the medal accomplishments of the US and Canada were average, or even below par: medals per event.

Yes, the US and Canada won a record number of medals, but there were a total of 86 events – 258 medals – to be won. By contrast, in 1928, there were 14, and Norway won 15 medals, six gold – an average of 1.07 medals and 0.43 golds per event.

86 years in the making: a US gold in Nordic combined

To do that, the US would have needed to win 92 medals, Canada 37 golds.

Of course, back then there were only 25 nations competing, and Norway had invented most of the sports in the Winter Olympics. In Vancouver, there are 82 nations, and many of the newer event are tailored to appeal to a different part of the world.

The Norwegians, for example, didn’t have to deal with the Koreans in short track, the Chinese in aerials, or the Americans in halfpipe snowboarding.

It means that medal count domination has taken on a different hue since 1992, when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) began its effort to expand the Winter Olympics, both in terms of events and national participation.

In 1988, the Winter Olympics had 46 events, compared with the 86 today.

That makes historical comparisons – and superlatives – problematic. The US and Canadian winning percentages, however, are roughly equal with the winning percentages since 1992.

Facts from the medal table

Here are some other facts from the medal table, which is complete except the men’s 50 km mass start and the men’s hockey final:

• In a switch from Turin, the US got more medals in traditional sports than sports and women’s events added since 1992, such as snowboarding, short track, and women’s hockey. Traditional: 6-9-4 – 19. New: 3-5-9 – 17

• Canada lost out to the US purely because it could not compete as well in traditional events. Traditional: 3-1-4 – 8. New: 10-6-1 – 17.

• Germany continued its tradition as the traditional-sports king, taking only two medals from new sports and new women’s events – both in women’s skeleton. Traditional: 10-11-6 – 27. New: 0-1-1 – 2.

• This will be the fifth time in 21 Winter Olympics that the winner of the overall medal count and the gold medal count will be different – all since 1980.

• Still only four countries have ever won the overall medal table outright*: Norway (5), the Soviet Union (7), Germany/East Germany (5/1), and the US (2). *Sweden tied with Norway in 1948.

Austria won 16 overall medals but none in men’s alpine skiing. The alpine men won eight medals in Turin. It was the first Austrian men’s alpine shutout since 1936.

• Three countries each won eight medals in a single sport: The US in alpine skiing (2-3-3), The Koreans in short track (2-4-2), and the Norwegians in cross-country (4-2-2). Only the Norwegians can add to their total Sunday.

• The Koreans won all their 14 medals in skating events – albeit in three different sports: short track speedskating, long-track speedskating, and figure skating.

Finland, with five medals, had its worst Olympics since 1972.

• The only new event at these Olympics – ski cross – awarded its gold medals to Switzerland (men) and Canada (women).

• Canada might set a record for the most golds at a Winter Olympics, but the US has already set a record for the most bronzes (13), breaking its own record of 11 from 2002. Germany holds the record for most silvers in a Winter Olympics (16) also in 2002.

• No country won a Winter Olympic medal for the first time here.


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