The USA Performance at PyeongChang – An Analysis

Much ado has been made about the USA performance in PyeongChang, but is it much ado about nothing? Let’s look at the stats.

Here are the recent USA medal performances at the Winter Olympics.
















The 23 # for 2018 is a guesstimate based on what they have won thru 19 February.

What is medal ops? Events do not uniformly allow a nation to win three medals. Most team events only allow a nation to enter 1 team (bobsled has 2). So medal ops is the total number of medals that a nation can win, and %%% is the percentage of the possible medals they could win. You can see the program inflation at the Winter Olympics, primarily due to the introduction of X-Games sports since 1988.

So what if we don’t count the X-Games events? How are we doing in the classic winter sports – those that were on the program prior to 1992, when the X-Games sports like freestyle skiing, snowboarding, skeleton, and short-track speed skating, came on the program.

Here are those #s.
















Again, the 10 # for 2018 is a guesstimate.

Let’s look more closely. In 2002 and 2010 we won about 1/6th of the available medals. What do those two Olympics have in common? They were home fields for the USA. I know, you will demur and say, “Wait a minute, 2010 was in Canada,” but Vancouver sits on the US border and is probably easier to get to for US fans than Salt Lake, and travel for US athletes was no problem. It was a home field for us, for certain. It is well known that home nations always improve their performance in the medal table.

Further, after competing in a home nation Olympics, those nations typically do less well at the next few Olympics after that – see in which I showed pretty effectively that after a nation hosts an Olympics, it tends to win about 75% as many medals at the next Olympics, then 60% at the Olympics after that, and 50% at the Olympics 12-years down the road.

So after the two “home” Olympics of 2002 and 2010, we could definitely expect to see a diminution of American medal expectations. But it was never presented as such.

Further, not only does the USA do better in home Olympics, the further we travel the less well we do, although the numbers there are not as strong. The last Asian Winter Olympics was in 1998 at Nagano. There we won 7.3% of available medals vs. a projected 8.8% in 2018. In the classic sports we won 5.8% of available medals in Nagano, and are projected to win … 5.8% of those medals in PyeongChang.

Another problem has been our performance in those X-Games sports – we’re not doing as well as once we did. Even that is not unusual. Think about other “modern” sports which had an American origin, or one in which Americans pioneered them. Triathlon – we were once dominant – think of the Scotts (Dave, Molina, Tinley) at the Ironman, winning every year. Now we rarely get on the podium. Mountain biking was once an American stronghold (remember Ned Overend), but by the time it got to Olympics in 1996, we were an afterthought.

The same is happening in the X-Games winter sports. In short-track speed skating (I know, its technically not in the X-Games, but same difference), once we had Cathy Turner winning golds, and Apolo Anton Ohno winning multiple medals, but now the Koreans are so dominant. We usually are happy with an occasional bronze.

In freestyle skiing and snowboarding, we’re still very good, but the Europeans have started to focus on these sports, and our dominance has been waning. With nationally subsidized sports programs, which is common in Europe, once sports get on the Olympic program those nations start focusing on them, and usually improve quickly.

What of the classic sports and our medal chances in 2018, look at them with a retrospectoscope, realistically.

  • Alpine Skiing – we had no male medal hopes. Bode is retired and Ted Ligety is returning from back surgery. On the women’s side, we have Lindsay and Mikaela but that’s it. Julia Mancuso just retired after many hip injuries, and there is nobody in the pipeline at the moment. Even with Lindsay Vonn, that is not the same body as in 2006-10, after 2 ACL recons and a humeral shaft fracture, with an ORIF and a radial nerve palsy.
  • Biathlon – we’ve never won a medal. Lowell Bailey did win a World Championship in 2017, but has struggled this year and I think medal expectations were unrealistic.
  • Bobsled – since 2002 we have started winning medals again, but the USA Team was devastated by the tragic early death of Steve Holcomb, our best driver. Without him, our medal chances greatly diminished.
  • Cross-Country Skiing – Bill Koch won a medal in 1976 in the 30 km. Boxing had the great white hopes of Jerry Quarry in 1970s and Gerry Cooney in the 1980s, and every Winter Olympics we hear of another great American white-snow hope, but like Quarry and Cooney, they never seem to materialize.
  • Figure Skating – our singles skaters have not been very good for almost a decade now. Our pairs skaters have never been at the top internationally. Ice dance has now become our best event. Adding the team event has helped us win a medal because of our depth, but we are not the world leaders in this sport.
  • Ice Hockey – the women are excellent, with only the Canadians to rival them. On the men’s side, without the NHL did anyone seriously think we could beat European teams that are playing skaters from the KHL, the world’s second best league? There is still a chance – maybe they can pull off an upset.
  • Luge – we’ve never won much and cannot touch the Germans. Chris Mazdzer won a medal, which is a reasonably good performance for the US in this sport.
  • Nordic Combined – we won 4 medals in the sport at Vancouver, but those are the only medals we have ever won. We were not expecting any in PyeongChang.
  • Ski Jumping – we have won 1 medal, a bronze in 1924 by Anders Haugen, a Norwegian émigré, who only received it in 1974 after a scoring error was revealed. A top 10 finish in this sport is rare for the US.
  • Speed Skating – paraphrasing Rick Pitino, “Eric Heiden (or Bonnie Blair or Dan Jansen) is not walking thru that door.” On the men’s side our only medal hope was Joey Mantia, and he still has his best event, the mass start. For the women, Brittany Bowe and Heather Bergsma were the best skaters in the world – in 2016. Bowe then had a concussion and recovered slowly and Bergsma has not been as good in the last 2 seasons. Media attention on our speed skating hopes may be overblown because our skaters often post world leading times, but that is usually at Salt Lake City, or Calgary, which are known as the 2 fastest ovals in the world.

Winter Olympic sports must be those held on snow or ice, per the Olympic Charter. There are 3 basic sports – skiing, skating, and sliding. In those the USA has been the dominant nation only rarely – figure skating from 1952-60, and Eric Heiden in speed skating in 1977-80. In Alpine skiing, the Austrians and Swiss dominate. In Nordic skiing, it’s the Norwegians. Speed skating belongs to the Dutch skaters, or the Koreans in short-track. And in the sliding sports (bobsled, luge, skeleton), the Germans are nonpareil.

So, we have had almost a perfect storm set up against the USA Winter Olympians at PyeongChang: 1) they were being compared to performances in 2002 and 2010 at home Olympics; 2) with the host nation bounce effect, fewer medals should have been expected; 3) with an Asian games, so far away from home, we do not always perform as well, and we have been similar to the last one at Nagano, Japan; 4) with Europeans focusing more on X-Games sports, our dominance there is waning; and 5) in the classic winter sports, we’ve had many injuries, a death, and retirements of our top athletes, and we have almost never been a dominant nation.

The @TeamUSA performance at PyeongChang has not been bad, despite reports to the contrary. We’ve had many, many 4th, 5th, and 6th place finishes, as pointed out by Rich Perelman in The Sports Examiner, and echoed by USA team spokesman Mark Jones. But the expectations of 30-35 medals should never have been made – they were unrealistic.

1000th Gold Medal

1000th Winter Olympic gold medal tonite per IOC spokesman Mark Adams. He said he wasn’t sure which event it would come in. Neither am I. Seems like a simple thing, doesn’t it? Just count the # of Winter Olympic events.

Let’s see what the counts are. Through 2014 there were 960 events in Winter Olympic sports. Notice I said Winter Olympic sports. In 1908, figure skating was held at the Summer Olympics (4 events) and in 1920 figure skating (3 events) and ice hockey (1 event) were contested. So if you could count those as non-Winter Olympic events, that gives 952 Olympic Winter Games (OWG) events.

But there have been various ties over the years, so of the 952 events, there have been 955 gold medals. But wait, prior to the investigation of Russian doping, there were actually 959 gold medals at the OWG, as 4 were removed, giving 955 – they had not yet been re-assigned. But wait, in January several of the Russian medals were restored, giving 957, or 965, if you count 1908 and 1920.

And if you really get funky with it, including 1908 and 1920, there have been 5,711 gold medals awarded.

So there you have it. The number of Winter gold medals before PyeongChang started was 952, or 955, or 957, or 959, or 960, or 961, or 963, or 965, … or 5,711. Makes you understand why Mark Adams said he didn’t know when the 1,000th gold medal would occur. Neither do I. Depends exactly on how you define your terms.

(With thanx to David Clark, who suggested we look at this landmark)

Shaun White – For the Record Book

By winning the snowboarding halfpipe tonite, Shaun White has  achieved the following:

  • 100th gold medal for @TeamUSA – his other two gold medals were #71 (2006) and #83 (2010)
  • 3rd oldest (31-164) SNB gold medalist (men and overall) – after Jasey-Jay Anderson (CAN) (34-321; 2010 / PGS) and Seth Wescott (33-232; 2010 / Boardercross)
  • 3rd oldest @TeamUSA Winter Olympic individual gold medalist (men and overall) – after Jim Shea (33-255; 2002 / Skeleton) and Wescott
  • First snowboarder (men and overall) to win 3 gold medals
  • =1st snowboarder to win 3 medals – with Kelly Clark (USA)
  • 2nd all-time USA men for most Winter Olympic gold medals (after Eric Heiden)
  • 3rd all-time @TeamUSA for most Winter Olympic gold medals (after Eric Heiden and Bonnie Blair)
  • =6th all-time USA men for most Winter Olympic medals
  • =12th all-time men for most Winter Olympic individual gold medals
  • 1st USA male to win gold medals at 3 Winter Olympics (tied with Bonnie Blair overall)
  • =1st USA male to win medals at 3 Winter Olympics (with Apolo Anton Ohno)
  • USA record for most years between gold medals (12) – now Ted Ligety with 8 (men and overall)
  • =4th all-time for most years between gold medals (men) (12)
  • 1st USA male to medal three times in same event at the Winter Olympics (tied with Bonnie Blair overall)
  • =1st (with 5 other men) among male Winter Olympians for gold medals in same individual event (3)

To the US, and International, Olympic Media

My Olympics in Korea have ended, as I sit in Seoul Incheon airport for my flight back to Atlanta. Some of you may have heard I had a problem in PyeongChang. Friday AM, while doing a CNN interview, I could not speak for part of the interview, and after going to hospital, was diagnosed with a small stroke. I have been at Gangneung Asan Medical Center until this morning.

I’m doing well, but I have only one problem remaining which is maddening for someone dealing with databases and spreadsheets. My fine motor skills with my right hand are still slow, making typing this difficult.

I’ve been asked if I can still help with stats during the Games. I want to, but please understand I want to spend a few days with my wife and dogs and trying to recover further. I will do what I can, when I can, but I may have to say no, occasionally. I have never done that and always tried to help you guys. Please understand.

My care in Korea, speaking from my day job as an orthopaedic surgeon, was superb. And God bless the USOC for organizing my care and getting me back home. I’ll be back.

Red Gerard – 21st Century Boy

I guess most of you reading this have memories of the 20th century but as we slip further into the current century we will eventually be replaced by those born after the millennium. On day 2 of the Pyeongchang Winter Games Redmond “Red” Gerard of the USA hastened this process by winning gold in the snowboard slopestyle for men and thus becoming the first Winter Olympic champion to have been born post 1999. Please note the careful choice of words there lest we get into the age-old argument of whether the current century began on January 1st, 2000 or January 1st, 2001. What is certain is that Gerard broke a host of age related records when he became Olympic champion.

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Red Gerard

He became;

The youngest Olympic champion in snowboarding.

The youngest US Olympic Winter Games champion since 1928.

The first male Olympic champion to have been born in the 21st century.

The 3rd youngest Olympic Winter Games champion of all time (behind Billy Fiske (USA-1928-Bobsleigh) and Toni Nieminen (FIN-1988-Ski Jumping))

The list of Olympic champions born in the 2000s is as follows

Laurie Hernandez,F,USA,GYM,2016, 9 June 2000
Penny Olesniak,F,CAN,GYM,2016, 13 June 2000
Red Gerard,M, USA,SNB,2018, 29 June 2000
Ren Qian,F, CHN,DIV,2016, 20 February 2001

For the record the first Winter Olympians born post 1999 were male ski jumpers in Pyeongchang.
In start order of the normal hill event they were;

Start order,Name,NOC,DOB
7th,Kevin Maltsev,EST,4 July 2000
18th,Jonathan Learoyd,FRA,3 November 2000
36th,Timi Zajc,SLO,26 April 2000

Embed from Getty Images

Kevin Maltsev

And finally the youngest Olympic snowboard champions are as follows;
Red Gerard,M,USA,Slopestyle,2018, 17y 227d
Kelly Clark,F,USA,Halfpipe,2002, 18y 199d
Hannah Teter,F,USA,Halfpipe,2006, 19y 17d
Shaun White,M,USA,Halfpipe,2006, 19y 162d
Karine Ruby,M,FRA,Giant Slalom,1998, 20y 36d

A comprehensive list of Olympic champions born in the 21st century will be available on this blog in around 150 years providing the technology of keeping brains alive in jars proves successful.

Kasai 8th Winter Olympics, Pechstein 7th

21st and 9th may not seem like much. But when Noriaki Kasai (JPN) and Claudia Pechstein (GER) finished in those places in the normal hill ski jumping and the 3K speed skating Saturday night, respectively, they made Olympic history.

For Kasai it was his 8th Olympic Winter Games, the first person to ever compete in 8. For Pechstein it was her 7th Winter Olympics, the first woman to reach that figure. For the record here are the current records for most appearances at a Winter Olympics.



8,Noriaki Kasai,M,JPN,SKJ,1992-2018,Yes

7,Albert Demchenko,M,EUN/RUS,LUG,1992-2014,Yes

7,Andrus Veerpalu,M,EST,CCS,1992-2018,No

7,Claudia Pechstein,F,GER,SSK,1992-2018,No

7,Sergey Dolidovich,M,BLR,CCS,1994-2018,No

7,Janne Ahonen,M,FIN,SKJ,1994-2018,Yes

6,Carl-Erik Eriksson,M,SWE,BOB,1964-1984,Yes

6,Colin Coates,M,AUS,SSK,1968-1988,Yes

6,Marja-Liisa Kirvesniemi-Hämäläinen,F,FIN,CCS,1976-1994,Yes

6,Alfred Eder,M,AUT,BIA,1976-1994,Yes

6,Harri Kirvesniemi,M,FIN,CCS,1980-1998,Yes

6,Jochen Behle,M,FRG/GER,CCS,1980-1998,Yes

6,Raimo Helminen,M,FIN,ICH,1984-2002,Yes

6,Markus Prock,M,AUT,LUG,1984-2002,Yes

6,Emese Nemeth-Hunyady,F,AUT/HUN,SSK,1984-2002,Yes

6,Mike Dixon,M,GBR,BIA/ CCS,1984-2002,Yes

6,Hubertus von Fürstenberg-von Hohenlohe,M,MEX,ASK,1984-2014,No

6,Wilfried Huber,M,ITA,LUG,1988-2006,Yes

6,Gerda Weissensteiner,F,ITA,BOB/LUG,1988-2006,Yes

6,Sergey Chepikov,M,EUN/RUS/URS,BIA/ CCS,1988-2006,Yes

6,Georg Hackl,M,FRG/GER,LUG,1988-2006,Yes

6,Anna Orlova,F,LAT,LUG,1992-2010,Yes

6,Ilmārs Bricis,M,LAT,BIA,1992-2010,Yes

6,Marco Büchel,M,LIE,ASK,1992-2010,Yes

6,Teemu Selänne,M,FIN,ICH,1992-2014,No

6,Gyu-Hyeok Lee,M,KOR,SSK,1994-2014,Yes

6,Todd Lodwick,M,USA,NCO,1994-2014,Yes

6,Mario Stecher,M,AUT,NCO,1994-2014,Yes

6,Armin Zöggeler,M,ITA,LUG,1994-2014,Yes

6,Ole Einar Bjørndalen,M,NOR,BIA/ CCS,1994-2014,Yes

6,Eva Tofalvi,F,ROU,BIA,1998-2018,Yes

6,Jasey-Jay Anderson,M,CAN,SNB,1998-2018,Yes

6,Simon Ammann,M,SUI,SKJ,1998-2018,Yes

6,Shiva Keshavan,M,IND,LUG,1998-2018,Yes


The above includes all those entered for PyeongChang 2018 although they may not have competed yet.

By comparison the Summer Olympic record is 10 by Canadian equestrian Ian Millar. Two others have competed in 9 Olympics – Hubert Raudauschl (AUT-SAI / 1964-96) and Afanisijs Kuzmins (LAT/URS-SHO / 1976-2012). There have been 9 Summer Olympians compete in 8 Olympic Games.

Have any Olympic champions been succeeded by their twins?

We received a question about the Mulder twins in speed skating. Back in Sochi, Michel Mulder won the 500 m by the microscopic margin of 0.012 seconds. His twin brother, Ronald, finished third on that occasion. While Michel failed to qualify for PyeongChang, Ronald will be racing there, and is one of the contenders for a medal, and possibly even the gold medal. If he does, would he be the first Olympian to succeed his twin brother or sister?

The answer depends a bit on which cases you consider. There’s been several cases of twins winning gold medals together, and some of these have done this back-to-back. For example, Slovakians Peter and Pavol Hochschorner have won the canoeing slalom event C2 in both 2000, 2004 and 2008, so you could say they succeeded their twin, twice even. There have been several of these cases over time:


Twins, Country, Years, Event, Sport

Jörg & Berndt Landvoigt, East Germany, 1976-1980, Men’s Coxless Pairs, Rowing

Peter & Pavol Hochschorner, Slovakia, 2000-2008, Men’s C2 Slalom, Canoeing

Caroline & Georgina Evers-Swindell, New Zealand, 2004-2008, Women’s Double Sculls, Rowing

Kristine & Katrine Lunde, Norway, 2008-2012, Women, Handball


Embed from Getty Images

The Slovakian Hochschorner twins, winning the second of their three consecutive golds.

There have been two cases where twins won consecutive gold medals, but without both being on both gold medal teams, like above. This happened twice:


Twins, Country, Years, Event, Sport

Yevgeny & Boris Mayorov, USSR, 1964-1968, Men, Ice Hockey

Manja & Kerstin Kowalski, Germany, 2000-2004, Women’s Quadruple Sculls, Rowing


However, twins succeeding each other as Olympic champions in an individual event would be a first. For completeness, this has happened a few time with non-twin siblings:


Twins, Country, Years, Event, Sport

Hayes & David Jenkins, USA, 1956-1960, Men’s Singles, Figure Skating

Robert & Christoph Harting, Germany, 2012-2016, Men’s Discus Throw, Athletics

Christine & Marielle Goitschel, France, 1964-1968, Women’s Slalom, Alpine Skiing


Embed from Getty Images

French sisters Goitschel share a laugh with French prime minister, Georges Pompidou.

Coldest Ever Winter Olympics? Maybe.

Some people have been calling PyeongChang the coldest ever Olympic Winter Games. Is it the city with the coldest February temperature to host a Winter Olympics?

Maybe. It really depends on whether you look at the daily mean (average) temperature, the daily mean low temperature, or the absolute (all-time) low temperature for February.

If you look at the absolute low-temperature for February, Calgary, Alberta, Canada wins hands down with a record low of -45° C. (-49° F.). And if you look at the daily average temperature, then Lillehammer, Norway and Lake Placid, New York, USA, are the coldest Winter Olympic cities, with mean temps of -9° C. (16° F.) and -8° C. (18° F.), respectively.

However, if you look at the daily mean low, PyeongChang is basically the same as Lillehammer and Calgary. All cities daily mean low temperature is -11° C.

We’ve never sat down and analyzed the daily announced temperatures during the Winter Olympics. The data was not listed in results until about the 1976 Innsbruck Olympics. While, or other weather sites, likely has the data, it’s not something we have done and not aware of anyone else ever having done it.

Attached is a spreadsheet, Winter City Stats, with statistics about the Winter Olympic host cities, with population data, weather data, and geographic data.

Events Starting Before the Opening Ceremony

Events started today at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, 1 day before the Opening Ceremony. This is not uncommon, and also occurred at Sochi in 2014.

Of the 23 Winter Olympics to date, including PC, 14 of them started on the day of, or after, the Opening Ceremony, and finished before or on the day of the Closing Ceremony. This happened consecutively from 1988-2010.

The first Winter Olympics at Chamonix in 1924 had its sporting events end the day before the Closing Ceremony, the only time that has happened.

In 1932, the events finished 2 days after the Closing Ceremony, because weather had caused postponement of events.

In 1964, 1968, and 1984, the events started 2 days before the Opening Ceremony. The events have started the day before the Opening Ceremony in 1976, 1980, 2014, and 2018.

100,000th Male Olympian – Summer and Winter

Following up on my previous post –

The start list for men’s normal hill ski jumping qualifying round tonite has been announced. Assuming everyone starts, the 16th jumper will be the 11th new Olympian starting tonite, and will become the 100,000th male Olympian of all-time – summer and winter.

And that 16th jumper and the winner is @Casey16Larson – Casey Larson of @TeamUSA. Tell ’em what he’s won, Don Pardo!