Early on during the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, a narrative started to form in some sections of the political right. The US men’s basketball team and the women’s soccer team suffered very surprising defeats to France and Sweden respectively. Then, Simone Biles, touted as the best gymnast in the world, pulled out citing mental health issues. The reason for these surprises was identified quickly: the US athletes were too bothered about being “woke” and were not focused on winning.
A Lot of Criticism
Former President of the United States Donald Trump has had plenty of social media feuds with Megan Rapinoe over the years, and he rekindled it when the American soccer team picked up a bronze medal instead of the gold that many had predicted. Taking to his Twitter account, he tweeted that when you go woke you lose, and that all that is woke eventually turns bad, and the American female soccer team certainly has.
However, he was actually late to pick up the woke baton during the Olympics. For example, Greg Gutfeld, who is a host of Fox News, commented on the women’s soccer team’s 3-0 defeat to Sweden and said that they cared too much about being political than playing the game that they are paid to play. Then there was Grant Stinchfield from Newsmax, who went as far as to say that he was rooting against the US because they are “overpaid social justice warriors”.
This is a Weak Argument
The Olympics are over now, and the final medal results are in, and it is clear to see that the argument that the US Olympians failed because they were too woke is one that really does not hold much water.
The US Olympics team has finished at the top of the medals table since 1992, and they managed to do so once again, winning 113 medals between them. This is slightly short of the 121 medals that were won in 2016, but 113 is more than they have won at all other Olympics since they won a staggering 174 medals at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
The US team finished the 2020 Olympics with 39 gold medals, which was one more than what the Chinese managed to win. This 39 is not as many as they won in 2012 and 2016 (46 golds), but it is on par for all the Olympics that have taken place after 1984. However, with this being said, we must note that the number of events at the Olympics has increased over the years, meaning that more medals were available, and that the US lost a bit of ground. The US team won 113 medals from 339 events, which means they won one medal every three events. After 1984, they averaged 36%, while since 2000 they have averaged around 35%.
However, the number of medals that they got when compared to other top nations happened to be one of the biggest gaps in recent history. They picked up 25 more medals than China, which is the third highest total medals gap since 1984, with only a larger gap being recorded in 1996 and 2016. If you use total medal count to determine athletic superiority, then the US is the best in the world by a huge margin.
Okay, the argument being made by the right wing was not that all US athletes were being too woke, it was that particular ones were, and that this was having an impact on the team’s effort as a whole. However, as we are about to show, the results do not really show us this.
For example, despite the fact that they had an early stumble against the French team, the man’s basketball team still went on to pick up the gold medal. The women’s basketball team also got gold, and they have definitely been more socially active than any other American sport team. The women’s soccer team fell short of their target of gold, but if that was because they were took woke, then how does that explain Canada getting the gold medal?
The Canadian women’s soccer team also knelt for racial equality, they have a transgender player on their team, and they decided to drop the “W” from the team’s abbreviation to show support towards gender equality. Sweden, who came second, also took the knee and like the US players have been campaigning for equal pay for years. So, it seems that the “woke” did pretty well for themselves this year where soccer was concerned.
Criticism in Other Disciplines
Another athlete who was heavily criticised was Gwen Berry, who is a hammer thrower for the US team. At the Olympic trials she turned away from the US flag, and when she came 11th out of 12 participants in the actual Olympics, the conservative outlets could not wait to gloat about her failure. However, nobody really expected Berry to get a medal – she finished third during the trials and finished once again behind her two US teammates.
However, for some reason, Michael Andrew has been let off the hook. He is an Olympic swimmer and refused to get the vaccine before going to Tokyo and also refused to wear a mask while being interviewed at the games. He came fifth in his swimming event, the 200m individual medley, despite the fact that he was one of the favourites to collect a gold medal.
Then there was Simone Biles. There were many from the right who targeted her for withdrawing, but Biles never really focused on anything political during the games. She is one of the many gymnasts who was sexually assaulted by Larry Nassar and she helped put him away for life, but that is not the same thing. The fact that she withdrew from the competition was put down as a symptom of being woke and the fact that she is mentally weak. However, we learned that it had nothing to do with her not wanting to participate, but the fact that she had what is known in gymnastic jargon as “the twisties”, which is where you do not know what way is up and what way is down.
The US Did Not Fall Short Because of the Athletes Above
The final point we want to make is that the US team did not end up with fewer medals than they would have liked because of the athletes that we just spoke about above. No, it was because the athletics team – not exactly the vanguard of political, public activism on the US team – completely underperformed, especially the men.
The men did not win a single gold medal on the track until the last day, when they picked up the 4x400m relay gold. Since 1984, the men’s team have averaged more than six golds, and they won seven medals in total, which is way short of their average of 17 The women’s team did a bit better with three golds and 11 medals in all, but this is still short of their modern average. We should note that one big winner was Allyson Felix, who has recently spoken out on issues about George Floyd – she picked up her 11th medal, making her the most decorated track athlete in US history.
Had the track teams equaled their post-1984 average of 11 gold medals and 27 medals, then the US would have collected 46 golds and a total of 122 medals overall. To put it another way, it would have been pretty much the same performance that they put in at the 2016 games, before woke-ism started supposedly destroying the efforts of the US Olympic team.