Thursday, September 23, 2021

A Team Win at the Olympics Should Count for More Than One Gold

As the bronze medal match was scheduled for a few hours after the men’s USA basketball team claimed gold against the French, Kevin Durant and his chums all had a while to wait before they could all stand on the podium and listen to the national anthem being played. It seemed barely worth the effort they put in when each player was presented with a tray where they had to select a tiny piece of gold metal from it that represented the 8.3% of the one gold medal they had won for their country. Yeah, this is obviously not what happened, but why do we carry on keeping the score like this is what happens?

U.S. Olympic Men's Basketball Teams

There Needs to be a More Accurate Picture

Obviously, each victorious man was able to choose from a pile of 12 gold medals, and like with most winning teams, the US men decided to place a gold medal on the neck of the teammate standing next to them. Just like the US women’s basketball team, they walked away with 12 gold medals, not just the one. However, in the medal table that we all keep an eye on during the two weeks, both wins counted as two golds to the tally.

You would think that nearly twenty years after “Moneyball” changed the way that stats are processed in the sporting world, with analytics being one of the most important factors of how most athletes pursue success, that the Olympic medal count would give a more accurate picture of the different competitions that took place during the 19 days of competition in Tokyo.

The US team is listed as having won 39 gold medals and 113 medals overall, ahead of China in second place who won 38 golds and 88 medals in total. However, when you consider what we mentioned above, this not even close to being anywhere to correct. We think that the number of people standing on the podium during a medal ceremony should have a bearing on the medals tally. If we were to do this, then the US actually amassed 99 golds and a total of 252 medals. China would have ended with 51 golds and a total of 127 medals. Japan, thanks to victories in baseball and softball, would have finished above the Chinese with 63 golds and a total of 124 medals.

It is Basic Logic

We do not think that it is fair to count a gold medal that is won by a gymnast who performs two short routines (one to qualify and one in the final) to twelve basketball players playing six matches that are 40 minutes each. We are not saying that basketball is more superior than gymnastics, we are just saying that if one divides a competition in a number of ways and declares 5 individuals and a 4-person team as winners, while another arranges it so that one team made up of twelve players is the champion, then one sport has handed out 9 golds, while the other has handed out twelve. It is basic logic.

The fact that we need a new way of counting medals in the table is highlighted by the fact that nobody says that Sue Bird and Diana Tuarasi, who both player basketball for the US women’s team, now have 41.67% of a gold medal after winning the basketball event at five consecutive Olympic Games. No, we say that they have won five gold medals each.

When all the events had finished and all the golds had been dished out, it was said that the US team edged China in the gold medal race. However, if you take into consideration all that we just said above, it was not even close, despite the fact that the US team won fewer medals than they did in Rio in 2016. It is always important to be truthful in journalism, which is why it is about time that the method of counting the medals was changed.

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