Numbers do not lie. With 2296 cumulative medals in the Summer Olympics, the United States is irrefutably the most dominant participating country in the history of the Olympic Games. Despite this, there are events in which the U.S. has seen little success. Here are five events where you'll be certain not to see an American atop the podium.
From 1904 to 1968, the US won 38 medals in Men’s Olympic Weightlifting, 15 of which were gold. Despite our initial dominance in the sport, since 1972, we’ve only managed to win 3 medals (none of which were gold). The reasons for our fall from dominance are varied, most critical of which is a lack of financial incentive for our nation’s most talented athletes. From the 1970s and until the fall of the Iron Curtain, the medal podium was dominated by the USSR. However, China has recently emerged to be the major player in Olympic Weightlifting, having taken 8 of 15 possible gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. With only one man, Kendrick Farris, having qualified for the United States, don’t look for our losing streak to end any time soon on the men’s side.
One of the three different martial arts featured in the Olympic Games, Judo is a combat sport whose ultimate goal is for competitors to take down an opponent and hold them in submission using a myriad of techniques. Historically, Japan has dominated the sport that they invented around the turn of the 20th century with 65 overall medals, 35 of which are gold. The United States has a respectable overall medal count at 10, however they’ve never taken home a gold medal in the sport. With only 5 entrants at the London Olympics, the United States is unlikely to break their winless streak. Kayla Harrison, the 2010 World Judo Champion at 78 kilograms, represents Team USA’s most promising contender for their first gold medal in this event.
3. 3000m Steeplechase
Kenyan athletes have historically dominated the Men’s 3000m Steeplechase, an obstacle race that has runners clear 28 ordinary barriers and seven water jumps over a 3000m track. You have to go back to the 1980 Olympics to find a year where Kenya did not produce a Steeplechase champion. The United States has not won a gold medal in this event since 1952 and has not reached the podium at all since 1984. Top US qualifier Daniel Huling’s time at last month’s Olympic Trials was 8:29:00, well off the sub-8 minute pace that the top Kenyan competitors have posted in 2012. In London, expect Kenya to continue its’ domination of this distance event.
2. Table Tennis
Table Tennis made its Olympic debut at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and has been dominated by China ever since. China’s overall medal count stands at 41, 20 of which are gold. South Korea, the next closest nation has won 17 medals, only 3 of which are gold. The United States has never medaled in Table Tennis and barring a major upset in London, will continue to languish in mediocrity. To demonstrate our ineptitude in this event, Team USA’s top ranked player, Timothy Wang, is only #408 in the world.
1. Men’s Football (Soccer)
The United States’ failure to produce a competitive men’s football squad has been well documented over the years especially as the US Women’s National Team has enjoyed tremendous success ever since the sports’ inception as an Olympic event. The men’s squad has won 1 silver and 1 bronze medal however; both medals came from the 1904 Olympics where only 3 teams participated in the tournament. The 108 year medal-less streak will undoubtedly continue in London, as the United States failed to qualify for the 2nd time out of the last 3 tournaments after losses at the hands of El Salvador and Canada. On the bright side, the women’s squad enters the London Olympics as heavy favorites to take home a 4th gold medal for the United States.
By Eric Chalifour