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Who Will Win More Gold Medals: USA vs. China

Posted by T.K. Hann on 7/18/2012 11:09:22 PM

Gold medals are the equivalent of nuclear arms in the Olympics: the more you have the better your country looks unless the audience is those damned hippies. The Olympics futures market is already up and one of the favorites to bet on is who will win more gold medals in the head-to-head matchups between countries. Of course, the biggest one of all is the ongoing, between China and the USA.

In the 2008 summer games, host China dominated the gold medal count winning 51. Team USA came in second with 36 gold medals but won more medals overall with a haul of 110 giant, shiny coins. China was in second with 100 on the nose, while Russia came in third with 72. If you staunchly believe that China can repeat their amazing 2008 performance in gold medals, then you’ll be happy to hear that they’re underdogs in this matchup, but I’m slapping a “buyer beware” on China like a responsible manufacturer.

China’s dominance at the 2008 Summer Games can easily be attributed to a home country advantage. They are great at the sports they dominate like women’s swimming, but across the board they’re not the best of the best at all things. This is an athletic contest on a grand scale. If it was the Math Olympics they’d be much bigger favorites (I can make these jokes being Asian). In 2004 they totaled 63 and managed just 59 in the 2002 rendition of the games.

The United States consistently wins the medal count at the Summer Olympics because they have better athletes, and pump way more money in to their athletic programs. Russia and China have continually kept pace with them in gold medals, but where the Americans really reap a big bounty is in silver and bronze. They’ve had the most bronze medals three games in a row.

However, if you move to just gold medals, then the conversation becomes much more interesting. The United States is currently favored to win more gold medals than China in a head-to-head matchup in our Olympics futures. China is a +110 underdog, while the United States is favored at -140.

In the 2008 Games held in Beijing, China hammered everyone else in the gold medal count winning 51. The United States was a distant second with 36, so maybe that makes the underdog in this matchup a little more intriguing.

However, if you back up a second and look at China’s track record when the games aren’t being held on their home turf, things start to level out. In 2004 the United States won 35 golds, just three more than China’s 32. In 2000, the United States led the gold medal race again with 37, besting Russia’s 28 and China’s 28.

You could say that China “figured things out” in 2008, but I’m much more inclined to believe it was a blip in the trends. Have some national pride when you wonder out loud who will win more gold medals between the USA and China and start throwing your money around in Olympics futures.


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