Doubts Cast Aside, Team USA Leaves Rio In Familiar Territory: Atop Mount Olympus

Final farewell: Michael Phelps of the United States of America waves to the crowd after winning with his teammates in the men's 4x100m Medley - by Patrick B. Kraemer

Leaving the United States Olympic Trials, there were questions about the punching power of Team USA. Following eight days in Rio, there’s no doubt the Americans remain the sport’s dominant force.

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Leaving the United States Olympic Trials, there were questions about the punching power of Team USA. Following eight days in Rio, there’s no doubt the Americans remain the sport’s dominant force.



This article says it all. I’ll now give my take on the performances of various nations. The huge dominance of the USA was no great surprise. What was surprising was the step-up yet again from trials to the Olympics. On my figures, in 63 % of the events the time swum in Rio was faster and, crucially, the bigger the name the more likely they were to swim their best when it mattered most. If the pattern from other nations was the same the USA would not be nearly as dominant.

In terms of medals the USA was virtually on a par with its achievements in 2012 in London. In 2012 it won 16 gold with 30 medals overall compared to 16 gold and 33 medals overall in Rio.

Rather than talk about medals, I think it’s better to focus on the number of finals appearances because medals tables often distort the picture e.g. does anyone really think Hungary with 7 medals is just as strong as Japan which also won 7?

The Americans had an extraordinary 51 finalists out of a possible 58(26 individual events x 2 plus 6 relays). The misses were: MEN – 200BF(Tom Shields) WOMEN – 50FS(Abby Weitzell), 200FS(Missy Franklin), 200BK(Missy Franklin), 200BS(Lilly King), 200BS(Molly Hannis), 100BF(Kelsi Worrell).

Australia was second with 32 finalists followed by Japan(21), China(20), Great Britain(19), Canada(15), Russia(14) and Hungary(12).

Here are some other observations:

– appearances in relay finals more or less reflected the wider picture. The top two nations, the USA and Australia were represented in all six followed by Japan(5), Russia(5), Canada(4), Great Britain(3) and China(3). Hungary did not qualify for any reflecting its reliance on just a few big name swimmers

– Canada was the big improver from the last Olympics with 15 finals appearances and 6 medals compared to 2 medals in London

– Another big improver was Great Britain, both in terms of finals appearances and medals(3 in 2012 v. 6 in 2016)

– France was the nation that went backwards the most with only 9 finals appearances(all of them in freestyle except Camille Lacourt in the 100BK) and only 2 medals compared to 7 in London(4 of them gold)

– China also went backwards in a big way, more so in terms of the number of medals won(10 in London, 5 of them gold v. 6 in Rio with 1 gold)

– Germany continued to be in the doldrums with only 7 finalists and no medals, as in London

– Canada relied very heavily on its women’s team which accounted for 12 out of the 15 finals appearances. Other big imbalances were Japan(15 men v. 6 women), Australia(20 men v. 12 women) and Hungary(9 women v. 3 men)

– Australia underperformed in terms of medals given the high expectations going into the Olympics but didn’t in terms of finalists. Although there were some big misses e.g. Cameron McEvoy(50FS), Emily Seebohm(200BK), they were counterbalanced by surprise finalists like Trevor Mahoney(400IM) and Bronte Barratt(200FS)

So, there it is. Now the speculation starts all over again about what might happen at the next Olympics!

Barnabas Mandi

yes the Point Scoring System better represents the swimming power of a nation.
On the other hand Katinka Hosszu alone would be in front of Japan, or would be the first in Europe in the Medals Counting on Golds.

Barnabas Mandi

By the way what about Hungarian w 4×200 free relay that finished 6th in the final?
Next time you maybe write something precisely.


Barnabas, I missed that one so thanks for pointing it out. But then I’m just a fan rather than a full-time statistician so it’s hard to be precise on every single thing.

Barnabas Mandi

OK, no problem I’m also a fan only 🙂


Awesome Yanks…three of the heartiest cheers to your swimmers.. you gave our Dolphins a soaking and a real lesson in performing to your optimum when needed most. Hate to mention the word” choke” but many Aussie scribes and pundits are saying our best did just that.


Now Olympics are over please change my username to inthefastlane

Craig Lord

done. old ones won’t appear differently, fastlane

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