Sunday, February 24, 2002
Updated: February 25, 5:50 PM ET
Americans finish just one short of medals leader
SALT LAKE CITY -- Until the Olympics arrived in Utah, the
highest U.S. medal count at the Winter Games was 13. Even before
the first event, there was a feeling among the U.S. athletes that
number wouldn't stand.
It did not.
The new record is a whopping 34 medals, just three less than the
Americans won combined in the last three Winter Games. That
includes 10 golds, four more than the previous U.S. high. The
Americans were just one behind overall medals leader Germany.
"We're the United States, and we're here to play," speedskater
Derek Parra said Sunday, recalling the early buzz among U.S.
athletes in the Olympic Village. "Every athlete has been behind
With chants of "U-S-A, U-S-A" echoing through the Wasatch
Mountains, it was a spectacular Olympics for America.
"I feel like a very proud mother today," said U.S. Olympic
Committee president Sandy Baldwin. "We all put a lot of work into
these games. The USOC really made a plan. This is not
USOC officials publicly predicted at least 20 medals, although
an internal memo disclosed last week suggested a more accurate
forecast was 27. But nobody expected 34.
"I'm thrilled and surprised," Baldwin said. "Because of the
element of danger in many winter sports, I personally thought 27
medals would have been a real gamble."
How to explain the success? Follow the money. Baldwin credited
Podium 2002, the USOC's $40 million program that more than doubled
the amount spent before the 1998 Nagano Games.
The USOC handed out almost $5 million in cash to athletes for
training and living costs, and boosted its bonus program for
medalists. A gold medal was worth $25,000, silver $15,000 and
"This is the first four years where speedskaters have been
funded like professional athletes," said Parra, who won gold in
the 1,500 meters and silver in the 5,000. "That's how we're able
to compete with the Dutch skaters."
Some of the USOC money went for research in sports science and
technology. It also didn't hurt the Americans that Salt Lake
organizers added 12 events to the 66 staged in Nagano.
Four U.S. golds and one silver came from those new events.
Apolo Anton Ohno won short-track speedskating's 1,500 meters,
Jill Bakken and Vonetta Flowers won women's bobsled, Jim Shea won
men's skeleton, while Tristan Gale won women's skeleton and Lea Ann
Parsley was second.
Bakken is from Park City and Gale from Salt Lake, athletes drawn
to their sports by facilities built for the Olympics. Americans
also were helped by racing at many sites where they train.
Athletes in the sliding sports, for example, are familiar with
the curves and lines on the Utah Olympic Park track that produced
three U.S. golds, three silvers and two bronze.
"We've spent a lot of time in Park City," said Brian Martin,
who with Mark Grimmette won silver in doubles luge.
It wasn't exclusively a Red, White and Blue Olympics.
Germany's total was a Winter Olympics record that exceeded its
previous mark by six, set in Nagano. After the United States came
Norway, which will take home 24 medals, 11 gold.
American athletes also credited their success to summits last
summer where potential medalists from each sport took part in
problem-solving challenges and swapped stories about their trials
They made friends, and it brought them together in Salt Lake.
They ate meals together, offering encouragement, and it wasn't
uncommon for athletes in one sport to attend other events to cheer
for their buddies.
"In the past, we've been the U.S. luge team, the U.S.
speedskating team, the U.S. ski team and so on," Grimmette said.
"Here in Salt Lake City, we all came together as the U.S. Olympic