DALLAS: US Olympic officials expect China and Russia to be America’s biggest rivals in the London Games medals race, but a bevy of medal hopefuls introduced this week aim to put the US atop the table.
Alan Ashley, the US Olympic Committee’s chief of sport performance, declined to predict a medals tally, but vowed the United States would be at — or near — the top.
“I can’t tell you where the number is going to end up, but I can say the athletes are preparing to compete at the highest level,” Ashley said in opening remarks at the the USOC’s pre-London media summit, a four-day get-together featuring Olympic bound competitors and Olympic hopefuls in sports ranging from archery to wrestling. “We’re going into this to be the best-prepared team we possibly can be. We want to go in and win the medal count, that’s our objective. What the number is, I honestly can’t tell you.”
Four years ago in Beijing, the United States won the most total medals with 110. Hosts China won 100, but led the gold rush with 51 golds to the United States’ 36. Russia were third in both categories, with 23 golds and 72 medals overall.
USOC chairman Larry Probst said he had “chastised” London organising committee chief Sebastian Coe after Coe predicted China would top the table in 2012.
“Hopefully, we can prove him wrong,” Probst said. Certainly, the more than 100 sportsmen and women who attended the summit, which concluded on Tuesday, hope so. They included swimming superstar Michael Phelps — whose 14 Olympic gold medals include an unprecedented eight in one Games in Beijing — and wide-eyed hopefuls still seeking to gain a first Olympic berth. Since Beijing, American Ryan Lochte has emerged a dominant force in swimming, setting the stage for some intriguing match-ups between him and Phelps in London.