Medals, Medals, Everywhere, But What Does It All Mean?

Let’s have some fun with the medals tables from the week’s Olympic swimming competition. First, the final table:

Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 United States 16 8 6 30
2 China 5 2 3 10
3 France 4 2 1 7
4 Netherlands 2 1 1 4
5 South Africa 2 1 0 3
6 Australia 1 6 3 10
7 Hungary 1 0 1 2
8 Lithuania 1 0 0 1
9 Japan 0 3 8 11
10 Russia 0 2 2 4
11 Belarus 0 2 0 2
Spain 0 2 0 2
South Korea 0 2 0 2
14 Great Britain 0 1 2 3
15 Brazil 0 1 1 2
Canada 0 1 1 2
17 Tunisia 0 0 1 1
Total 32 34 30 96

Now, some fun with numbers:

  • Germany was shut out of the medal stands in swimming for the first time since since the 1948 Summer Olympics – where they were not even allowed to compete in the first games after WWII. If only games are which they participated are included, one would have to look back to 1932 to find the last time that happened. With a new National Team staff on board, they’ll hope for a big turnaround by 2016 – the young talent is certainly there.
  • The statistics say that, overall, the host nation of an Olympics gets a 50% boost in their medal totals. Apparently nobody told swimming: Great Britain earned 6 in Beijing, but only 3 in London. China, on the other hand, went from 6 at their home Olympics to 10 here in London.
  • China’ Sun Yang won that country’s first-ever gold medal on the men’s side of the pool; in fact, he did it twice: once in the 400 and once in the 1500.
  • China altogether took 5 gold medals, which is more than they have in history: even the 1992 games, where their women were so strong (but still not as good as the East Germans). China only had 7 gold medals total coming into these Olympics.
  • Spain’s Mireia Belmonte-Garciawon two silver medals at these Olympics; the Spanish women only had a single bronze medal in history coming into these Games. In fact, the Spanish men and women combined only had 4 medals (1 gold, 3 bronze) total coming into London.
  • Two countries won their first-ever Olympic swimming medals at these games: Lithuania with a 100 breaststroke gold from 15-year old sensation Ruta Meilutyte, and Belarus with a pair of silvers from Aleksandra Herasimenia in the women’s sprints. Both countries had swimmers earn medals under the Soviet flag in 1980, but neither has earned one since re-emerging as independent nations in the early 90’s. The number of different countries who have earned Olympic swimming medals is now up to 53.
  • For all of the fear of the decline of swimming in the United States, the 16 gold medals won in London is the most since the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles (where we won 21). That was even without dominating performances by either Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte, like we saw in Beijing where Phelps alone had 8 of the Americans’ 12 gold medals.
  • Denmark went without a medal at these Olympics. That program has performed spectacularly in the last two years, and many expected them to explode at these Olympics, especially after getting three medals at the World Championships in 2011.
  • Australia’s 10 medals, and 1 gold, are both their lowest totals since the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Sinc the 1956 expansion of the swimming schedule to all four strokes, there’s only been one other time where the Australians didn’t win an individual gold: 1976, where the American men and East German women were absolutely dominant.
  • The Dutch women, with 4 medals in women’s sprint freestyle races, had their most successful Olympics since the retirements of legends Pieter  van den Hoogenband and Inge de Bruijn. In this millenium, they’ve won 5 of the 8 gold medals in the women’s sprint frees.
  • The French are the big success of these Olympics; though they ran out of steam at the end of the meet (the men, for example, didn’t even final in the medley relay) they took 7 medals altogether. That’s their highest-ever medal total, after sitting at 6 for each of the last two Olympics. Their 4 golds doubled their all-time total coming into the meet.
  • Japan had 11 total medals without a single gold. Their 8 bronze moved them into 4th all-time for the most bronze medals in history, behind the US, Australia, and Great Britain. Believe it or not, this is not the most medal a team has ever earned without taking a title – in Atlanta in 1996, Germany took 12 medals (5 silver, 7 bronze) without winning an event.

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29 Comments on "Medals, Medals, Everywhere, But What Does It All Mean?"

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i’m not so sure this new german staff will be staying for very long. they had good pieces to medal, Biedermann, Steffen, Deibler bros, etc… This squad just drastically underperformed, and some of the blame has to be put on the coaching staff.

Lol the best part about your comment is that your name is Nostradamus and you’re basically forecasting the future with your prediction. Though I also think its too early to jump to a conclusion like that.

How does the 30 total medals stack up against other US teams? I know it’s less than Beijing. I suspect the reason our totals are falling is the globalization of our sport; more strong teams logically means less room at the top for US swimmers I guess.

The number of individual gold medalists is what is most impressive when comparing this Olympic cycle compared to last two-

eg: In 2004/2008, Team USA only had 2 female and 3 male individual gold medalists. (Coughlin and Beard in ’04; Coughlin and Soni in ’08 and Phelps, Piersol, Hall in ’04; Phelps, Piersol and Lochte in ’08)

After these Olympics, we have 5 male and 5 female individual gold medalists.
Men = Phelps, Lochte, Grevers, Adrian, Clary
Women = Franklin, Schmitt, Vollmer, Soni, Ledecky

I would say that Team UAS surpassed the last 2 Olympics and our future is extremely bright due to the number of individual gold medalists we have (minus Phelps of course).

Haley Anderson just won silver in the open water event to tie the Beijing swimming total medal count from 2008! So, another individual medalist from team USA! Go Alex, make it 32!

Jean Michel

I would say Usa did a great job without having Phelps and Lochte winning many golds ….that means many other swimmers improved a lot and were ready on J-day . Congrats for the French team also .


About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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