2006 was the year that changed gymnastics. Gone was the perfect 10 and what replaced it was a code that allowed for gymnasts to be rewarded for their more difficult routines while still requiring them to be executed cleanly.
I’ve broken down the number of medals won by each country since 2006. There were 258 world or Olympic medals up for grabs during this time frame. The following are the number counts for each country that has won a medal.
The U.S. men’s team ranks fourth of the 29 teams that have medaled since 2006, so why is there this general animosity towards them? What expectation are they not meeting? Is it a lack of medals, a lack of gold medals, or a lack of team medals? Or is it because we’re simply comparing their success to that of the U.S. women’s team?
The men have proven that they have the talent to compete with the best in the world. Maybe the frustration comes from expectations and lack of follow through from qualifications to finals. Four times as a team they have gone from a medal position in qualifications to going home empty-handed. When expectation doesn’t meet “reality” animosity is created, but what kind of stats are our men actually producing? Are they all “in the red?”
|Year||Qualifications Rank||Finals Rank|
In reality, the U.S. men have done a stellar job continually giving their all to represent our country. The table below represents the six countries who have won team medals since 2006.
Since 2006, the team medal-winning percentages are 100% for China and Japan, 33% for the U.S., 22% for Russia, 22% for Great Britain, and 22% for Germany.
It’s eye-opening, isn’t it? Some journalists would have you believe that the U.S. men have done everything short of purposely botching their routines. Others ignore their successes altogether. Even still, there are those who acknowledge the accomplishment and choose to diminish it because the team ‘lacks the success’ of the U.S. women. Guess what? They aren’t women. They are competing in a significantly more competitive field among a broader spectrum of countries with legitimate medal potential and doing a phenomenal job at it. Unlike the women’s field, there are far more than just three or four teams that can legitimately vie for a spot on the podium each year, and that makes all the difference.
The U.S. men’s hit percentage in qualifications versus finals is frustrating, because even with this relatively poor percentage, they are still the third-best in the world in their winning percentage. If we define medals lost as those dropped from medal contention or those dropped from a higher medal to a lower medal, we receive the following hit percentage:
|Places Dropped Overall||44%|
|Places That Stayed the Same/Improved||56%|
|Places That Stayed the Same||17.33%|
The total number of medals is divided by the number of event finals placements the U.S. has qualified into, which over the past decade is 75 finalists between team and individual.
* Both team and individuals who went into finals in the top three and finished with no medal or a loss of a higher ranking to a lower ranking.
** For medals lost or won, total percentages will not equal 100% because not everyone who went into finals was in medal contention.
Overall, the U.S. men win more medals than they lose, and they improve or stay static in their placement more than they decrease their placement. Even though there has been a clear drop from team qualifications to team finals at the past two Olympic Games, this is not representative of the program’s overall success. Struggling to hit to the best of their ability in Olympic team finals is one thing, but this does not indicate a total failure of the program, at all.
I believe that many fans have yet to find a way to articulate their frustration with the men’s team with respect to the hard-working and talented athletes that this country has produced and so the easy way out is to say that the men’s team is bad or has been a failure internationally…neither of which are true.
I am encouraged by some of the changes that Brett McClure is starting to impose at national team camps. I am encouraged by a new crop of gymnasts that are fighting their way through NCAA line-ups who are practicing weekly the meaning of earning their spot and I hope that that fight will translate well into the consistency that will earn Team USA the medals that they are capable of earning.
When the consistency improves, likely so will the medal total.
What sort of disappointment comes from having the fourth-highest medal total in the world and the third highest team medal percentage? None.
Thank you to Guillermo Alvarez, Alexander Artemev, Jonathan Horton, David Sender, Kai Wen Tan, Clayton Strother, Sean Golden, David Durante, Raj Bhavsar, Joey Hagerty, Justin Spring, Timothy McNeill, Steven Legendre, Danell Leyva, Chris Brooks, Brandon Wynn, Christopher Cameron, Jake Dalton, Alex Naddour, John Orozco, Sam Mikulak, Donnell Whittenburg, and Paul Ruggeri III for representing the United States well at the world championships and Olympic Games, and best of luck to the men hoping to continue the U.S. men’s medal-winning legacy as they head into Montreal!
Article by Kensley Behel
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