When the U.S. men’s basketball team took the Olympic title Sunday, it won the 46th gold medal for Americans in London, their highest total at a “road” Olympics. The U.S. — winners of 104 medals overall in London, easily the most of any country — won 45 golds at Paris in 1924 and Mexico City in 1968.
LeBron James recognized that winning gold means more than, well, winning gold.
“It means more than myself, it means more than my name on my back. It means everything to the name on the front,” he said.
The final numbers for the Americans in London won’t go down as record-setting for all Olympics.
They won 83 golds (174 overall) at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, boycotted by most of the Soviet bloc countries; and 78 golds (a whopping 239 overall) at the 1904 St. Louis Games, when U.S. athletes won roughly seven out of every eight medals.
Different eras, different dynamics. By any measure, 2012 will be considered a booming success for the U.S.
Many thought the Chinese would go home with more medals than the Americans, and that didn’t come close to happening. China won 38 golds, its most ever on foreign soil, but finished 17 medals behind the U.S. overall and took a major step back from when it served as the host team four years ago.
Sure, there were the stars — Phelps, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, British cyclist Chris Hoy — but there also were those who just missed, like triathlete Sarah Groff and modern pentathlete Margaux Isaksen, both fourth-place finishers.
“They fell just short but inspired us with their determination,” Blackmun said. “Just as importantly, all of our athletes were good ambassadors, and we have no doubt that they left a positive impression both in London and with the hundreds of millions of Americans who were watching back home.”