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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Members of the U.S. women's hockey team pose with their gold medal. The United States won just 23 medals at the recently completed Pyeongchang Olympics, its the lowest total since 1998.

Monday, February 26, 2018 1:00 am

USOC promises to find ways for more medals

EDDIE PELLS | Associated Press

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – The U.S. Olympic team will leave Pyeongchang with its lowest medal haul in 20 years – a number even worse than it looks because of all the new, American-friendly sports that have been added to the program over the past two decades.

The U.S. finished with 23 medals. It's the poorest showing since 1998, four years before a home Olympics in Salt Lake City sparked a renaissance for the country's winter sports program.

Alan Ashley, the U.S. Olympic Committee's chief of sport performance, wasn't shirking from the bad result.

“We're going to take a hard look at what occurred here,” he said Sunday at the USOC's closing news conference.

Ashley was joined by four U.S. medalists, including Lindsey Vonn, who a few days earlier gave an impassioned plea to not judge everything by the numbers of medals collected.

“To quantify it in how many medals you have is not appropriate and doesn't respect the athletes and what they've put in to be in these games,” she said.

But Ashley acknowledged there was plenty of room for improvement, and promised to break down what went wrong when he returns home.

“Everything we're responsible for, and everything that is basically under my responsibility, is focused on how to help our top athletes achieve success,” he said. “I'm accountable for that, and I'm not going to shy away from that.”

He also said he derived hope from the 35 athletes who finished fourth through sixth over the two-plus weeks in South Korea.

“It's not as though we were in these situations where you're saying, 'Oh, we're going to do this great achievement,' and then we were 20th, 40th, 70th, whatever,” he said.

But the USOC certainly expected more.

An internal document obtained by The Associated Press set a target goal of 37 medals, with a minimum of 25.

Eleven of the 23 U.S. medals came from snowboarding and freestyle skiing, events that were added beginning in 1992 and have played a large part in a near doubling of medals up for grabs at the games.

Many of the newer events are skewed toward North American athletes.

At the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, Team USA took 14.5 percent of the medals available. This year, it took 7.5 percent.

The U.S. finished with 12 medals in events other than freestyle and snowboarding. That's one fewer than in 1998, but still double the total of 1988.

Ashley said he'll look at everything, including seeing what the USOC might emulate from countries that have had more success this year. Norway closed with 39 medals, breaking the Winter Olympics record of 37, set by the United States in 2010. Germany had 31, and Canada, which started its “Own the Podium” program before the Vancouver Games, had 29.