Consider this morning’s performance at the Water Cube a template for the United States. If it is going to have any chance of chasing China for the Olympic gold-medal lead, this is precisely how American athletes will have to do it.
Four races. Three golds.
Add in two silvers and two bronzes, and the swimmers won seven medals in 40 minutes of work. For the first time, it was the sort of swimming hegemony that we have been conditioned to expect from the Americans.
The US Olympic Trials are as difficult a meet as the Olympic Games, we are often told. Today, it was true.
The performance, however, offers a clue into the different ways that the US and China go about their medal-winning business.
The Chinese come in quietly but consistently, like a Seattle drizzle, day after day, another weightlifting gold, another diving gold.
Before you know it, China has 11 gold medals.
By contrast, the US must come in like a flood. Yes, there will be the occasional pleasant surprise – Walter Eller’s double-trap shotgun gold today, for example.
But it to make a real dent in the golden side of the medal table, the Americans must win events in floods – clutching fistfuls of golds in mere minutes – as they did tonight.
The reason is that America is dominant in only two sports: swimming and track and field. This is not a disaster, considering that they have the most medals of any two sports combined. But it means the Americans must make the most of every session.
Like three golds in 40 minutes.