Team USA Officials happy with medal count

Gary D’Amato
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (MCT)

The object at the Olympics is to get to the podium, and Team USA was the winner in that regard at the London Games.

Though some think there’s too much focus on the medal count, it’s important to the U.S. Olympic Committee.

“My opinion is that the American public has high expectations for our team and our athletes,” chairman Larry Probst said during the USOC’s final press briefing Saturday. “Yeah, we like to come in first.

There’s nothing wrong with that.”

The U.S. had won 102 medals as of Saturday night. China was a distant second with 87 and Russia third with 78.

“I think it feels good to see our athletes have success,” Probst said. “I like to hear the ‘Star-Spangled Banner.’ “

Probst and Scott Blackmun, CEO of the USOC, pronounced the Games an overwhelming success for the U.S. and praised the London Organizing Committee.

“It really couldn’t have been a more positive experience for us in every way,” Probst said.

The USOC officials were joined at the briefing by gold medal winners Ashton Eaton (decathlon), Brenda Villa (water polo), Kayla Harrison (judo) and Missy Franklin (swimming).

“The saying here is ‘Inspire a Generation,’ “ Franklin said. “And I think no matter woman athlete, male athlete, I think that’s what we’ve done.

“I think we’ve been able to come out here and get young athletes in the U.S. excited and maybe get them out there trying new sports and new things. They’re the future.”

Probst said the swimming and track and field teams, which won 31 and 29 medals, respectively, exceeded expectations. But the disappointing men’s boxing team was shut out and Blackmun made it clear that changes would be made.

“I think this is the first time in history we haven’t had any men on the podium,” he said. “We have to fix that. We have to change that. We’re going to sit down and take a hard look at where we are and make some changes.

“I don’t want to say anything beyond that.”

Blackmun said the London Games were exceptionally well-run and that future U.S. bid cities would do well to emulate the Brits.

“We’d like to pull off the Games just the way London did,” he said. “We will definitely look at this experience as something we aspire to.”

Franklin said she thought the Games ran smoothly.

“A lot of the veterans on our team talked to us and they said, ‘You know, it may not be perfect. There are going to be times when the bus will be too full and you’ll miss your bus and you might be really hectic,’ “ she said. “But in my case everything went perfect. They did such an awesome job.”

Some athletes have complained about being unable to promote individual sponsors at the Games because of strict USOC rules protecting the organization’s corporate sponsors.

“We want to create those opportunities for our athletes and the more the merrier,” Blackmun said. “The challenge is our obligation to generate as much as we can in terms of resources by providing some level of exclusivity to our sponsors and to our broadcast partner.”

NBA Commissioner David Stern has been pushing for a maximum age of 23 for Olympic basketball rosters. Probst said he would not be in favor of such a rule, and FIBA secretary general Patrick Baumann said Saturday it is not likely to happen.

“I don’t know how this is going to play out,” Probst said. “I would personally like to see the best players in the world and if they happen to be 35 or 37 or 27 or 19, I’d like to see us field the very best team that we can put on the court and I’d like to see them play the very best teams from other countries.”