ATHENS, Greece -- While the U.S. men's basketball team fell
short of its gold-medal goal, the bronze it won Saturday night
helped the American delegation reach a bigger goal -- it was the
100th U.S. medal of the Athens Games.
In reaching the target set months ago by U.S. Olympic Committee
chief executive Jim Scherr, the Americans passed their total of 97
medals won in Sydney. And with boxer Andre Ward sure to win either
gold or silver on Sunday, the United States will at least match the
101 medals won in Atlanta in 1996.
Other Americans competing on the final day of these games are
the men's volleyball team playing for bronze, two wrestlers and two
long shots in the men's marathon.
The dash to 100 came in a flash Saturday night, starting with
the men's 400-meter relay team taking silver. That made 97, tying
the 2000 U.S. total, and it was quickly followed by the women's
1,600-relay squad winning gold. Minutes later, the men's 1,600
relay took gold as the final seconds ticked off on the basketball
With 34 gold, 38 silver and 28 bronze medals, the United States
will easily win the overall medal total for a third straight
Olympics. However, China is close behind for the most golds.
At the 2000 Games, the U.S. team won 97 medals -- 40 gold, 24
silver and 33 bronze. In Atlanta, the breakdown was 44-32-25.
Once Scherr set the target, he repeated it often. There was even
a sign reading "100 Medals in Athens'' that hung on the doors of
the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. It was
a more difficult task than in Sydney because the Americans
qualified in fewer events.
While hitting triple digits seems impressive, it's not all that
noteworthy compared to the nation's Olympic history. It has
happened six other times, although just twice in games held
overseas -- Barcelona (1992) and Mexico City (1968).
The American record is 214, set 100 years ago in St. Louis. The
most since then was 174 set at the Soviet-boycotted 1984 Games in
But if the magic number 100 sounds good to fans, it sounds even
better to sponsors.
The most tangible benefit of reaching the goal is that the USOC
can use it to try drumming up corporate support. After all, every
company wants to be associated with a winner, as the USOC learned
after its record medal total at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt
Lake City led to more sponsorship.