There was a time during the cold war when US and Russia (then Soviet Union) squared off in the gold rush and almost everytime one of the two came out on top in the Olympic medal tally. The US is still in the race but over the years, its rival has changed.
As the Tokyo Olympics begins on July 23, it’s China that is expected to challenge the US authority on the Olympic podium.
China has amped up in Olympic sports beyond its traditional strongholds of badminton and table tennis. It now targets the high medal yielding sports like swimming. And since the Beijing Olympics in 2008, China has been doing very well in capturing a a big chunk of medals in the sporting extravaganza.
With the US on top everytime, China’s rise has been steady. The Asian giant finished third in the medal tally in the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney and then overtook Russia to grab the second spot four years later in Athens.
When the Olympic games came to China in 2008, the hosts finally toppled the US to win the most gold medals although the Americans won 10 more medals than China overall.
US was back at the top in London 2012, both in gold medal count and the overall count but China was not far behind and the intense rivalry in sporting arena continued with Russia falling even far behind.
The 2016 Rio Olympics was a bit of a setback for China as the fell to the third place in the medal tally when Great Britain leapfrogged them to finish second. China managed 26 gold medals with 70 overall whereas team GB secured 27 gold medals. US was on top again with 46 golds.
This rivalry, which has spilled over from politics, is expected to continue in the Tokyo Olympics when they start on July 23. Who will finish on top this time, only time can tell.