For most of the world, it has been considered the golden rule. When it comes to calculating a country’s standing on the official Olympics medal table, the number of golds gained rather than the actual amount of medals acquired dictates the ranking.
Such convention, however, is not one that the US follows. Instead, the US adds all gold, silver and bronzes won to create an alternative “medal count” table. Often, this makes no difference to who comes top. But this year, just as the US and China are locked in a rancorous tussle for global supremacy, it makes all the difference.
The US lags in second place behind China in the tally of golds, but its own unorthodox methodology sees the US beat China to the top spot. In fact, the US is way out on its own, with 108 medals secured, followed by China, whose haul of 87 includes two more golds than the US – a minor detail – and in third place, the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) with 69 medals.
The biggest winner under the US system is Ukraine. With just one gold from its 18 medals, the country soars from its current 43rd position to 16th.
Great Britain benefits more modestly, jumping above Japan to fourth but still behind the Russian squad.
• This article was amended on 8 August 2021. An error during editing meant that an earlier version said the ROC had a tally of “69 golds”; in fact, as the table showed, they had 69 medals (of which 20 were gold) at the time the article was published on 7 August.