by Ralph Routon
As usual, you can't find anyone inside the U.S. Olympic Committee who will talk for the record about how many medals the Americans will win at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
So we will.
With the U.S. total now at 28, it's a growing possibility that the American athletes will surpass the 34 medals they won as the home team at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. In fact, a quick and not-too-optimistic analysis of the remaining four days in Vancouver indicates that the United States very well might finish with 35 medals.
Not only would that mean a U.S. record, but it also would pretty much guarantee that the Americans would win the total medal count for the first time at a Winter Games since ... would you believe, 1932 in Lake Placid, N.Y.? That's when the U.S. won 12 medals in the 14 contested events, with Norway at 10 and Canada at 7. And it's the only time the Americans ever took the most medals at a Winter Olympics.
Seven more medals would take the U.S. to 35 here. The possibilities, and my projections, include:
Thursday (3): Nordic combined individual event (U.S. already has two silvers in the other two Nordic combined events); women's hockey (either gold or silver, depending on the Canada-U.S. outcome in the gold-medal game); men's aerials (Jeret Peterson and Ryan St. Onge are contenders). Ladies figure skating is an outside shot with Rachael Flatt in fifth now.
Friday (2): Short-track speedskating, men's 5,000-meter relay and 500 meters (Apolo Anton Ohno), women's 1,000 meters (Katherine Reutter). It could be three, but we'll say two. Other possibilities include women's slalom.
Saturday (1): Four-man bobsled (driven by Steven Holcomb), and we won't assume anything in men's slalom or parallel giant slalom, either of which could produce a podium finish.
Sunday (1): Men's hockey, which would be guaranteed gold or silver with a semifinal win Friday against Finland. Otherwise the U.S. will play Saturday night for the bronze, probably against Slovakia.
That's the path to 35 medals, with plenty of backup chances in case the obvious candidates come up short.
It'll be fascinating to watch.