U.S. Dominating 2010 Olympic Medal Race

Why are U.S. olympians dominating the 2010 Winter Games?

Feb. 22, 2010— -- Just what is it about this year's crop of U.S. athletes that have them dominating the medal race at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games?

With 24 medals, America is not only leading the overall medal total, besting next in line Germany's 18, but is also leading the gold (seven), silver (seven) and bronze medal (10) tallies as well.

This may seem unsurprising to Americans used to Olympic gold, especially after Michael Phelps' dominance at the last summer games in Beijing, but this year's medals come after a very different turnout at the Salt Lake City Olympics eight years ago.

In those games, on home turf in Utah, U.S. skiers won two medals total. U.S. skiers equalled that mark in just the first four days in Vancouver, and have gone on to win six more. They are up to eight now, with nearly a week left in the games.

This is already the best Olympic showing yet for the U.S. ski team. Bode Miller went from a flop four years ago in Torino, straight to the top this year with a gold (his first), a silver and a bronze medal in Vancouver.

"He was once called the biggest Olympic bust ever, that's how bad it was," ESPN's Bob Holtzman said. "He was making more headlines for being out on the town."

The Difference

So what is different this year?

"This is a home game for the United States, without the pressure," ABC News sports consultant Christine Brennan said. "A lot of these athletes train just an hour flight away. They're training in Salt Lake City and other parts of the West. They fly up here and train easily."

And it's not just the skiers. Speed skater Apolo Ohno trained in Vancouver, too. His dad has been driving him there since he was a kid.

Now he's just become the most decorated U.S. Winter olympian ever with seven medals at this year's games.

Snow boarder Shaun White easily won the gold in last week's half pipe competition.

But behind some of the biggest American stars here is something else.

"You can't ignore the money," ESPN's George Smith said. "Lindsey Vonn is able to train in secret in Austria."

The Numbers

Ohno has a reported $1.5 million in sponsorships, Vonn has $3 million and White not only has a reported $8 million (and counting) in sponsorships in a sport the Americans invented, but also Project X in Silverton Colo., his own, private half pipe.

But it's not all about money. Sunday night, the U.S. men's hockey team beat hockey-crazy Canada at its own game, winning 5-3. Canada spent $117 million before the games to "own the podium."

Right now, the United States is standing firmly on it.