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Cal is the best school worldwide in winning Rio 2016 Olympic medals

Digging deeper into the college medal counts tell a different story than the naive count that you may have seen elsewhere.

The Today Show Gallery of Olympians
Cal senior Ryan Murphy was the top performer for the top ranked Cal Olympic delegation with 3 Gold medals in Rio 2016.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Now that the Rio 2016 Olympic games is over, we can compare which school had the most impact on the final results. Unfortunately, Leland Stanford Junior University has overtaken our beloved University of California, Berkeley in the typical/misleading/default Rio 2016 Olympic medal count. While Stanford rightfully has produced memorable moments - Simone Manuel’s historic win as an African-American female in swimming was a great moment, those superficial medal counts are flat our wrong. Frankly, only common sense is needed to logically prove this point (logic and prove used in the colloquial sense rather than the mathematically rigorous sense). So here we have it, why Cal is the No.1 University in the World in helping Olympians to win a medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics.


First of all, the U.S. college system is unique in that it is the only one in the world that has strong athletics programs run by the schools. Students in other countries have to do their studies in schools and then their athletics activities on club teams that have no affiliation with (nor care about) their schools at all. In many case, those athletes do not get the chance to balance their academic endeavors with their athletic ones. Consequently, only U.S. Universities are in the running for the best school in training Olympians.

To answer the questions about which University is the best in providing the training that lead to winning of Olympic medals, we obviously should not count athletes who have yet to matriculate at that institution. While some may call not counting incoming freshmen the “Katie Ledecky rule”, I call this merely common sense. Other than signing a Letter of Intent, these athletes have not got the chance to grow (or be corrupted) at the school of their choice (no matter how smart/dumb the decision). Consequently, we should not be counting the 5 medals (4 Golds, 1 Silver) won by swimmer Katie Ledecky or the 1 Gold by water polo player Makenzie Fischer for Stanford. We will also not count the 1 Gold and 1 Silver from incoming Cal Bears in Abbey Weitzeil. Just because Ashley Judd is coming to Berkeley to become a Ph.D. student in Public Policy, does it mean that Cal can now claim her primetime Emmy nomination from 2012.

Next, we want to compare the prowess of the Athletics departments. This means that we should compare only student-athletes who are on the school sponsored varsity sports, not club sports. As much as us and Cal fans supported the endeavor of Calympian Lily Zhang in Rio 2016, we should not count her medal, if she had won one since table tennis is not one of the 30 officially sponsored sport by Cal Athletics. Similarly, Stanford does not have a sponsored Equestrian team, even if they have a great club Equestrian team thanks to its history being a horse farm (that’s why the Stanford campus is nicknamed “The Farm”, by the way). Consequently, professional equestrian Lucy Davis’s Silver in Team Jumping should not count. In case you are wondering, Stanford does sponsor fencing for both men and women, so they can rightfully count the two medals won by Alexander Massialas.

Additionally, if an athlete only went to a school for the academics but did not compete athletically there, that athlete was never a student-athlete (but rather just an athlete who happens to be a student). For our comparison, we want to only include true student-athletes, even those who decided to turn pro after an year or two. USC Track and Field did not help in the development of Allyson Felix since she turned pro before running for USC (Adidas gave her a pro contract and paid for her USC degree). We should not count Felix’s 2 Gold and 1 Silver. This is also the reason behind why Michigan does not count the medals won by Michael Phelps, despite Phelps having enrolled in classes there for a bit while training with the Michigan Club Swimming team.

Lastly, if a student-athlete transfer from one school to another, both schools’ athletic programs have had a hand in shaping that athlete. I would count those medals for both schools involved. Swimmer Cierra Runge swam for a season at Cal in 2015, it is fair to say that Cal women’s swimming program contributed to her winning a Rio 2016 Gold. Runge has yet to matriculate in Wisconsin, so the Badgers do not have a legit claim on her Olympic success. I would also double count the medals won by Dana Vollmer (1 Gold, 1 Silver, 1 Bronze) for both Cal (where she graduated and stayed to train ever since) and University of Florida (which Vollmer attended for one season).

Which School is the Best?

So while some ranking will have the final Rio 2016 medal count listed as the following,

we have to apply the following adjustments based on the reasons stated earlier:

Stanford: -1 Gold (Fischer), -4 Golds and 1 Silver (Ledecky), -1 Silver (Davis)

Cal: -1 Gold and 1 Silver (Weitzeil), +1 Gold (Runge)

USC: -2 Golds and 1 Silver (Felix)

Florida: +1 Gold, 1 Silver, 1 Bronze (Vollmer)

So ladies and gentlemen, this is your TRUE 2016 RIO OLYMPIC GAMES COLLEGE MEDAL COUNT ranking: In the case of a tie, the number of Gold medals is logically the first tiebreaker.

  1. University of California, Berkeley (aka Cal): 20 medals, 12 Golds, 3 Silvers, 5 Bronzes
  2. Leland Stanford Junior University: 20 medals, 9 Golds, 5 Silvers, 6 Bronzes
  3. University of Southern California (aka USC): 18 medals, 7 Golds, 4 Silvers, 7 Bronzes
  4. University of Florida: 16 medals, 9 Golds, 4 Silvers, 3 Bronzes (and the shame for giving us Ryan Lochte)
  5. University of Texas: 13 medals, 10 Golds, 1 Silver, 2 Bronzes


There you have it folks, Cal is the Best University in the World in helping athletes to win a Rio 2016 Olympic medals, just edging out Stanford.

Cal is the top by far in the number of Gold medals with 12. Texas is the surprising 2nd in this measure with 10.

It is undeniable that the San Francisco Bay Area is a hot bed for Olympic success. Kudos to Stanford for their 2nd place finish.

Since Cal is a public school, all tax paying Californians can feel the pride that they have contributed toward the winning of Rio 2016 Olympic medals. They can also be proud that the flagship school for the state of California is the best school in the world in earning Olympic medals in 2016.

Congratulations to a great Rio 2016 games to the entire Cal Athletics department and all of the Calympians that participated in these games.


Here is the full list of Cal Olympians who have won a medal:

Cal senior Ryan Murphy leads the way with 3 Golds. Cal alum Nathan Adrian has the most medals with 4 (2 Golds and 2 Bronzes).

Cal Aquatics is responsible in the winning of 18 medals. Cal Men’s Rowing contributed to one, and Cal Volleyball also contributed to one.

All of the medal came from US Olympian with the exception of the one earned by Cal Men’s Crew alum Olivier Siegelaar with Netherlands.

Calympians Medal Count:

By Individuals:

12 Golds, 3 Silvers, 5 Bronzes

By Events:

7 Golds, 3 Silvers, 5 Bronzes - 15 medals would be a tie for 18th best country in the world. 7 Golds would be a tie for 13th best country, same as host Brazil and Spain.

Dana Vollmer (USA) - Silver from Women’s 4x100 Free Relay, Bronze from Women’s 100 Fly, Gold from Women’s 4x100 Medley Relay

Nathan Adrian (USA) - Gold from Men’s 4x100 Free Relay, Bronze from Men’s 100 Free, Bronze from Men’s 50 Free, Gold from Men’s 4x100 Medley Relay

Anthony Ervin (USA) - Gold from Men’s 4x100 Free Relay, Gold from Men’s 50 Free

Kathleen Baker (USA) - Silver from Women’s 100 Back, Gold from Women’s 4x100 Medley Relay

Ryan Murphy (USA) - Gold from Men’s 100 Back, Gold from Men’s 200 Back, Gold from Men’s 4x100 Medley Relay

Josh Prenot (USA) - Silver from Men’s 200 Breast

Missy Franklin (USA) - Gold from Women’s 4x200 Free Relay

Cierra Runge (USA)* - Gold from Women’s 4x200 Free Relay

Olivier Siegelaar (Netherlands) - Bronze from Men’s Eight

Tom Shields (USA) - Gold from Men’s 4x100 Medley Relay

Carli Lloyd (USA) - Bronze from Women’s Indoor Volleyball

*Runge is not one of the 50 Calympians listed by Cal Athletics and her medal is currently not counted by Cal Athletics

Cal Affiliated Olympic Medals count:

Abbey Weitzeil (USA) - Silver from Women’s 4x100 Free Relay, Gold from Women’s 4x100 Medley Relay