The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Forget Team USA: Team Maryland is dominating the Olympics

Maryland’s Katie Ledecky with one of her golds. (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)
Placeholder while article actions load

Update: Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky combined for two more golds and a silver since this item was first published. As of Friday night, that gives Maryland five gold medals and two silvers in individual events, and eight golds and three silvers if you count the relay events. Just the individual medals would be enough to place Maryland 11th in the medal standings — directly ahead of Italy, Spain and Canada. But if you count the relay medals, too, Maryland would be third, behind just the U.S. and China.

Of all the impressive performances in these Olympics — from the Iron Lady to the swimmer dude with the dad bod, from the horrifically named Final Five to Rio’s pool technicians, from the Chinese divers to the Tongan flag bearer — the most impressive showing has likely come from our own little corner of the world.

Because you can’t convince me that the top story of the Olympics so far has been anything other than the state of Maryland. Home to about 6 million Old Bay — and weird flag-loving souls — a bit less than Serbia, and a bit more than Finland — ye Old Line State has nevertheless racked up one medal after another in the first week of competition. Let’s review:

* Baltimore’s Michael Phelps, gold in the 200-meter butterfly

* Bethesda’s Katie Ledecky, gold in the 400-meter freestyle

* Ledecky again, with gold in the 200-meter freestyle

* Harford County’s Chase Kalisz, silver in the 400-meter individual medley.

Stop right there, and the state’s already done just fine by the standards of just about any random EU nation; say, Sweden (one gold, two silvers) or Belgium (one gold, one silver, one bronze). Were Maryland its own “O!”-shouting, Boh-chugging and bad-driving country, its three golds and a silver would actually place it 11th in the medal count as of noon on Thursday. In the race for golds, that puts Maryland between Germany and France, which both have more than 10 times as many citizens as the mid-Atlantic state.

Baltimore loves hometown hero Michael Phelps so much it’ll air his race at the Ravens game

But let’s not stop there. Because Ledecky also has a relay gold and a relay silver. Phelps, meanwhile, has a pair of relay golds. Should these count on Maryland’s ledger? Clearly they weren’t won solely on the strength of crab-scented sweat and tears, and you can’t assume Phelps plus three chaps from Timonium or Odenton would have done quite as well against the world’s best swimmers.

But look, this is just a fun thought experiment, and anyhow Rockville’s Jack Conger was part of the preliminary relay team that went on to win gold in the 4×200 free. So if you puckishly count the relay tallies along with the individual medals, Maryland is now up to six golds (and two silvers.) And now the Free State is fourth overall in the gold-medal tally, behind just Australia, China and the United States, which would be looking a bit wobblier on top without its Chesapeakian stars.

But wait! What if, instead of Maryland breaking off to form its own country, that state actually dragged Virginia along with it? Now you can add at least one more gold, thanks to Springfield’s Ginny Thrasher, who kicked off these games by shooting things with a rifle more accurately than her competitors. The new total: seven golds and two silvers.

But wait one more minute! Because Virginia Beach’s Gabby Douglas was part of that aforementioned Final Five, giving Marylingia eight golds and two silvers. By official Olympic counting methods, that puts the so-called DMV third in golds, behind only the 48-state wreckage of the United States and China. The 10 total medals would be seventh-best, ahead of Germany and France, of Poland and Spain, of South Korea and South Africa. Heck, 10 medals would be five times the total won by host country Brazil, with its population of 200 million!

(And no, the University of Virginia’s Leah Smith and her individual bronze and relay gold do not count in this tally, since she’s not actually from Virginia. Duh.)

Anyhow, even if you wipe out all the funny business and just go back to individual medals, three golds and a silver for Maryland is a mighty impressive haul. And Broadneck’s Matt Centrowitz has yet to run a single step. That’s why many Marylanders agree: their state is the story of these Games.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Leah Smith had won a silver medal; she won an individual bronze and a relay gold.