COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) – History shows that 20 medals would be a realistic goal for the United States in the upcoming Winter Olympics.

The head of the U.S. Olympic Committee is optimistic, but doesn’t want to play the numbers game.

“It’s unpredictable,” USOC chief executive officer Jim Scherr said Tuesday. “They compete on snow and ice and anything can happen. But we feel good about it.”

Speaking to a group of business leaders in the USOC’s hometown of Colorado Springs, Scherr acknowledged that “the opportunity to match or surpass our performance in Salt Lake City exists.” But he refused to cornered into setting a specific goal, preferring to talk instead about Winter Olympic history.

American athletes set a national record with 34 medals at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. Over history, though, countries that have competed on their own turf have experienced a 41 percent drop in medals at the next Olympics on foreign soil. Taking 41 percent from 34 would mean 20 medals for the Americans, who before 2002, had never won more than 13.

Scherr, while spouting those numbers, doesn’t want to play the guessing game the way some of his predecessors have.

He brought up NBC, which has a massive financial stake in the games and will televise up to 1,000 hours on its conglomerate of networks, as having hyped the 2006 squad as the best-ever group of Americans.

Among those who won medals in 2002 and are expected to return are speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno, bobsledders Todd Hays and Vonetta Flowers, figure skater Michelle Kwan, the men’s and women’s hockey teams and, of course, skier Bode Miller.

“I’ll give you the Al Davis line: Just win, baby,” Scherr said of Miller, who has stirred things up with his campaign for loosening doping rules in skiing, then found himself the target of increased testing.

“I know Bode,” Scherr said. “He’s a good kid. He’s a great athlete and we’re just excited to see what he does.”

Others who have established themselves as favorites during successful seasons in 2004 and 05 include freestyle skier Jeremy Bloom, alpine skiers Lindsey Kildow and Julia Mancuso and Daron Rahlves, speedskater Shani Davis and figure skater Sasha Cohen.

If the haul approached 30, many would deem the Olympics a success for the Americans.

Scherr, however, doesn’t want to put a number out there and create extra pressure.


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