Michael Phelps poses with his gold medal for the men's 4x200-meter… (Matt Slocum / Associated…)
LONDON — Freestyle wrestler Jordan Burroughs came to the Olympics with two objectives: to become the champion in the 163-pound weight class and to restore Team USA to what he considered its rightful place atop the gold-medal list.
China had capitalized on its home-country advantage four years ago to win 51 gold medals, 15 more than the U.S. And although the U.S. won more medals overall in Beijing, 110-100, some experts give greater weight to the number of gold medals when ranking Olympic performances. Burroughs was so determined to avoid a repeat that he downloaded an app to his smartphone that allowed him to track the daily medal count and vowed to do his part for Team USA.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, August 16, 2012 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
Olympics: A chart of Olympic medal winners with ties to Southern California in the Aug. 13 London 2012 section listed swimmer Jason Lezak's affiliation with Southern California as UCLA. He attended UC Santa Barbara.
"I wanted to be the guy who helped us out," said Burroughs, who did just that when he defeated Sadegh Saeed Goudarzi of Iran in the gold-medal match. "Even though China makes all our clothes, they can't beat us in medals."
Thanks to Burroughs and 45 other triumphant team or individual performances, the U.S. had regained the top spot in both the gold-medal and overall tallies before Posh and the rest of the Spice Girls reunited to perform at Olympic Stadium during Sunday's closing ceremony.
The total of 46 gold medals was the highest for the U.S. in an Olympics contested on foreign soil. Those gold medals were supplemented by 29 silver medals and 29 bronze medals for a grand total of 104, giving Team USA the lead in the medal count for the fifth straight Games.
China finished second in gold (38) and overall medals (87). Russia had 82 total medals, including 24 gold. Host Britain had more golds (29) but 65 overall.
"We had very, very high expectations coming into the Games, and I think our expectations have been exceeded both on the field of play and off," Scott Blackmun, chief executive of the U.S. Olympic Committee, said before Sunday's final events.
"One of our primary objectives is to get as many American athletes on the podium as we can. If you look at the team sports, we're going to put more than 200 on the podium while we're here, which is something that's very, very important to us."
Swimmers won the most medals for Team USA, 31. That equaled the Beijing team's total, but the London swimmers won 16 gold medals, four more than the Beijing team.
Michael Phelps dominated the pool here by winning six gold medals and eight overall to pad his career total to 22, the most in Olympic history. Missy Franklin, Ryan Lochte and Allison Schmitt each won five medals and U.S. swimmers set five world records, two by breaststroke specialist Rebecca Soni.
The second-biggest contribution was 29 from a track and field team whose distance renaissance softened the sting of losing three of four individual sprint races to Jamaicans.
Galen Rupp's silver medal in the 10,000 meters was the first by an American in that race since Billy Mills in 1964, and Leo Manzano's silver in the men's 1,500 was the first by an American at that distance since Jim Ryun won silver in 1968. Brigetta Barrett's high-jump silver medal was the first for the U.S. in that event since Louise Ritter won gold in 1988.
Allyson Felix of Los Angeles won three gold medals and Carmelita Jeter of Gardena won gold, silver and bronze. Eighteen athletes or relays recorded national-best performances as the track and field team increased its medal total from 23 at Beijing and gave the overall U.S. total a big boost.
"I personally feel like it's important for us to take the title home because I feel like we've worked very hard and it's part of our expectations," said DeeDee Trotter, who won bronze in the 400 and gold with the dominant 1,600-meter relay team.
"I think that it's important in a way that we just want to maintain a level of talent and the level of medals that we've always been able to bring home, and to fall short of that would mean that we're not bringing our 'A' game. And we always want to bring our 'A' game."
That happened in several other sports too. Divers won one gold medal and four overall after being shut out in Beijing, and Wimbledon provided a venerable backdrop for four tennis medals, up from two at Beijing.
"I was there the day that Serena [Williams] played Maria Sharapova and that was the most dominating performance that I have ever seen by a female tennis player, ever," Larry Probst, chair of the USOC board, said of the women's final. "It was just unbelievable."
But that wasn't true across the board.
Gymnastics' medal total dropped from 10 to six, though Gabrielle Douglas became the first American to win team and individual all-around gold medals. "Overall, I think we're happy with the way gymnastics turned out," Probst said.
Fencers won six medals at Beijing but only one here. Sailing was blanked for the first time since the 1936 Berlin Games. Most noticeably, the male boxers went home without a medal. In the Olympic debut of women's boxing, middleweight Claressa Shields won gold and flyweight Marlen Esparza won bronze.