LONDON -- The red, white and blue is painting the Olympics gold, silver and bronze.

Midway through the London Games, the United States is locked in a tight battle with China in the ultimate Olympic competition – the race for No. 1 in the medals.

While many had predicted China would top both categories, the Americans go into the second week with realistic chances of finishing with the most gold and most total medals.

After Saturday night's competition, the U.S. led by one medal in each list – 26-25 in golds and 54-53 overall.

Behind the two powerhouses, the battle for the next few spots has thrown up some surprises, with South Korea surging into the top four and Russia and Australia lagging behind expectations.

Britain picked up six golds on Saturday – including three in track and field by Jessica Ennis (heptathlon), Mo Farah (10,000 meters) and Greg Rutherford (long jump) – to bring its total to 14 gold and 29 overall, third in both categories.

The U.S. has won the overall medal count at the last four Summer Games, but China has gained ground.

China grabbed the most golds at its home Olympics four years ago in Beijing with 51, while the United States was a distant second with 36. The Americans won the overall count with 110 medals, 10 more than the Chinese.

"We are a little bit behind where we were in Beijing, but we are still having really good performances," U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Patrick Sandusky said. "It's gone back and forth the last three or four days. We may go up at night, China may go up in the morning, but obviously China is still very strong."

While the USOC is reluctant to project medal counts, the aim is always the same.

"Our goal coming into the games was certainly to finish top of the medal count and we are having good progress but you know we are not taking anything for granted," Sandusky said. "We are still only halfway through."

The final week of the games will be dominated by medal events in track and field, where the United States is much stronger than China. USA Track & Field is targeting 30 medals overall. U.S. hopes took a hit Sunday when LaShawn Merritt pulled up in his heat with a hamstring injury, ruling him out of defending his 400-meter title.

"I think the USA will come out ahead by a little bit in both races – medals and golds," Olympic historian and medals tracker Bill Mallon said.

Former Italian Olympic official Luciano Barra predicts medals based on performances at the most recent world championships. Coming into London, he projected that China would top both medals charts but now believes the tables have been turned.

"The U.S. is improving on their results," Barra said. "Yes, China is still very strong. But I think the U.S. can win the most number of gold and total medals. It's a surprise, but I think that can happen."

Sebastian Coe, the former two-time 1,500-meter champion who runs the London organizing committee, raised eyebrows in the U.S. when he told The Associated Press in April that he thought China would beat the United States in the medals race.

He tempered that Saturday in another AP interview, saying: "It is going to be a China-USA fight for No. 1."

The Russians, who finished third in Beijing with 23 gold and 73 total medals, have been a bust so far with only three gold. But the Russians have 28 overall and still have strong contenders in track and field, wrestling, rhythmic gymnastics and boxing. They should still finish third by the end of the games.

Russian officials had projected between 23 and 30 gold medals. Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko reflected the feeling of disappointment to date.

"I don't want to say anything now, but in some sports we will draw very serious conclusions," he told Russian media. "Now it is practically like a war. The main thing is to get to the end, and we'll draw the conclusions later."

Alexander Zhukov, head of Russia's Olympic Committee, said the nation's hopes should be kept in check.

"It seems to me that the expectations of many of our fans are too high: only gold!" he said. "I read (Britain's) Daily Telegraph every day and the British have no such expectations. With them, if someone gets into the final he's already a hero, and everyone writes about him. And our folks say: You're happy with a bronze! I'm astonished."

Spots four through seven look to be a fight among Britain, Germany, South Korea and France.

Host Britain, which finished fourth in Beijing with 19 gold and 47 total, has been targeting the No. 4 spot again this time. Team GB hopes to pick up more silverware in sailing, equestrian, boxing, taekwondo and track.

"We are under no illusion," British Olympic Association spokesman Darryl Seibel said. "There is a long way to go and the competition won't be backing off. After the success Team GB experienced in Beijing, we aren't catching anyone by surprise. We are benefiting from the support of the home crowd. We'll need that the rest of the way."

South Korea has been a surprise with 17 total and nine gold, including three in archery and others in judo, shooting and fencing.

"Team Korea is making great achievements ... above the level of what was predicted," said Park Yong-sung, head of the South Korean Olympic Committee. "We are experiencing great hope in new sports such as fencing. This is very encouraging."

France (8-22), Germany (5-21) and Italy (5-13) are also doing well. North Korea has been another surprise with four gold medals, including three in weightlifting.

No one has been more disappointed than the Australians. Before coming to London, the Australian Olympic Committee said it wanted to finish in the top five of both medals tables but is way off that projection.

Australia had only one gold and was well outside the top 10 in both categories. Worse yet, South Pacific neighbor and traditional rival New Zealand had three golds. The last time Australia finished behind New Zealand in gold medals was in 1984.

"In terms of our top-5 finish, it's still a mathematical possibility," Australian team chief Kitty Chiller said. "We're not panicking. We're not worried. Sure there's a few medals we have missed out on but there's a lot more to come."

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AP Sports Writers Graham Dunbar and Dennis Passa and Associated Press writer Lynn Berry in Moscow contributed to this report.

Visit the London 2012 Big News page for HuffPost's comprehensive Olympic coverage. For a full schedule of Olympic events,
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  • Rulon Gardner - 2000 Sydney

    American Rulon Gardner pulled off a stunning upset, defeating Russian wrestling icon Alexander Karelin to win the Olympic super heavyweight wrestling gold medal. <a href="http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/olympics/2000/wrestling/news/2000/09/27/gardner_upset_ap/" target="_hplink">He ended Karelin's 13-year unbeaten streak. </a>

  • Men's Basketball -- 1972 Munich

    The gold medal basketball game between the U.S and the Soviet Union was marred by a controversial finish, with the <a href="http://espn.go.com/classic/s/Classic_1972_usa_ussr_gold_medal_hoop.html" target="_hplink">Soviets</a> scoring an unexpected upset thanks to some help from the scorer's table. The U.S. still hasn't accepted the silver medals.

  • Abebe Bikila - 1960 Rome

    The Ethiopian marathoner became the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-18862683" target="_hplink">first black African</a> to win an Olympic gold medal when <a href="http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1829863,00.html" target="_hplink">he famously ran barefoot</a> to victory.

  • Jesse Owens - 1936 Berlin

    Jesse Owens <a href="http://espn.go.com/sportscentury/features/00016393.html" target="_hplink">won four gold medals</a> in Germany, providing a very public counterpoint to Adolf Hitler's views on Aryan superiority.

  • Greg Louganis - 1988 Seoul

    American diver Greg Louganis suffered a concussion after accidentally hitting his head on the springboard during the diving preliminaries. Despite the frightening nature of the incident, <a href="http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/multimedia/photo_gallery/0807/top.20.olympic.summer.moments/content.11.html" target="_hplink">he still went on to win two gold medals. </a>

  • Jim Thorpe - 1912 Stockholm

    Jim Thorpe<a href="http://www.olympics30.com/30greatest/jim-thorpe-hero.asp" target="_hplink"> won both the pentathlon and decathlon</a> in Stockholm. His medals were stripped the next year when it was revealed that he had played some semi-professional baseball before the Olympics. The medals were reinstated in 1982.

  • Babe Didrikson - 1932 Los Angeles

    A pioneering female athlete, Babe Didrikson was a multi-sport star throughout her life. In 1932, she won the <a href="http://espn.go.com/sportscentury/features/00014147.html" target="_hplink">first women's Olympic javelin gold medal</a> while also capturing gold in the 80-meter hurdles.

  • Alice Coachman - 1948 London

    In 1948, track star Alice Coachman became the <a href="http://www.teamusa.org/News/2012/January/01/London-Re-Calling-Home/London-ReCalling-Series-Alice-Coachman.aspx" target="_hplink">first African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal </a>with a victory in the high jump.

  • Bob Beamon - 1968 Mexico City

    Bob Beamon's amazing (and totally unexpected) leap broke the <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2011/nov/23/50-stunning-olympic-bob-beamon" target="_hplink">long-jump world recor</a>d in the 1968. Beamon's flight was so unprecedented that judges had to get <a href="http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1081936/index.htm" target="_hplink">an old-fashioned measuring tape</a> to record it.

  • John Carlos and Tommie Smith - 1968 Mexico City

    Track and field stars John Carlos and Tommie Smith made a fierce political statement and created an enduring image with their <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2012/feb/08/olympic-moments-tommie-smith-john-carlos" target="_hplink">defiant raised, gloved fists</a> after winning the gold and bronze medals, respectively, in the 200-meters in Mexico City.

  • Munich Massacre - 1972 Munich

    In the darkest chapter in Olympic history, 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were <a href="http://sports.yahoo.com/news/olympics--munich-massacre.html" target="_hplink">taken hostage and killed</a> by Palestinian terrorist group Black September during the 1972 Games.

  • Mary Decker - 1984 Los Angeles Olympics

    Mary Decker was the heavy favorite to win gold in the women's 3,000-meter event, but got <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/espn25/story?page=moments/72" target="_hplink">tangled up with Zola Budd and fell to the ground. </a> Her agony on the track as the racers went on without her captured the passion of these athletes. <em>Correction: This slide previously misidentified the year of Decker's fall as 1976.</em>

  • Derek Redmond - 1992 Barcelona

    Derek Redmond suffered a hamstring injury during the 400-meter semifinal but insisted on finishing the race. As he limped toward the finish line, <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/espn25/story?page=moments/94" target="_hplink">his father emerged from the stands to</a> help him make it.

  • Nastia Liukin - 2008 Beijing

    Nastia Liukin won the gold medal in the women's <a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26211786/ns/beijing_olympics-beijing_olympics_news/t/nastia-liukin-wins-gold-all-around/#.UAX4QHBaK3k" target="_hplink">gymnastics all-around</a>, barely beating U.S. teammate Shawn Johnson.

  • Mary Lou Retton - 1984 Los Angeles

    Mary Lou Retton became the <a href="http://www.marylouretton.com/new_site_biography.htm" target="_hplink">first American woman to win a gold medal </a>in gymnastics at the 1984 Games. All told, the petite dynamo <a href="http://www.ighof.com/honorees/1997_Mary_Lou_Retton.php" target="_hplink">won five medals</a> and a nation of new fans.

  • Muhammed Ali - 1996 Atlanta

    The 1960 Olympic gold medalist and heavyweight boxing champion emerged as the <a href="http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/2012/1996-muhammad-ali-lights-the-flame.html" target="_hplink">surprise torchbearer to light the cauldron</a> and open the Atlanta Games. Known to be <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/olympics/18088134" target="_hplink">suffering from Parkinson's disease</a>, Ali's presence became one of the most memorable aspects of those Games.

  • Kerri Strug - 1996 Atlanta

    By sticking the landing in the vault <a href="http://sports.yahoo.com/news/olympics--kerri-strugg--u-s--gymnastics--conquering-hero-of-the-olympic-ideal.html" target="_hplink">on an injured ankle, </a> Strug helped the US. gymnastics team win Olympic team gold.

  • Michael Johnson - 1996 Atlanta

    Sporting a pair of gold shoes, Michael Johnson put on quite a show <a href="http://sports.yahoo.com/news/olympics--michael-johnson-s-golden-runs-in-1996-live-on-in-olympic-history.html" target="_hplink">in Atlanta</a>, winning two gold medals and setting a world record in the 200 that last for more than a decade.

  • Usain Bolt - 2008 Beijing Olympics

    The Jamaican track star <a href="http://www.usain-bolt.eu/usain-bolt-records/" target="_hplink">set world records </a>in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay in a thoroughly dominant showing.

  • The Dream Team - 1992 Barcelona

    Opponents of Team USA were more focused on getting photographs with the American players than beating them. Of course, this is probably for the best as there may not be a team that has ever played that could have matched up against a <a href="http://www.nba.com/history/dreamT_moments.html" target="_hplink">team able to mix and match Hall of Famers</a> like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, Larry Bird. The list goes on longer than the competitive portions of most games lasted.