Citius, Altius, Fortius

Given the current Olympic fever, it’s interesting to look at the rate at which countries win medals. Tiny Grenada managed a gold, while Jamaica and New Zealand managed more than 2 medals per million head of population:

Rank Country Medals Medals per million
1 Grenada (GRD) 1 9.5
2 Jamaica (JAM) 9 3.3
3 New Zealand (NZL) 10 2.3
4 Slovenia (SVN) 4 1.9
5 Denmark (DNK) 9 1.6
6 Estonia (EST) 2 1.5
7 Hungary (HUN) 15 1.5
8 Australia (AUS) 29 1.3

Some of those countries are too small to see on this map, but the “third rung” with between 1 and 2 medals per million – Slovenia (SVN), Denmark (DNK), Estonia (EST), Hungary (HUN), Australia (AUS), Cyprus (CYP), Qatar (QAT), Belarus (BLR), and Mongolia (MNG) – mostly stand out:

Medals per million at London, so far (click to zoom)

What makes those countries produce so many athletes running faster, jumping higher, and enduring longer? It’s not national wealth, as the graph below shows. Partly, it’s quality coaching. But most of all, “there is no gene for the human spirit.”

– Tony


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