World Athletics Championships 1980 – 2013
Although Ethiopia comes second in this list, it has the top two medallists in the distance events, Haile Gebrselassie with 7 medals and Kenenisa Bekele with 6, including 5 golds.
Kenya produces far more athletes but with less longevity. A notable exception is Ezekiel Kemboi, who has 3 golds and 3 silvers in the 3,000m steeplechase alone. He is coming to the end of his career now but an increase to his tally in Beijing is not out of the question.
Kenya would be even more dominant if athletes born in Kenya but representing other nations were included, such as Yusuf Saad Kamel (above). Bahrain occupies eighth place in the table without any of its medallists having actually been born within its borders.
Morocco’s third place is largely historical – its last medal was in 2007 – and owes a lot to the 6 won by Hicham El Guerrouj. Its neighbour Algeria has not won a medal since 2003.
All of Japan’s medals except one have come in the marathon. It has a strong tradition of endurance running but its system is not set up to produce medallists on the track. The 10,000m is short compared with its biggest domestic race, a team relay over 135 miles.
For the purposes of this table, a distance event is defined as any non-walking event over a distance of 800m or more, including both the 3,000m steeplechase and the marathon.
Medals from the 1980 World Championship women’s 3,000m in Sittard are included.
Tomorrow: Which countries produce the fastest athletes of them all, the top sprinters?