Twenty Year Medal Table for Table Tennis

Summer Olympic Games 1996 – 2012

2012 Summer Olympics Men's Team Table Tennis Final 1

During the last twenty years, China has won 95% of gold medals and 59% of medals of any colour. Getting into the Chinese team is now so competitive that many have left to seek their fortunes elsewhere, and China’s dominance is made even more emphatic by the fact that all of the medallists for Singapore, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei were born on the Chinese mainland. Only South Korea has been able to put up a challenge.

The Chinese diaspora will reach an extraordinary new peak in Rio, especially in the case of female players. Of the 86 qualifiers for the women’s events, 28 were born in China, a third of the total, but only three will turn out for the country of their birth. The others will represent 17 different teams, as diverse as Turkey, Luxembourg, Congo and Brazil.

Far from being inevitable, the growth of the sport in China started from a chance event, a Communist sympathiser becoming head of the International Table Tennis Federation.

G S B
China 19 11 6 36
South Korea 1 2 6 9
Germany 0 1 3 4
Singapore 0 1 2 3
Chinese Taipei 0 1 1 2
Hong Kong 0 1 0 1
Japan 0 1 0 1
North Korea 0 1 0 1
Sweden 0 1 0 1
Denmark 0 0 1 1
France 0 0 1 1

Next: Which countries have given the biggest kick to their taekwondo medal chances?

Twenty Year Medal Table for Synchronised Swimming

Summer Olympic Games 1996 – 2012

Open Make Up For Ever 2013 - Team - Japan - 09

There are two eras of Olympic synchronised swimming. The first was between 1984 and 1996, when the United States and Canada won every gold and silver between them, and the second is since 2000, when Russia has always been victorious. The only constant is Japan, which has consistently won medals in both eras, thanks to coach Masayo Imura.

Imura left for China, resulting in its inevitable rise and Japan’s first ever Games without a medal at London 2012. Now that she has returned, a return to the podium looks likely.

Anastasia Davydova has accumulated five gold medals for Russia, a record which could be equalled by two of its team for this year, Natalia Ishchenko and Svetlana Romashina.

G S B
Russia 8 0 0 8
United States 1 0 2 3
Japan 0 4 2 6
Spain 0 3 1 4
China 0 1 2 3
Canada 0 1 1 2
France 0 0 1 1

Next: Chinese players of course dominate table tennis, but they don’t just do so in China

Twenty Year Medal Table for Swimming

Summer Olympic Games 1996 – 2012

London 2012 Olympics Le Clos South Africa

South Africa is far ahead of the rest of the continent in swimming for complex economic and historical reasons. In most of Africa, there are few public swimming pools and little culture of swimming as a leisure form. By contrast, Chad le Clos was introduced to the sport in a private pool at home, as was Kirsty Coventry, from neighbouring Zimbabwe.

Private swimming pools are also common in Australia but its success goes back to the beginning of the twentieth century, and was carved from rocks of its ocean tidal pools.

It is a different story for landlocked Hungary, where pools are a feature of its prevalent thermal baths. Some even argue that the low cost heating gave it an early advantage in swimming and water polo. Alfred Hajos won the first Olympic swimming gold in 1896.

Japan dominated in the 1930s, shocking the United States by collecting more medals at its home Games in Los Angeles in 1932. It has a particularly good record in breaststroke.

G S B
United States 67 46 36 149
Australia 21 30 24 75
Netherlands 11 5 7 23
China 8 9 7 24
France 6 7 7 20
Hungary 6 5 4 15
Russia 5 7 7 19
Japan 5 6 17 28
South Africa 5 3 3 11
Italy 4 3 5 12
Ukraine 4 2 1 7
Romania 3 1 2 6
Ireland 3 0 1 4
Germany 2 7 15 24
Great Britain 2 4 7 13
Zimbabwe 2 4 1 7
Tunisia 2 0 1 3
New Zealand 2 0 0 2
Sweden 1 3 1 5
South Korea 1 3 0 4
Brazil 1 2 5 8
Poland 1 2 0 3
Costa Rica 1 0 2 3
Belgium 1 0 0 1
Lithuania 1 0 0 1
Canada 0 2 6 8
Austria 0 2 1 3
Spain 0 2 1 3
Belarus 0 2 0 2
Slovakia 0 2 0 2
Cuba 0 1 1 2
Norway 0 1 1 2
Croatia 0 1 0 1
Finland 0 1 0 1
Serbia 0 1 0 1
Slovenia 0 1 0 1
Argentina 0 0 1 1
Denmark 0 0 1 1
Trinidad and Tobago 0 0 1 1

Next: Nose clips at the ready – for the leading countries in synchronised swimmming

How Brazilian Shoes Explain the Olympics Part 3

The Kenyan Marathon Running Cluster

Zagreb21 20160320 DSC 4158

Wilson Kipsang is a millionaire. In 2014, he won a  $500,000 prize as the most successful man in the Marathon Majors. In 2015, he won it again. But his experience is so atypical that, to really understand marathon running in Kenya, it is necessary to look elsewhere.

Earlier this year, Joel Maina Mwangi (above) was second in the Three Hearts Marathon in Slovenia, for which he won prize money of $840. His most lucrative race came in 2014 when he won the Bratislava Marathon and took home $3,015. He has career earnings of just over $40,000, accumulated in six and half years, or $6,000 a year before deductions.

And deductions are substantial. He has to pay his agent and his manager and has to pay tax twice, once in the country in which he races and once in Kenya. He keeps maybe 15%.

It is trite to say that Kenyans run to escape poverty. It is possible that this motive makes them train harder. But the main reason why Europe has fewer runners is much sadder – wages in Kenya are low. An athlete can survive on the tiny sums for which he competes.

There is little money to be made from being the fifth best heptathlete in Great Britain, or the sixth best discus thrower in Poland, but Maina Mwangi does have a career as the 557th best marathon runner in the world. While, even in Kenya, the state funds a lot of athletes, the development of marathon runners has become a commercial enterprise.

Iten Rifles

This explains the sheer number of marathon runners but it begs the question: Why are they all in the same place? The running camps which try to profit, by producing stars of the future, occupy the orbit of Iten, an otherwise unremarkable town in the Rift Valley.

Philip Boit 2011 FIS Cross-Country World Cup Oslo

The answer is that Iten opens doors. Everybody wants to recruit a runner who has been to Iten, for a variety of reasons. Sammy Wanjiru, the tragic gold medallist from the 2008 Olympic marathon,  was scouted from a camp 150 miles from Iten and coached in Japan. Philip Boit (above) left a town 20 miles from Iten, to be trained as a cross-country skier.

Because Iten opens doors, parents want their children to go to Iten. Stephen Kiprotich moved from Uganda to Kenya at the age of 17, and then won the Olympic title in 2012. New Zealand twins, Zane and Jake Robertson, left home to live in Iten at the same age.

Fast Feet in the Andes

Harder to explain is why the running camp managers choose Iten, where they have to compete to recruit local talent, and compete to attract the attention of foreign agents. On the face of it, it might seem more appealing to set up a running camp on a different continent altogether, another place with high altitude but low wages, Bolivia perhaps.

But this wouldn’t work. Agents can see hundreds of camps in Iten so they are not going to make a side trip to La Paz to visit a single camp. Just as fashion shops have to cluster together because that is what their customers want, running camps must do the same.

Large global industries have multiple clusters – there are shoe clusters in India as well as Brazil, for example. But the amount of money in marathon running is tiny compared to the vast profits in shoes. There is only room for one cluster and Kenya got there first.

Unlike the Robertson twins, most people are not willing to travel to Iten, and so those who live locally have an advantage when it comes to the chance to run. But it is not all medals and roses. It is not lucrative for many, and it is the only opportunity they have.

Twenty Year Medal Table for Shooting

Summer Olympic Games 1996 – 2012

Andrija Zlatić

Australia won its first Olympic gold medals in 1996, just as new gun control laws were to be introduced, in response to the Port Arthur massacre. The gun lobby immediately took the opportunity to claim that the medals would never be repeated, but Australia has had more success in the last twenty years than in the century before the legislation.

In fact, there is no link at all between gun laws and medals. China leads by a huge margin despite a ban on private gun ownership. Switzerland, with its famously liberal policies, was once among the best Olympic nations, but has claimed just two medals since 1968.

A telling comparison is between two neighbouring countries of a similar size, Serbia and Bulgaria. Serbia has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world and a culture which valorises aggression, for example by firing machine guns into the air to celebrate.

Bulgaria has a rather different gun culture. It enjoys hunting and sport shooting but it is common for the guns to remain at the range when not being used. Gun ownership is low.

Overall, the medal race between them is very close but Bulgaria has victory in its sights.

G S B
China 16 10 11 37
United States 9 4 6 19
Russia 7 11 9 27
Italy 6 9 3 18
South Korea 4 6 1 11
Germany 4 4 3 11
Australia 4 1 4 9
Ukraine 4 1 2 7
Bulgaria 3 2 3 8
Czech Republic 2 3 4 9
France 2 2 3 7
Poland 2 2 1 5
Great Britain 2 1 0 3
Sweden 2 1 0 3
Serbia 1 3 2 6
Belarus 1 2 4 7
Finland 1 2 1 4
India 1 2 1 4
Azerbaijan 1 0 2 3
Cuba 1 0 2 3
Slovenia 1 0 2 3
Croatia 1 0 1 2
Hungary 1 0 1 2
Romania 1 0 1 2
Lithuania 1 0 0 1
United Arab Emirates 1 0 0 1
Slovakia 0 2 3 5
Kazakhstan 0 2 1 3
Denmark 0 2 0 2
Austria 0 1 2 3
Norway 0 1 1 2
Belgium 0 1 0 1
Moldova 0 1 0 1
Mongolia 0 1 0 1
Spain 0 1 0 1
Switzerland 0 1 0 1
Kuwait 0 0 2 2
Georgia 0 0 1 1
North Korea 0 0 1 1
Qatar 0 0 1 1

Next: The leading countries in Olympic swimming are from five different continents

Twenty Year Medal Table for Sailing

Summer Olympic Games 1996 – 2012

Percy and Simpson

Eight of the top ten in this list are in the Top 16 of countries with the longest coastlines in the world. One exception is Spain, as it boasts the 26th longest coastline, but the one that proves the rule is landlocked Austria. Two of its four medallists were born in towns with names ending “am See”, being located on the shores of two of Austria’s many lakes.

The British love affair with the sport began in the seventeenth century, when the future King Charles II was in exile in the Netherlands. It was the height of the Dutch East India Company and sailboat racing was a popular activity. Charles took it with him to London.

Sailing is one of the top sports for the Brazilian hosts, for whom Torben Grael won five Olympic medals. His daughter, Martine, has her own medal chance in the 49er FX class in Rio. Robert Scheidt, who has five as well, will aim for a record sixth in the Laser class.

G S B
Great Britain 10 10 3 23
Australia 7 4 2 13
Spain 6 3 0 9
Brazil 4 2 4 10
United States 3 4 3 10
Denmark 3 1 3 7
Austria 3 1 0 4
New Zealand 2 2 2 6
China 2 1 1 4
Greece 2 1 1 4
Netherlands 1 5 2 8
Italy 1 2 3 6
Germany 1 2 2 5
Ukraine 1 2 2 5
France 1 1 4 6
Sweden 1 1 4 6
Finland 1 1 1 3
Poland 1 0 3 4
Israel 1 0 2 3
Norway 1 0 2 3
Hong Kong 1 0 0 1
Argentina 0 2 5 7
Belgium 0 1 1 2
Japan 0 1 1 2
Slovenia 0 1 1 2
Canada 0 1 0 1
Cyprus 0 1 0 1
Czech Republic 0 1 0 1
Lithuania 0 1 0 1
Russia 0 1 0 1
Portugal 0 0 1 1

Next: Shooting minus the war – is there a link between medal success and gun culture?

Meet Team World Part 3

North and South America

World Triathlon Series Tour 2015 - Edmonton

Bermuda – Flora Duffy (Triathlon)

Bermuda is the smallest country to have won a medal at the Summer Games, but Duffy, who is leading the triathlon world rankings, has a strong chance of giving it another one.

Canada – Rosie MacLennan (Trampolining)

The emergence of Canada as a trampolining power might have been rather unexpected but its women have won a medal at every Olympics. MacLennan is defending her title.

Rosie with Ace for ceremonial first pitch(7953578404)Kazan 2015 - Alia Atkinson 100m breast final

Jamaica – Alia Atkinson (Swimming)

There will be a lot of attention on Jamaica’s sprinters but history also beckons in the pool, where breaststroker Atkinson will be seeking the island’s first Olympic medal.

United States – Kerri Walsh Jennings (Beach Volleyball)

Walsh Jennings has already won three gold medals with Misty May-Treanor but she now has a new partner in April Ross, and will be going for an unprecedented fourth.

Bernardinho (9277144581)Fernando Gaviria 15

Brazil – Men’s Volleyball Team

Men’s volleyball will be one of the final gold medals awarded. Brazil, where the sport is huge, has lost the last two finals, and will be hoping for the perfect climax to the Games.

Colombia – Fernando Gaviria (Cycling)

Colombia loves cycling but it has never won Olympic track gold, something which world omnium champion, Gaviria, is aiming to put right. He beat Mark Cavendish twice on the road in 2015, and will face him again, in what promises to be one of the best duels in Rio.

Twenty Year Medal Table for Rowing

Summer Olympic Games 1996 – 2012

German Women's Quad

Germany’s strongest boats have historically been the women’s quadruple sculls and the men’s eight. Its eights tradition began under the coach Karl Adam, when it broke the US hegemony to win two gold medals and a silver between 1960 and 1968. Adam founded a rowing academy in the picturesque lakeside town of Ratzeburg. A quarter of the rowers from those eights crews came from Ratzeburg or one of two equally small towns nearby.

Germany reclaimed its eights glory with victory in 2012, and its crew featured Florian Mennigen from, where else, Ratzeburg. Its main rival in Rio could be Great Britain, and Team GB will also be attempting to win the men’s four title for the fifth Games in a row.

New Zealand is also emerging with the help of its competitive school rowing. Hamish Bond and Eric Murray are overwhelming favourites in the pair but Mahe Drysdale will face a tough opponent in Ondrej Synek of Croatia, in defence of his single sculls crown.

G S B
Great Britain 10 7 7 24
Romania 9 0 1 10
Germany 8 6 5 19
New Zealand 6 0 4 10
Australia 5 9 9 23
Denmark 4 1 4 9
United States 3 6 6 15
France 3 3 6 12
Poland 3 1 1 5
Canada 2 8 4 14
Netherlands 2 6 4 12
Italy 2 4 4 10
Norway 2 2 0 4
Belarus 2 1 4 7
Switzerland 2 1 0 3
China 1 3 0 4
Czech Republic 1 3 0 4
Bulgaria 1 1 2 4
Slovenia 1 1 1 3
Ukraine 1 1 1 3
Russia 1 0 2 3
South Africa 1 0 1 2
Croatia 0 2 1 3
Estonia 0 2 0 2
Greece 0 1 2 3
Finland 0 1 0 1
Lithuania 0 0 1 1

Next: From the calm lake to the choppy sea, which are the leading countries in sailing?

Twenty Year Medal Table for Modern Pentathlon

Summer Olympic Games 1996 – 2012

Laura Asadauskaitė cropped

Laura Asadauskaite is hoping to retain her title this year and, in the men’s competition, Justinas Kinderis also has a chance of a medal, to maintain Lithuania’s proud tradition.

Five different pentathletes from Great Britain have won medals in just four editions of the women’s event. Kate French could even make it six from five but a more likely British medallist, on the men’s side, is the World Cup Final victor and World No.1 Jamie Cooke.

The current world champion men’s team is Egypt, which could get its first medal in Rio, courtesy of anagrammatical brothers, Amro and Omar El Geziry. A third brother, Emad, competed at the Sydney Olympics. With its eclectic mix of sports, modern pentathlon might seem like an odd path for a country like Egypt to follow but it had a showjumping team as early as 1952 and, in 1912, the first Egyptian to enter the Games was a fencer.

G S B
Russia 3 1 0 4
Great Britain 1 2 2 5
Lithuania 1 2 1 4
Hungary 1 1 2 4
Czech Republic 1 0 1 2
Germany 1 0 0 1
Kazakhstan 1 0 0 1
China 0 1 0 1
Latvia 0 1 0 1
United States 0 1 0 1
Belarus 0 0 1 1
Brazil 0 0 1 1
Ukraine 0 0 1 1

Next: The countries and, in some cases, small towns, where the leading rowers are from

Twenty Year Medal Table for Judo

Summer Olympic Games 1996 – 2012

Sarah Menezes Homenagem Min Esporte

Olympic host Brazil has won more medals in judo than any other sport, but few golds. In London, Sarah Menezes was its first champion for twenty years. She will be back in Rio.

Judo was invented in Japan by Jigoro Kano in the late nineteenth century. His student, Mikinosuke Kawaishi, went to Paris, co-founded the French Judo Federation, and even introduced the system of coloured belts. His other legacy is that more people practice judo in France than in Japan, but it has quite a way to go to catch up in the medal count.

Georgia has a folk style of wrestling known as chidaoba, which has more than a passing resemblance to judo. As a result, it is now a rising force in what it calls “judo wrestling”.

G S B
Japan 20 12 8 40
France 7 5 12 24
China 7 3 7 17
South Korea 6 9 8 23
Cuba 4 9 13 26
Russia 3 4 6 13
Germany 3 2 10 15
Georgia 3 1 2 6
North Korea 2 2 3 7
Italy 2 1 6 9
Netherlands 1 2 12 15
Brazil 1 2 10 13
Romania 1 2 1 4
Belgium 1 1 6 8
Mongolia 1 1 3 5
Spain 1 1 2 4
Poland 1 1 0 2
United States 1 0 4 5
Slovenia 1 0 2 3
Azerbaijan 1 0 1 2
Belarus 1 0 1 2
Greece 1 0 1 2
Turkey 1 0 0 1
Uzbekistan 0 2 2 4
Great Britain 0 2 1 3
Austria 0 2 0 2
Ukraine 0 1 2 3
Algeria 0 1 1 2
Canada 0 1 1 2
Hungary 0 1 1 2
Kazakhstan 0 1 0 1
Slovakia 0 1 0 1
Estonia 0 0 3 3
Argentina 0 0 1 1
Australia 0 0 1 1
Bulgaria 0 0 1 1
Colombia 0 0 1 1
Egypt 0 0 1 1
Israel 0 0 1 1
Kyrgyzstan 0 0 1 1
Latvia 0 0 1 1
Portugal 0 0 1 1
Switzerland 0 0 1 1
Tajikistan 0 0 1 1

Next: The leading countries in modern pentathlon range from the Baltic to the Red Sea