Historical Medal Table for Speed Skating

Rolling Twenty Year Medal Table

Volendam houdt schaatswedstrijden, Bestanddeelnr 901-9888

The romantic view of Dutch speed skating is of racing on frozen canals. And there was some truth to this idea until the twentieth century. The Netherlands had the first world champion in 1893, but its early Olympic performances lagged far behind Scandinavia.

As global temperatures rose, it became harder for the Dutch to compete on natural ice, forcing them to skate on artificial rinks. But then, in the 1960s, artificial ice became the norm for international competition. A former disadvantage had become an advantage.

The Netherlands has not looked back. It still has more indoor speed skating rinks than any other country. The Dutch monitor the temperature patiently each year, hoping to hold the Elfstedentocht, a 200km race on frozen canals, rivers and lakes, but it has not been run since 1997. Now they get their excitement from medals won on indoor rinks.

  • 1924 – 1940 Norway
  • 1928 – 1944 Norway
  • 1932 – 1948 Norway
  • 1936 – 1952 Norway
  • 1940 – 1956 Norway
  • 1944 – 1960 Soviet Union
  • 1948 – 1964 Soviet Union
  • 1952 – 1968 Soviet Union
  • 1956 – 1972 Soviet Union
  • 1960 – 1976 Soviet Union
  • 1964 – 1980 Soviet Union
  • 1968 – 1984 Netherlands
  • 1972 – 1988 United States
  • 1976 – 1992 United States
  • 1976 – 1994 United States
  • 1980 – 1998 United States
  • 1984 – 2002 Netherlands
  • 1988 – 2006 Netherlands
  • 1992 – 2010 Netherlands
  • 1998 – 2014 Netherlands

Twenty Year Medal Table for Speed Skating

Winter Olympic Games 1998 – 2014

Men's 5000m, 2014 Winter Olympics, Podium

The Netherlands won 23 of the 36 medals available in Sochi, including 8 from 12 golds. It so comprehensively crushed its rivals that it is easy to imagine that it was always so dominant, but this is far from being the case. There is no precedent for such statistics.

A key factor has been the recent growth of professional teams, creating a much larger pool of talent, but this only begs the question as to why other professional teams have not sprung up elsewhere. In Norway, there is more competition for sponsors and TV coverage from other winter sports, so the warmer Dutch climate might actually be an asset, which sets priorities, and puts the nation’s eggs into a highly productive basket.

Two Netherlanders could became the most decorated speed skater ever. Sven Kramer has 7 medals so far, while Ireen Wuest has 8. Both are chasing 10 for the outright lead. Kramer also hopes the be the first man to win an event 3 times in a row, in the 5,000m.

Netherlands 22 19 17 58
Germany 7 10 4 21
United States 7 7 7 21
Canada 6 8 9 23
South Korea 4 3 1 8
Czech Republic 3 1 1 5
Italy 2 0 1 3
Russia 1 3 4 7
Japan 1 3 3 7
China 1 1 2 4
Poland 1 1 2 4
Norway 1 0 3 4
Belgium 0 0 1 1
Kazakhstan 0 0 1 1

Next: How did Dutch speed skating even get started, when its rivers freeze so rarely?

Twenty Year Medal Table for Snowboarding

Winter Olympic Games 1998 – 2014

Joe & Jill Biden with 2010 Winter Olympics US Snowboarding team 2010-02-12

In 1977, Jake Burton created the modern snowboard and set up shop in Londonderry, Vermont. Nearby Stratton became the first resort to allow snowboards on its slopes.

Burton’s legacy is clear from the fact that three of the ten US gold medals have been won by athletes born in the country’s second smallest state, with a population of just over 600,000. Lindsey Jacobellis, the superstar born in Connecticut, is a graduate of the Stratton Mountain School, although she is still yet to strike Olympic gold, after an overconfident crash while leading in 2006. This year will probably be her last chance.

Double half pipe champion Shaun White, the most famous name in snowboarding, will be back at the Games after a disappointing Sochi performance. An absence from major competition makes it difficult to judge his form, but a third title would be a new record.

United States 10 5 9 24
Switzerland 7 2 3 12
France 3 3 4 10
Canada 3 2 2 7
Russia 2 2 1 5
Germany 1 3 1 5
Austria 1 1 4 6
Australia 1 1 0 2
Czech Republic 1 0 0 1
Netherlands 1 0 0 1
Norway 0 3 1 4
Finland 0 2 1 3
Japan 0 2 1 3
Italy 0 1 1 2
Slovenia 0 1 1 2
Slovakia 0 1 0 1
Sweden 0 1 0 1
Great Britain 0 0 1 1

Next: Dutch dominance of speed skating is so huge, it is hard to believe how recent it is

Historical Medal Table for Ski Jumping

Rolling Winter Olympic Twenty Year Medal Table

Norwegian ski jumpers 937

Ski jumping is a Nordic skiing event which is no longer Nordic. It originated in Norway, where the Holmenkollen remains a historic venue. By contrast, Austria’s first ski jumps were launched from a dung heap, and the distances reached were equally inauspicious.

But Central Europe persisted. Austria and Germany created the iconic Four Hills series of competitions. In the 1970s, Austrian jumping coach Baldur Preiml took a “marginal gains” approach, including aerodynamic ski suits, which led to golds in 1976 and 1980.

The technically too perfect Austrian were then eclipsed for a couple of decades by the unorthodox styles favoured by the Finns. Toni Niemanen was an earlier adopter of the now standard “V style”, while Matti Nykanen’s earlier approach had formed a bridge between the traditional  parallel style and the later V. Finland eventually faded away, leaving the Central Europeans to return to the front once again, where they are today.

  • 1924 – 1940 Norway
  • 1928 – 1944 Norway
  • 1932 – 1948 Norway
  • 1936 – 1952 Norway
  • 1940 – 1956 Norway
  • 1944 – 1960 Norway
  • 1948 – 1964 Norway
  • 1952 – 1968 Finland
  • 1956 – 1972 Finland
  • 1960 – 1976 Austria
  • 1964 – 1980 Austria
  • 1968 – 1984 Austria
  • 1972 – 1988 Finland
  • 1976 – 1992 Finland
  • 1976 – 1994 Finland
  • 1980 – 1998 Finland
  • 1984 – 2002 Finland
  • 1988 – 2006 Finland
  • 1992 – 2010 Austria
  • 1998 – 2014 Switzerland

Next: Which countries have been grabbing all of the medal glory in snowboarding?

Twenty Year Medal Table for Ski Jumping

Winter Olympic Games 1998 – 2014

Austria Ski Jumping Team Winter Olympics 2014 Heinz Fischer

Switzerland is not the best country in the world at ski jumping. Its position at the top of the table is due to the four golds won by its sole ski jumping medallist, Simon Ammann. If Kamil Stoch, who swept the Four Hills event earlier this year, wins two or more titles in Pyeongchang, he could similarly catapult Poland to the top, though Poland has more of a pedigree than Switzerland, with Wojciech Fortuna having taken gold back in 1972, and Alan Malys having collected three silvers and one bronze medal behind Ammann.

One of the more surprising participants to qualify for the Games is Fatih Arda Ipcioglu of Turkey, who trains at a facility built for the 2011 Winter Universiade. Along with 17-year-old Muhammed Ali Bedir, he could make Turkey a country to watch for the future.

Switzerland 4 0 0 4
Austria 3 3 4 10
Germany 3 3 0 6
Poland 2 3 1 6
Japan 2 2 2 6
Finland 1 4 1 6
Norway 1 0 5 6
Slovenia 0 1 2 3
France 0 0 1 1

Next: How Austria and Germany overtook Norway and Finland as ski jumping powers

Twenty Year Medal Table for Skeleton

Winter Olympic Games 2002 – 2014

Départ de skeleton Amy Williams

British skeleton success appears to break the rule that economics and technology, such as the presence or absence of tracks to train on, are the key to Olympic sliding medals.

It certainly helps that Great Britain invented the sport. And the disadvantage of having no track is reduced by the fact that safety rules prevent athletes from practising before the age of 16. There can be no training sessions while still at school, as there are in luge.

The existence of a push-start track at the University of Bath is also a factor. But the key compensation is the much underestimated role of British engineering expertise, which also helps the country’s car constructors to play such a prominent role in Formula One.

And Great Britain is the exception which proves the rule. The other names on the list of medals are the usual sliding suspects: USA, Canada, Switzerland, Latvia and Germany.

United States 2 2 1 5
Canada 2 1 1 4
Great Britain 2 1 1 4
Russia 1 0 2 1
Switzerland 1 0 2 3
Latvia 0 2 0 2
Germany 0 1 1 2
Austria 0 1 0 1

Next: Which countries have been flying right to the top of the ski jumping medal table?


How the Olympics Brought Democracy to South Korea

Part 2: Back from the Brink

Juan Antonio Samaranch DF-ST-01-00128

In 1987, as South Koreans protested against the leadership of their military dictator, that dictator had to decide whether to make concessions to their demands, or to send in the army with guns blazing, at he had done in response to a similar protest in 1980.

But the imminence of the Seoul Olympics created a different kind of pressure. Cities around the world declared an interest in staging the Games, if South Korea descended into civil war, or otherwise ruled itself out with a brutal suppression of human rights. In this febrile atmosphere, a Romanian member of the International Olympic Committee delivered a letter written by IOC President himself, Juan Antonio Samaranch (above).

Samaranch expressed his “concern” at the unrest and, two days later, the South Korean government launched a package of democratic reforms, with major concessions to the demands of the protesters. The direct influence of Samaranch’s intervention is difficult to measure, and might have been negligible, but the Games were certainly in the mind of Olympic organiser, Roh Tae-woo, who specifically referred to a risk of international embarrassment in the nationally televised speech in which he announced the reforms.

It proved to be a not entirely selfless masterstroke for all concerned. Roh’s stock rose in the market of public opinion and, as the favoured choice of outgoing president, Chun Doo-hwan, Roh won the subsequent democratic election, after a split in the opposition.

President Kim Dae-jung signs the Jeju 4.3 Special Law

But Roh’s victory only slowed the path of democratisation, as the two main opposition leaders both later became presidents themselves. One of them, Kim Dae-jung (above), won the Nobel Peace Prize, for his policy of diplomatic engagement with North Korea.

It is an optimistic story, and yet a strange one, in that the reforms were introduced by such unheroic figures, the bloodthirsty Chun and the cynical Roh, who would later be convicted of corruption from his time in office. The heroes of the story are those who forced their hand, the opposition leaders, and all those who took part in the protests.

And there was, perhaps, another hero, not so much Samaranch, who was something of a flawed character, but the Olympic Games themselves. There is something about their size and their ambition which gives them tremendous power, political and economic. It is often used for ill, but it can also make bad people do the right thing to benefit from it. It even makes Kim Jong-un think of women’s ice hockey, rather than launching rockets.

The decision to award the Games to Seoul was reckless to start with, and it was not so much a case of the IOC saving the Olympics, but a case of the Olympics saving the IOC.



Twenty Year Medal Table for Short Track Speed Skating

Winter Olympic Games 1998 – 2014

KOCIS Korea ShortTrack Ladies 3000m Gold Sochi 01 (12629823894)

The Winter Olympics can occasionally seem a little Eurocentric, but that is not true of short track where, if the victories of the Korean-born Russian Viktor Ahn are excluded, there has only been one gold medallist from Europe, the 1994 Italian men’s relay team.

Short track started in North America, from where it spread to Japan, which dominated the sport in the pre-Olympic days of the 1980s, and then on to South Korea and China.

Great Britain has always preferred short track, which is held indoors, to its long track cousin, and has had moderate success in the past. But in 2017, Elise Christie of Team GB (and also Team World) became the first European to become the women’s overall world champion. The Asian stranglehold could finally be broken in South Korea itself.

South Korea 15 11 7 33
China 9 11 8 28
Canada 7 7 8 22
Russia 3 1 1 5
United States 2 4 7 13
Japan 1 0 1 2
Australia 1 0 0 1
Italy 0 2 4 6
Bulgaria 0 2 1 3
Netherlands 0 0 1 1

Next: Which countries are on the up when it comes to hurtling down at high speed?

Twenty Year Medal Table for Nordic Combined

Winter Olympic Games 1998 – 2014

Nordic World Ski Championships 2017-02-26 (32906937380)

Nordic combined held its first major event in 1892, not surprisingly in Norway. But while cross country skiing continues to be dominated by Scandinavia, the centre of gravity in ski jumping has leapt southwards, to Central Europe. Many top ski jumping nations, including Austria, Germany and Japan, are competitive in Nordic combined, but a legacy of cross country skiing has allowed Norway and Finland to stay in front.

At the 2002 Games, Samppa Lajunen of Finland achieved a unique treble, by winning gold in all three Nordic combined events. Johannes Rydzek of Germany could match this feat in Pyeongchang, and Akito Watabe of Japan will also be a strong challenger.

Norway 4 2 2 8
Finland 3 3 1 7
Austria 3 1 5 9
Germany 2 4 3 9
United States 1 3 0 4
France 1 0 1 2
Japan 0 1 0 1
Italy 0 0 1 1
Russia 0 0 1 1

Next: The list of leading countries in short track speed skating has the hosts at the top

Meet Team World 2018 Part 2

Asia, Oceania and North America

China: Ba Dexin and Wang Rui (Curling)

China has threatened to break into the curling mainstream for some time, and the new mixed doubles event could provide its opportunity. Like almost all Chinese curlers, Ba and Wang are from Harbin, a wintry northern city, famous for its ice sculpture festival.

Ba DexinTwo-man bobsleigh, 2014 Winter Olympics, South Korea run 3

South Korea: Won Yun-jong and Seo Young-woo (Bobsleigh)

Won and Seo won the overall World Cup title in 2015-16. With the usual privilege of hosting giving them extra practice time on the Olympic track, anything could happen.

New Zealand: Zoi Sadowski-Synnott (Snowboarding)

New Zealand has won only one Winter Olympic medal, but the 16-year-old Sadowski-Synott took silver at the 2017 World Championships, and has a chance to medal again.

Canada: Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (Figure Skating)

The 2010 ice dance champions are back from retirement, hoping to reclaim the title. With the team event also looking likely, they could reach a record five career medals.

Jielbeaumadier Virtue Moir 5 Bompard 2013Joey Mantia 2007 (crop)

United States: Joey Mantia (Speed Skating)

Mantia is world champion in a new Olympic mass start event, in which skaters will race each other directly for the first time. He is one of three US team members from Ocala, Florida, an inline skating hub which could soon rival Wisconsin for speed skating glory.