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Better Feat: Overall Medals Or Most Gold?

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Well, that was a pretty amazing 2010 Winter Olympics. The US-Canada hockey gold medal game essentially became the oversized novelty exclamation point on the entire event, but that lone gold medal rose the host nation’s total first place finishes to 14, a record by any country in any Winter games.

Charles Hamelin / ReutersWhile they did “Own the Podium,” their ownership was limited to its midsection. Hey, that’s a pretty cozy spot of real estate. Meanwhile the United States took home 37 medals (nine gold, 15 silver, 13 bronze) — just the second time in history they won the most overall medals and the first since 1932. Oh, and 37 medals in a Winter Olympics is also a record for any sovereign nation.

So which is more impressive? More golds or more medals?

Or perhaps it’s Norway’s milestone, whose 23 medals (fourth most overall) put them as the first country to ever win 300 total shiny necklaces at the Winter Olympics. As one of 12 countries to have participated in all 21 games, Norwegians have won almost 1/7 of all winter medals. You can thank political stability for this; Germany, East Germany, West Germany, and Unified Germany have almost 400 combined. That’s the indirect penance of constructing that damn wall, I guess. Divide your people and divide your accomplishments.

More “fun” medal tidbits and niblets:

• In eight Olympic games, Latvia had grabbed just one medal; a bronze in the 2006 Games. In 2010 they won two silvers: the men’s skeleton and the doubles luge.

• Slovakia also quadrupled their entire medal haul in a two-week span. With only one silver to their name (The snocross event in Torino), they took one of each color in Vancouver; all in the biathlon.

• This was also the most medals won by South Korea (14), Czech Republic (6), Poland (6), and Australia (3). France and China both tied their previous high with 11, as did Slovenia with three.

• 17 countries sent just one Olympian to the Games, and none were expected to medal. The closest anyone came was Jamaica, whose iconic bobsled team failed to qualify. Instead, freestyle skier Errol Kerr, who was born in California, finished ninth in the skicross event.

• Lindsay Vonn, Apolo Ohno, and Bode Miller were all gunning for multiple gold. None got more than one, but two Olympians captured three: Chinese short track speedskater Wang Meng, and Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjørgen, who also grabbed the most individual medals of all with five (three gold, one silver, one bronze).

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About Suss

  • I incline to the opinion that since gold, silver and bronze are awarded in order of an athlete’s/team’s finishing position, simply counting the total medals won is somewhat misleading. Suppose East Kraksnortistan had won 38 medals – all of them bronze? Would that have outshone the US performance with its shinier array of bling?

    But almost as unsatisfactory is the way everyone except the North Americans does it, which is to rank by total number of golds won. For example, Great Britain won a solitary medal in Vancouver – but it was gold, which by this method places them above Japan, Finland, Croatia, Slovenia and Latvia (5, 5, 3, 3 and 2 medals respectively but none gold).

    I favour a weighting method, whereby a gold medal is worth 3 points, silver 2 and bronze 1. By this reckoning, the Vancouver medals table would have looked like this:

    1. USA – 70 pts
    2. Germany – 63 pts
    3. Canada – 61 pts
    4. Norway – 49 pts
    5. Korea – 32 pts
    6. Austria – 30 pts

  • T Man

    if someone asked me before the games would you want Canada to win the medal standings or win the most gold medals, I’d take GOLD medals in a heartbeat!