Which Country Really Wins the Winter Olympics?

Which Country Really Wins the Winter Olympics?


Gold medals per population and GDP since 1994

RankCountry nameCountryGoldsGolds per personGolds per GDP
Germany DEU760.9120.10
Norway NOR6912.73188.33
USA USA580.182.79
Canada CAN581.5436.24
Russia RUS490.3433.47
Switzerland CHE313.5843.79
Netherlands NLD311.8134.98
Austria AUT303.3369.30
South Korea KOR290.5718.28
Sweden SWE232.2843.47
Italy ITA220.3611.90
France FRA200.317.84
China CHN130.010.87
Japan JPN120.092.44
Czech Republic CZE90.8437.19
Finland FIN81.4429.87
Belarus BLR80.85138.63
Poland POL60.1610.33
Australia AUS50.203.75
Estonia EST43.02131.29
Great Britain GBR40.061.52
Croatia HRV40.9770.46
Slovakia SVK30.5529.44
Ukraine UKR30.0721.09
Slovenia SVN20.9638.61
Latvia LVA10.5330.29
Kazakhstan KAZ10.056.03
Hungary HUN10.106.67
Bulgaria BGR10.140.62
Uzbekistan UZB10.0316.73
Golds per person = Number of golds ÷ population (millions)

Golds per GDP = Number of golds ÷ GDP (trillions)

Sometimes you need to look beyond the standard medal table to see which nations are performing well. So we’re showing you who competes above expectations when you consider the nation’s population and GDP. A greater population means you have a better chance of winning a medal and more money means the country has more to invest into sporting facilities and offer greater opportunities.

We start at the 1994 Winter Olympics because that was the first winter games without the USSR. The USSR were a huge medal winner so a time span both with and without them gives inconsistent data.

We have also used similar metrics to work out who really wins the summer Olympics.

Norway are the kings!

With 69 gold medals since 1994, Norway top the charts for both golds per person and golds per GDP. The Norwegians excel at cross country skiing, with 29 golds won in this category. The next best is biathlon with 13. What is really impressive though is the success rate of the athletes. In PyeongChang 2018 they sent 109 athletes and won 14 golds. By comparison, the USA sent 242 athletes and won 9 golds.

The top dogs of the snow have an average temperature of 1.5 degrees celsius to thank in part for their success. The high levels of snow and ice mean traditional sports are harder to compete in, while winter sports can take centre stage.

Australia overachieves

With an average temperature of 21.65 degrees celsius, Australia has no right to be collecting Winter Olympic gold medals. However, their haul of 5 since 1994 is a real achievement. 4 of their medals have come in skiing, despite the lack of facilities. The Aussie’s other gold medal came in speed skating. A proactive approach from the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia is part of the reason for this success. They actively convert gymnasts and other athletes over to winter events. This involves overseas training, which is helped by the affluent nature of the country.

Belarus prove money isn’t everything

With a national GDP of $59 billion (less than Myanmar), Belarus would be forgiven for not having a top class Winter Olympics team. However, they have managed a haul of 8 golds since 1994. 4 biathlon golds and 4 freestyle skiing golds mean the former Soviet nation punch well above their weight in the golds per GDP category, ranking 2nd. Having said that, a population of 9 million means they’re golds per person stats aren’t as impressive, ranked 12th.

With no golds won before Vancouver 2010, Belarus has stepped up their Winter Olympic performance recently. 5 golds in Sochi 2014 provided the nation with their best ever performance.

Excellent Estonia

Ranking 4th in golds per person and 3rd in golds per GDP, Estonia are worth an honorable mention. This is particularly impressive when you consider their population is a tiny 1.3 million. Their 4 golds all came in cross-country skiing. In fact, their 2 silvers and 1 bronze all came in the same discipline which is clearly a favorite for the nation.

Having said that, Estonia missed out on the medals at both the 2014 and 2018 Winter Games and look to be past their peak. A GDP of just $30 billion suggests they don’t have a lot of resources to throw at young athletes, but a low average temperature of 5.1 degrees celsius should give them the ideal conditions to prepare.

Vast China ranks pooly

Ranking 13th overall for golds gives the impression that China are a fairly good Winter Olympic nation. However, our metrics reveal that they’re not using their resources efficiently. Placing in last for golds per person and 2nd last for golds per GDP, the global superpower are shown to not be such a force on the snow and ice.

10 of their 13 gold medals have come in short track speed skating. Speed Skating was only introduced to the Winter Olympics in 1992 and has been dominated by China, Japan and South Korea. Without this event, China’s performance would be incredibly weak. The hosts of the 2022 Winter Games will want to see improvement across the board.

European domination

Europe has won almost 70% of all Winter Olympic gold medals since 1994. North America takes 20% of the golds although USA and Canada are the only 2 nations contributing towards the total. Asia’s performance is disappointing giving their size and climate. Conditions in some parts are perfect for winter sports, however this hasn’t brought a wealth of athletes through.

No African nation has ever won a medal at the Winter Olympics, let alone a gold. They’re joined on a golden duck by South America. The obvious reason for this is the weather, however the Andes in Argentina and Chile give good conditions for winter sports. Australia has proved you don’t need a vast amount of snow to compete, so the continents return of 0 medals is poor.

Europe405 (69.6%)
North America116 (19.9%)
Asia56 (9.6%)
Oceania5 (0.9%)
Africa0 (0%)
South America0 (0%)

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