Power Ranking the Major Countries Following the 2014 Winter Olympics
The Medal Count Does Not Tell The Whole Story
There were countless issues prior to the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. For instance, many questioned the logistics of holding Winter Olympics in a warm weather climate. There were fears of terrorist attacks from nearby Ossetia. Russia’s anti-gay laws led to calls for a boycott and many athletes feared arrest. Upon arriving, those athletes learned living accommodations were horrible.
Like the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, social and political distractions were moved to the backburner once competition began and focus turned to athletics. Russian Olympians did not disappoint, winning more gold medals and total medals than any other nation. However, the medal count does not tell the whole story.
American snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg won the first gold medal of the Games in men’s slope style. Jamie Anderson matched the feat in the women’s competition. Steve Holcomb ended a 62-year drought for Americans in the two-man bobsleigh and Erin Hamlin became the first American woman ever to medal in women’s luge. Norwegians reigned supreme on the ski slopes, the Dutch dominated in speed skating and Canada successfully defended gold medals in both men’s and women’s hockey.
Clearly, the emphasis on the medal count is ridiculous in measuring success at the Olympics. As was the case with hockey, some nations desire a gold medal finish in certain sports more than others.
Furthermore, are athletes from nations that only won one or two medals any less joyous in their victory than athletes whose nations won twenty? It’s wrong to deny the success of one Olympian and call the entire competition a disappointment just because his or her countrymen in another event failed to perform as expected. There are other factors besides the total medals won that dictate how successful a nation was at the Olympics.
The Olympic Flame has been extinguished from the cauldron in Sochi and will be reignited four years from now at the next Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Until then, here are the power rankings from the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
Honorable Mention: Jamaica
We all love Cool Runnings (1993), the story of the four-man Jamaican bobsleigh team at the 1988 Calgary Games. The Caribbean island nation competed again in Sochi in the two-man competition, but almost didn’t make it due to lack of funding. Though they ultimately finished in twenty-ninth place, the fan favorite Jamaican bobsleigh team returned to the Winter Olympic Games for the first time in twelve years. That’s definitely worthy of a shout out.
5. United States
Many in the United States considered these Olympics a disappointment because marquee athletes and teams failed to bring home medals (e.g. Shaun White, Lindsey Jacobellis, Men’s Hockey). Nevertheless, the U.S. was second overall in the medal count (28) and made history in the two-man bobsleigh and women’s luge.
Compared to a record-setting performance at the Vancouver Games four years ago, the number of gold and bronze medals won by Americans was identical in Sochi. The discrepancy in the total is in silver medals – seven this year versus 15 in 2010.
I understand some Americans may be upset with me for ranking our neighbor to the North one spot ahead, especially because their athletes took home three fewer medals overall. However, Canadians won one more gold medal (10) and three more silvers (10) than Americans. They also won all three head-to-head hockey games (women’s twice, men's once).
I know Russia won the overall medal count (33) and the most gold medals (13), but that’s to be expected by the host nation. In 2010, for instance, the host nation Canada led all countries with 14 gold medals. With this in mind, Russia didn’t dominate the Olympics, they just covered the spread.
Furthermore, Viktor Ahn won three gold medals and a bronze for Russia in short-track speed skating. He used to be known by the name Ahn Hyun-soo for South Korea but moved to Russia after a falling out with his home country’s speed skating federation. The U.S. was the other finalist for his new nation. Had he moved to America and won those medals wearing stars and stripes, then America would have won the most gold medals and led the overall count.
Russia had a great Olympics, but all this considered (not to mention the disappointing finish in hockey), they’re number three on the list.
2. The Netherlands
The Netherlands was fifth overall in gold medals (8) as well as total medals won (24). Nevertheless, the Dutch are number two on the list.
Russia sent 232 athletes to Sochi. The U.S. sent 230 and Canada sent 222. The Netherlands sent 41. They sent 41 athletes and took home 24 medals, eight of them gold. That’s absurd.
So yes, Russia won nine more medals than the Netherlands. The U.S. won four more and Canada won two more. But each nation needed to send almost six times as many athletes to do so. The Netherlands’ success rate puts them ahead of all three of these winter-sport-powerhouse nations.
Norway won the second-most gold medals in Sochi (11) and finished third in the overall medal count (26). Norwegians dominated cross-country skiing events, biathlon and Nordic combined while also medaling Alpine skiing, ski jumping and men’s slope style snowboarding.
Like the Netherlands, Norway was immensely successful with a much smaller contingency. The Scandinavian nation sent 134 athletes to Sochi – almost 100 fewer than Russia. Though they sent more athletes than the Dutch, Norwegians won more medals in a much wider variety of events (the Dutch won all of their medals in speed skating). As an added tie-breaker, the Norwegian Men’s Curling team had the best uniforms in Sochi.
This combination of success, efficiency and style gives Norway the number one spot on the list. Viking power!