What's the Most Dominant Country In Each Winter Olympic Sport?
The Netherlands have utterly dominated speed skating this Winter Olympics, but which sport is most dominated by athletes from a single country over the last 35 years?
The Netherlands' utter destruction of speed skating in Sochi this year is something not seen before in a single Olympics. Through nine long-track speed skating events, Dutch skaters have taken 19 of the 27 available medals, including six golds, good for 70 percent of the possible medals and 67 percent of the golds.
As Olympstats detailed Tuesday morning, while other nations have had memorable Olympiads, with some even sweeping an entire category, no country since the 1970s has reeled in medals at such a high rate, and no country has ever come close to doing so over so many events. For example, Finland's cross-country team won two-thirds of the medals in 1952, but in less than half the number of races. The Dutch performance has truly been impressive.
But are they the most dominant nation out there? Other countries have been able to control certain Olympic sports in particular years, but we wanted to examine the longer view and see which countries tend to dominate a sport over multiple Winter Games — even over multiple decades.
To see which nations have the tightest grip on their favorite events, we looked at all the medals handed out in each of 11 Winter Olympic sports from 1980 to 2014, and compared that to the number of medals won by one country's athletes within those sports. (For our purposes, team events, like relays, count the same as individual events.) The resulting winning percentage shows how many medals that country has won out of the total number available.
For example, while speed skating has long been the Netherlands' strongest sport, they haven't always been as dominant as they've been in 2014. They've won 22 percent of all speed skating medals handed out since 1980. That's good, but not the most dominant ever.
That honor goes to Germany's* lugers, who take the top spot with a stellar 37 percent of all luge medals, followed closely by Russia's figure skating and ice dancing teams at 34 percent. (*Note: Germany includes East and West Germany as well as unified Germany, so they had more teams available. "Russia" includes Russia, the U.S.S.R., and the "Unified Team" from 1992.) Surprisingly, at the other end, despite Norway and Austria having a reputation for dominance in the skiing competitions, they have faced much tougher competition in their strongest events.
(Also of note: Canada has won 33 percent of all curling medals since the sport was introduced in 1998. Since each nation is only allowed one team, that's arguably the most impressive of all, but we left the sport out of this measure for comparison's sake.)
But it's not enough to just place. True dominance happens at the top, so we also graphed the gold medal win percentage.
Since 1980, Germany has won an astounding 55 percent of all luge golds (22 total), which includes this year's sweep of golds in all four luge events. Still, it was just a tad above Russia's 21 golds in 39 figure skating competitions, good for 54 percent of all the sports' golds. South Korea's dominance of short track is similarly impressive; of its 45 total Winter Olympic medals, 37 have been in short track speed skating, including 19 golds.
So what did we learn? The Netherlands have been out of this world in 2014, but it's too early to place them among the best Winter Games dynasties. The Dutch have a long way to go before they catch the German lugers and Russian figure skaters.