Story of Norway – the small European nation that dominated Winter Olympics

The nation is home to only 5.2 million people, that is 65 times less than the United States. It is the most developed country with Human Development Index (HDI) rating of 0.944. According to the World Happiness Report, it is the happiest country on earth and despite all of that, it still might come as a surprise to see this tiny nation on top of the world in a global competition. In the 2018 Winter Olympics held in Pyeongchang, Norway topped the medals table winning 39 of them, with 14 being gold. That’s 16 clear of the United States, which sent 242 athletes — the most in Winter Olympics history — Norway sent only 109. With their final medal tally of 39, Norway broke the record for most medals won by a single nation at a Winter Olympics which was set by the U.S. at Vancouver in 2010.


Norwegian cross-country skier Johannes Høsflot Klæbo won three gold medals

Okay, we all know that this small nation has traditionally been strong in cross-country skiing and biathlon, but their most astonishing performances came in alpine skiing, speed skating, ski jumping, and freestyle skiing where their athletes took everyone by surprise; well, not so much. Tore Ovrebo, who works with Olympic athletes across Norway’s sports federations was quoted saying that free health care is one of the reasons for Norway’s Winter Olympics dominance as it ‘helps keep young athletic talent in good shape.’

STAT: Since the introduction of Winter Olympics in 1924, Norway has won 330 medals, which is more than any other nation. (Source: Sports Reference)

Compared to the United States’ $81 million, Norway’s sports budget is only $18 million, but the country is blessed with many advantages for winter sports such as all year round snow, which allows its athletes to practice at all times without any problems whatsoever. Not only that, Norway’s sports system also gives young talented kids the opportunity to become better sportsmen. Tore Ovrebo told in an interview that, “kids in Norway can’t be ranked first to last until they turn 13 because we want them to free, to be alone. We want them to play and develop their sporting and social skills. They learn a lot from playing, not being anxious, not being counted and not being judged; they feel better, which is why they tend to stay longer”. He went on saying that Norwegian Olympic athletes don’t receive prize money or bonuses from their federations because “we think prize money turns people into something they shouldn’t be.”


Norweigan athletes at the victory ceremony for the men’s cross-country skiing team sprint free event

Moreover, pointing out that the country’s sporting infrastructure has also played its part in Norway’s Winter Olympic success, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said: “I think we are very good at organizing events early on. You don’t get a fully fledged downhill skier or cross-country skier in a short while. It all starts when you’re young”. It’s also worth noting that since the Calgary Olympics in 1988 where Norway failed to win even one gold, there has been a huge revamp in the whole sporting system of the country as a national elite sports centre — the Olympiatoppen — has been established to train and develop Norway’s best athletes. Yes, all these things played a part in their success, but maybe Norway’s Olympic secret lies in their philosophy of winning by not focusing on winning. Beijing, just wait until 2022, because Norway is coming to smash some more records!

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