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Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP

Final 2018 Winter Olympics Medal Count: Why Is The U.S. Not #1?


The 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang are over, and the United States did not even finish in the top-three in terms of medal count or gold medals, falling behind Norway, Germany, and Canada. Many Americans expect to dominate every event their country participates in (like the Summer Olympics), but the U.S. historically does not finish atop the Winter Games. We’ll get into the details in a minute, but first the full medal count for the 2018 Winter Olympics:

 

1. Norway: 39 total (14 Gold, 14 Silver, 11 Bronze)

2. Germany: 31 total (14 Gold, 10 Silver, 7 Bronze)

3. Canada: 29 total (11 Gold, 8 Silver, 10 Bronze)

4. United States: 23 total (9 Gold, 8 Silver, 6 Bronze)

5. Netherlands: 20 total (8 Gold, 6 Silver, 6 Bronze)

6. South Korea: 17 total (5 Gold, 8 Silver, 4 Bronze)

7. Olympic Athlete from Russia: 17 total (2 Gold, 6 Silver, 9 Bronze)

8. Switzerland: 15 total (5 Gold, 6 Silver, 4 Bronze)

9. France: 15 total (5 Gold, 4 Silver, 6 Bronze)

10. Sweden: 14 total (7 Gold, 6 Silver, 1 Bronze)

11. Austria: 14 total (5 Gold, 3 Silver, 6 Bronze)

12. Japan: 13 total (4 Gold, 5 Silver, 4 Bronze)

13. Italy: 10 total (3 Gold, 2 Silver, 5 Bronze)

14. China: 9 total (1 Gold, 6 Silver, 2 Bronze)

15. Czech Republic: 7 total (2 Gold, 2 Silver, 3 Bronze)

16. Finland: 6 total (1 Gold, 1 Silver, 4 Bronze)

17. Great Britain: 5 total (1 Gold, 4 Bronze)

18. Belarus: 3 total (2 Gold, 1 Silver)

19. Slovakia: 3 total (1 Gold, 2 Silver)

20. Australia: 3 total (2 Silver, 1 Bronze)

21. Poland: 2 total (1 Gold, 1 Bronze)

22. Slovenia: 2 total (1 Silver, 1 Bronze)

23. Spain: 2 total (2 Bronze)

24. New Zealand: 2 total (2 Bronze)

25. Hungary: 1 total (1 Gold)

26. Ukraine: 1 total (1 Gold)

27. Belgium: 1 total (1 Silver)

28. Kazakhstan: 1 total (1 Bronze)

29. Latvia: 1 total (1 Bronze)

30. Liechtenstein: 1 total (1 Bronze)

 

Those that watched the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, which the United States was completely dominant, taking the most medals in every single category (with 51 more total medals than second-place China and 19 more gold medals than second-place Great Britain), might have been confused with the country not doing the same in February. So why did the U.S. struggle to crack the top four in PyeongChang? There are three main reasons that I’ll try to pinpoint.

 

1. The climate

The smallish Norway, which has a population of just over five million (less than the population of the state of Maryland), has some brutal winters where snow typically covers the ground for the entire season. This makes it easier to authentically train in difficult conditions, and the controlled Olympic environment probably seems like a walk-in-the-park compared to what some of the athletes go through training. Meanwhile, in the United States, many people hate the thought of a day below freezing. I’m certainly not saying our athletes our soft, but many of the 320+ million here would prefer to do other things than perform high-intensity sports throughout the winter months—which means less of the uber-athletic citizens in the Winer Olympics.

 

2. The commitment and culture

Sticking with Norway as an example, many of their people dream about participating in the Olympics more than anything else. If you think about it, with all that snow, you’d naturally probably want to get on a snowboard or in a pair of skis to have some fun, and the highest level of that is doing it in the Winter Olympics. Meanwhile, the U.S. has the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup, the World Series—the Olympics might fall short of those for the average American (especially when the country isn’t in first-place).

 

3. Money

According to Business Insider, only five U.S. Olympians in this year’s games have a net worth of over $1 million. While most of them under that threshold are doing more than OK financial wise, and the thrill of participating in the Olympics is not something that should be discounted, there is a lot more money in playing in one of the professional sports leagues. For many in the U.S., they might love a couple of sports, and money may be the deciding factor in the direction they head. If there was no NFL, MLB, NHL, etc., the U.S. would probably be just as dominant in the Winter Games as they are in the Summer Games.

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