Large countries such as the United States, China and Russia often dominate the overall medal count at the Olympic Games. However, smaller countries have more than made their mark in individual sports that rival bigger competitors. This article focuses on five smaller countries and the sports which in which they excel and win Olympic gold.
The small Baltic country of Belarus began participating in the Olympics as an independent country in the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway. The tiny country has racked up 73 medals in its18 years of participation. Four of those medals have been in canoeing.
Roman Petrushenko has won three of those medals. He won the bronze in the 500m Doubles event in 2004 with teammate Vadim Makhnev. The two repeated the feat in 2008. Petrushenko and Makhnev and two other teammates captured the gold in the 1000m Fours event in 2008. Ekaterina Karsten has been the workhorse for the women’s rowing teams for Belarus. She has four medals to her name.
Looking ahead to the 2012 London Games, Belarus stands a great chance to bring home several more medals in canoeing with Petrushenko and Karsten.
Jamaica Track and Field: Sprint
The small Caribbean country of Jamaica is home to less than three million people and has dominated the sprinting world for the last decade. The origins of the sport in the country started about 30 years ago when former world record holder Dennis Johnson returned to his home country to start developing Jamaican talent.
Usain Bolt is a name people around the world recognize. He is the embodiment of Jamaica’s dominance in sprinting events. During the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, he set world records for the 100m and 200m events by running them in an astounding 9.69 second and 19.30 seconds, respectively. He also was part of Jamaica’s 4x100m relay team that set the world record at 37.10 seconds.
Shown above, the fastest man on the planet Usain Bolt. Image by Jose Goulao, Flickr
One of Bolt’s teammates on the relay team was Asafa Powell. Powell held the world record for the 100m before Bolt shattered it in Beijing. Powell has officially broken the 10 second barrier in the 100m event 80 times, more than anyone else in history.
The Jamaican training facilities would be considered second rate in most of the larger nations, but they have been more than adequate to produce some of the best sprinters over the last 10 years.
Coach Raymond “KC” Graham will have his plate full as he tries to repeat Jamaica’s success in the upcoming London Games. Usain Bolt will again be competing and anchoring a team of extremely talented athletes.
Kenya Track and Field: Long Distance
Just as Jamaica has dominated the sprints in recent Olympics, Kenya has dominated the long distance events. Training facilities located at high elevations in the Great Rift Valley have given Kenya the edge on the rest of the world at long distance running. Training at elevation is a remarkable way to build strength and lung power for the athletes.
Kenya participated in their first Olympics in 1956 in Melbourne, Australia. Since that time, the athletes from Kenya have collected a total of 75 medals, 68 of which are in track and field.
Naftali Temu was the first famous long distance runner from Kenya. He captured two medals at the 1968 Mexico City games. He won the 10,000m event and was placed third in the 5,000m event. He was rewarded with a farm for his efforts when he returned to Kenya.
Catherine Ndereba was a dominant marathon runner for the country that put the Kenyan women on the sports map. She set the world record for the event in 2001 when she completed a marathon in 2 hours, 18 minutes, and 47 seconds.
In the upcoming 2012 London Games, Kenya looks to continue their dominance in long distance events. Kenya has started to show some power in middle distance races as well. The world record holder in the 800m event is Kenyan David Rudisha. He looks to add a gold medal to his achievements this summer.
The Netherlands first participated in the Olympics in 1900 at the Paris Games. The country has won a total of 246 medals with the majority coming in swimming and cycling events.
Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband received 7 medals in swimming for the Netherlands in his Olympic career. He started his Olympic career at the 1996 Atlanta Games at the age of 18. He didn’t medal in any events that year but placed fourth in two events and caught the attention of the swimming world. He went on to win two gold medals in the 200m and 100m freestyle event in 2000. He also added two bronze medals that year. He followed up the performance with 3 more medals in the 2004 Athens Games.
Inge de Bruijn is one of the most dominant women swimmers of all time. She has won 8 Olympic medals including 4 which were gold. In the 2000 Sydney Olympics she won the 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle, and 100m butterfly events. She defended her title in the 50m freestyle at the 2004 Games. She retired in 2007 as the most successful Dutch Olympic swimmer of all time.
In the upcoming London Games, the Netherlands look forward to continuing their swimming dominance. Ranomi Kromowidjojo and her 4x100m teammates lead the team in the upcoming games.
Ukraine Shooting and Archery
Ukraine is a relative newcomer to the Olympic Games. The country first competed in 1994. They have amassed a total of 96 medals in summer events with 9 of those coming in shooting and archery events.
Dmitry Monakov was a shooter from the Ukraine that won several world championships and a single gold medal for the country at the Olympics. He won the 1988 Seoul Olympics Trap event. Afterwards he became the coach of the team that continued the winning ways in more recent Games.
Viktor Ruban won the gold medal in the men’s archery event in 2008 Beijing Games and the bronze in 2004 Athens Games in the team event. He looks to continue his winning tradition in the upcoming 2012 London Games.
One of the wonderful things about the Olympics is the even playing field it gives to all countries. The impressive list of accomplishments listed above proves that any country, regardless of size, can dominate an event or a sport at the Olympic Games. Sports fans should start looking for London Olympics rentals or London apartments to ensure they can have a front row seat at the upcoming events.