Battling For the Overall Medals Title in 2010
At the top of the world winter sport stage, Canada sits with several other countries. The 2010 Olympic Winter Games are expected to feature five countries in particular that will compete for the most medals. What follows is a snapshot of their respective strengths. It begins with – who else – Canada.
Canada’s core strengths lay in seven sports: speed skating, short track speed skating, freestyle skiing, figure skating, hockey, curling and snowboard. These combined for 27 of 29 medals won at 2009 World Championships. The number of skilled speed skaters combined with the number of medal events in those sports stretches to Team Canada’s favour.
Freestyle skiers illustrated the most dominance in 2009, winning six medals to lead the world. Also, in 2010, Canada will no doubt be aiming for the top of the podium in both curling and hockey. Canada’s figure skaters will also be a force, while medal chances exist for all other sports led by skeleton, alpine and bobsleigh.
Germany led the medal standings at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games and will be one of the favourites again. Biathlon is a top sport for them, with Germans winning 11 Olympic medals in the sport in 2006. At 2009 World Championships, their women proved a powerhouse.
Germany is very strong in all sledding sports. This year, their athletes won eight World Championship medals and in World Cups nearly 100 medals in bobsleigh, skeleton and luge. In 2006, German bobsleigh racers swept the gold medals and its lugers swept all silver medals. Another strength of Germany’s lies in Nordic events, as athletes collected seven medals in cross-country, Nordic combined and ski jumping at 2009 World Championships.
Canada’s strengths most closely align with that of its neighbours to the south. With Canada and Korea, the U.S. sends the strongest speed skating teams to Vancouver and Richmond. American skaters took home 10 World Championship medals in the two disciplines last season. That’s the same number they had at Torino 2006, suggesting consistency on the short and long tracks.
After that, the U.S. sprinkles its multiple medal hopes equally among seven sports. In order of strongest: alpine, bobsleigh, Nordic combined, hockey, luge, figure skating and freestyle skiing. It leads all nations in terms of medal potential spread out among the most sports. American snowboarders will look to recapture the spark from 2006, when they captured six Olympic medals.
Norway is a nation with brilliant cross-country skiers – making them powerful in two different sports. Of Norway’s 25 World Championship medals this year, 15 came from biathlon and cross-country skiing. These included four and five gold medals, respectively. At the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, these two sports accounted for 10 medals, suggesting Norwegian athletes continue to excel in these areas.
After the big two, Norway had multiple medals at World Championships this year from alpine, Nordic combined (another that features cross-country skiing), ski jumping and speed skating. Clearly, Norway will be a force in most sports contested on skis.
Austria is a major medal threat as well, but its 23 medals from the last Olympic Winter Games dropped to 18 at 2009 World Championships. Nevertheless, Austria remains in the big-five. Traditionally their alpine skiers lead the world and certainly did in Torino 2006, where they captured 14 medals – nearly half of all alpine medals. At the 2009 World Championships, Austrian skiers won five medals, as more parity has come to alpine in recent years.
Austria’s other strengths, suggested by three World Championship medals a piece this year, are biathlon, freestyle skiing, ski jumping and snowboard. But make no mistake, Austria’s success in 2010 will be dictated in Whistler. The country home to modern alpine legend (now retired) Hermann Maier will look to the mountains for medals.
*** Four other countries represent the strongest in a second pier of winter powers based on recent World Championship results: China, Korea, Switzerland and Russia.
Top-Five in Medals at 2009 World Championships
United States: 28
Top-Five in Medals at 2006 Olympic Winter Games
United States: 25