Great success at the 2020 Olympics for the Nordic countries
The final medals at the XXXII Olympic Games have been distributed and 11,326 athletes from 206 nations are now returning home with victories, defeats, tears of joy and disappointment, new friendships, shattered dreams, hopes in new Olympic experiences in 3 years in Paris, a life without training and competitions and much, much more. For the five Nordic countries, the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo was a sporting success, regardless of whether the results are calculated according to the number of gold medals, the total medal count or top 8 ranking, which is a good indicator of performance level in athletes and teams in Olympic disciplines where competition density is become more and more intense and where the margins between the medal winners and a ranking like No. 4 or No. 8 are very often extremely modest.
Denmark wins the most Olympic medals
Denmark won – similar to the Olympics 2012 and Olympics 2016 – most medals of the Nordic countries, namely 11 (3 gold, 4 silver and 4 bronze) in 8 different sports. It was especially very positive that Denmark won 3 gold medals, which only in recent decades has been surpassed at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, where it became 4 gold medals. In addition to Viktor Axelsen (badminton) and Anne-Marie Rindom (sailing), Michael Mørkøv and Lasse Norman Hansen’s performance in track cycling (madison) was the Danish highlights of the 2020 Olympics. The 36-year-old Mørkøv, who won silver medal at the 2008 Olympics, proved to be one of the world’s most elegant track riders and 29-year-old Norman Hansen has now won medals at the last three Olympics in a row. The strong dane now has the chance to surpass the rower Eskild Ebbesen, who won 3 gold and 2 bronze medals at 5 Olympics in a row. Denmark achieved 135 top 8 ranking points at the 2020 Olympics, which is exactly the same number as at the 2016 Olympics, but 13 points less than at the 2012 Olympics (148).
Sweden wins more top-8 ranking points
Sweden was placed ahead of Denmark on the IOC’s official ranking list with 3 gold and 6 silver medals in 5 different sports. Both Armand “Mondo” Duplantis ‘gold medal in pole vault, Daniel Ståhl’s gold medal and Simon Pettersson’s silver medal in disco throw showed that Sweden can continue to develop world-class athletes in the Olympic Games’ most prestigious sport – athletics. Sweden was also very close to the gold medals in the women’s football tournament, but 4 burnt penalty kicks became extremely costly for Sweden, which, as at the 2016 Olympics, had to “settle for” a silver medal. The same carat of metal was won by swimmer Sarah Sjöström, who has now won a total of 4 Olympic medals. Sweden achieved 134 top-8 ranking points at the 2020 Olympics, which was 11 points more at the 2012 Olympics and 3 points more than at the 2016 Olympics.
Norway with the greatest progress
Norway (No. 20) was placed ahead of both Sweden (No. 23) and Denmark (No. 25) on the IOC’s official rankings despite “only” 8 medals (4 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze) in 6 different sports. The reason for Norway’s ranking in the top 20 on the IOC rankings was as many as 4 gold medals: Karsten Warholm’s unique performance in the 400 meter hurdles, only 20-year-old Jakob Ingebrigtsen in the 1,500 meter race, Kristian Blummenfelt in triathlon and Anders Mol and Christian Sørum in beach volley. Among the positive Norwegian surprises was also Eivind Henriksen’s silver medal in hammer throw, while – similar to the 2016 Olympics – it “only” became a bronze medal for Norway’s women’s team handball, which won Olympic gold medals in both 2008 and 2012. The 4 gold medals were also strong contributors to Norway achieved 84 top-8 raking points – as many as 38 points more than at the 2012 Olympics (46) and 44 more than at the 2016 Olympics (40). It is extremely rare for a nation to achieve such significant progress from one Olympics to the next, as Norway has done at the 2020 Olympics. I’m sure that Norway will definitely challenge both Sweden and Denmark even more at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
Finland and Iceland far behind the other three
Finland won 2 bronze medals at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, which was one more than at the 2016 Olympics. The medals were won by swimmer Matti Mattsson in the 200 meter breaststroke and 40-year-old boxer Mira Potkonen, who also won a bronze medal in Rio. Finland achieved 31 top 8 ranking points at the 2020 Olympics, which was significantly better than the 2016 Olympics (14). Iceland was represented by 4 athletes in athletics, shooting and swimming without it turning into either medals or top 8 ranking points.
The Nordic welfare model is the base – also for elite sports
But what are the reasons why 25-year-old Karsten Warholm won Olympic gold medal and improved the world record by 0.76 sec. in the 400 meter hurdles, that 27-year-old Viktor Axelsen won Olympic gold medal in badminton without giving up a single set and that 21-year-old Armand “Mondo” Duplantis won Olympic gold medal in pole vault with an impressive 6.02 meters. The main reason is that the Nordic countries have created strong welfare models, which are admired and imitated, also by people and nations outside the Nordic region and Europe. The Nordic welfare model is the starting point for values, norms, structures and organization of a number of areas of society, including sports. And the Nordic countries rank high on international rankings of e.g. economy, education, health, infrastructure and trust in public authorities and other people.
A strong network of sport clubs is crucial for talent development
The core values in the Nordic welfare model are community and equality, which means that the public sector (state and municipalities) use many financial resources to create a good framework and conditions for citizens’ cultural and leisure life. In this connection, the Nordic countries have developed a diverse and well-functioning systems of clubs within e.g. sports, where a large number of volunteer coaches and leaders take on a variety of tasks for the enjoyment and benefit of the local community’s children and youth. A strong network of sport clubs constitutes the absolutely crucial foundation for the talent and elite work in each sports and the individual countries in the Nordic region.
Only 4 nations won more Olympic medals than Denmark among the smaller countries
The diverse network of sport clubs with competent children and youth coaches combined with high material prosperity and good sports facilities have been the main reasons why the Nordic countries have for more than a century been – and continue to be – among the best sports nations in the world, not at least in relation to the nations’ relatively modest population. At the 2020 Olympics, only New Zealand and Hungary with 20 medals, Cuba with 15 medals and Switzerland with 13 medals won more medals among the smaller countries with a population of less than 10 million. than Denmark.
Independent elite sports institutions make a difference
Another important explanation for the Nordic countries’ success in elite sports is the establishment and development of independent institutions such as the Olympiatoppen (Norway), Team Denmark (Denmark), the Swedish Olympic Committee (Sweden) and the High Performance Unit (Finland), which support athletes and coaches with resources for innovation and research, organization and management, educational guidance, expert services in physical training, sports medicine and physiotherapy, sports psychology, nutrition and not least finance for participation in training camps and international competitions.
Norway, Sweden and Denmark among the world’s 25 best nations
With rankings as No. 20, 23 and 25 on the IOC’s official rankings at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, athletes and teams from the Nordic countries showed TV viewers around the world that there are plenty of world-class athletes in Norway, Sweden and Denmark in many different sports. In just 6 months, the XXIV Olympic Winter Games will be held in Beijing. In advance, it looks like a medal party for Norway, which has been the world’s sovereign best winter sports nation for the past decade. Sweden will probably be among the 6-8 most winning nations, while Finland also has several medal candidates, including ice hockey and cross country skiing. There is reason for continued optimism for elite sports in the Nordic region, especially due to welfare models with a strong network of clubs, good talent development environments and well-functioning elite sports institutions.
You can find results from the 2020 Olympics here:
Further information about the 2022 Winter Olympics: