With one week left to go in the Olympiad and 42 medals left to hand out, we’re just beyond the halfway point of the 2014 Sochi Games. With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at where each nation stands in the medal count and then look how the top countries took charge of their positions:
(Medal Count After February 16 Competition)
Looking at the table, both for the quality and the quantity of top positions, a few things can be extrapolated about the top nations:
- The Netherlands leads all nations with 17 medals at this point, and it is easy to track how they got there. 16 of those medals have been won in long-track speed skating… and the 17th was Sjinkie Knegt’s bronze medal in the 1000-meter men’s short-track speed skating race. The Dutch have long been dominant in traditional long-track speed skating, especially the longer distances, but now we are seeing them outdistance the field in both the sprint events. They’re also now starting to make more of a name for themselves on the short track, more traditionally dominated by the South Koreans and Chinese and
AmericansCanadians. The Netherlands has never topped the medal table at either the Winter or Summer Olympics.
- In terms of total medals the host nation is just one behind the Dutch, having already hauled in 16 already surpassing by one the total they earned four years ago in Vancouver. The Russian success in Sochi has been in part thanks to their aggressive citizenship campaign between 2010 and now. Viktor Ahn, the short-track artist formerly known as Ahn Hyun-Soo, took gold in the 1000m and bronze in the 1500m individual races. His short-track teammate, Vladimir Grigorev, used to go by Volodymyr Grygoriev when he raced for the Ukraine back in 2002 and 2006. And half of Russia’s gold-medal winning pairs figure skating team, Tatiana Volosozhar, was likewise repatriated from the Ukraine. That’s not to say that homegrown athletes like Alexander Tretiakov (gold, men’s skeleton), Albert Demtschenko (silver, luge men’s singles), and Alexandr Smyshlyaev (bronze, men’s moguls) haven’t also stepped up to the plate for their native land. But the Russians have certainly benefitted from the IOC’s liberal citizenship rules to get to this position in the medal standings, there is no way to hide that fact.
- Germany has just a dozen medals so far, but in terms of quality no country is doing better. The Germans lead the medal count when sorted by gold medals, their seven to date putting them two ahead of every other nation at the Winter Games this year with a week to go. Four of those came thanks to the German sweep of the four luge events, with the sliding sport adding another silver thanks to 2010 gold medalist Tatjana Hufner. The Germans also saw Maria Hoefl-Riesch take two medals so far in Alpine skiing, a gold and a silver, while Carina Vogt won the inaugural women’s ski jumping competition. Eric Frenzel also snagged a Nordic combined gold for the seventh.
- Two of the silver medals taken by Canadians were more due to the fact that they had a teammate that was just slightly better on that given day than the fact that they were not capable of a gilded performance. In both men’s and women’s moguls, Canucks went 1-2, with one athlete stealing gold from his or her compatriot. Justine Dufour-Lapointe did it to younger sister Chloe in the women’s battle, while Alexandre Bilodeau beat out teammate Mikael Kingsbury to defend his Olympic title from Vancouver. So while the names and faces might have shuffled around in different circumstances, Canada was likely to get gold either way in moguls. In general freestyle skiing and, to a slightly lesser extent, snowboarding have provided the bulk of Canada’s medals so far, with speed skater Denny Morrison contributing a silver and bronze and skier Jan Hudec posting a surprising bronze tie with Bode Miller in the Super G.
- Snowboarding and freestyle skiing have been the Americans’ ticket to the the third position in the medal table heading into the last seven days of competition. All four of their gold medals, two of their silver medals and two bronze — fully half of the U.S. medal tally at this point — have come in either a slopestyle or halfpipe competition, and Hannah Kearney added another bronze in women’s moguls. They have also been strong so far in the sliding events, winning the first two skeleton medals in U.S. history with Noelle Pikus-Pace’s silver in the women’s races and Matthew Antoine taking bronze in the men’s battle. Erin Hamlin added another bronze in the women’s luge. Where the Americans have faltered, though, has been in a couple traditional disciplines that have been strengths in the past — the speed events in Alpine skiing and the shorter events in long-track speed skating.
- Norway’s fourth-place start through the first part of the Olympic fortnight is largely thanks to its prowess in the Nordic events. The Norwegians have claimed three of the six individual gold medals in cross-country skiing so far, and seven of the 18 total handed out so far. They have seen legend Ole Einar Bjørndalen take a gold medal in the biathlon sprint. A trio of bronze medals came thanks to Anders Bardal in ski jumping, Heidi Weng in biathlon, and Magnus Krog in the Nordic combined. But they have also benefitted from the growth of Alpine sports in Scandinavia as well — Kjetil Jansrud has done what compatriot Aksel Lund Svindal did in Vancouver, claiming two medals already in three Alpine skiing races, while Staale Sandbech took silver in men’s snowboard slopestyle.