Checking out the men’s giant slalom today, it became very apparent that a number of skiers were just plain awful. Now absolute atrociousness is more a hallmark of the Summer Olympics, where many more countries compete. In the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, there are 82 countries competing. To date, the games have broken the record for number of countries receiving medals for a winter Olympics – that number would be 26. In the last week of the Games, this number will probably not change much. So approximately 2/3rd of the countries at these Games will not win medals. In comparison, the 2008 Summer games had 204 countries (or rather national Olympic Committees) competing, with 86 winning medals, which represents a little over 40%. In the first winter Olympics, there were 16 countries in total, 10 of which brought home medals.
Without going through a whole statistical history lesson, I think it is safe to say that fewer countries win medals in winter Olympics than do summer Olympics, in terms of both absolute numbers and as a percentage of those entered. Until recently, with the addition of more and more countries to the winter Olympics, this percentage has only worsened. With the exception of a few rare cases, no countries in the southern hemisphere win medals at the winter Olympics, and the only reason why “more” countries are winning medals nowadays is that a) Yugoslavia and Soviet Union splintered into many countries and b) random athletes move from true winter countries to countries that adopt them (i.e. Dale Begg-Smith from Australia, who is Canadian).
All this talk makes me ask the question, who is the worse country at the 2010 winter Olympics? In order to determine this “prestigious” title, I will use the following quantifiers: 1) number of athletes (a low number means you suck more); 2) poor results from your athletes; and 3) did not finish from your athletes. The model of outright suckiness would be a country with very few athletes (between 2 and 5), all of whom failed to complete their events. Note that having only 1 athlete will not hinder you if that athlete competes and finishes “not last”, vs. a country with 5 athletes, all of whom suck balls. So let’s see, who wants it the least?
Nearly all of the following countries have less than 5 athletes at the Olympics. Surely the “worse” country must come from that list? Well, as you will see with our first candidate, that is not necessarily the case.
Argentina – One could argue that Argentina is the world’s greatest soccer nation (with all due respect to Brazil and Germany). Although that is probably not true, we can certainly agree that they are one of the best countries at a sport that is played by everyone. Yet, they absolutely suck at winter sports. Case in point, there were 40 athletes in men’s singles luge – the Argentine athlete finished 38th and the only 2 athletes that he “beat” were from Georgia. One of the athletes he defeated tragically died and the other was DNS (i.e. was too afraid to do the event). Oh yeah, that athlete from Argentina was 48 years old. Their only cross country skier finished 82nd out of 95 finishers. Remembering that they have a major mountain chain in their country, they did have 5 skiers in alpine ski – the best finish they have is 26th, which is respectable. Two of the 5 skiers had either DNS or DNF in one of their races. It remains to be seen how badly they perform in the remaining events, but for now, the mantle of worse country at the 2010 Olympics seems destined for another place.
Bermuda – it seems like taking candy from a baby, but I mean, this is the country that walked into the opening ceremonies with shorts on!!! Right away, they lose major points with the jury. Bermuda has 1 athlete at these games and he finished 88th in the 15km cross country ski. There were 95 people who finished. If he had finished last, Bermuda would be a shoe in for worse performing country, but thankfully the men’s 15km freestyle race had a few other chumps in the race (that we will revisit later on).
Cayman Islands – Again, another islands with no snow, yet 1 skier at these Olympics. Even worse than Bermuda, there are no mountains and this guy is in alpine skiing! Fortunately, he finished 75th in the first run out of about 100 skiers, so the Cayman Islands are safe from mockery.
Ethiopia – 1 athlete. 1 event. He beat 2 people. Again, the men’s 15km freestyle cross country ski rears its ugly head. The Ethiopian athlete was over ten minutes behind in a race that last a little more than a half hour. From his Wikipedia profile, Although he has lived in the US since the age of 9, he has founded and heads the Ethiopian National Skiing Federation, and still speaks fluent Amharic. Fortunately for him, he did beat 2 athletes, thus raising the Ethiopian flag proud.
Ghana – The “snow leopard” has been the talk of these games. With the men’s Giant Slalom on today, I expected to see him, but I guess it is difficult to see a leopard, even if they are spotted in the snow. Actually, he did not enter the Giant Slalom, thus leaving him only with the slower, easier, less technical slalom to enter. If he finishes last, which he has vowed not to do, then Ghana will definitely be the worse. He actually has a great story, and in all due respect, he is what sports are all about. The “spots” on his leopard jacket are names of his sponsors, and he has stated that he will return to Ghana to train tomorrow’s Olympians. He is either the world’s smartest con artist or a man with a huge heart; for now, I’ll chose to believe in his dreams.
Hong Kong – They have one athlete. She is in short track speed skating. In all 3 of her events, she did not advance out of the heats, although she did beat a few athletes. I mention her simply because of her story at the opening ceremonies. Due to sponsorship contracts, she had to wear a light jacket during the ceremony and not her usual winter jacket; because of this, she caught a cold. Wow, I wonder what happened to the guy with shorts on? Good thing for her the Games were not in Siberia but rather in the deep freeze of Vancouver. Ha!
Iceland – All four of their athletes are in alpine skiing. And they are not the worse performers. They may actually get a top 30 finish. However, the very fact that they are called Iceland means they need to pick up their socks. I mean, if a country was called swimland you would think they would do well in aquatics at the summer Olympics. And since there is no country called snowville, or skitown, Iceland really has to either change their name, or start better performing in winter Olympics. I mean, come on. They don’t even compete in skating and they are called “ice” land. I think they should change their name to geyserland or just stop showing up.
Ireland – if you have been watching any of the sliding events, you know of all this controversy between Ireland and Australia, as to which descendants of English prisoners should be allowed into the Olympics. The aussies claimed that the Olympics should include all the continents, ipso facto, they should be in there. The Irish said, we’re drunk, let us go tobogganing! So the IOC let them both in. Of course, the Irish promptly finished 25th in men’s skeleton (out of 26) and 17th out of 19th in women’s 2-man bobsleigh (beating the Aussies, take that you thieves from down under). In the famous men’s 15km freestyle cross-country ski, Ireland’s competitor (I refrain from using the term athlete here) was 91st out of 95. It remains to be seen how their two skiers do in the slalom, but given that they finished all their races, Ireland can stand tall at these winter Olympics.
Israel – I was all ready to make a bunch of anti-Semitic remarks, but low and behold, the Israeli ice dancing pair finished 10th! Mazaltoss! (um, I have no idea how to spell that word)
Kyrgyzstan – Ok, now we are really getting into the heart of the possible candidates. First of all, I’m sure you do not know where this country is located, but I can guarantee you, it is in the Northern hemisphere. Moreover, it was once blessed with funding from a central Communist regime, namely, the Soviets. So they must be good at winter sports right? Um, wrong. First of all, I’m sure they are dirt poor, living in their huts, in the vast central asian steppes. They have 2 athletes at these games. In the women’s cross country sprint, their athlete was 54th out of 54 athletes in qualifying, finishing nearly 1 minute out of first place, and over 10 seconds behind the before last place competitor (this race takes about 3:45 minutes for the average Olympian). In the men’s giant slalom, their athlete did finish the race, which is what will save this country from title of worse at the Olympics, but he was in 76th out of 81 finishers. We’ll see how the slalom goes on Friday.
Mexico – Yes, they compete at the winter Olympics. I have to share this story. They have 1 athlete, and he is descendant of Austrian royalty. How freaking cliché is that. Oh yeah, he competed at the 1984 winter Olympics. You now, those Olympics when Regan was President? What the shit. Needless to say, he is not good (now) and is old. He finished 78th out of 81 in the men’s giant slalom – but again, he DID finish. Finally, their hockey team tried to qualify for the Olympics, but were eliminated by hockey power house Spain (damn colonialism, they conquered us but they forgot to leave elbow pads for hockey!)
Mongolia – a friend told me a funny story about Mongolia. He said that a number of years ago they had a census for determining people’s names, as no one had family names. As it turns out 90% or so of the population wanted the name Kahn, as in Gengis Khan. Well instead they got names like this Khash-Erdene Khurelbataar and Erdene-Ochir Ochirsuren (the first one is the man). They finished 87th in 15km cross country ski and 68th in 10km ski respectively. So they both finished, not in last, and went home to ride horses, I’m sure.
Nepal – This is a country with the highest mountain chain the world. Plus they all pray a lot. Combine those things and you would think they could have a decent alpine skiers. No, they do not. They had a guy named Sherpa (I’m not making that up), who has indeed climbed Mount Everest and he then finished before, before, before last in the famous men’s 15 km cross country ski race. Oh yeah, he also runs marathons. Jeesh.
Pakistan – One man, on goal. Do not finish last in the men’s giant slalom. Amazing how many people have this goal. He finished before, before last. But yet again, he did indeed finish! He was the first Pakistani ever in the winter Olympics. And I should just state right now that although I am making fun of all these athlete, I could probably not make it down that mountain myself. So in all sincerity, congratulations.
Portugal - Ok, I meant that for the Pakistani athlete, but not for this Portugese guy. He was the only athlete from his country and he finished last in the 15km Freestyle men’s ski race. I mean, it was close, but a guy in shorts (Bermuda), a guy from India, and a guy from Ethiopia beat him. Portugal is the reigning world champions in soccer, are they not? They have really good athletes. They are fairly well developed. I know it is not the winter capitol of the world, but come on. You suck Portugal. 1 athlete entered, 1 last place finish. Officially the worse country at the Olympics.
San Marino – Wait, the San Marino athlete finished before last in the men’s giant slalom. Luckily for him, he beat a guy from India, something that cannot be said for our aforementioned friend from Portugal. San Marino also only has 30,000 people. So they get off easy. Oh yeah, that Portuguese athlete was born in New Jersey. What the shit winter Olympics.
South Africa – 2 athletes, one did not finish, one did not advance out of the heats. DNF in, what else, men’s giant slalom. Did not advance, men’s sprint cross country ski. The cross country skier beat one person. Oh, I don’t know, South Africa may have just taken the title of mediocrity away from Potugal. You be the judge.
Senegal – No surprise here, their one athlete also has Austrian citizenship. Well of course, what else would a senegelese athlete be doing in alpine skiing. I’ll tell you what, not qualifying for the Austrian team, but rather finishing 73rd for Senegal, luckily there were other Africans in the race for him to beat up on.