Olympic Medal Sweeps

Winning an Olympic medal is a major accomplishment, and a nation usually exults in response. But sweeping all the medals in an event, with all athletes from one nation standing on all steps of the podium, is much rarer, especially at the Winter Olympics.

This has happened 260 times at the Summer Olympics, but only 39 times so far at the Winter Olympics. This has been done by 10 different nations. The entire list of all Winter Olympic medal sweeps is given below.

Year     Sport                                Event            NOC                              Gdr

1952     X-Country Skiing    10 km.           Finland                              F

1960     X-Country Skiing    10 km.           Soviet Union                  F

1964     Alpine Skiing              Downhill     Austria                              F

1964     X-Country Skiing    10 km.           Soviet Union                  F

1964     Luge                                Singles         Germany                           F

1964     Speed Skating           500 m           Soviet Union                   F

1972     Luge                                Singles         German Demo. Rep.    F

1984     Luge                                Singles         German Demo. Rep.    F

1984     Speed Skating           3,000 m       German Demo. Rep.    F

1988     Luge                                Singles         German Demo. Rep.    F

1988     X-Country Skiing    20 km.          Soviet Union                    F

1998     Alpine Skiing             Combined  Germany                           F

2002     Luge                                Singles         Germany                          F

2006     Luge                                Singles         Germany                          F

2010     Luge                                Singles         Germany                          F

1908     Figure Skating          Singles          Sweden                          M

1924     X-Country Skiing    50 km.           Norway                          M

1924     Nordic Combined   Individual   Norway                          M

1928     X-Country Skiing    15 km.           Norway                         M

1928     X-Country Skiing    50 km.           Sweden                         M

1928     Nordic Combined   Individual   Norway                         M

1932     Nordic Combined   Individual   Norway                         M

1932     Ski Jumping                Large hill     Norway                         M

1936     X-Country Skiing    50 km.           Sweden                         M

1936     Nordic Combined   Individual   Norway                         M

1948     X-Country Skiing    15 km.           Sweden                         M

1948     Ski Jumping                Large hill     Norway                         M

1956     Alpine Skiing              GS                  Austria                           M

1956     Figure Skating          Singles         United States             M

1964     Speed Skating           5,000 m      Norway                          M

1972     Luge                                Singles        German Dem. Rep.  M

1972     Ski Jumping                NH               Japan                                M

1992     X-Country Skiing    30 km.        Norway                           M

1992     Speed Skating           5,000 m    Germany                         M

1994     Alpine Skiing             Combined Norway                          M

1998     Speed Skating           10,000 m  Netherlands                M

1998     Speed Skating           3,000 m     Germany                        M

2002     Snowboarding           Halfpipe   United States              M

2006     Alpine Skiing               Slalom       Austria                            M

A couple things are immediately obvious – first of all, Germany or the former German Democratic Republic, is/was really good at sweeping Winter Olympic medals. Germany has had 7 medal sweeps, 5 by women and 2 by the men. The former GDR swept the medals 5 times, 4 by the women, all in luge. Either Germany or the GDR has swept the medals in women’s luge 7 times in all (out of only 13 times the event has been held).

In fact, German dominance of women’s luge approaches that of the Chinese in Summer Olympic diving, or the United States former dominance in that sport. German women have swept the medals in singles luge at the last three Winter Olympics (2002-10). Can they do it again for a four-peat in Sochi?

That’s pretty good, but Norway is the national leader in medal sweeps, with 11 at the Winter Olympics, all by their men in five different sports / disciplines. Here is the national breakdown:

NOC                                       Men    Women    Totals

Austria                                            2             1            3

Finland                                            0             1            1

German Demo. Rep.                1             4            5

Germany                                        2             5            7

Japan                                                1             0            1

Netherlands                                 1             0            1

Norway                                        11             0          11

Soviet Union                                0             4            4

Sweden                                          4              0            4

United States                              2             0            2

Totals                                           24           15         39

Another thing to note is that the United States does not show up much on this list – only 2 medal sweeps by American men – one in 1956 men’s figure skating and one in 2002 snowboarding halfpipe. By contrast, of the 260 Summer Olympic medal sweeps, fully 150 of them were done by the United States, many of them in the early days of the Modern Olympic Games.

One of the most dramatic medal sweeps occurred in 1972 at Sapporo, when the Japanese ski jumpers, who had never won an Olympic medal in that sport / discipline previously, swept the medals in ski jumping on the normal hill, led by Yukio Kasaya.

Only 4 times have the home nations swept the medals. In addition to Japan in 1972 in ski jumping, this was also done in 1964 by the Austrian women in downhill alpine skiing at Innsbruck, the Norwegian men alpine skiiers in the 1994 combined at Lillehammer, and the aforementioned American sweep of men’s snowboarding halfpipe at Salt Lake City in 2002. Russia has never done this at the Winter Olympics, although it was done 4 times by the former Soviet Union, all in women’s events. Can the Russians sweep any of the medals in Sochi?

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