Ben Spock ran track for one year at Yale and rowed crew for four years, but his college career pales beside his accomplishments afterwards. After college he started med school at Yale, then transferred to Columbia, where he earned his M.D. and became a pediatrician. As the author of Baby and Child Care, Dr. Spock is a name known to millions of parents in this country. The book was written while Spock practiced pediatrics in New York and sold over 25,000,000 copies. He also wrote five other books on child care.
During the 60s, Dr Benjamin Spock was in the news for other reasons. He took a strong stand against nuclear proliferation and participated in several protests against military escalation in Vietnam. In 1972, Ben Spock became the first former U.S. Olympic athlete to run for the United States presidency on the People’s Party ticket in 1972, but received only 78,759 votes (about 0.1%). He espoused radical political action and severe reduction of the military but received no electoral votes. After he retired from practicing medicine, he did some occasional public speaking, usually at universities or for the benefit of peace groups.
So which nation has the most important female athletes? No, we don’t mean which nation’s women have won the most medals, that would be the United States, as it is for the men. But which nations’ women have won the highest percentage of the medals for their country?
There are actually 5 countries where all of their medals have been won by women: Bahrain, Costa Rica, Montenegro, Mozambique, and Zimbabwer. Of those, Zimbabwe has won the most medals with only 8. This 100%-er list follows:
But this seems a bit of a specious argument, with so few overall medals won. Let’s look only at the nations that won 100 or more medals overall (both men, women, and mixed), and see how their women did. Here is that list:
German Demo. Rep.,192,519,94,241,49.0%,46.4%
Fed. Rep. Germany,67,243,18,63,26.9%,25.9%
China and Romania are the only two nations where their women have won more than 50% of their nations medals and gold medals. Romania is led by their female gymnasts and rowers, while China’s female divers, gymnasts, and weightlifters have won a large percentage of their medals. Romanian women have won an astounding 65.9% of their nations gold medals. And in the era of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), there were fewer women’s medals available, so their percentages in the high 40s are also impressive, although we do know there were, shall we say, some problems with a few of those.
At the other end of the spectrum, Belgium and Finland bring up the rear, with only about 11% of medals won by women, and about 8% of gold medals won, by far the worst numbers in this subset in both categories.
Overall, women have won about 27.5% of medals and gold medals awarded at the Olympics. So the former Soviet Union is the closest to the median nation, although when it existed, the percentage of women’s medals was likely slightly lower. The United States is also pretty close to the median.
If we look at the other end of the spectrum, we get the following list of nations whose women have never won a medal or gold medal at the Olympics, although their men have won both:
Trinidad & Tobago,2,18
United Arab Emirates,1,1
There are also 36 nations which won Olympic medals, but no golds, and none won by a woman. The two nations with the most medals in this category are The Philippines, with 9 medals, and Puerto Rico, with 8.
Judy Morstein graduated from Butte High School in Montana and later from Eastern Montana College. She competed for the US at the 1963 World Speedskating Championships, as well as the 1964 Winter Olympics. After marrying Harry Martz, she helped him run a commercial solid-waste business in Butte. Her small business experience led her to become involved in local politics. This led to statewide ambitions, and in 1997 she was elected Lieutenant-Governor of Montana. She then served as Montana’s first female governor from 2001-05, as a Republican. Morstein was also once voted Miss Rodeo Montana. After her career in politics, Morstein-Martz sat on the board of several large corporations, including Maternal Life International, University of Montana Western, Big Sky State Games, and TASER International. Personal Bests: 500 – 48.1 (1972); 1000 – 1:38.0 (1972); 1500 – 2:33.3 (1964); 3000 – 5:32.4 (1972).
Since the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was formed in 1894 at the Sorbonne Congress, there have been 536 IOC Members. How many of these have actually competed in the Olympics (and we’re not counting the Arts Competitions, which would add Pierre de Coubertin)?
Well, the direct answer to that question is 112 IOC Members have also been Olympic sports competitors. Of these 23 of the IOC Olympians have been women, which is a fairly high percentage since there have only been 39 female members of the IOC all-time – the first women were only elected to the IOC in 1981 with Finland’s Pirjo Häggmann and Venezuelan Flor Isava-Fonseca.
How many of the IOC Olympians were successful, i.e., actually won Olympic medals? It’s a large percentage, as of the 112 IOC Olympians, 65 have won medals, and 47 actually won gold medals. This group is led by Norway’s Ole Einar Bjørndalen with 13 medals and 8 gold medals, while among the female IOC Olympians, Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic’s Věra Čáslavská leads with 11 medals and 7 gold medals. In all, 14 of the IOC Olympians won 5 or more medals, and 12 of them won 3 or more gold medals.
The first IOC Member to have competed in the Olympics was Greek Alexandros Merkati, who became an IOC Member in 1897, and competed in the Olympic golf event in 1900. He is one of only four IOC Individual Members (see next paragraph) who competed in sports at the Olympics while they served on the IOC, the others being William, Lord Desborough, who served on the IOC from 1905-13, and competed in fencing at the 1906 Intercalated Olympics; Peter Tallberg, elected to the IOC in 1976, but an Olympic sailor for Finland from 1960-80; and Prince Albert II of Monaco, who became an IOC Member in 1985, and then competed in bobsledding at the Olympics five times between 1988 and 2002. Counting Athlete Members, four have competed in the Olympics while on the IOC: Russia’s Aleksandr Popov in swimming, the Czech Republic’s Jan Železný in athletics (javelin), Ukrainian Sergey Bubka in athletics (pole vault), and Great Britain’s Matthew Pinsent in rowing.
In 1999, in response to he Olympic Bribery Scandal, the IOC instituted a new category of IOC Membership termed the Athlete Member. Has this increased the number of IOC Olympians significantly? Certainly has. Since 2000, 38 former Olympians have become IOC Members, 35 of them in the Athlete Member Category. So that is only 3 IOC Individual Member Olympians in the period 2000-14, while there were 74 IOC Individual Member Olympians from 1894-2000, so the rate of former Olympians becoming a full IOC Individual Member has actually decreased significantly.
What about the current IOC Membership? There are currently 111 IOC Members, of which 39 competed at the Olympics at one time. The longest standing of these is Tallberg, as noted above, an Olympic sailor from 1960-80, who became an IOC Member in 1976, and was a long-term chairman of the Athlete’s Commission. The only other IOC Olympian Member who joined the IOC in the 1970s and is still a member is Dick Pound, a 1960 Canadian swimmer who was co-opted onto the IOC in 1978.
Here is the entire list of IOC Olympians, listing their NOCs while on the IOC, their sports, their Olympic span, their IOC tenures, and their medals won:
Scotland is preparing to vote in a referendum about becoming an independent nation and leaving the United Kingdom. There has been some discussion about what this would mean for Scottish athletes, in particular concerning their Olympic status. IOC President Bach has already come out and said that Scotland would be welcomed into the Olympic Movement as an independent nation, if that occurs. But did you know that Scotland has already competed at the Olympics as an independent nation, even though they have been part of the United Kingdom since 1707?
In 1908, England, Ireland (then part of Great Britain), Scotland, and Wales entered separate national teams in the hockey (field) tournament, with Scotland sharing the bronze medal with Wales. In 1912, England, Ireland, and Scotland entered separate national teams in the cycling road race, with Scotland finishing fourth. All other Scottish appearances at the Olympic Games have come as part of Great Britain’s teams.
Of note, however, Scotland could form its own National Olympic Committee with no delay, as it has affiliations with more than the five requisite IOC-recognized International Federations. Scotland is an independent member of the following nine IFs: Badminton, Basketball, Boxing, Curling, Football (Soccer), Hockey (Field), Table Tennis, Volleyball, and Weightlifting.
Will Scotland again be represented as their own nation at the Olympics? We shall see – its been over 100 years since it occurred, but it has happened.
Born,27 May 1942; Cowley; Hillingdon; Greater London; England
Measurements,178 cm / 80 kg
Robin Widdows’ father, Commodore Charles Widdows, flew for the RAF during the war, and was a test pilot afterwards. Like Alfonso de Portago, Widdows also competed in bobsleigh, although the Spaniard had been the driver, while Widdows formed part of the crew.
Widdows was part of the second British four-man sled in 1964. Steered by Bill McCowen, they ended up in 13th place, just behind the first British sleigh. A week before, two of the crewman of Britain I – Tony Nash and Robin Dixon – had won the gold medal in the two-man bob. Widdows remained on the British team until 1968, taking part in his second Olympics in Grenoble. This time as a member of the first four-man sleigh, which was taken to 8th place by driver Tony Nash.
In the same year Widdows made his first appearance at the Olympics, he also made his racing début. He proved successful, and by 1966 he was racing in Formula 3, and winning races as well, although he was also active in sportscar racing. In 1967, he entered a Brabham in Formula 2 races, racing for his own team, Witley. A win at Hockenheim (Germany) was his best result that year.
More minor successes in Formula 2 the next year – now driving a McLaren – meant he was asked by the Cooper team to drive their second car at the British GP at Brands Hatch. Widdows qualified as 18th of the 20 cars for what would turn out to be his only Formula 1 GP. After 34 laps, his ignition failed, and he had to abandon the race.
His Formula 1 career was over after that race, but Widdows continued to race in other classes. In 1969, he achieved one of his biggest successes when he placed 7th in the 24 hours of Le Mans, with Nanni Galli (ITA). Halfway through the 1970 season however, while still racing Formula 2, Widdows quit racing.
What are the longest lived Olympic records? Well, Olympic records can only be set in certain sports. At the Summer Games, this includes athletics (track & field), swimming, shooting, weightlifting, archery, and Olympic bests are usually considered now in rowing and canoeing. At the Winter Games, the measured sports are speed skating and short-track speed skating, with the best jumps measured in ski jumping.
Let’s consider only athletics at the Summer Olympics for starters. And we have to make some assumptions, as we commonly do. We’re going to consider marks that have lasted the most Olympics, because the gap from 1936-48 and 1912-20 artificially made records last longer that were set in 1912 or 1932-36. So we’ll consider Olympics Between (OlyBT below) and Years Between (YrsBT below). Also, some marks were set a number of Olympics ago but are still the best on record. We’ll consider all of those to last until 2016 (at a minimum, that is true).
Given that, here are all the athletics Olympic records that have lasted 20+ years or 5 or more Olympics.
Now there are caveats, as there usually are. Beamon’s miracle long jump in Mexico City will last at least 48 years, through 2016, and likely longer, as there is nobody on the horizon about to better 8.90 metres. But the mark was altitude-aided, and the Association of Track & Field Statisticians (ATFS), of which I am a member, usually considers altitude-aided marks in the sprints and horizontal jumps differently. The next best among men, and the top two marks for women, were both set in the 1980s, and shall we say, there are a number of rumors about marks set in that era. If you look at the women’s marks, unfortunately, everything was set from 1980-88 until we get to Marie-José Péréc’s 400 metre mark of 48.25 set in Atlanta in 1996. Please also note Lina Radke-Batschauer’s 800 metre mark from Amsterdam. While it lasted until 1960, it only lasted 1 Olympics, because women did not run the 800 metres from 1932-56.
Of the remaining men’s marks, the one that looks to me to have the best chance to continue to rule is Kevin Young’s 400 hurdles mark of 46.78, set in Barcelona. He remains the only hurdler to better 47 seconds, and nobody is threatening that mark these days. Among the women, nobody is approaching all those Olympic records from the 1980s.
What about the best marks by event. Here they are, for men and women, with a few extras thrown in to cover the various “yeah, buts …”:
5,20,100,9.95A,Jim Hines,USA,1968,Mexico City
5,20,200,21.6,Archie Hahn,USA,1904,St. Louis
6,24,400,43.86A,Lee Evans,USA,1968,Mexico City
2,16,800,1:49.7,Tommy Hampson,GBR,1932,Los Angeles
4,16,1500,3:34.91,Kip Keino,KEN,1968,Mexico City
4,16,1500,3:32.53,Sebastian Coe,GBR,1984,Los Angeles
6,24,5K,13:05.59,Saïd Aouita,MAR,1984,Los Angeles
2,16,10K,30:11.4,Janusz Kusociński,POL,1932,Los Angeles
6,24,Marathon,2-09:21.0,Carlos Lopes,POR,1984,Los Angeles
The FEI World Equestrian Games are currently being held in Normandy, France. The events are mixed but there are many women competing, especially in dressage.
Olympic equestrian was male-only until 1952, in fact, until that year, it was only open to military officers – non-coms need not apply (note: there were some women in 1900 but that Olympics was very odd in many respects). In 1952 women were allowed to compete in dressage, and Lis Hartel inspirationally won a silver medal in individual dressage, despite still not being able to walk normally from the effects of polio. In 1956 jumping was opened to women, but it was not until 1964 that women could compete in three-day eventing.
Since 1964, more and more women have competed in Olympic equestrian, especially in dressage, which is now dominated by women. Let’s look at how the proportion of female equestrian competitors has changed since 1964, and also what percentage of medals have been won by women.
Here are the overall percentages of competitors in the 6 equestrian events from 1964-2012.
As you can see, all three disciplines show increasing numbers of women, although strangely, it is relatively flat for show jumping, and the percentage of women in show jumping is oddly low at about 20% from 2000-12. Dressage is dominated by female competitors now, and females have made up more than 50% of dressage riders since 1972, save for the anomalous 1980 Olympics (there were very few women riders that year in any event). Eventing is intermediate between dressage and show jumping, but those curves show definite increasing slope, meaning more and more women competitors at each Olympics in each discipline.
How about medals and gold medals? First, we’ll show charts for dressage, but remember, in all of these, for individual gold medals, its all or nothing – 0% or 100%.
Once again, women are picking up more and more medals in dressage, in both events. There has not been a male medalist in individual dressage since 1996, and since 1988, men have won only 2 of 21 medals in that event. In team dressage, women have won over 50% of the medals at each Olympics since 1972, save for 1980, and also 2004. They have also won 50%+ gold medals since 1988, with all-female teams in 2000 and 2008.
Now on to eventing, with charts for both individual and team events.
A few things are noteworthy. A woman has not yet won an individual eventing gold medal, but they won 2 of 3 medals individually in 1984, 1996, and 2004-12. In team eventing, the medalists have been about 50% women since 1996. The gold medal stats for team eventing are all over the place.
And finally, the anomalous discipline of show jumping, with both individual and team event charts.
As in eventing, a woman has yet to win individual gold in show jumping. In fact, women have individually won only 1 medal in 1968-72, 1984, 1996, and 2008. In team jumping, its not much better with women winning only 50% of the team medals in 1984 and 2008, and 0 medals in 1964-76, 1988-2000, and 2012.
It is difficult for us to explain why women are so relatively under-represented in jumping, especially in comparison to eventing, which would seem to be the event which might have fewer women. We have no good explanation.