Winter Olympic All-Time Medal Table Predictions

With the 2018 Olympic Winter Games now less than 10 months away, I have started looking at some stats related to the Winter Olympics. Since I often work with the US Olympic Committee at the Olympics, this has also entailed looking at @TeamUSA stats. One interesting stat is that the USA has won 96 gold medals at the Winter Olympics, and barring a complete reversal of recent performances, will go over 100 in PyeongChang.

I was also interested in how the USA stacks up on the overall medal list, and I noted that they are second, behind Norway in both gold medals and total medals won, but also that, over the last few Winter Olympics, they have moving up the list. The top four nations at the Olympic Games, in terms of medals won, are as follows:

1 Norway 118 113 101 332
2 United States 96 103 85 284
3 Germany 87 85 58 230
4 Austria 59 78 81 218

I’m not going to look any further at Austria. It looks like it is close to the top 3 nations, only slightly behind Germany, but in fact, it is much further behind than the above stats reveal. That is because Germany only includes medals won as a combined Germany, and from 1968-88 both West Germany (FRG) and East Germany (GDR) competed and if you include those medals, Austria is far behind.

Over the last few Olympics, the USA has improved a great deal and seemed to be closing in on Norway in terms of medals won and golds won. I was curious if this trend continued, when the USA might overtake Norway, if they did at all, or perhaps Germany might also do so.

Germany would be ahead now if the country had not been divided. Counting Germany and the GDR, they would have 126 gold medals and 340 medals, and lead both lists. Counting Germany and West Germany, they would have 98 golds, and 269 medals, distancing Austria. If you count a combined German team, counting all German medals, they have 137 golds and 379 medals, far ahead in both categories. That is, however, somewhat of a specious argument as from 1968-88 such a United Germany would have had 6-8 competitors in many individual events, far more than usually allowed.

For future predictions, the important years to look at are 1992-2014, because in 1992 Germany was again a unified nation. In addition, in the 21st century, Norway has not led the medal list, either in golds, or total medals, at any Winter Olympics, except for golds in 2002. It would appear that both Germany and the United States are catching up.

So are Norway’s days at the top of the Winter Olympics medal table numbered? We looked at the average number of golds and medals won at each Winter Olympics since 1992 by Norway, Germany, and the USA. We then predicted what would happen at the next few Winter Olympics, if all three nations continued to win medals at the same rate they have since 1992.

Here’s what the table looks like, going from 1992-2070:

Year NOC G Meds NOC G Meds NOC G Meds
1992 NOR 63 188 USA 47 134 GER 25 63
1994 NOR 73 214 USA 53 147 GER 34 87
1998 NOR 83 239 USA 59 160 GER 46 116
2002 NOR 96 264 USA 69 194 GER 58 152
2006 NOR 98 283 USA 78 219 GER 69 181
2010 NOR 107 306 USA 87 256 GER 79 211
2014 NOR 118 332 USA 96 284 GER 87 230
2018 NOR 127 356 USA 104 309 GER 97 258
2022 NOR 136 380 USA 112 334 GER 108 286
2026 NOR 146 404 USA 121 359 GER 118 314
2030 NOR 155 428 USA 129 384 GER 128 341
2034 NOR 164 452 USA 137 409 GER 139 369
2038 NOR 173 476 USA 145 434 GER 149 397
2042 NOR 182 500 USA 153 459 GER 159 425
2046 NOR 191 524 USA 161 484 GER 170 453
2050 NOR 201 548 USA 170 509 GER 180 481
2054 NOR 210 572 USA 178 534 GER 190 508
2058 NOR 219 596 USA 186 559 GER 201 536
2062 NOR 228 620 USA 194 584 GER 211 564
2066 NOR 237 644 USA 202 609 GER 221 592
2070 NOR 246 668 USA 210 634 GER 232 620

That’s a pretty busy table but here is what the chart of these projected medal tables look like:

As you can see in this chart, Norway starts out ahead in medals and gold medals, and stays ahead through 2070, although Germany and the United States both close the gaps slightly.

So will the USA or Germany topple Norway from the top of the Winter Olympic medal table? Not in my lifetime, and probably not in this century, unless things change.

Now it may be that they will change. The trend has been to add more and more X-generation and X-Games sports, such as freestyle skiing and snowboarding, and the United States has excelled at these sports. Germany not so much, but Germany is dominant in sliding sports. Unfortunately they’ve run out of them since we have sports going down the mountain sitting (bobsled), lying prone (skeleton), and lying supine (luge). I’m not sure how else they can slide down the mountain, unless they come up with a standing sliding event – ice surfing?

The above also assumes that the number of events on the Winter Olympics Program will remain about the same. The IOC has tended to add more and more events, but there are not many more Winter Olympic sports to add, and it’s hard to predict how these numbers may change if the number of events increases. It will depend on which events are added, whether they favor traditional winter events, favoring Norway, or they add X-sports, favoring the United States, and less so, Germany.

So for the foreseeable future, unless the Winter Olympic Program drastically changes, I think Norway will continue to lead the all-time Winter Olympic medal table through the 21st century.