Can any country match that? No, actually -

Can any country match that? No, actually


To me, the most startling measure of Canada’s Olympic performance, eclipsing even the 14 gold (the most ever for any country) or the 26 medals (the most ever for Canada), was this: We placed in the top five in 37 of 86 events contested. Nearly half. In my Olympics wrap, I asked, quasi-rhetorically, “Can any country match that?”

This caused some snickers in the comments. The US won 37 medals, it was pointed out. So obviously they more than matched our top-5 record.

Well, no. If the question was, which country had the most top 5 finishes, the US would seem to have us beat: the 37 medallists, plus however many fourth- and fifth-place finishes they turned in. But the statement was not about how many top 5 finishes we had, but the number of events in which which we finished top 5, a measure of the breadth of our success.

I’ve now checked the results, and I can report that indeed, no country matched us in this regard. We placed top 5 in 37 events. The Americans were top 5 in 34. The Germans were top 5 in 33. No one else, I’m going to guess, eyeballing the results, was even close.

The seeming paradox is resolved by the fact that the Americans had more than one top 5 finisher in several events. But their success was concentrated in a narrower range of events than ours.

But wait, it gets better. Go back to that initial question: which country had the most top 5 finishes? The US, right? Well yes, but also Canada — the two countries were tied at the top, with 49 top 5 finishes each. (Germany had 46.) The US had more medallists than we did (37 to 26) but fewer 4ths and 5ths (12, to our 23).

So not only did we beat the world to the very top of the podium, we also were on or around more podiums, more times, than anyone else.

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