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Top 10 Countries at the Winter Olympics

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Ready to get patriotic? Whether they’re gliding smoothly down the slopes, skating fiercely around the rink, jumping gracefully from their partner’s arms, or scoring the game-winning goal, Winter Olympians from the world over are thrilling us with their every move. In honor of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics – which start February 7th – counts down our picks for the top 10 countries at the Winter Olympics. For this list, we’re basing our choices and rank on the nations’ success in terms of overall and gold medal counts, in relation to their population. Please remember: all medal counts are for modern Winter Games only.

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Top 10 Nations at the Winter Olympics

Ready to get patriotic? Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 countries at the Winter Olympics.

For this list, we’re basing our choices and rank on the nations’ success in terms of overall and gold medal counts, in relation to their population. Please remember: all medal counts are for modern Winter Games only.

#10: Italy
(Population: 59.7M)

By competing at every Winter Olympic Games since 1924, Italy has over 100 medals to its name. With a fairly even distribution between gold, silver and bronze at over 30 apiece, this European nation has finished in the top 5 of the Winter Olympic medal count three times. As host in 1956, then again half a century later, Italy highlighted the country’s skills in sports like skiing and luge.

#9: Switzerland
(Population: 8M)

The host country in 1928 and 1948, Switzerland has gone to the winter Olympic medal podium over 125 times – despite having a smaller population of athletes than some of the other nations on our list. They boast significantly more gold medals in alpine skiing than in any other sport, and the second most golds of any country in that sport. However, they’ve also been successful in bobsleigh and snowboarding.

#8: Finland
(Population: 5.4M)

As one of the least populated countries on our list, Finland boasts an impressive medal count, proving that – while they have never hosted the Winter Games – the Finns are still competitive in cold weather sports. Solidifying their spot as world leaders in ski jumping, the country has medalled over twenty times in the sport, with their other awards coming in events like cross-country skiing, speed skating and Nordic combined.

#7: Sweden
(Population: 9.6M)

Though it was a tough choice between Finland and Sweden, we’ve given the edge to the Swedes because of their higher gold count. With the majority of their top honors coming in cross-country skiing, Sweden is dominant, ranking in the top three countries in the world for the sport in terms of golds. However, Sweden has recently proved competitive in ice hockey, taking home gold in 1994 and 2006.

#6: Canada
(Population: 35M)

In 2010 on home turf, Canada set a record for the most gold medals won by any country at a Winter Games at 14. That same year, freestyle skier Alexandre Bilodeau became the first Canadian ever to win a gold medal on Canadian soil, even though Canada has hosted the Olympics twice before. However, as evidenced by both sexes’ dominance in curling and hockey, Canucks do best on ice.

#5: United States of America
(Population: 317.5M)

If medal count were our only criteria, the United States would rank higher; but we’re also considering population. Since the American population eclipses the other countries on our list, they’re demoted. Hosts of the Winter Games four times, U.S. Olympians are world leaders in speed skating, figure skating, snowboarding, freestyle skiing and skeleton. However, their most decorated winter Olympic athlete is short-track speed skater Apolo Ohno.

#4: USSR/Russia
(Population: 293M/143M)

For our list, we’ve combined the Winter Olympic efforts of the Soviet Union, the Unified Team and Russia. Before it disbanded in 1991, the USSR was dominant at the Winter Games, often finishing first or second in overall medal count. Russia has continued the tradition, with impressive showings in cross-country skiing. However, this is another country where ice sports like hockey and figure skating play an important role.

#3: Germany
(Population: 80.5M)

As with Russia, we’ve bundled all German Winter Olympic efforts for our list. But even without the East German, West German and Unified Team tallies, Germany stands out with almost 200 medals. Combined, the nation beats even our #1 pick in overall medals with over 350 total – despite having been banned from certain Games. And the sports Germans are most likely to win? Bobsleigh, luge, speed skating and biathlon.

#2: Austria
(Population: 8.5M)

Having hosted the Winter Games twice, this small European country has seen its athletes on the podium over 200 times – and, thanks to the country’s mountainous terrain, over 100 of those wins were for alpine skiing alone. In fact, Austria has more medals in that sport than any other nation. Their credits in other skiing sports, like freestyle, ski jumping and Nordic combined, are not too shabby either.

Before we award the gold medal to our winner, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic
- South Korea
- Japan
- The Netherlands
- China

#1: Norway
(Population: 5.1M)

Good things come in small packages. Despite having the smallest population on our list, Norway is home to both phenomenal biathlete Ole Einar Bjørndalen and the most successful winter Olympian ever, cross-country skier Bjørn Dæhlie. They also have the most medals of any country on our list. Considered world leaders in cross-country skiing and Nordic combined; Norwegians have over 100 each gold and silver medals – making them the overall winners.

Do you agree with our list? Which countries do you think stand out at the Winter Olympics? For more sporty top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to

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