The secret behind Norway's Winter Olympic success

It's a nation made up of only 5.2 million ...

Posted: Feb 26, 2018 5:32 AM
Updated: Feb 26, 2018 5:32 AM

It's a nation made up of only 5.2 million people, but as far as the Winter Olympics goes Norway is on top of the world.

Norway has dominated not only PyeongChang 2018, but has also won more medals than any other nation since the first Winter Olympics in 1924 -- with 330 in total according to data compiled by Sports Reference.

Norway's Winter Olympic success is unrivaled

It's won more medals than any other nation since the Games began in 1924

But that's not all. Norway won a staggering 39 medals -- 14 of those being gold in Pyeongchang -- as it topped the overall medal table.

That's 10 medals more than Canada overall and eight clear of Germany, which also has 14 golds to sit second in the medal table. Team USA is 16 medals behind Norway.

Norway's latest medal, Marit Bjoergen's gold in cross-country skiing, moved its tally two clear of USA's record of 37 medals set at Vancouver in 2010. It is also equaled Canada's mark of 14 golds, also set at Vancouver.

"I knew that if we won a medal today we would make history for Norway," said Leif Kristian Nestvold-Haugen, part of the Norway skiing team.

"Even underneath the suit I get goosebumps talking about it, that the Alpine team could get that 38th medal."

Born with skis on their feet?

With Norway's population roughly the same size as the US city of Atlanta, the Scandinavian country has has one great advantage over its Olympic rivals -- it has almost unlimited access to snow with 30,000 kilometers of marked trails.

Team Norway's Johannes H-sflot Kl-bo -- who has won three gold medals at these Games -- told CNN Sport that skiing is a part of Norwegians' lives.

"We always say you are born with your skis on," said the 21-year-old cross-country skier. "On Sundays everyone goes into the woods with their skis on ... everyone wants to do it."

Winning by focusing on not winning

However, developing talent is never an easy process -- often children can be pressurized by coaches and parents and sometimes fail to realize their early promise.

In Norway, children are encouraged to join local sport clubs to help with their social development but there's strict rules which prevents anyone from keeping score -- no one can be ranked first to last until they turn 13.

"We want them to be in sports because they want to be," Tore -vreb-, head of the Norwegian team, explained to CNN Sport. The focus is on other aspects, he says, not the competitive side.

"Instead (of winning) they want to have fun and they want to develop not only as athletes but as social people."

He says the Nordic nation's focus is to let children create and navigate their own path.

"The point is to ask what is in a sport for kids," he said. "We have a responsibility to give kids a nice sport to develop in so we're thinking the other way around -- not, 'OK, we need so many kids to make a national team.'"

READ: Kenya's only ice hockey team aims for Beijing 2022

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg pointed out that the country's sporting infrastructure has also played its part in Norway's Winter Olympic success.

"I think we are very good at organizing events early on. You don't get a fully fledged downhill skier or cross country skier in a short while. It starts when you're young.

"There's a large focus on sports and athletics among young people (in Norway) and some of them get very good because they're living close to downhill ski arenas or have parents who will drive them a long way to get to training."

Strategic Competing?

At PyeongChang 2018, Norway has dominated cross-country skiing and won medals in alpine skiing, biathlon, curling, freestyle skiing, ski jumping and speed skating.

Many Team Norway athletes have also competed in more than just one event.

While that can be seen as a strategic way of competing -- given it arguably increases the country's chances of winning more medals -- -vreb- says that's more of a happy coincidence.

"They're the most popular sports in Norway," he explained. "We didn't have to do that strategically -- we just kept on and professionalized the sports that we were already in love with. So that makes the recruitment process quite easy.

"It's an organic system because we're doing what we like to do and we're doing it well."

READ: Norway and Sweden's cross country skiing cold war

Of the athletes who competed in Korea, 16 of them have won more than one medal.

Norwegian cross-country skier, Marit Bjoergen, is among them -- and now holds the title of most decorated Winter Olympian of all time -- after earning gold in the ladies' 4 x 5km relay, silver in the 15km skiathlon, and bronze in both the 10km freestyle and team ski sprint.

By applying her skills in more than one event, she was able to help secure the Nordic country four medals in total.

Her achievements mean the country now has the top three most decorated Winter Olympians of all time -- just behind Bjoergen's 14 medals is biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen with 13, and cross-country skier Bjorn Daehlie with 12.

All of them competed in sports which had multiple events and relays.

Investment

Despite being the current leader in Winter Olympic medals, there have been times when Norway suffered dismal results -- notably at the Calgary 1988 Winter Olympics. Here, it failed to win even one gold.

That's when Norway's sporting body restructured and before hosting the Winter Games in Lillehammer in 1994, it established a national elite sports center -- the Olympiatoppen -- to train and develop Norway's best athletes.

"When there was a crisis something had to happen," -vreb- explained. "The sporting systems in the rest of the world were more and more professionalized and we didn't do the same in Norway."

He said there was a huge change after the center was set up.

"It was a new way of thinking for sports. (Federation) presidents were not that important any more and we wanted to have professional people working directly with high performance."

Since 1994, the establishment of Olympiatoppen has overseen 20 years of significant improvement -- most particularly in cross-country skiing.

Funding for the Olympatoppen has also increased exponentially.

In 1990, it had a budget of $2.4 million -- with 73 per cent of its expenditure going towards support for athletes and teams. By 2001, the budget had increased to $12.3 million and now it's over $24.2 million.

READ: The venture capitalist making Olympic dreams come true

While funding helps, -vreb- also says Norway's high standard of living also plays a part in creating world-class athletes, notably in offering free healthcare and education. According to the World Economic Forum, Norway "is a star performer across almost every one of the OECD's indicators both for material conditions and quality of life."

"That makes people quite well off at the beginning," adds -vreb-. "It means they can follow their interests -- it's a very humanistic approach."

As a result, he says, many kids are choosing to play sport. "That makes the population that we can recruit athletes from quite high -- we have all these people doing sport and the possibility to do it because they're healthy and are being taken care of."

As the Winter Olympics come to an end, cross-country skier Kl-bo said Team Norway had built strong relationships among the athletes who went to Pyeongchang.

"It's quite cool to be a part of it because everyone inspires everyone," he said. "Back at the hotel we are friends hanging around and just trying to compete with each other and having fun."

Now, the world must brace itself for what Norway might do at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 250869

Reported Deaths: 5481
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17010171
Hinds16091318
Harrison13250193
Rankin10629208
Jackson10216182
Lee8759141
Madison8186161
Jones6222109
Forrest5917118
Lauderdale5808180
Lowndes5309111
Lafayette491192
Lamar480465
Washington4770123
Bolivar3955106
Oktibbeha390380
Panola365076
Pontotoc361152
Monroe3521104
Warren344597
Union341458
Marshall339165
Neshoba3357152
Pearl River323295
Leflore2992105
Lincoln295685
Sunflower280469
Tate269560
Alcorn262653
Itawamba261159
Hancock260458
Pike259977
Scott244745
Prentiss244052
Yazoo242654
Tippah239749
Copiah239149
Simpson233967
Leake229564
Coahoma228554
Grenada217070
Covington210471
Marion208371
Adams203270
Winston199464
Wayne198730
George197938
Attala193158
Newton189142
Chickasaw182944
Tishomingo182159
Holmes168167
Jasper167735
Clay158233
Stone141520
Tallahatchie139234
Clarke137460
Calhoun135121
Smith119423
Yalobusha116134
Walthall111736
Noxubee110222
Greene109129
Montgomery109134
Carroll104121
Lawrence102117
Perry100531
Amite96825
Webster91924
Tunica86021
Claiborne85525
Jefferson Davis84025
Humphreys82624
Benton81023
Kemper76620
Quitman6838
Franklin65815
Choctaw60013
Wilkinson58325
Jefferson53419
Sharkey42417
Issaquena1596
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 420681

Reported Deaths: 6119
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson61755921
Mobile30058548
Madison26852186
Tuscaloosa20652266
Montgomery18876305
Shelby18421114
Baldwin16176182
Lee12393101
Morgan12175113
Etowah11687168
Calhoun11078200
Marshall10158107
Houston8556148
Cullman7999105
Limestone796274
Elmore7783101
DeKalb767197
Lauderdale752883
St. Clair7502120
Talladega6145108
Walker5880174
Jackson578841
Colbert529873
Blount529283
Autauga515455
Coffee438156
Dale394381
Franklin365248
Chilton335365
Covington326968
Russell326810
Escambia316142
Dallas302896
Chambers281869
Clarke279633
Tallapoosa2607107
Pike247629
Marion244650
Lawrence242547
Winston225535
Bibb214447
Geneva199535
Marengo197829
Pickens196231
Hale175442
Barbour172336
Butler168458
Fayette167126
Cherokee160030
Henry152721
Monroe145017
Randolph138835
Washington137026
Clay126145
Crenshaw118644
Lamar117519
Cleburne117223
Macon114335
Lowndes109535
Wilcox102621
Bullock98728
Perry96919
Conecuh94220
Sumter88826
Greene75723
Coosa60515
Choctaw51224
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Partly Cloudy
37° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 33°
Columbus
Clear
35° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 31°
Oxford
Clear
28° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 28°
Starkville
Clear
34° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 34°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather