US Dominates New Sports, Old Soviet Strongholds

US, Asia make radical gains over former Soviet Union in classic events
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 1, 2010 11:44 AM CST
A USA fan among Canadian hockey enthusiasts.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Nate Silver hears the “cynical perspectives” on the US’ record take of 37 medals at the Vancouver Olympics: that newfound dominance is based on the inclusion of “new-fangled sports" like snowboarding and short-track. It’s not particularly valid. If you look only at events contested in the 1988 Calgary Games, it’s true that Germany topped the podium with 20 total medals. But the US was right behind, with 17. And there were two Germanys in 1988—East with 11, and West with 9.

“If 2010's athletes were contesting the 1988 events based on 1988 borders,” Silver writes on FiveThirtyEight, “the United States would have won the medal count after all.” That result supposes not only splitting Germany, but also reconstituting the Soviet Union, which means the countries of the former USSR have dramatically fallen off in winter sports prowess. “The basic story is that we're seeing those medals won by the former Soviet/Eastern bloc countries shifting to North America and Asia.” (Read more Nate Silver stories.)

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