Though it may seem counterintuitive, Iceland has had more success during the Summer Olympics than at the Winter Olympics. Though Iceland hasn’t won a medal in the last 16 Winter games, the country took home four medals at the 2008 Beijing Games.
Why is this? The country’s unpredictable weather means the most popular sports are those that can be played indoors, like soccer and handball. Iceland’s tiny population of 320,000 also makes it difficult to compete with countries with millions of citizens.
When Icelandic athletes become more serious about competing, they’re often forced to move out of the country so that they can train year-round. Iceland’s Seavar Birgisson, who’s competing in the Sochi games this year, moved to southern Sweden to train along with his teammates. “Sending athletes on the road so much and so far from Iceland costs about $50,000 per athlete,” according to The Wall Street Journal. Although the cost is split between the Olympic Committee, the sport’s national federation, and the athlete himself, this expense is yet another barrier for Icelandic athletes.
Despite many challenges, Iceland sent five athletes to Sochi this year, including the country’s first cross-country skier in 20 years.
Click here to read the article in The Wall Street Journal.