NZ near top of medal table when population taken into account

Sarah Walker shows of her Olympic medal to fans at Auckland International Airport. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Sarah Walker shows of her Olympic medal to fans at Auckland International Airport. Photo / Steven McNicholl

For its size, New Zealand is one of the best nations at winning medals.

Statistics New Zealand found Kiwis ranked fourth at the 2012 London Olympics when they looked at how many medals are won per capita, not 15th like the scoreboard said. They will be doing a similar ranking for the Rio Olympics this year.

The traditional medal table ranks countries solely on the number of gold, silver, and bronze medals they have won.

Statistics NZ senior demographer Kim Dunstan said the per-capita ranking is an alternative way to think about the medal tally.

"We're crunching the numbers during Rio 2016 to rank countries on how many medals they win relative to their population.

"There's no doubt New Zealand punches well above its weight."

At the London Olympics, New Zealand won six gold medals, two silver, and five bronze.

In the traditional medal rankings, this placed New Zealand 15th overall. But in the population-based rankings, New Zealand was behind only Grenada, Jamaica and the Bahamas who came first, second and third.

New Zealand's population has grown from 4.4 million at the last Olympics to an estimated 4.7 million today.

"For its size, or even in the traditional rankings, New Zealand produces some of the best sportsmen and women in the world," said Dunstan.

New Zealand ranked 7th at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 15th at the 2004 Athens games using the per-capita system rather than 23rd and 44th on the traditional medal tally.

New Zealand has medal prospects across a range of sports including rowing, canoeing, sailing, shot-putt, golf and rugby sevens.

Statistics NZ will also do a similar ranking for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games that run from September 7 to 18.

The population-based ranking tables will be updated each weekday at 2pm from August 8. Go to to see the results.

- NZ Herald

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