When American swimming legend Michael Phelps won his astonishing number of Olympic medals I heard and read a lot of people asking: ‘if he were a nation on his own, where would he come in the medals table?”
This question quite easy to answer, the nation of Michael Phelps would have come 16th in 2004 with six golds and two silvers just behind the hosts, Greece and just ahead of next years hosts Brazil. In Beijing where he won eight gold medals he would have been 10th and this year with four golds and two silver medals he would have finished 20th.
In 2008 and 2012 his personal results didn’t change Team USA’s place in the medals table, but in 2004 the USA led China by 35 gold medals to 32, meaning that his personal medals were crucial to claim the top spot.
But with a medal haul like this, there were dozens of Athletes, competing individually or as part of teams who were also essential for this result. But how would it feel to single handedly raise your country’s position in the ranking in the Olympic games?
Well at London 2012 there were a small group of Athletes who did just that. By winning gold medals for their country these athletes single handedly took their country from dead last to 50th in the standings.
These were; Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria who won the 1500m and Stephen Kiprotich, Uganda, Men’s marathon champion. Kirani James won Grenada’s only medal with gold in the 400 metres and Ruben Limardo Gascon, who won a fencing gold for Venezuela.
I think special considerations have to be given to Rohullah Nikpah Afghanistan’s only medallist, who won Bronze in Taekwondo. When he achieved this feat at the 2008 games, he returned home to a heroes welcome. Also Afghan President, Hamid Karzai rewarded him with a car, a house and other luxuries at the government’s expense, as he stood as a symbol of peace in the country. I imagine he was similarly rewarded for achieving this feat a second time.
In the next few days I’m going to try to contact these athletes to see how their lives changed as a result of winning medals. Stay tuned.