As a Canadian, I felt tremendous pride watching our athletes perform so well at the PyeongChang Winter Games.
The 11 gold and 29 total medals our skiers and skaters won vaulted Canada into third overall among the 92 countries competing in South Korea.
That’s impressive stuff. But if you invested even five minutes in the Olympics you likely noticed one country kicked butt from start to finish — the might mouse nation of Norway.
Norwegians took home 39 medals, including a remarkable 14 gold to finish far ahead of Canada and second-place Germany in the overall medal count.
To really put that accomplishment in perspective you have to consider the pool of potential athletes from which nations can draw.
Canada has a population of 36 million; Germany 83 million.
The greatest Olympic nation of all time, the U.S.A. which finished fourth, has 323 million people.
Norway has 5.2 million. It was one of the smallest countries at the games. Its population is smaller than the GTA, and it’s hard to imagine Toronto competing against — and beating — the world’s greatest sporting nations.
As I watched Norwegian after Norwegian take the podium I couldn’t help but wonder what these people eat for breakfast. Are they born with skis on their feet?
As it turns out, Norway takes a different approach to sport. For one thing, it doesn’t allow kids to keep score at anything until the age of 13. Sport is about social development.
Even after teen competition for trophies and medals heats up Norway’s athletes and coaches remain close and collegial and exchange what they learn.
“We go abroad as a big team that wants to have fun,” Tore Ovrebo of the Norwegian Olympic Committee told USA Today. “And we should be even better friends when we come back home.”
An abundance of mountains and snow helps, of course. And Norwegians are among the richest people in the world by GDP per capita, with a government that invests heavily in health and sport.
Norway has ranked first 12 of the past 15 years on the UN’s Human Development Index, and it consistently tops international comparisons for democracy, civil rights and overall happiness.
In January, U.S. President Donald Trump managed to offend much of the known universe by calling for fewer immigrants from ****hole countries in Africa, and more from places like Norway.
A biting political cartoon made the rounds shortly thereafter. It pictured Trump at a news conference standing beside Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.
Trump says: “We should have more immigrants from countries like Norway.”
To which Solberg replies: “We have universal health care, low unemployment, five weeks paid vacation, free university tuition and paid parental leave. Why would anyone from Norway want to move to your ****hole country?”
In reality, the prime minister declined to comment on Trump’s remarks.
But a politician from Norway’s Conservative Party couldn’t resist. “On behalf of Norway,” he tweeted. “Thanks, but no thanks.”