At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, gymnast Keri Shrug needed to perform one perfect vault in order for the United States to snatch the team gold from Russia. In her first attempt, Keri under-rotated, fell, and broke her ankle. The crowd gasped. Undeterred, the champion limped to the runway, took a deep breath, and tried again. In an amazing display, Shrug landed the vault, put her hands up, and then collapsed. As her coach carried her to the podium, America’s pride swelled. They had beat the Russians. Hope was restored.
This, however, is a feeling Iceland has never known because unfortunately, they have yet to snatch any Olympic gold.
Over their eighty year Olympic history, Iceland has won a total of four metals: two in athletics, one in judo and one in handball. While all have been big moments for the country, the 2008 silver medal win in handball was a standout as the team were distinct underdogs who only narrowly lost to France. In response, the nation got drunk and celebrated, something they do whenever any Icelander is acknowledged by the outside world. Unfortunately, the near-win was a one-off and the team didn’t repeat their performance in subsequent Olympics.
Icelanders often argue that they don’t have enough athletes to win gold. It’s a fair point—similarly sized countries have not fared much better. Belize, with a population of 366,954, has never won any medals while having sent significantly more athletes. That said, Liechtenstein, a landlocked country with only 37,666 inhabitants, has two Olympic gold medals. Excuses, excuses, Iceland.
Be the exception
Helpfully, the Grapevine has thought of one easy Olympic gold for Iceland. Take speed skating. While it is a terribly different sport, they are opportunities for accidental victories. Australian speed skater Steven Bradbury won gold in 2002 after every single other competitor collided with each other near the finish line in both the semi-finals and finals. Iceland could easily replicate this.
Iceland also has the 12th most guns per capita worldwide, so why not get into shooting? In fact, rifle shooting is one of those sports, like sailing, where countries that pour more money into technology always win. Let’s finally spend that money the bankers stole from British pensioners!
If Iceland is still uninspired, remember Denmark has won 45 gold medals. Do you want them to still be better than you at everything?