Note: big thanks to Catherine Lee for compiling the numbers below, based on the most recent FINA lists available. For these calculations, we’ve excluded Universality invites to focus on swimmers invited with “A” times, “B” times, and as relay entries. If you see an error or out-of-date data, let us know so we can update our lists.
Also note that we’ve included Scot Robison on this list for the American men. Though it’s highly unlikely that he’ll swim, he is officially on the submitted roster.
In the modern day, where Olympic qualification has become so difficult thanks to an increase in the global parity of the sport and a cap at 900 swimmers, putting anybody on the Olympic Team is impressive. But some countries have truly amazed by coming up with significant Olympic rosters despite diminuitive populations.
Perhaps the most amazing of these is Iceland, who has qualified an incredible 7 Olympians despite being a population of only 320,000 people. That includes swimmers like Florida All-American Sarah Bateman, and backstroker Eyglo Gustafsdottir, who is viewed by many in Iceland as the future of their swimming program. They combine with their Olympic teammates to represent 1 of every 45,000 Icelandic citizens.
Another impressive concentration hails from Slovenia. This is one of those countries that is off the European beaten-path with a population of just over 2 million, yet their swimmers still seem to pop up on major medal stands around the world. Thanks in part to the women’s 800 free relay qualifying, the Slovenians have qualified an amazing 12 Olympians, or one out of every 171,000 people. This contingent is led by Damir Dugonjic (the only male after national hero Peter Mankoc failed to qualify with a “B” time) and Sara Isakovic, both of whom are trained in the United States at Cal. The female ratio is even more drastic – with 11 female qualifiers for a female population of 1.05 million.
But the leaders are the two smallest countries on the list, and the only two with populations of under 100,000: Liechtenstein and the
Fraser Cayman Islands.
The pair of qualifiers for the Caymans are actually brothers Brett and Shaunee Fraser, who are both former NCAA Champions from the University of Florida. That calculates the islands out to one Olympic swimmer for every 27,728 citizens. Imagine if every city bigger than Dana Point, California turned out a 48.5 100 freestyler. That would certainly help our depth issue in the 400 free relay. (Never heard of it? It’s in the OC, and its exact population figure based on the 2010 census was 27,728).
For some of the world’s biggest countries, the comparison can be skewed because of the limits on each roster. The United States, for example, has 48 swimmers on their Olympic Team with 300 million citizens, but if roster limits were removed they could probably quadruple the size of their team, at least. China, the world’s biggest country and also the world’s biggest Olympic swim team, will never be able to match Iceland with a population of 1.3 billion people.
Still, those two are doing better than countries like their counterparts Indonesia. The nation surrounded by water, with the world’s 4th-largest population at 237,600,000, had a single invited swimmer – Gede Sudartawa – who got in with a B time in the 100 backstroke.
The best results for countries with populations of greater than 10 million went to Hungary, with an incredible 31 qualifiers for 10.01 million citizens (1 out of every 323,000); and Australia with 45 Olympians for 22.3 million citizens (1 for every 495,000 people). Australia has long been the hallmark of the “small country, huge swimming success” game, as they still manage to send nearly a full squad to every Olympics.
Denmark (10 Olympians for 5.5 million people) fared pretty well too, as did the Canadians (34 Olympians for 34.1 million people).
The full list is below. Note: We didn’t spend too much time making sure we had the most recent population figures, but they should all be fairly up-to-date.
|Country||Qualifiers||Population||Number of Citizens per Qualifiers|