After the usual agonizing about who's winning the Olympics—Do you use medal count or gold count? What about something weighted? WHAT ABOUT GDP?—Russia made things relatively easy at the end of the day, seemingly establishing itself as the consensus winner.
That only tells half the story, though. The U.S. and Russia led the world in Olympians, but there were several other nations that sent 100-plus athletes and came back with a whole lot less. Based on how many athletes each country sent, and how many medals they came back with, which countries had the worst Olympics?
Twenty-two of the 88 participating countries—the top quarter—sent at least 50 athletes to the games. These countries accounted for around 85 percent of all Olympic athletes. The two graphs above show how each of these 22 countries performed on a "per-1oo-athlete" basis, with the left using a simple weighted medal count (golds are worth twice as much as silvers, which are worth twice as much as bronzes), and the right (if you think weighting is bullshit) using just gold medals.*
*You could argue that this metric rewards countries that focus on just a few sports, like the Netherlands, which sent only 41 athletes to Sochi but managed 24 (!) medals thanks to its complete domination over speed skating. The Netherlands—and to a lesser extent Belarus—seems to be an outlier. If you drop the 50-athlete requirement, Russia still comes in fourth out of 88 in weighted medals per 100 athletes, despite sending the second-most athletes and participating in every sport.
The order changes a bit between the two charts, but eight countries—Kazakhstan, Slovakia, Australia, Italy, Latvia, Finland, Japan, Great Britain—stay on "top." These countries had some shitty-ass Olympics. Let's go through them one by one:
Final tally: 52 athletes, 1 bronze (0.5 weighted medals/100 athletes).
How'd they do in 2010? 39 athletes, 1 silver (1.3 weighted medals/100 athletes).
High point: Men's figure skating, where Denis Ten took home the country's only medal despite standing in ninth place after the short program.
Narrow misses: Dmitriy Reiherd came in fifth in the men's moguls, while the men's short-track speed-skating team came in fifth in the 5,000m relay.
Final tally: 63 athletes, 1 gold (1.6 weighted medals/100 athletes).
How'd they do in 2010? 73 athletes, 1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze (2.4 weighted medals/100 athletes).
High point: Women's sprint biathlon, in which Anastasiya Kuzmina defended her Vancouver gold and stomped the competition, finishing 19.9 seconds ahead of the silver medalist. For context, the next 12 finishers were all within 20 seconds of each other.
Narrow misses: Kuzmina came in sixth in the biathlon pursuit; she silvered in 2010. Adam Žampa came in fifth in the men's alpine combined.
Final tally: 60 athletes, 2 silver, 1 bronze (2.1 weighted medals/100 athletes).
How'd they do in 2010? 40 athletes, 2 gold, 1 silver (6.3 weighted medals/100 athletes).
High point: Torah Bright's silver in the women's halfpipe prevented the Americans, who finished first, third, and fourth, from sweeping the podium. Bright won gold in 2010.
Narrow misses: Australia won its other two medals in freestyle skiing events and came just short of a third, as Anna Segal finished fourth in women's slopestyle.
Final tally: 113 athletes, 2 silver, 6 bronze (2.2 weighted medals/100 athletes).
How'd they do in 2010? 114 athletes, 1 gold, 1 silver, 3 bronze (2.0 weighted medals/100 athletes).
High point: Christof Innerhofer finished second in a closely contested men's downhill, but the real high point was Carolina Kostner's bronze in women's figure skating. The 27-year old Kostner, who repeatedly fell during her routine in Vancouver and came in 16th, posted her highest score of the year in what will almost certainly be her final Olympics.
Narrow misses: Italy had eight fourth-place finishes, equalling the country's medal count. Nordic combined was probably the closest, as Alessandro Pittin recovered from a 25th-place finish in the ski jump (out of 46) to end up just 1.2 seconds behind bronze-winning Magnus Krog of Norway.
Final tally: 58 athletes, 2 silver, 2 bronze (2.6 weighted medals/100 athletes).
How'd they do in 2010? 58 athletes, 2 silver (1.7 weighted medals/100 athletes).
High point: All of Latvia's medals in the last two Winter Olympics have come in luge, skeleton, or bobsleigh. The silver in four-man bobsleigh was probably the most satisfying medal. The country's top sled had been forced to withdraw from the 2010 race for medical reasons after winning at Whistler in the 2009 world cup.
Narrow misses: Latvia had Canada tied, 1-1, in the third period of the men's ice hockey quarterfinals and put up three goals against silver-medalist Sweden in group play.
Final tally: 103 athletes, 1 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze (2.7 weighted medals/100 athletes).
How'd they do in 2010? 95 athletes, 1 silver, 4 bronze (1.6 weighted medals/100 athletes).
High point: While Finland won gold at the men's team cross-country sprint, the high point was probably stoning the U.S., 5-0, to take the men's hockey bronze.
Narrow misses: Iivo Niskanen, part of the gold-winning sprint team, finished 0.2 seconds behind Sweden's Daniel Richardsson in the men's 15km cross-country classical.
Final tally: 113 athletes, 1 gold, 4 silver, 3 bronze (3.3 weighted medals/100 athletes).
How'd they do in 2010? 94 athletes, 3 silver, 2 bronze (2.1 weighted medals/100 athletes).
High point: Japan took the silver and bronze in the men's halfpipe and then took gold in a men's figure skating final that everyone agreed sucked.
Narrow misses: Noriaki Kasai, appearing in his seventh Olympics, nearly won gold in the men's ski jump, finishing 1.7 points behind Kamil Stoch of Poland. Kasai won silver at Lillehammer in 1994 and then failed to medal in the next four Winter Olympics.
Final tally: 56 athletes, 1 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze (3.6 weighted medals/100 athletes).
How'd they do in 2010? 50 athletes, 1 gold (2.0 weighted medals/100 athletes).
High point: Great Britain has historically been terrible at the Winter Olympics. All of Sochi was a high point, as the country tied its Winter Olympics medal-count record—set in 1924—with four. Half of their medals were in curling.
Narrow misses: Britain had zero fourth-place finishes, an additional reminder that its tally of four medals—four medals!—constituted an overachievement.
Special mention goes to Estonia, which had the largest Olympic party (25 athletes) that failed to return with any medals. In fact, the highest Estonia placed in any event was 10th, in the men's 4x10 km cross-county relay. Romania had a very similar terrible performance (24 athletes, no finish higher than 17th). If you want to declare that one of those two countries had the worst Olympics of all, I'd have no problem with that.
Update: As many of you have pointed out this metric is somewhat skewed against countries that send hockey teams, and thus have up to 25 athletes competing for just one medal. I did a rough adjustment, assuming (lazily) that each team was using its full 25-man roster and counting each team as one athlete. The order of countries in the rankings changes, but the top eight stay the top eight: