In the wake of the magical London 2012 Paralympic Games, I published an article which showed which countries appear to put the most effort into backing their disabled athletes. That was for summer competition, so since skis and curling stones have replaced javelins and horses* we are going to repeat this study.
*Sadly, not at the same time. The lack of jousting in Olympic competition is a worldwide scandal.
Firstly, a quick overview of the results of the 2012 article. The G20 countries were chosen as the sample, since they would be expected to have the resources to fund Paralympic facilities, which can be costly. However, due to the low number of medals achieved by some countries, such as India, Saudi Arabia and South Africa, this skewed the data, so in the end the sample was reduced to 10: Australia, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Russia, South Korea and USA.
The teams were compared by looking at the difference between the total Olympic medals won in the games from 2000-2012, and comparing them with the number of Paralympic medals won in this time. The results are shown below:
We can slightly adapt this to look at Winter Games. For more details on the Summer Games study, you can find the original article here.
Unlike the Summer Olympics, success in Winter Olympic Games is hugely determined by access to colder climates; given that every sport necessitates either snow or ice to be present, it is very hard to succeed without either in abundance in your own country. This means that it would be unfair to look at the most affluent countries to determine our sample.
Instead, we are just going to take the 16 countries with the most Winter Olympic medals from 1998 to 2010. These can be seen on the right. Yellow cells indicate where each Games were hosted.
One immediate observation we can make is that the proportion of medals won by these top 16 countries is decreasing: from 95.1% to 89.9% over 12 years. In Sochi 2014 this percentage fell to 87.8%. This fall should be expected, as more countries gain the facilities to prepare for winter sports without the appropriate geography.
We can now work out the same percentages for Paralympic success, and compare. This is shown below:
Meanwhile, there are poor showings for Sweden, Netherlands and South Korea, whilst China's efforts are the worst of the bunch, with zero Paralympic medals. In fact 2002 was their first ever Winter Paralympics. However, it should be added that the majority of their Olympic medals came in skating events (figure and speed), which aren't in the Paralympics.
A list of countries which showed great success in Paralympic Games despite little or no Olympic pedigree is shown in the Appendices.
Summer and Winter combined
There are nine countries which appear in our samples for both forms of Games. These are Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, South Korea and USA. By merging their medal tallies from all Games between 1998-2012, we get the following table:
A small observation from this table is the incredible statistic that nearly one in five (19.5%) of all Olympic medals, summer or winter, are won by either the USA or Russia.
By using Olympic performances as a base measure of a nation's natural winter sports ability, we are able to identity which countries appear to put the most effort into Paralympic sport.
The ideal future scenario would see the percentages of medals won in Paralympic Games follow the exact same proportions as Olympic Games (with allowance for standard deviation), as this would mean that all countries are giving their Paralympic athletes the same chance of winning medals as their Olympic counterparts. Our results show that we are a long way away from achieving this.
Wikipedia - for Game-by-Game medal counts
By far the stand-out nation is Ukraine, who also boast a 166% improvement in Summer Paralympics. A significant part of this can be attributed to the funding poured into para-sports in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster.