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Size matters: Hungary makes Top 10 in Olympic medal per-capita ranking

Budapest, Hungary – Clocking in six gold, seven silver, and seven bronze medals, Hungary finished 15th at this year’s 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, which were once again dominated by the biggest countries like the United States and China.

With 20 podium finishes, this was Hungary’s most successful Olympics since the 1996 Games in Atlanta. Having a much smaller population than the top finishers, Hungary has now the second highest all-time per capita number of gold medals of any nation.

“It’s still loud and clear from the patterns that what matters is population, level of income, and political system,” says David Forrest, an economist at the University of Liverpool who researches Olympic predictions.

“It’s clear that very few people who are born have got the potential to be a world-class athlete,” he adds, and the bigger the pool of athletes, the more likely it is for a country to produce true competitors.

For instance, Luxembourg, which sent 12 athletes to compete in Tokyo, while the United States, which has the third-largest population in the world, sent 613 athletes

Because of this, the BBC came up with an alternative ranking, which looked at the number of medals won per inhabitants. And with only 9.7 million inhabitants, Hungary now makes the Top 10. Meanwhile, the United States don’t even crack the top 20, coming in at 60th place.

The Czech Republic comes in at 23rd, ahead of Slovakia (33rd) and Poland (55th). In this alternative medal table, it is the tiny European nation of San Marino, with a population of just over 33,000, which comes out on top, despite winning only three medals.

Full recap of Hungary’s 20 Olympic medals

🇭🇺🤺 Áron Szilágyi made Olympic fencing history as he took the sabre title for a third time in a row 🥇

🇭🇺🏊‍♂️ 21-year-old world record holder Kristóf Milák powered to the men’s 200m butterfly gold medal 🥇

🇭🇺🚣‍♂️ Bálint Kopasz captured the gold medal in the men’s kayak single 1000m competition in front of compatriot Ádám Varga who claimed the silver medal 🥇 🥈

🇭🇺🤼‍♂️ Wrestler Tamás Lőrincz defeated Kyrgyzstan’s Akzhol Makhmudov in the men’s Greco-Roman 77 kg final 🥇

🇭🇺🚣‍♂️ Sándor Tótka won Hungary’s fifth gold of the Olympics in the men’s kayak single 200m competition 🥇

🇭🇺🚣‍♀️ In heavy rain, Dóra Bodonyi, Tamara Csipes, Anna Kárász and Danuta Kozák won Hungary’s third consecutive women’s K4 500m Olympic title and the country’s sixth gold medal in Tokyo 🥇

🇭🇺🤺 Gergely Siklósi took silver in the individual men’s epee fencing competition after losing to Romain Cannone of France 🥈

🇭🇺🏊‍♂️ Kristóf Milák won the silver medal in the men’s 100m butterfly, his second medal of the Tokyo Olympics 🥈

🇭🇺⛵️ In sailing, Zsombor Berecz took silver in the Men’s Finn, finishing behind Great Britain’s Giles Scott 🥈

🇭🇺🤼‍♂️ Viktor Lőrincz who could not emulate his brother Tamás and lost to Ukraine’s Zhan Beleniuk in the men’s Greco-Roman 87 kg final 🥈

🇭🇺🚣‍♂️ In the women’s kayak single 500m final, Tamara Csipes finished second behdind Lisa Carrington who won her fifth Olympic gold 🥈

🇭🇺🏊‍♂️ Kristóf Rasovszky finished second in the men’s marathon swim to take home silver 🥈

🇭🇺🥋 Judoka Krisztián Tóth grabbed Hungary’s 500th Olympic medal after beating Russia’s Mikhail Igolnikov for bronze in the men’s 90 kg category 🥉

🇭🇺🤺 The Hungarian men’s sabre national team managed to pocket the bronze medal following a victory against Germany 🥉

🇭🇺🚣‍♂️ Dóra Bodonyi and Danuta Kozák finished third in the women’s kayak double 500m final, taking bronze 🥉

🇭🇺🥋 Karateka Gábor Hárspataki took bronze for Hungary in the men’s kumite 75kg category 🥉

🇭🇺🏇 Sarolta Kovács finished behind Great Britain’s Kate French and Lithuania’s Laura Asadauskaitė to win bronze in the women’s modern pentathlon 🥉

🇭🇺🤽‍♀️ The women’s national water polo team won their bronze medal play-off match against Russia 🥉

🇭🇺🤽‍♀️ Like their women counterparts, the men’s national water polo team won the bronze medal against Spain, securing their first medal since 1998 and Hungary’s twentieth in Tokyo 🥉

Kafkadesk's Budapest office is made up of a growing team of freelance journalists, editors and fact-checkers passionate about Hungarian affairs and dedicated to bringing you all the latest news, events and insights from Hungary.