The world’s sportiest nation: Norway or Croatia?

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In the monthly Global Cup ranking for September, Croatia was 25th, having scored 107 points. Why is this significant (for GSN purposes)? Because the nine top-8 placements which earned Croatia those points meant that the small Balkan country, population 4,154,213, crossed the threshold to enter the Per Capita Cup, the ranking of the world’s sportiest nations.

Croatia did so with a bang, skyrocketing to second place behind Norway: it takes 3,540 Norwegians to score one GSN point, and 4,833 Croatians to do so. Despite being close however, the two countries differ widely in terms of the type of sports they are excelling in this year.
Norway has so far scored points in 17 sports, and not all of them are winter sports: a respectable 16% of the points have come from an eclectic mix of disciplines which includes Orienteering, Shooting, Rowing, Canoe/Kayak Sprint, Sailing and Triathlon. Notably, if we exclude Curling, all the sports Norway scored points in are outdoor sports, and there’s a glaring absence of points scored in the classic ball team sports. On the other hand, Norway is the undisputed Queen of Snow & Ice, having won the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and the GSN Snow & Ice ranking in 2018 – after having been runner-up in 2013 and 2017.
Croatia ‘only’ scored points in 7 sports so far - its lowest total in recent years if it’s going to remain like this, the maximum having been a solid 14 sports in 2015. The glaring absence is Snow & Ice sports, but otherwise the seven sports are quite a varied mix: there’s a target sport, some water-based sports (Sailing, Rowing and Water Polo), a gentler game like Tennis, the odd one out, Judo, and of course the king of ball team sports, Football, in which Croatia scored 640 points as runner-up in the Russia 2018 World Cup.
It is of course mostly on the strength of this that Croatia is now second in the Per Capita Cup, though its past performance in this ranking shows that this year’s result is also no fluke, coming after a 7th place in 2017 and 2016, a 10th in 2013 and 2011 and a 9th in 2009.

As we wrote earlier, it is going to be very difficult for Croatia to upstage Norway and claim the Per Capita title in 2018, but you never know in sports – it isn’t over until it’s over, and there are still three months of competitions left before the end of the year.