Thursday, February 25, 2010

Olympic Battle of the Sexes

With Canadian women being responsible for 77% of our medals, I decided to look at the gender distributions of the four teams ahead of us in the overall standings. German ladies have won 62% of Deutschland's medals, but American women account for only 37% of Yankee podium finishes. The Norwegian ladies have contributed a paltry 28% to their country's keep. So what do Canadian women and Norwegian men have in common?

Is it all left to chance? Or if I examined gender distributions from past Olympics, would I see a similar pattern from these countries? Is it a simple calculation of youth enrollment rates in each sport multiplied by the probability of a young athlete rising to an Olympics level in each program for each gender? If 75% of Norwegians ski and only 10% of Canadians ski, then there would be more total skiers to choose from in Norway despite our population disparity. If more people in Norway ski, their ski programs would be more advanced and their entire country is made of mountains. How much of an effect does funding have on enrollment and probability of evolving into an Olympian?

In Canada, it is a fact that a disproportionate majority of our athletic male youth focus on hockey. Men's hockey counts for 1 podium at the Olympics. We have hundreds of high level male athletes wasting away on buses in the minor pro hockey leagues. We can't very well encourage more youth to hang up their hockey skates for speed skates. What is the total salary earned by our Olympic hockey team in 2009 compared to the sum of all the other sports? I would bet that Sidney Crosby made more money last year than all the other non-hockey Canadian male athletes combined. How many Canadian men withering in the ECHL could have been elite cross country skiers? Yet they can probably earn more money in the ECHL than they could as the world's 15th ranked cross country skier.

If there are 75 skiing medals but only 2 hockey medals, Norway would have a distinct advantage in total medal count despite the Canadian Olympic hockey players earning $100 million more dollars last year than the entire Norwegian Olympic team combined.  The best explanation for the disparity in female to male Canadian Olympic medals is likely a simple equation of higher enrollment rates at the sports more likely to produce a greater number of Olympic medals.

What do you think?


  1. excellent post . I had not thought of that before.

  2. Solution A:

    Create more Olympic Hockey Events

    1) Hockey Boxing
    2) Hockey Barrel Jumping
    3) Hockey Beer Run


    increase the financial incentives for other amatuer sports besides Hockey.

  3. This startling revelation indicates women are now the STRONGER SEX! At least in Canada and Norway.

    MEN are now the WEAKER SEX!

    I demand a National Committee on the Status of Men, and funding for all sorts of men's programs. Fish and Game clubs should be funded, beer league hockey, pool halls, the list could go on forever.

    Women can open doors for me, and give me their seat on the bus. I am weak! I demand respect!

    Oh, and a chair for Men's Studies at all universities is absolutely essential.

    Sigh. I still remember the old days,when we were dominant. What happened?

    Must be Trudeau's fault.


  4. CanadianSense,

    Truly amateur sports don't require financial incentives. The notion that the vast majority of our olympians are amateur athletes is a myth - they're just poorly paid professionals. You could make an argument for curling, though.

  5. Simply put, Canada has a culture that encourages women to compete.We have more equitable (though not equal) funding for women in sports than most other nations.

  6. And then there's Dan Barnes of the "Canwest Olympic Team" who argues Canadian women are so successful only because they have fewer rivals - "Deeper fields for men may play roll in disparity" as the subtitle reads. And, yes, 'roll' is spelled that way.