Our golden games

It was a great year for New Zealand’s summer Olympic and Paralympic teams in 2012. The London games was one of the most successful ever for both our teams.
  • Image, freestyle swimmer mid stroke.

    New Zealand’s Paralympic success

    The most common disability types for adults in 2006 were physical
    and sensory disabilities.

    An incredible performance by our athletes at the summer Paralympics in London meant New Zealand had its most successful Paralympic campaign ever. It also saw New Zealand finish top of the Statistics NZ Paralympic Games population-based medal table, which shows the number of medals each country won per million people.

    New Zealand won 17 medals at the Paralympics, including a spectacular six from swimmer Sophie Pascoe, another four medals from fellow swimmer Mary Fisher, and three from cyclist Phillipa Gray and her pilot Laura Thompson. In the 2008 summer Paralympics in Beijing, the New Zealand team won 12 medals. The higher medal count in 2012 came despite New Zealand fielding its smallest team in 20 years, with 23 athletes (and one cycling pilot).

    New Zealand’s Olympic success

    The 2012 Olympic Games in London were the New Zealand team’s most successful campaign since 1988. Our athletes’ 13 medal wins become even more impressive when considered in relation to population size – their success took New Zealand to fourth in the world on the Statistics NZ Olympic Games medal table, shown below.

    The top three population-based winners are a Caribbean dream, with the nations of Grenada, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago claiming the top spots.

    On the traditional Olympic medal tables, New Zealand finished in 15th place. The United States of America finished top of the traditional medal tables, with 46 gold medals, and China came second. However, in population-based results for total medals the United States and China came 50th and 74th, respectively.

    Why we calculate Paralympic and Olympic results by population

    In traditional medal tables, countries with large populations tend to dominate the top of the table. This makes sense because the larger the population pool, the greater the odds there will be an individual capable of winning a medal. Given the notable differences in population size, the traditional method should not be the only perspective we use to understand success.

    Providing the Paralympic and Olympic successes by population counts is a great way to highlight smaller nations – such as Grenada, who won their very first Olympic medal in 2012 and topped the medal charts by population. It’s also a great way to showcase New Zealand’s success compared with the rest of the world!

    Gross domestic product can also be used as a way to understand a country's medal results – it shows the funds they have available to potentially spend on sporting endeavours.

    Source: Statistics New Zealand

The high medal count in 2012 came despite New Zealand fielding its smallest Paralympian team in 20 years.
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