The Olympics have begun. Every time I check the news I see a report on the US medal count. It seems like we’re doing well so far. Actually, we almost always do well.
And that‘s because of our fabulous athletes. Talk about dedication – they give their lives over to their sports, training, planning, preparing for years, just to represent the US on the Olympic podium.
But where do our medal winning athletes come from? Are they representative of the entire country? Or do some states seem to produce an inordinate number of Olympians? Maybe it’s something in the air or water.
So we did a little research on the number of gold medals won by natives of each state. We decided to use state of birth as a criteria because state of residence can be difficult to determine once serious training begins. As Olympic athletes train, they tend to move close to a facility that meets their needs. Besides, birthplace may imbue these wonderful athletes with special powers.
Also, the number of gold medal winners in a given state could change at any minute, considering that the Olympics are happening now, We used totals accrued after the London Games in 2014.
The Keystone State ranks sixth in the production of Summer Olympic gold medal winners. Yup, 22 natives have won gold over the years. What factors may have played a role in the creation of these champions?
Well, Pennsylvania ranks 6th in the US for size of state population – only 5 other states claim more residents. That means a large gene pool with the potential for great athletes.
We don’t think the climate helped develop medal winners because the climate in Pennsylvania is iffy, cold winters with snow for extended periods, muggy and hot summers. In short, wide temperature variations throughout the year. Difficult for outdoor training.
We also wondered about wealth. Do wealthier states produce more Olympians? Not in the case of Pennsylvania, which is nationally ranked as the 23rd wealthiest state.
Perhaps the bucolic farmland and great fresh produce available played a role in Olympic development. Or maybe the beauty of the Pocono Mountains inspired athletes to achieve greatness.
The Buckeye State, bordering Lake Erie, comes in at 5th for producing Olympians. Twenty-nine Summer Olympic gold medalists were born between Lake Erie and the Ohio River.
Ohio ranks 7th in size of population by state, but the population density is high here, so maybe living near one another has had a positive effect on the gene pool. It certainly isn’t the climate, which ranges between and an average of 85 degrees in the summer and 35 degrees in the winter. Oh, and don’t forget the lake effect blizzards on the Ohio coastline. A real buzzkill for Summer Olympics outdoor training.
Wealth also does not appear to be a factor, as Ohio is the 35th wealthiest state in the Nation.
So what is it about Ohio that creates champions? Maybe Ohio’s pioneer history has created a fearless, get-it-done gene in the states progeny. Or maybe despite the population density in the cities, the gorgeous Ohio farmland and multitude of conservation areas soothes the souls of athletes and allows them to concentrate on competing?