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Slovenia hammers Armenia in Medals Per Capita

August 17, 2008 |  2:41 pm

Slovenia's Primoz Kozmus won the gold medal in the Beijing Games men's hammer throw on Sunday.

Through eyeballs bloodshot from hours of trivial long division, the world's lonely and frivolous Medals Per Capita scholars will look at you and share with you an ancient Medals Per Capita adage:

Fear Slovenia.

Oh, Slovenia will bring along that dauntingly low population of 2,007,711. Oh, Slovenia will get some medals. And oh yeah, Slovenians have a demonstrable sturdiness.

Through history, they've come under the rule of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Republic of Venice, the Duchy of Carantania, the Holy Roman Empire, the Habsburg Monarchy, the Austrian Empire, the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, Germans and Italians during World War II and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

You think they can't handle the hammer throw?

Now, as a pursuit, the hammer throw can seem alien, inscrutable and marginal. It can make you wonder just how many dangerous things they're going to let people throw for medals in the Olympics.

But on Sunday night in Beijing, the hammer throw turned monumentally, epically, phantasmagorically pivotal when Primoz Kozmus won it and lifted Slovenia to No. 1 on the most vital, cogent, counter-snobbish Olympic ranking, Medals Per Capita.

It brought the first track-or-field gold medal ever to the gorgeous little kumquat of a nation next to Italy on the Adriatic. It gave Slovenia four medals for 2,007,711 people, or one for every 501,927 Slovenians. It gave Slovenia a noticeable array of medals thus far -- one judo, one swimming, one shooting, one field.

And it finally dislodged the mighty Armenians from the summit.

Medals Per Capita should take this opportunity, then, to salute the Armenians, who tenaciously held the No. 1 slot for five long Olympic days, wringing five medals from 2,968,586 people to fend off hordes of challengers while forcing us to learn rarefied factoids.

Did you know that Armenia is the smallest of the former Soviet Republics, that its currency is the dram or that it has a bunch of extinct volcanoes? You do now, because of Armenian prowess in weightlifting (three medals) and wrestling (two).

In fact, that five-day reign almost certainly will prove persuasive to the Medals Per Capita Hall of Fame voters.

Sorry, voter.

In MPC minutiae from Sunday:

-- If you saw Jamaican women sweep gold, silver and silver (dead heat) in the women's 100 meters, and you instantly thought of how that might ransack the Medals Per Capita standings, well, that proves you have no life whatsoever.

It also could mean you're trivially observant, as the Frazer-Stewart-Simpson domination rocketed Jamaica from No. 24 all the way to No. 3 with a glowing MPC rating of one medal per 701,083.

-- The Trans-Tasman tussle, so gripping on Saturday, remained on in earnest -- Australia No. 4, New Zealand No. 5 -- even though Australia hoarded four more medals to reach 29 while New Zealand got zero to stay at five. The Australians had to be scratching their heads and wondering why they'd reproduced with such relative abandon. In their defense, they do have a lot more land.

-- In an Olympic story that defies all known worldly sporting belief, Great Britain is kicking serious tail in Beijing. It has gotten so serious that some columnists were comparing Saturday's nine-medal haul to the golden day of July 30, 1966, when England won the World Cup at Wembley Stadium. Then Sunday continued almost apace, with a medal (bronze) in men's gymnastics, unprecedented for a nation long thought too gorged on beer to navigate a pommel horse. A haul of 17 medals in two days brought a Very Great Britain to 24 medals and 25th place, an outstanding MPC showing for a big population.

The top 10:
(country, medal tally, MPC)

1. Slovenia (4) - one medal per every 501,927
2. Armenia (5) - 593,717
3. Jamaica (4) - 701,083
4. Australia (29) - 710,374
5. New Zealand (5) - 834,692
6. Belarus (10) - 968,576
7. Trinidad & Tobago (1) - 1,047,366
8. Norway (4) - 1,161,114
9. Estonia (1) - 1,307,605
10. Slovakia (4) - 1,311,187

Selected Others:

11. Denmark (4) - one medal per every 1,371,180
25. Great Britain (25) - 2,437,756
26. France (25) - 2,562,311
35. Germany (21) - 3,922,359
39. Singapore (1) - 4,608,167
40. United States (65) - 4,674,225
41. Canada (7) - 4,744,670
44. Japan (20) - 6,364,420
46. Spain (6) - 6,748,508
56. China (61) - 21,804,010

-- Chuck Culpepper

Culpepper is a Times contributor.

Photo: Primoz Kozmus competes on Sunday during the men's hammer throw final at the National Stadium during the 2008 Beijing Games. Kozmus, of Slovenia, won the gold medal. Credit: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

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