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The Bahamas -- 400 meters from Medals Per Capita fame?

August 18, 2008 | 11:38 am

Chris Brown of the Bahamas starts in a men's 400-meter heat heat at the 2008 Beijing Games on Monday.

With no whiplash changes Monday in Medals Per Capita, the entire planet had time to pause before it could begin shuddering over a possible party-crashing from Earth’s Godzilla nation.

That would be, of course, the Bahamas, those 700 islands which only look sanguine and nonthreatening with all those cays and palm fronds, but which in reality constitute an awesome and monstrous force.

With the Bahamian specialty of track and field underway, it’s time to remind all 6.6 billion earthlings that with even a single dangling of a medal upon a Bahamian neck, the rest of the world can become sunburned toast, as happened during the late days of Athens 2004.

Back then, before the final Tuesday and Wednesday, Australia, et al, went merrily along, nibbling on feta cheese and riding atop the larger-than-life Medals Per Capita standings that so beat the pure living Hades out of the useless old medals table.

Just then, Tonique Williams-Darling won the 400 meters, and the next day, Debbie Ferguson took bronze in the 200 meters, and voila, the world stood in awe, two medals from a nation of just 299,696.

Prevailing thought: Wow. They get to live in the Bahamas and dominate the Olympics.

This time, the Bahamas has upped its population in an apparent sign of hope for all the lesser others, but they just haven’t done so enough to constitute clumsy Medals Per Capita strategy. With only 307,451, the Bahamas is less than one-third the size of any medal-winning nation thus far in Beijing.

Keep an eye — as will everyone — especially upon the 400 meters, which has semifinals on Tuesday and a final on Thursday, because that’s where Chris Brown of the Bahamas threatens to snare a medal in an event long dominated by that Medals Per Capita minnow, the United States. Brown also will join countrymen on Saturday in the 4 x 400-meter relay.

Should he wind up on a podium and push the Bahamas to No. 1 here, at least — at least — our own hopeless Medals Per Capita nation can trot out this gotcha factoid: Mr. Brown attended — and trained at — Norfolk State University in Virginia. (Go Spartans!)

So there.

It’s always nice when little nations such as ours can say we have contributed to the global mastodons. It gives us a smidgen of reflected glory.

In Medals Per Capita minutiae from Monday:

-- The bizarre pursuit of track cycling, wherein people ride bicycles indoors and try to appear sane, had quite a moment on Monday when an Australian foursome battled for a bronze against a New Zealand foursome in another Trans-Tasman tete-a-tete, with the Aussies no doubt feeling the pressure of knowing New Zealand has only 4.1 million people to their country's 20.6 million.

Sure enough, that extra dollop of pressure proved too steep, as the Kiwis won that bronze by more than a second, hogged a sixth Kiwi medal this Olympics and kept the heat on Australia in the Medals Per Capita standings, both of them sliding past Jamaica into the No. 3 and 4 spots.

-- A recent global survey revealed the citizens of Denmark as the world’s happiest people, so it’s amazing to think that with a fresh No. 7 ranking earned with medals Monday in cycling and sailing, the Danes could’ve just become even happier.

-- The Chinese keep hoarding medals and yet slip in these paramount standings because smaller countries -- then again, for the Chinese, everybody’s a smaller country -- keep butting in with fresh medals, the latest being Portugal and Panama. But we officially can commend the Chinese for paring their Medals Per Capita rating to below 20 million, working from a population of, well, 1,330,044,605, earning a not-so-bad 58th place out of 72. Not even attempted butt-ins from medal debutantes Morocco (34 million people) and South Africa (43 million) could undercut the Chinese this time. For future Olympiads, though, China might suggest an increase in available table tennis medals. Table tennis triples could be particularly interesting.

The Medals Per Capita Top 10:

1. Slovenia (4 medals won) — one medal per 501,927 Slovenians
2. Armenia (5) — 593,717
3. Australia (33) — 624,268
4. New Zealand (6) — 695,576
5. Jamaica (4) — 701,083
6. Belarus (11) — 880,542
7. Denmark (6) — 914,120
8. Norway (5) — 928,891
9. Cuba (11) — 1,038,541
10. Trinidad & Tobago (1) — 1,047,366

Selected others:

11. Estonia (1) — one medal per 1,307,605 Estonians
14. Mongolia (2) — 1,498,041
24. Great Britain (27) — 2,257,181
34. Panama (1) — 3,292,693
38. Canada (9) — 3,690,299
40. North Korea (6) — 3,913,181
41. United States (72) — 4,219,786
42. Singapore (1) — 4,608,167
58. China (67) — 19,851,412
66. South Africa (1) — 43,786,115

-- Chuck Culpepper

Culpepper is a Times contributor.

Photo: Chris Brown of the Bahamas starts in a men's 400-meter heat at the 2008 Beijing Games on Monday. Credit: Diego Azubel / EPA