In anticipation of the 2014 Winter Olympics, we conducted a geographical analysis of Team USA. Our goal was to determine which state will contribute the most athletes to Sochi.
The results are divided into four sections:
- Regional Rankings
- State Rankings – Overall
- State Rankings – Per Capita
- State Rankings – Sport
The information is based on the official Team USA roster at teamusa.org.
1. Regional Rankings
FIRST PLACE // The Northern Region prevails as the best-represented region at Sochi 2014. This area, which encompasses New England and surrounding states, is especially strong in the biathlon, but has a solid presence in nearly every other sport.
SECOND PLACE // The Central Region is a global hockey hotspot, which certainly helps it in the overall rankings. In fact, over a third of the 65 athletes are hockey players. As you may have guessed, this region also dominates curling.
THIRD PLACE // The Pacific Region, led by California and Utah, dominates nearly every skiing and snowboarding event. This is largely due to the infrastructure that was built as part of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. It’s also because Californians are good at balancing on boards.
FOURTH PLACE // The Western Region sits in fourth place, largely due to the relatively low population in Montana, the Dakotas, and other states in the bunch. The standout is Colorado, which is contributing 19 of the 26 athletes. Most of them are in alpine sports.
FIFTH PLACE // The Southern Region sits alone in last place, representing less than 10 Winter Olympic athletes. Oddly, six of them are speedskaters.
2. State Rankings – Overall
FIRST PLACE // California leads the country with 20 Winter Olympic athletes. We’d like to point out four reasons for this. First, it’s the most populous state. Second, Chula Vista is home to one of three national Olympic Training Facilities. Third, the State has nearly 30 world-class ski resorts. Fourth, residents have relatively easy access to other facilities in the region (e.g. Salt Lake City).
SECOND PLACE (TIE) // Colorado is home to the flagship training center of the U.S. Olympic Committee, which is a big reason for their ranking. The facility, located in Colorado Springs, can provide housing, dining, and training for nearly 560 athletes and coaches at one time.
SECOND PLACE (TIE) // Minnesota is showing its dominance in (two) winter sports, thanks to its proximity to Canada and abundance of ice. The State leads the nation BY FAR in Olympic hockey players. The other big sport is curling, which just makes sense.
FOURTH PLACE // New York takes a solid fourth place. The state is home to the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center, which has impressive facilities for biathlon, bobsled, luge, hockey, and more. In fact, the majority of the New York athletes are spread across these four sports.
FIFTH PLACE (TIE) // Utah contributes the majority of the U.S. ski jumping team in 2014. The other athletes are evenly distributed among the bobsled, luge, and skeleton. This is largely due to the training facilities available at Utah Olympic Park (home of 2002 Winter Olympics).
FIFTH PLACE (TIE) // Wisconsin rounds out the pack with 15 athletes. The State is well-represented in speed skating, which has strong roots at the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee. Wisconsin, along with its neighbor Minnesota, also has a strong presence in ice hockey and curling.
3. State Rankings – Per Capita
The smaller states also deserve some credit, which is why we took a look at per capita performance. These rankings are simply based on the ratio of Olympic athletes to total population.
Vermont absolutely rocks this category, with 13 athletes for only 600k residents. They are evenly spread among cross country, biathlon, and alpine sports. New Hampshire is a distance second place, with nine athletes for 1.3 million residents. Alaska, Utah, and Colorado round out the top five.
4. State Rankings – By Sport
California obviously makes the most appearances on this list. Minnesota and Wisconsin dominate hockey and curling. The other results are pretty much what you would expect, with the exception of maybe Texas taking second place in the bobsled (we’re still trying to figure this one out).
This analysis is probably pretty close to what you expected. The states that are lucky enough to have Olympic Training Facilities will continue to dominate the highest levels of sports. Also, while we’d like to see a better contribution from the South, it’s pretty difficult without access to snow and ice…
Lastly, GO USA.
Feel free to use and share our graphics. We will also provide our data set for use in editorial purposes (contact firstname.lastname@example.org). State images provided by ProPublica. We are not affiliated with USOC or any other organization.