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The Quiet Storm

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Where do Olympic medal winners come from?

Written by on 06/08/2021

“Unity in diversity” has been more than a motto for Team GB.

It’s a maxim that has been on display in many forms at Tokyo 2020. For the first time, there are more women than men in the elite squad.

But where an athlete comes from has been part of the story behind many medal winning moments at the Olympic Games.

We have mapped the hometown of each Team GB athlete who has won a medal up to Friday morning. What does this show?

Team GB has so far won 55 medals with around a hundred medallists taking the podium, as some were won by teams. They come from 61 cities, towns, boroughs, and villages across the four nations.

Georgia Taylor-Brown The North West has produced 21 medallists – more than any other English region. Among them is Georgia Taylor-Brown, a triathlete from Manchester who has won two medals at Tokyo.

Sarah Jones There are five athletes from Wales who have won medals in five different sports, including Sarah Jones, who as part of the hockey squad won bronze for a spot on the podium.

Duncan Scott There were also 12 athletes from Scotland with medals, among them was Glasgow-born swimmer Duncan Scott who made history with four medals at a single Olympic Games.

Scotland also has the largest number of winners as a proportion of its population than any other nation.

By that score, the North West of England with 29 medallists per 10 million people, also has the highest number of winners among English regions.

Dr Matthew McDowell, lecturer in sport policy and management at the University of Edinburgh said developing athletes at grassroots level depends on the facilities and equipment available in each of the regions and nations.

This in turn feeds talent to the elite clubs that make up Team GB.

Analysis of data published by Team GB shows that 35% of the 39-member rowing squad are from the South East, a region which in parts has access to the Thames.

Similarly, swimming sees a larger representation of Scottish athletes. Dr McDowell suggests this may be due to the historical and continued funding of pools in Lanarkshire since the town of Motherwell sent 10 swimmers to the Olympics more than 60 years ago.

He added: “Easier access to municipal pools rather than expensive paid-for clubs might be contributing at the grassroots level, especially in regard to swimming.”

Athletics, however, has a more geographically diverse pool of athletes. The squad of 76 comes from 50 different cities, towns and villages across the UK.

It is also the only sport in which six Team GB athletes were born outside the UK.

Tiffany Porter, born in Ypsilanti, Michigan, represented the United States until 2011 when she switched allegiance and began representing Great Britain.

However, it’s 13-year-old Sky Brown who is the only foreign-born Team GB athlete so far to pick up a medal.

Despite the challenges in accessing training facilities and funding for sports, Dr McDowell is hopeful that the Olympics will become more open and inclusive in the future.

“It’s true, you do not get equal access to rowing everywhere, for instance.

“But you might get accesss through the likes of the new Olympic sports like skateboarding and BMX.

“They offer access to people who have never viewed themselves as traditionally within the sport structure.”


The Data and Forensics team is a multi-skilled unit dedicated to providing transparent journalism from Sky News. We gather, analyse and visualise data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite images, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling we aim to better explain the world while also showing how our journalism is done.

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