Swimming

The Last Time Each European Country Won an Olympic Medal

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By Bradley Bush on SwimSwam

Since the 1896 debut of swimming at the first modern Olympic Games in Athens, 49 countries still existing today have won a medal in the sport. Of these 49 countries, 27 lie within the continent of Europe, with at least one European country medaling in every Olympic Games since the first Olympiad in Athens in 1896. As a result of national borders shifting constantly throughout the twentieth century, for this article, only nations that are still actively competing today will be considered. (See Germany and Russia below)

Below, the countries that have won a medal (Gold, Silver, or Bronze) in a modern Olympic Games (since 1896) are listed, in alphabetical order. The most recent swimming medalists for the country (pool or open water swimming) are listed under the country’s name, along with the other Olympic games in which that country has won a medal.

Austria: Beijing 2008

Austria, one of three nations to medal in swimming at the first games in Athens, seems to have great success winning medals at the turn of a century. The country’s most recent medalist, breaststroker Mirna Jukic, still holds the Austrian national records in the 50, 100, and 200 breaststrokes, all set in 2009. Alongside her bronze medal in the 100 breaststroke in Beijing, Jukić narrowly missed the podium in the 200 breaststroke, placing fourth by 0.22 seconds. She remains to be Austria’s only female individual medalist in swimming.

Podium Appearances: 1896, 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, 2004, 2008

Belarus: Rio 2016

Belarus’ only medalist in the sport, Aliaksandra Herasimenia, was a common sight on sprint free podiums in the London and Rio Olympics. In 2012, Herasimenia won a pair of silver medals in the 50 and 100 freestyles, finishing behind the Netherlands’ Ranomi Kromowidjojo in both. Belarus had two swimmers make finals in Tokyo, with Ilya Shymanovich in the 100 breaststroke and Anastasiya Shkurdai in the 100 butterfly. Both swimmers placed eighth. 

Podium Appearances: 2012, 2016

Belgium: Rio 2016

In 2016, Timmers finished second amongst a star-studded field of 100 freestylers, including Kyle Chalmers, Cam McEvoy, Nathan Adrian, Caeleb Dressel, Duncan Scott, and Santo Condorelli. With this swim, he became the first Belgian in 20 years to win a medal at the Olympics, after Frédérik Deburghgraeve won the 100 breaststroke in world record time in 1996. 

Podium Appearances: 1920, 1924, 1984, 1996, 2016

Bulgaria: Seoul 1988

  • Tanya Dangalakova: 100 Breast (Gold)
  • Antoaneta Frenkeva: 100 Breast (Silver), 200 Breast (Bronze)

Bulgaria’s three medals all come from women’s breaststroke events at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. The duo of Dangalakova and Frenkeva swept the 100 breaststroke for their nation, taking the gold and silver medals ahead of East German standout Silke Hörner. Frenkeva would go on to earn a bronze medal in the 200 breaststroke at the same games, making her Bulgaria’s only dual-medal winner in swimming. 

Podium Appearances: 1988

Croatia: Athens 2004

Duje Draganja, the silver medalist in the 50 freestyle in Athens, is the only Croatian to win a medal in swimming at the Olympics. On top of his Olympic success, Draganja was an eight-time NCAA champion competing for Cal. He was inducted into the California Athletics hall of fame in 2018. Since 2004, Croatia hasn’t won any medals in swimming, but the nation has had success in the pool in other disciplines, winning one gold and two silvers in water polo. 

Podium Appearances: 2004

Denmark: Tokyo 2021

Denmark holds 15 medals across 10 Olympic games, dating back as far as the second Olympiad in 1900. Pernille Blume, the bronze medalist in the 50 freestyle in 2021, is Denmark’s sole podium representative from the Tokyo games. Blume is the only swimmer in her country’s history to medal in multiple Olympic games, having placed in the 50 freestyle in both Rio and Tokyo, as well as the 4×100 medley relay in 2016.

Podium Appearances: 1900, 1908, 1932, 1936, 1948, 1980, 1988, 2008, 2016, 2021

Finland: Tokyo 2021

Matti Mattsson is Finland’s most recent swimming medalist, after placing third in the 200 breaststroke in Tokyo. The Finnish national record holder in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes, Mattsson is one of four medalists in the country’s history, and is the only swimmer in Finnish history to break a minute in the 100 breaststroke. Among Finland’s small batch of Olympic medalists, Mattsson is one of two to have earned a place on the podium in distance breaststroke event, the other being Arvo Aaltonen, the dual-bronze medalist in the 200 and 400 breaststrokes in 1920. 

Podium Appearances: 1920, 1992, 1996, 2021

France: Tokyo 2021

France has won 43 medals across 15 Olympics, with sprinter Florent Manaudou holding the honor of France’s only individual medalist in the past two games. Manaudou also is a member of a prestigious set of swimmers that have medalled in the same event across three consecutive Olympiads (50 freestyle, gold in 2012, silver in 2016 and 2021), and he’s looking to add a fourth medal in the 50 this summer in his home country.

Podium Appearances: 1900, 1932, 1948, 1952, 1964, 1968, 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2021

Germany: Tokyo 2021

Competing at the Tokyo 2021 games, the now-married couple of Florian and Sarah Wellbrock were Germany’s first pool swimming medalists since 2008. The couple won a pair of bronze medals in the 1500 freestyles, and Florian later won the 10 kilometer marathon swim. As the women’s 1500 freestyle hadn’t been contested before 2021, Sarah holds the honor of being one of three people in history to win a medal in this event at the Olympics. 

Podium Appearances: 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1928, 1936, 1952, ***, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2021

***From 1956-1988, some combination of the United Team of Germany, East Germany, and West Germany won medals.

Great Britain: Tokyo 2021

  • Tom Dean: 200 Free (Gold)
  • Luke Greenbank: 200 Back (Bronze)
  • Adam Peaty: 100 Breast (Gold)
  • Duncan Scott: 200 Free/200 IM (Silver)
  • Men’s 4×200 Freestyle Relay: Gold
  • Men’s 4×100 Medley Relay: Silver
  • Mixed 4×100 Medley Relay: Gold

Great Britain has medaled in at least one swimming event at every Olympics barring 1896 and 1904, making them the most consistent medal contenders in the history of Olympic swimming. Their over-100-year podium streak is currently being preserved by a deep 200 freestyle field and current 100 breaststroke world-record holder Adam Peaty. The nation has four gold medals that they’ll have to fight to defend in Paris, with an exciting field of competitors, most notably the men’s 200 freestyle and the mixed 4×100 medley relay. 

Podium Appearances: 1900, 1908, 1912, 1920, 1924, 1928, 1932, 1948, 1952, 1956, 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2021

Greece: Rio 2016

Greece, the host nation for the first games in 1896, has an interesting history within Olympic swimming. Their only medals in “pool swimming” (if it can even be considered that, the original competition was held in the Bay of Zea, off the coast of Athens) come from the first games, in which events like the 500 meter freestyle, 1200 meter freestyle, and a special version of the 100 freestyle, only open to Greek naval sailors, were contested. Spyridon Gianniotis became the first swimmer in 120 years to medal in the water for Greece, winning a silver medal in the 10 kilometer marathon swim. 

Podium Appearances: 1896, 2016

Hungary: Tokyo 2021

Alongside Austria and Greece, Hungary is the third and only other nation to have won a medal in the 1896 Athens Olympics. Since then, Hungary has exhibited dominance in the water, only missing medals in the 1920, 1960, 1964, 1968, and 1984 games. With superstars in the likes of Laszlo Cseh, Katinka Hosszu, and Kristof Milak, Hungary has shown their prowess in the past couple of years, and the Hungarians look to continue this streak in Paris.

Podium Appearances: 1896, 1900, 1904, 1908, 1924, 1928, 1932, 1936, 1948, 1952, 1956, 1972, 1980, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2021

Italy: Tokyo 2021

Italy only began sending representatives in the pool in 1956, which is odd considering they’ve sent at least one athlete to every Olympics since the conception of the games in 1896. The Mediterranean country has won at least one medal at every Olympiad since the 1988 games in Seoul, and their streak was far from broken in Tokyo. In 2021, the Italians added seven swimming medals to their national total, bringing it to 29 (26 pool, 3 open water). 

Podium Appearances: 1972, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2021

Ireland: Atlanta 1996

Michelle Smith’s standout Olympic performance in 1996 has given her many accolades associated with the Irish Olympic team. She remains, to this day, as the most successful Irish athlete in the Olympics, having won three golds and a bronze medal. On top of being the only swimmer from Ireland to ever win a medal, she holds the most medals by an individual with four, placing her ahead of two-time gold medal hammer thrower Pat O’Callaghan and two-time rowing medalist Paul O’Donovan. Since Smith’s showing in 1996, Ireland has not won a medal in the water. 

Podium Appearances: 1996

Lithuania: London 2012

The country’s most recent Olympic swimming medalist, Ruta Meilutyte took home gold for her nation in the 100 breaststroke in London. The 50 breaststroke world record holder and former 100 breaststroke world record holder is one of only five athletes in the history of her country to win an Olympic gold medal, and the only swimmer from her country to win a medal. 

Podium Appearances: 2012

The Netherlands: Tokyo 2021

Another consistent podium fixture, the Netherlands has won a swimming medal at every Olympiad since the games held in its capital city of Amsterdam in 1928, with the exception of 1956 (boycott over USSR’s treatment of Hungary) and 1972. The Netherlands’ constant presence in both pool and open water swimming has given the country 62 medals (58 pool, 4 marathon), 22 of which are gold. Their most recent medalists, breaststroker Arno Kamminga and distance specialist Sharon van Rouwendaal both hold multiple Dutch national records, with Kamminga earning the breaststroke triple and van Rouwendaal holding the 400, 800, and 1500 freestyle national records alongside the 200 meter records in both backstroke and butterfly. 

Podium Appearances: 1900, 1928, 1932, 1936, 1948, 1952, 1960, 1964, 1968, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2021

Norway: Beijing 2008

Norway holds two silver medals in the sport, both won by breaststrokers in 2008. Alexander Dale Oen, the Norwegian national record holder in the 50, 100, and 200 meter breaststrokes, placed second in the 100 breaststroke in Beijing. Sara Nordenstam, the national record holder in the 200 breaststroke and both IM distances placed second in the 200 breaststroke in 2008. The pair remain as Norway’s only medalists in swimming. 

Podium Appearances: 2008

Poland: Athens 2004

Otylia Jedrzejczak, the three-time medalist at the 2004 games in Athens, claims half of Poland’s Olympic medals earned in the pool, including the nation’s only swimming gold medal. Jedrzejczak still holds the Polish national records in the 200, 400, and 800 freestyles alongside the 100 and 200 butterfly double. Since Jedrzejczak’s performance in Athens, no athlete has won a medal for the Poles in the pool.

Podium Appearances: 1980, 1988, 1992, 2004

Romania: Athens 2004

  • Razvan Florea: 200 Back (Bronze)
  • Camelia Potec: 200 Free (Gold)

Like Poland, the last time a Romanian swimmer won an Olympic medal was in 2004. Razvan Florea, the current Romanian record holder in the 200 backstroke, placed third in the event, which was won by world record holder Aaron Peirsol. Camelia Potec, one of Romania’s most impressive swimmers to date, won the 200 freestyle in Athens. Potec currently holds the Romanian records in the 200, 400, 800, and 1500 freestyles. The pair of Athens medalists are joined by three others in Romania’s medal count, for a total of nine medals for the nation.

Podium Appearances: 1984, 1988, 2000, 2004

Russia: Rio 2016

The last time athletes competed under the Russian flag at an Olympic games was in Rio in 2016, before a doping scandal forced the country to compete under the “Russian Olympic Committee” for the Tokyo 2021 games. In 2016, big-name Russian athletes Anton Chupkov, Evgeny Rylov, and Yulia Efimova (all Russian record holders in their respective events) earned four medals for their country. Russia, along with Belarus, will not be able to participate under their country’s flag in Paris this summer, prolonging their official medal drought another four years until at least 2028. 

Podium Appearances: 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2021***

***athletes competing under the ROC (Russian Olympic Committee)

Serbia: Beijing 2008

Serbia’s only medal in Olympic swimming comes from one of the most well-known races in the sport, the 100 butterfly in Beijing 2008. This race, in which Michael Phelps out-touched Milorad Cavic for the gold medal by one one-hundredth of a second, has gone down as one of the most iconic moments in swimming history. Cavic remains Serbia’s only medalist in swimming, and he still holds the national record in the 50 and 100 butterfly. 

Podium Appearances: 2008

Slovakia: Sydney 2000

Martina Moravcova, the only Slovakian swimmer to win an Olympic medal, has two under her belt after completing the 100 butterfly/200 freestyle silver medal double in Sydney in 2000. Moravcová still holds an impressive number of Slovak national records, in the 50, 100, 200, and 800 freestyles and the 100 butterfly, all of which she has held for over 20 years. 

Podium Appearances: 2000

Slovenia: Beijing 2008

Slovenia holds one medal in the pool, a silver from Sara Isakovic’s 200 freestyle in Beijing. From this swim, Isakovic briefly held the Olympic record, swimming nearly two seconds under the previous fastest time until Federica Pellegrini broke it and the world record in the very next heat. She holds the Slovenian national records in the 200 freestyle and the 100 and 200 butterfly. 

Podium Appearances: 2008

Spain: Rio 2016

Mireia Belmonte holds four of Spain’s eight medals in swimming, including one of their two golds. One of the best swimmers from Spain, she placed atop the podium in the 200 butterfly in Rio after getting second in London. She missed out on another medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, placing fourth in the 400 IM by just under a quarter of a second. Unfortunately, Belmonte will not be competing in this summer’s Olympics, after falling short of the Olympic “A” standards while dealing with shoulder troubles in the past few years.

Podium Appearances: 1980, 1988, 1992, 2000, 2012, 2016

Sweden: Tokyo 2021

  • Sarah Sjostrom: 50 Free (Silver)

The Swedish feature 39 medals across 16 different Olympic games, with veteran Sarah Sjostrom adding four to their total in 2016 and 2021. Sjostrom holds the long course world records in the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, and the 50 butterfly, as well as the Swedish records in the 100 butterfly and 200 and 400 freestyles. She looks to be one of the favorites for the 50 freestyle in Paris, as she broke the world record in this event at the Fukuoka Worlds last summer. 

Podium Appearances: 1908, 1912, 1920, 1924, 1928, 1952, 1960, 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2016, 2021

Switzerland: Tokyo 2021

Switzerland holds three bronze medals across two Olympic games, most recently supplemented by Noe Ponti and Jeremy Desplanches’ third-place finishes in the 100 butterfly and 200 IM, respectively. Both Ponti and Desplanches hold all of the long course Swiss national records in their respective disciplines. Ponti holds each of the three butterfly records and is a member of each national record-holding relay, and Desplanches holds the IM double alongside the 100 breaststroke and the 4×100 medley relay. 

Podium Appearances: 1984, 2021

Ukraine: Tokyo 2021

Mykhailo Romanchuk, the Ukrainian national record holder in the 400, 800, and 1500 freestyles, holds two of Ukraine’s nine total swimming medals. After getting 15th in the 1500 freestyle in 2016, Romanchuk earned his first two Olympic medals during the Tokyo Olympics, in the 800 and 1500 freestyles. Romanchuk is the first swimmer since Yana Klochkova in 2004 and 2000 to win multiple medals in the same games. 

Podium Appearances: 2000, 2004, 2021

Map below depicts the last time each country worldwide won a medal. 

All-Time Continental Medal Count (Pool + Open Water):

  1. North America: 651
  2. Europe: 529
  3. Oceania: 207
  4. Asia: 142
  5. Africa: 31
  6. South America: 23

Information sourced from Olympedia, maps created with mapchart.net

SwimSwam: The Last Time Each European Country Won an Olympic Medal

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