Ingrid – February 26, 2018
Norway led the world in Olympic medals with a total of 39 at the 2018 Winter Olympics, which closed yesterday. The United States finished with 23, Sweden took 14, and Denmark didn’t get a single one.
But I won’t despair, because for being such a small country, Denmark has had an impressive showing since the first Summer Games in 1896, just five years after The Danish Home was founded by 12 pioneering women, including my great-great-great-grandmother Olivia Rose. In fact, the chronological proximity of the first Games to the founding of The Danish Home got me to doing a little research into Danish Olympic history. I discovered several interesting things.
Only once did Denmark not compete in the Olympic Summer Games, in the year 1904, when European countries were stressed by the Russo-Japanese War and had a difficult time getting to St. Louis, MO, where they were held.
Since 1948, Danish athletes have competed in the Winter Games several times, including every one since 1988. They haven’t done too well in the Winter Games, however, winning only one medal in 1998 (Nagano) when the women’s curling team captured a silver.
But the news isn’t all bad. Naturally, as the country is surrounded by water, sailing is Denmark’s top Olympic sport, with sailor Paul Elvstrøm being the most successful Danish Olympian of all time. And at the most recent Summer Games in 2016, Danish swimmer Pernille Blume won her country’s first gold medal in the 50m freestyle, beating out America’s Simone Manuel by .02 seconds.
Some of the residents at The Danish Home might remember that 1948 was the best year for Danish Olympic athletes, winning a total of 20 medals in the Summer Games in London that year. “Farfar,” my roommate Lindsay’s grandfather, remembers it well. He and his wife, Sigrid, followed the Olympics since they were in their teens in the early 1940s. In fact, Farfar told me, he was quite the handball player when he was a student at the University of Copenhagen.
In total since 1896, Denmark has won 43 gold medals, 63 silver and 64 bronze medals. Considering that only 36 countries have ever won a gold medal, that’s not too shabby at all.
I’m a little sad that the Olympics are over, mainly because Lindsay and I were making almost daily visits to Farfar at The Danish Home to watch them with him. Not that I can’t continue to visit with Farfar, especially as the weather gets warmer, but it had become a bit of a welcome routine over the past few weeks of dreary winter.
Learning that Crown Prince Frederik left the Olympics to be at the side of his 83-year-old ailing (and now late) father, Prince Henrik of Denmark, reminded me how very healthy Farfar is. He is truly 93 years young – 94 in April – and takes no medication but a daily multi-vitamin. “My muscle pill,” he calls it. Not only is he physically sound, I swear his mind is sharper than mine, and I’m 64 years his junior!
I can’t help but wonder how long Farfar will live. “I never dreamed I would outlive Sigrid by 24 years,” he has often said. I hope he lives to be 115, which is about how long a healthy person can live today.
“Denmark didn’t win any medals, but you have a lot of mettle, Farfar,” I told him as we were watching the closing ceremony last night. Lindsay rolled her eyes. But Farfar appreciated my play on words: “I still feel like a champ!” he said, his blue eyes shining.