Home Countries of Summer Olympic Superstars

  • Beach Volleyball Players

    Beach Volleyball team, Juliana Silva and Larissa Franca - Brazil

    Juliana Silva and Larissa Franca are Brazil's seemingly unstoppable duo, winning gold in the 2011 world championships, beating Americans Walsh and May-Treanor to the title.  They are expected to do well in the 2012 Olympics too: not surprising, given that Brazil boasts one of the world's most famous beaches in the world, Ipanema.  Although neither Juliana nor Larissa actually come from Rio, Juliana hails from Santos near Sao Paolo; and Larissa comes from the north and another great beach destination, Fortaleza.  Beach volleyball became an official Olympic sport in 1996. The USA has won a gold medal in every Olympics since then, but perhaps 2012 is the year that Brazil takes the top spot.

    Photo courtesy of Brazil Women's Beach Volleyball team - @BrazilWomenBeach on Flickr

  • Sibiu in Romania

    Romania, Home to Gymnast Nadia Comaneci

    Romania has been competing at the Olympic games since 1900.  The country's athletes have won almost 300 medals in total.  Gymnastics is its most successful olympic sport.  Nadia Comaneci was the first female gymnast ever to receive a perfect 10.  She won 3 gold medals in the 1970s and was born in 1961 in Onesti, a village in the eastern half of the country.  The name Nadia was given to her by her mother: it comes from a Russian word meaning hope.  Nadia competed at a time when Romania was ruled by the socialist dictator, Ceausescu, who was later deposed, and executed in 1989, following a revolution.  Nadia left Romania just before the revolution, and found her way to the US, then Canada.  She is now a naturalised citizen of the USA.

    Photo courtesy of Camil Ghircoias @CamilG on Flickr

  • Thuringia countryside, former East Germany.

    Heike Drechsler, Long Jump - The Former DDR

    The DDR no longer exists, since the famous Berlin wall between the former East and West Germanies came down in 1989.  But like many communist and socialist regimes, the DDR produced some world-class athletes.  Sport was held in high regard, and like in modern China, talent was nurtured from an early age.  Athletes often attended special schools and followed strict training regimes.  Heike Drexler, nee Daute, was born in the state of Thuringia, in east central Germany.  She is one of the most successful long jump athletes of all time, and won many sprint races too.  In the history of the Olympics, German athletes have won over 1500 medals.

    Photo courtesy of FHgitarre on Flickr

  • India's most famous monument, The Taj Mahal

    India, Home of Weightlifter Karnam Malleswari

    India has the lowest number of Olympic medals per person in the world.  It has only won a total of 20 medals since it began competing in 1900.  But, that said, it holds a record in the form of Karnam Malleswari, a female weightlifter.  She was born in 1975 in Andhra Pradesh in the South East of the country.  Malleswari is the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal, she won Bronze in 2000 in Sydney, lifting a total of 240kg.  She also won a world title in 1995.  Karnam is a sanskrit word which means fame, dignity and pride.  India has been most successful in the sport of field hockey.  The Beijing olympics in 2008 was their most successful Olympics to date, where they also won one gold in shooting.

    Photo courtesy of Christopher John SSF @FriarsBalsam on Flickr

  • Jamaica - Usain Bolt's home country.

    Sprinter, Usain Bolt - Jamaica

    Jamaica is home to the fastest man in the world to date, the honourable Usain St Leo Bolt, or 'Lightning Bolt' as he's known in the media.  Bolt is a five-time world champion and 3-time Olympic gold medallist in the 100m and 200m sprint as well as the men's 4x100m relay. Born in Jamaica, he grew up in the small town of Trelawny.  Already at the age of 12 he was the fastest boy in his school.  He carried on setting records throughout his school days, until former Jamaican prime minister, PJ Patterson, arranged for him to move to the Jamaican capital of Kingston and train with the Jamaican athletics association.  Great things are expected from him this summer.

    Photo courtesy of Tomash Devenishek @04Deveni on Flickr

  • Baltimore, Maryland, USA

    Swimmer, Michael Phelps - USA

    Michael Fred Phelps is an American Olympic swimmer.  He doesn't come from a small country, but he was the most successful overall athlete in the 2004 and 2008 Olympic games, winning a total of 16 Olympic medals, 14 of them gold. Phelps was born in Baltimore, Maryland.  It's thought that the 2012 Olympics will be his last.  Phelps' physique is credited with his amazing performance.  He's 6'4" tall, but has a reported arm span of 6'7, so disproportionate to his height.  His long thin torso is thought to create less 'drag', and his size 14 feet are said to act like flippers.

    Photo courtesy of Bill McChesney @bsabarnowl on Flickr.

  • Dorney Lake, UK where the Olympic rowing championships will be held.

    Rowing -UK

    Rowing is one of Britain’s most successful Olympic sports with the GB Rowing Team winning 24 gold, 20 silver and 10 bronze medals since the Olympic games began.  Rowing has been an Olympic sport since 1900, but has been practised for centuries.  The rowing championships will take place at Eton Dorney, just outside Windsor and the famous Windsor castle.  Eton Dorney is of course near the British public school Eton, alma mater of the current Prime Minister, David Cameron, and many learn to row at their public schools or Universities.  The Oxford and Cambridge boat race, held on the river Thames every April is the jewel in the crown of the British rowing calender.  Although in recent years, it's become increasingly competitive, and many world class rowers from around the world have made their way on to the University teams.

    Photo courtesy of Andy Hayward @Andy Hayward on Flickr

  • Sunset over lake in Finland

    Finland's Olympic History Includes Long-Distance Runner Paavo Nurmi

    Paavo Nurmi was a Finnish long distance runner.  He was born in Turku, in 1897.  Turku is a city on the South West coast of Finland at the mouth of the Aura river.  Paavo was known as The Flying Finn.  Between 1920 and 1928, Paavo won a total of 9 gold and 3 silver medals in the nine events in which he competed.  He set world records in the 1500 metres and 20km events.  Finland has won almost 300 medals in Olympic history, in the summer mostly for wrestling and athletics, and in the winter, for Nordic Skiing.  Not surprising since Finland is a one of the world's northern most countries.   It is a land of lakes and islands.  Finland's geography was formed by the ice age.

    Photo courtesy of @Strzelec on Flickr

  • Kenya - home to great long distance runners.

    Kenya Gave us Runner Kip Keino

    Kip Keino was born in 1940.  He was born in Kipsamo in the Nandi district of Kenya.  He won two gold medals in 1968 and 1972 Olympic games.  He was one of the first middle to long distance runners to come from Kenya and win gold, and he has inspired many more from East Africa to follow in his footsteps.  East Africans now dominate the middle and long distance class of running. Kenya has won 75 medals, in athletics and boxing.  The country has a varied geography.  It lies on the equator and has hot humid coastlines, rich African savannah and a cool mountainous region.  Mount Kenya is Africa's second highest peek, that region's  high altitudes, and thin mountain air are credited with producing a generation of world class runners.

    Photo courtesy of Franco Pecchio @Ai@ce on Flickr

  • Tiananmen Square 2008, Beijing Olympics

    People's Republic of China, Home of Diver Qiu Bo

    Qiu Bo is the current world title holder for diving.  He is just 19, born in 1993, and comes from the People's Republic of China.  In the 2011 FINA Diving World Series - Beijing, Qiu received no less than 25 perfect 10s to score a historic 609.20 in the 10m event. China was the host of the last Olympics, 2008 in Beijing.  They scored no less than 51 gold medals, 21 Silver, and 28 bronze, totaling a lucky 100 medals, and topping the rankings for the first time in their history.  They are quickly becoming an Olympic super power, to rival their other achievements to date.  Many put it down to the tough training regimes and special Olympic training schools that their top athletes attend from a young age.  In the build up to 2008, and beyond, many Chinese people included the character for 'Olympic' in their children's names.

    Photo courtesy of IvanWalsh

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