Tiny Winners

What’s the smallest country to have ever won anything?

This turns out to be a very open ended question, when you think about it. We’ll start with the most obvious thing to calculate: The FIFA World Cup.

Uruguay won and hosted the inaugural FIFA World Cup in 1930, which isn’t bad for a country with a population of 3,407,000. The city of Melbourne, where I live, has a larger population than that.

But we can do better.

Using the Wikipedia article for a list of worldwide sporting events, we can find others.

The next thing I found was in, of all things, street basketball, and is held by the country that bribed FIFA into giving them the 2022 World Cup: Qatar, which has a population of 2,344,577 and won the event in 2014.

But we can do better.

Fiji, along with all the other tiny Pacific islands, are ridiculously passionate about rugby. Aside from having a fair few dominant NRL players and Nic Naitanui, they can’t really compete on the world stage due to a small population of 859,178.

And yet, they managed to win the 2005 Rugby Sevens World Cup, giving them the record.

But we can do better.

So far, I’ve only considered international sporting events. If we go down to ones only open to a select area, like the OFC Nations Cup, we can get it even lower.

The Nations Cup was dominated by Australia and New Zealand since its inception, but that changed in 2012. New Zealand lost to New Caledonia 2-0 in the semi-final, who then lost to Tahiti, who are part of French Polynesia but FIFA members. Their population of 178,113 must, surely, give them the record.

But we can do better.

Assuming that it doesn’t have to be a team sport, the record passes to Leichtenstein. Hanni Wenzel won the giant slalom and slalom gold medals at the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics, an achievement which got her on a stamp in Paraguay and gives this tiny, tiny country of 37,370 the record.

But we can do better.

The Commonwealth Games is like the Olympics, but only for former members of the British Empire. Without the USA, China, and other titans, Australia dominates regularly.

But not in weightlifting, which goes to Nauru, the third smallest country in the world by area (and also the most obese). Marcus Stephen won seven weightlifting gold medals from 1990 to 1998, and then became the President from 2007 to 2011. Nauru’s population of 10,084 must surely be the smallest country to take the title.

But we can do better.

When they’real not worshiping God, the Vatican City has some time to play sports, which they’ve done. They have a non-recognised team in both soccer and cricket. The soccer team beat Swiss club SV Vollmond 5-1 in 2006, and the cricket team beat the Dutch Fellowship of Fairly Odd Places Cricket Club by 56 runs in 2013.

Given the Vatican is the world’s smallest country, with a population of just 842 to draw upon, that’s it, we’re done, the Vatican City wins.

But we can do better.

The Principality of Sealand is a small micronation based on a WWII naval fort roughly 10km of the coast of England. It has a population of around 52, but more importantly it has its own soccer team. It beat Seborga 3-2 in 2014, giving Sealand the title.

And no, we can’t do better.


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