The 21 Countries With One Olympic Medal

Adam Nurkiewicz / Getty Images for IAAF
Adam Nurkiewicz / Getty Images for IAAF

Earlier today, we quizzed you on the countries that have won more than 100 Olympic medals. Now it's time for the other side of the equation. Twenty-one countries have won just one medal. Here are the stories of the national heroes who brought those medals home.

Afghanistan

Despite making appearances at 12 Olympic Games since 1936, Afghanistan has secured just one medal -- a bronze in Taekwondo at the 2008 Games. Rohullah Nikpai, who won the medal, was given a house by president Hamid Karzai and told reporters that he hoped the medal would "send a message of peace to my country after 30 years of war." The country has had a checkered Olympics history -- in 1996, one of their two athletes was disqualified for arriving late to a weigh-in and the other, a marathon runner, finished last after injuring his hamstring before the race. And in 1999, the country was ruled ineligible for competition because of discrimination against women.

Barbados

By finishing third in the men's 100 meters at the 2000 Summer Games, Obadele Thompson won the sole medal for Barbados. The country technically had won a second medal -- a bronze in the 4x400 relay team in 1960 -- but Barbadian runner James Wedderburn was actually competing under the West Indies Federation flag. Barbados is hoping that hurdler Ryan Brathwaite, who won the 2009 world championships, can bring the country another medal this summer. And Thompson seems to be doing well for himself -- he married American track star Marion Jones in 2006.

Bermuda

Clarence Hill holds Bermuda's sole medal for taking home the bronze in heavyweight boxing at the 1976 Games in Montreal. The country is also the smallest by population to have won an Olympic medal.

Burundi

In the country's first ever Olympics appearance at the 1996 Atlanta Games, distance runner Venuste Niyongabo won the country's first and only medal by finishing with the gold in the men's 5,000 meters. Niyongabo was actually competing in that event for just the third time ever and was supposed to go to the Olympics for the 1,500 meter race. He ended up forfeiting his spot in the shorter race to allow fellow Burundian runner Dieudonne Kwizera to compete.

Djibouti

Hussein Ahmed Salah took home the bronze for the men's marathon in the 1988 Seoul Games. He remains Djibouti's only Olympic medalist.

Eritrea

The African nation only made its Olympics debut in 2000, but had to wait until 2004 to get its first medal when Zersenay Tadese took the bronze in the men's 10,000 meters. Tadese will compete again this year, so it's possible Eritrea will double its medal count. This year's delegation also includes the country's first athlete outside of track and field: a cyclist named Daniel Teklehaymanot.

Guyana

Boxer Michael Anthony’s bronze at the 1980 Games remains Guyana’s only medal in 15 total appearances. This summer the country is sending six athletes, including star runner Aliann Pompey.

Iraq

After Iraq's Olympics debut in 1948, they sat out the next two games, including a boycott of the 1956 Games over Operation Musketeer. But Iraq roared back in 1960 when Iraqi weightlifter Abdul Wahid Aziz took home a bronze medal. Since then, Iraq has made scattered appearances in the Olympics but has yet to win another medal.

Ivory Coast

The country's lone medal was a silver won by Gabriel Tiacoh in the men's 400 meters at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

Kuwait

Technically, Kuwait's first medal came in 1992, but the bronze was for taekwondo, which at that time was just a demonstration sport. But eight years later, shooter Fehaid Al Deehani took a bronze in double trap shooting. Kuwait almost didn't have a chance to add to their medal count this year, thanks to a 2010 IOC ruling that the country's athletes would have to compete under the Olympic flag -- not the Kuwaiti one -- because of political interference. The suspension ended earlier this month after the government pledged to stay out of the Olympic committee.

Republic of Macedonia

The nation that competes as the Republic of Macedonia has won just one medal -- Magomed Ibragimov's bronze in wrestling in 2000. But until 1988, athletes from Macedonia competed for Yugoslavia, taking in 12 medals, including two golds.

Mauritius

When Bruno Julie took a bronze medal in Bantamweight boxing in 2008, Mauritius ended a 24-year medal drought. Nicknamed the "Mauritian Magician” or the “Creol Crusher,” Julie was approached by other countries in the hopes that he would switch nationalities, but he has stayed loyal to Mauritius.

Netherlands Antilles

To date, the only medal from the Caribbean island nation was a silver in sailing won by Jan Boersma at the 1988 Olympics. But the country actually had a second silver for about an hour in 2008, when Churandy Martina placed second (behind Usain Bolt) in the Men's 200-meter. After the race, the third-place finisher, American Wallace Spearmon, was disqualified for stepping outside his lane. The U.S. coaches reviewed tape of the race and discovered that Martina had also moved out of his lane and said they would drop an appeal of Spearmon's disqualification if organizers stripped Martina's finish as well. The Netherlands Antilles team was furious -- sports minister Omayra Leeflang said at the time the move was "against the spirit of the Olympic" and many citizens viewed it as bullying by the U.S. Now that the Netherlands Antilles has been dissolved, athletes from those countries will compete as independent athletes.

Niger

Light welterweight boxer Isaaka Daborg won Niger's only medal with a bronze in 1972. Now the country is hoping to take home another boxing medal -- their sole competitor this summer, Moustapha Hima, is competing as a welterweight.

Paraguay

Although the country’s only medal came in 2004, when the men’s soccer team won the silver, Paraguay still made quite an impact on the 2008 Games. Paraguayan javelin thrower Leryn Franco was instantly noticed for her beauty (she was a former swimsuit model, after all) and became one of the most-searched athletes on the internet despite placing 51st in her event. Franco will be back this year.

Senegal

Since the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Senegal has attended every Summer Games and even four Winter Olympics. But the only medal came in 1988, when Amadou Dia Ba won a silver in the men's 400 meter hurdles.

Sudan

After 48 years of attending games, Sudan finally broke through in 2008, when Ismail Ahmed Ismail took the silver medal in the men’s 800 meter race. The medal, which came amid decades of conflict in the country, was widely hailed for shedding a positive light on the country. South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan last year, is not sending a delegation to the London Games.

Togo

When Benjamin Boukpeti nabbed a bronze medal in 2008 for the K1 slalom kayak event, he made a surprising promise: he said he'd actually go visit Togo. Despite being the country's only medalist, Boukpeti had actually only been to Togo once. He has dual citizenship in France (his mother is French), but decided to compete for Togo in 2008 when it became clear he might not make the French team.

Tonga

Tonga won its first – and so far only – medal at the 1996 Atlanta games when Paea Wolfgramm placed second in super heavyweight boxing. The country tried to compete in its first Winter Olympics in 2010, but luger Fuahea Semi failed to qualify. Semi later became the center of a scandal when he changed his name to Bruno Banani in a marketing deal with a German underwear company of the same name.

United Arab Emirates

After competing in seven Olympics, the UAE finally won its first medal in 2004 with a gold in men’s double trap, a shooting competition. The medalist, Ahmed Al-Maktoum, is also a member of the Dubai ruling party and had previously won several domestic squash competitions.

Virgin Islands

Over 10 Summer Games and six Winter Olympics, the Virgin Islands have amassed one single medal: a silver in men’s finn class sailing at the 1988 Seoul Games won by Peter Holmberg. Holmberg would also go on to win the America’s Cup in 2007 and now consults on sailing events.

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

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Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

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Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

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Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

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JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

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5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

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6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

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7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

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Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

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9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

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10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

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Tommie Smith and John Carlos Shocked the World—and Sacrificed Their Careers—By Protesting Racism at the 1968 Olympics

American athlete Tommie Smith, wearing black socks, celebrates after crossing the finish line of the men's 200-meter final ahead of Australian Peter Norman and compatriot John Carlos during the Mexico Olympic Games.
American athlete Tommie Smith, wearing black socks, celebrates after crossing the finish line of the men's 200-meter final ahead of Australian Peter Norman and compatriot John Carlos during the Mexico Olympic Games.
EPU/AFP via Getty Images

On October 16, 1968, track and field stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos stepped onto the Olympic podium in Mexico City to receive their medals for the 200-meter dash; Smith had won the gold, Carlos the bronze. They were wearing black socks—no shoes—and badges that read “Olympic Project for Human Rights.” Smith had also donned a black scarf, while Carlos had unzipped his jacket (which was against Olympic rules) and slung a long string of beads around his neck.

When “The Star-Spangled Banner” began to blare through the stadium, the two athletes bowed their heads and each raised a black-gloved fist into the air. While the crowd recognized the gesture as the familiar Black Power salute, Smith claimed it was a "human rights" salute. Regardless of what they wanted to call it, that it was meant as a protest against racism wasn’t lost on anyone; a stunned silence fell over the stadium.

“There’s something awful about hearing 50,000 people go silent, like being in the eye of a hurricane,” Carlos later wrote in his memoir.

In the Eye of a Hurricane

According to The Washington Post, it wasn't long before the momentary stillness yielded to a swell of jeers and boos, with some spectators even shouting the words to the national anthem in a sort of counter-protest. Smith and Carlos were ushered out of the arena and swiftly evicted from the Olympic Village. Before returning to the U.S., Smith appeared in an ABC news segment that aired the following day. The interviewer, ABC sports editor Howard Cosell, kept his question short and open-ended.

tommie smith and john carlos 1968 olympic medal ceremony
From left to right: Peter Norman, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympic medal ceremony for the 200-meter dash.
AFP via Getty Images

“Tommie, would you explain to the people of America exactly what you did and why you did it?” he asked.

Smith explained that their gloved fists “signified the power in Black America,” and their shoeless feet were a symbol of the poverty that Black Americans faced. (As for why each man only wore one glove, Smith stated that it was a mark of “black unity.” But Peter Norman, the Australian silver medalist with them on the podium, later claimed one of the Americans had simply forgotten his pair of gloves, so they shared them).

The Gathering Storm

Though the protest itself had been planned just before the ceremony, in the year leading up to the event, Smith, Carlos, and other athletes had already been using the Summer Olympics as a platform to further the goals of the civil rights movement. In October 1967, Dr. Harry Edwards founded the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR), whose mission was originally to protest segregation in the U.S.

According to Global Sport Matters, Smith and Carlos were the first athletes to join, and the organization’s objectives became more global as it expanded. The OPHR had demanded, for example, that South Africa be banned from participating in the Olympics as long as it remained under apartheid, that Olympic teams hire more Black coaches, and that International Olympic Committee chairman Avery Brundage—who had failed to condemn Nazism during the 1936 Olympics, among other controversies—resign his position. Not all of their conditions were met immediately, though Brundage did step down from his position following the next Olympics. But South Africa was prohibited from the ’68 games, and coaching staffs did diversify a little in the following years.

In the months leading up to the Mexico City Olympics, the political atmosphere grew increasingly more turbulent. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in April 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy was killed just two months later, and thousands of people across the country were rioting to protest both racial injustice and the Vietnam War. Other countries were dealing with similar unrest: In May, students in France rioted against their conservative government; the Soviet Union quelled a Czechoslovakian rebellion in August; and, just 10 days before the Olympic Opening Ceremony, the Mexican military killed scores—possibly hundreds or even thousands—of students at a rally in Mexico City.

Compared to the violence occurring around the world, Smith and Carlos’s small, peaceful protest seemed innocuous, but it definitely wasn’t without backlash. Many journalists seemed embarrassed that American athletes had shone a spotlight on the nation’s domestic issues in front of a global audience, and asserted they shouldn’t have tried to use the Olympics as a “problem-solving platform,” as Los Angeles Sentinel reporter Booker Griffin put it.

Within Black communities, however, the response was celebratory, especially among young people; according to The Undefeated, thousands of Howard University students congregated in Washington, D.C., to welcome Carlos back from Mexico City.

“From this day forward, Black people will pick their own heroes,” civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael (also known as Kwame Ture) declared at the gathering.

The eventual awakening

Olympic officials were not as impressed by the duo's actions. Echoing the sentiments of condemnatory journalists, the IOC suspended both Smith and Carlos from the U.S. track team. They both played professional football for one year before pursuing careers as track coaches.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos accept the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the 2008 ESPY Awards in Los Angeles, California.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos accept the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the 2008 ESPY Awards in Los Angeles, California.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

History.com reports that silver medalist Peter Norman, who wore an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on his chest during the ceremony, was not asked to compete for Australia in the 1972 Olympics, even though he qualified. When he died in 2006, Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at Norman's funeral.

In 2019, more than half a century after their controversial show of support for the civil rights movement, the two American track stars were inducted into the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame.

"I knew that I did the right thing," Carlos told KOAA News5 at the time. "I feel as proud today as I did that day. I'm just so happy that so many people have woken up to it today.”