Estonia at the Olympics

Estonia has a long history with the Olympic Games, but in changing circumstances. Estonia gained its independence from Russia in 1918 and was represented as such in the Summer Games in 1920 held at Antwerp, Belgium. Prior to this, Estonia was part of the Russian Empire, and Estonian athletes competed for Russia.

Their national Olympic Committee though was formed no later than 1923. The International Olympic Committee took even longer to officially recognize them which did not happen until 1991. Estonian athletes however benefited greatly from the training that they received when Estonia was still part of the Russian Empire which is why they were able to snag one gold and two silver medals from the 1920 Summer Games.

Between 1920 and 1940 Estonian athletes participated in the Olympic Games under the name Estonia, then it became part of the Soviet Union. Estonia again gained independence in 1991, and has participated in all Olympics since then.

As a matter of fact, there are only two instances (1932 and 1996) where Estonia participated in the Summer Games independently where they did not manage to win a single Olympic medal. In 1948, they did not manage to send an athlete to represent them and from 1952 to 1988, Estonian athletes were part of the Soviet Union delegation. With all things considered, Estonia is one of the more consistent winners in the Summer Olympics.

The story is a bit different though when it comes to the Winter Games. They first participated as an independent nation in 1928 by sending a couple of speed skaters to St. Moritz, Switzerland. They passed on the 1932 Winter Olympics and came back in 1936 but still did not manage to win a medal. They again missed the 1948 Winter Games then came back later (1952 – 1988) as part of the Soviet Union Olympic team. It was not until 2002 when they gained a footing in the Winter Games when cross-country skiers Andrus Veerpalu and Jaak Mae won them Olympic medals.

Andrus Veerpalu officially became Estonia's first Olympic medalist in the Winter Games when he took the gold in the 15 km cross-country skiing. Jaak Mae also took the bronze in the same event on the same day. Veerpalu went on to win another medal, this time silver in the cross-country skiing 50km event. In 2006, Andrus Veerpalu again won the gold in the men's 15 km classical. That year, fellow cross-country skier Kristina Šmigun went on to win the gold for both the women's 15 km pursuit and the women's 10 km classical in Turin, Italy. Kristina then came back in 2010 to win the silver in women's 10 kilometer freestyle.


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