Meet the worst ever Olympic nations - and how some of them could finally win a medal in Rio

As Team GB gears up to try and beat the record haul of 29 Olympic gold medals they secured in London four years ago there are some nations that would just like to win a single medal.

Remarkably of the 206 National Olympic Committees around the world, only 75 of them have ever won a medal – and that’s including Winter Olympics. That’s 131 countries that will head to Rio this summer hoping to see one of their athletes on an Olympic podium for the first time.

Most of the countries on the list are small – Monaco has been to the most Olympics (28) without winning a medal – but the likes of Bangladesh, which had a population over 150 million, also sits on the board having gone to eight Olympics without success.

Bolivia is the only South American nation with a population over 10 million never to have won a medal and will be hoping the Olympics’ first trip to their home continent can inspire their athletes.

With so many countries hoping to break their medal drought we have picked 10 countries with some of the worst Olympic records and find out whether they might be celebrating a long-awaited success in Brazil.


Olympics without a medal: 28

First Olympics: Antwerp (1920)

Population (approx): 38,000

In sporting terms Monaco is best known for staging the blue riband Formula One event of the year and while they’re officially still awaiting a first Olympic medal they might dispute the record books. Julien Medecin did win a bronze medal at the 1924 Games in Paris – it was in architecture – but because the IOC no longer recognises medals from the arts event the mdeal is off the official list.

Rio medal hopes: Very unlikely. Monaco are set to send a team of three athletes to Rio with 800 metres runner Brite Etes reaching the World Championships semi-finals last year.

San Marino

Olympics without a medal: 22

First Olympics: Rome (1960)

Population (approx): 31,000

San Marino came so close to breaking their duck in London when trap shooter Alessandra Perilli lost a three-way shootout for silver and bronze. Perilli is back for a second go in Rio and has stepped up a level since her London heartbreak, claiming gold in last year’s ISSF World Cup final while her older sister Arianna won silver at the European Games last year and will also compete in Brazil.

Rio medal hopes: Pretty good. National Olympic Committee of San Marino president Gian-Primo Giardi has targeted a first medal and in the Perilli sisters that is a reasonable aim.


Olympics without a medal: 18

First Olympics: Berlin (1936)

Population (approx): 10.7 million

Bolivia is the only South American country without an Olympic medal – aside from French Guiana – after 18 trips to summer and winter Olympics. Only Monaco, San Marino and Andorra – all of whom have tiny populations – have been to more without (officially) standing on the podium.

Rio medal hopes: Not great. A third of their 12-strong team will be competing in the 20km walk events (both men and women) while shooter Rudolf Knijnenburg Cordero returns to the Olympics for the first time since Athens in 2004.


Olympics without a medal: 16

First Olympics: Melbourne (1956)

Population (approx): 880,000

Fiji has mainly relied on invitations to send their athletes to the Olympics – the only two who qualified before Rio were 400m runner Makelesi Bulkiobo and javelin thrower Leslie Copeland. In Brazil that all changes with Rugby Sevens on the agenda for the first time and their men’s and women’s teams are top of the bill.

Rio medal hopes: Very likely. The inclusion of Rugby Sevens means that Fiji will be extremely disappointed if they don’t leave Rio with a gold medal let alone a medal of any description. The men’s team are the gold standard of the sport – not even Jarryd Hayne could make their squad and his all-round talent were good enough for the San Francisco 49ers last year.


Olympics without a medal: 12

First Olympics: 1964 (Tokyo)

Population (approx): 15.3 million

Mali’s strength has traditionally been in combat sports such as taekwando, judo and boxing. Former taekwando world champion Daba Modibo Keita came close to a medal in London when he lost a bronze medal match, while in 2004 their footballers lost a quarter-final in extra-time to Italy 1-0.

Rio medal hopes: There’s a chance. All Malian eyes will be on the taekwando where Ismael Coulibaly is the African champion in his weight category and who has said he wants to be the first athlete from the west African country to win an Olympic medal.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Olympics without a medal: 10

First Olympics: Munich (1972)

Population (approx): 2.8 million

After Albania’s footballers played at their first ever major tournament at Euro 2016 the stage could be set for another breakthrough sporting success for the eastern European country this summer.

Rio medal hopes: Outside chance. Weightlifter Briken Calja is back at the Olympics after he placed ninth in his weight category in London. Since then he has, however, served a two-year drugs ban.

El Salvador

Olympics without a medal: 10

First Olympics: Mexico City (1968)

Population (approx): 6.3 million

Cyclist Maureen Kalia came closest to El Salvador’s first Olympic medal when she placed fifth in the points race at the 1996 Games in Atlanta. They sent 60 athletes to their first games in Mexico but will be represented by just seven athletes in Rio.

Rio medal hopes: Hopeful. Swimmer Marcelo Acosta won the country’s first Olympic medal of any kind when he took silver in the 400m freestyle at the 2014 Youth Games. He is set to race in the 200m, 400m and 1500m at Rio’s Barra Olympic Park venue.

DR Congo

Olympics without a medal: Nine

First Olympics: Mexico City (1968)

Population (approx): 67.5 million

The Democratic Republic of Congo is the second-most populous country to have never won a medal at the Games and they haven’t really come close.

At the Beijing Olympics, 50m swimmer Stany Kempompo Ngangola was dubbed ‘Stany the Snail’ before he had even entered the pool – the media hoping for a new Eric the Eel. He proved them wrong with a competent performance to win over the hearts of fans.

Rio medal hopes: Unlikely. The country sent a record team of 17 to Barcelona in 1992 (when it was known as Zair) but this time around they’ll be represented by three athletes. Rosa Keleku earned her place in the women’s taekwando flyweight category and won bronze at the African Championships this year.


Olympics without a medal: Eight

First Olympics: Los Angeles (1984)

Population (approx): 157 million

Bangladesh is the most populous nation never to have won an Olympic medal. The country had relied on invitations to compete at the Olympics until this year when golfer Siddikur Rahman qualified by his own right and joined a five-athlete team.

Rio medal hopes: Not good. Rahman is about their best hope after earning his place. He finished 55th in qualifying, but does have two wins on the Asian Tour to his name and the world’s best golfers are avoiding the Olympics due to the Zika virus threat.

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