How many Olympic athletes hail from every state in the US

Published 3:15 pm Thursday, February 3, 2022

lazyllama // Shutterstock

How many Olympic athletes hail from every state in the US

The first recorded Olympic Games occurred in 776 B.C. when, according to the written record, a cook named Coroebus won the 192-meter foot race—the only event at the time. 

The Games were held as a festival to celebrate and honor Zeus, the king of the Greek gods. Though the Olympic Games began with a single event, by 724 B.C. both longer and shorter foot races were added followed by the pentathlon, boxing, and chariot racing over the course of the following century.

Since the advent of the modern Olympic Games in 1896, the event has grown from 280 athletes representing 12 countries to a mammoth festival featuring thousands of participants from more than 200 nations across the globe. Some countries may specialize in just a few events, but the vastness of the United States allows it to have a large pool of athletes competing in a variety of sports. These Olympians oftentimes have trained since childhood, taking advantage of the resources available in their home states.

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Stacker compiled roster data from Team USA and the U.S. Census Bureau to break down how many Olympians hail from each state, based on what athletes named as their home states for every Olympic year data was available. This includes London (2012), Sochi (2014), Rio (2016), Pyeongchang (2018), Tokyo (2020), and Beijing (2022). States are ranked by total Olympic athletes sent to the Games per 1 million people in order to normalize the data across states. Repeat athletes are counted for each year they attended, meaning states are ranked by the number of times athletes from there competed.

Keep reading to see which states send the most athletes to the Olympics and how your state compares to the rest of the country.

Emma Rubin // Stacker

Vermont has sent the most athletes per capita to the Olympic Games since 2012

Despite only sending athletes to the Olympics 42 times during the last five Olympic Games, Vermont’s relatively small population means that it ranks at the top of the list with 65 athletes per 1 million people. By comparison, athletes from California competed a total of 448 times during the last five Games but the state has a standardized measure of 11 athletes per 1 million residents. Nearly all 50 states have had at least one athlete compete since 2012. The only exception is West Virginia, which has not sent an athlete to the Olympics since John Kruk won a gold medal for the shot put competition at the 1996 Olympic Games.

Emma Rubin // Stacker

Hawaii has sent the most athletes per capita to the Summer Olympic Games since 2012

There’s no question that Hawaii is a fantastic place to train for many summer Olympic sports. Swimming, diving, sailing, kayaking, and surfing are common life skills or hobbies for residents of the Hawaiian Islands. The state tops the list, with 11.7 athletes per million residents sent to the Summer Games and athletes competing a total of 17 times. Colorado, a landlocked state, comes as a surprising second, sending 11.3 athletes per 1 million people. Similarly to the overall trends explored in the last graph, California lands itself in fourth place, sending 9.5 athletes per capita, but still having 337 instances of athletes competing.

Emma Rubin // Stacker

Vermont has sent the most athletes per capita to the Winter Olympic Games since 2014

Abundant opportunities to ski, snowboard, and participate in other snow-related sports makes Vermont the perfect breeding ground for Winter Olympic athletes. With 57.5 athletes per 1 million residents sent to Winter Olympic Games, the state takes first place by more than double Alaska, the runner up sending 24.5 athletes per million people. All of the top-10 states sending the most athletes per capita to the Winter Olympic Games since 2014 fall well above the Mason-Dixon line, showing that cooler temperatures and abundant snow truly provide the best environment for a budding Winter Olympian.