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The 21 Countries With One Olympic Medal

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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 silver 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.

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entertainment
Impossible Figure Skating Moves from the Movies
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Paramount Home Video

Figure skating is always one of the most anticipated events during the Winter Olympics. But in Hollywood, filmmakers have taken a few liberties on the ice, namely when it comes to some of the technical elements. And the judges are not impressed. Here are a couple of skating moves that could never have been completed without a bit of movie magic.

THE CUTTING EDGE

It's a climactic moment near the end of the 1992 movie, The Cutting Edge, when figure skater Kate Moseley (played by actress Moira Kelly) turns to her pairs partner Doug Dorsey (D.B. Sweeney) just before they are to take the ice at the Olympics and excitedly declares, “We're doing the Pamchenko!”

Frantic, Doug tries to talk her out of it. “Forget it. It's too dangerous,” he yells over the sound of the cheering crowd at the skating arena.

They argue right up to the very moment their music starts on the ice about whether to attempt the controversial “Pamchenko twist,” a highly difficult and dangerous maneuver their coach invented that, if completed during their skate, would mean an instant gold medal. Long story short (spoiler), they execute the move flawlessly and the movie ends with no doubt that they've won Olympic gold.

It's a triumphant ending. But let's just say there's a very good reason the filmmakers used a series of cuts to create the illusion that they actually did the move. The truth is, the Pamchenko twist is impossible.

Earlier in the film, coach Anton Pamchenko (Roy Dotrice) tosses a bunch of weathered looking diagrams onto the ice during a practice that detail a highly dangerous pairs move he has been inventing for the last 20 years.

Intrigued, Doug takes a look. “A bounce spin into a throw twist ... and I catch her?”

The Pamchenko twist does have a basis in reality. It is composed of two parts, as Doug deftly put it. The first part is a “bounce spin,” which is a real move that is actually illegal in competition, per International Skating Union rules. It's often performed in exhibitions and shows because it is quite a death-defying crowd-pleaser—the man grabs the woman by her feet and swings her up and down as he rotates. The woman's head typically comes mere inches from smashing on the ice if it is done correctly. If done incorrectly ... well, just try not to think about that.

The second part is a “throw twist,” more commonly known as a “split twist.” This is a required technical element in high-level pairs competition. To get full credit, a man and woman must start skating backward together. The male partner typically launches the female above his head, where she splits her legs and twists in midair as she pulls them back together. The man catches her as she comes down. Elite-level pairs teams regularly complete triple-twists (the woman does three rotations in the air). Two-time Olympic champions Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov completed a textbook split triple-twist in their long program in the 1988 Olympics—the first technical element in this video.

Now, put the bounce spin together with the throw twist. The physics just don't compute. The centrifugal force built up during the bounce spin would launch the woman—assuming she is released at the highest point of the bounce spin—on a parabolic trajectory. In theory, she could use the momentum to twist in the air, but it's highly unlikely that she would be thrown high enough to pull it off without getting her head smashed onto the ice during the bounce spin. And even if she did, the horizontal trajectory would launch her so far away from her partner that there's no realistic way he could have enough time to stop his own momentum from the spinning and traverse the distance to catch her.

Pamchenko says in the film that it's all about the timing. But frankly, it's not worth risking the horrifying injuries that would inevitably result to test his theory. There are plenty of other legal and physically possible moves pairs skaters can spend their time and energy perfecting.

BLADES OF GLORY

In Blades of Glory, Will Ferrell and Jon Heder play two champion singles skaters who are banned from men's competition for life after an unseemly incident at a competition. Desperate to get back on the ice, they team up as a pair. In order to stand a chance of beating reigning pairs champions Stronz and Fairchild (Amy Poehler and Will Arnett), they attempt a highly dangerous and difficult maneuver called the Iron Lotus—which has only ever been attempted in North Korea with comically disastrous results.

If the Pamchenko twist is impossible, the Iron Lotus is downright laughable—which is the point, of course. It starts out the same way, with a bounce spin. However, at the height of the bounce, the male skater launches the female into a back flip instead of a twist. While she's flipping, he does an Arabian cartwheel underneath her. Once completed, he catches her by the arm and leg, and the pair gracefully rotate out of it together.

“I swear to God, if you cut my head off,” Chazz Michael Michaels (Ferrell) warns his partner, Jimmy MacElroy (Heder), before they attempt it in the final performance of the film. As they launch into it, their coach (Craig T. Nelson) screams, “No! Don't do it! I was wrong, it's suicide!”

But wordlessly, magically, they nail it. Or rather, computer-animated stunt doubles nail it, because it's physically impossible. It would require the “female” skater to reverse her momentum in mid-air to transition from the bounce spin into the back flip. Maybe it's possible on the moon, where gravity isn't so much of a factor.

So what have we learned from this little figure skating physics lesson? You won't be seeing any Pamchenko twists or Iron Lotuses in Pyeongchang. And don't try any of this at home.

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Big Questions
What Are Curlers Yelling About?
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WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images

Curling is a sport that prides itself on civility—in fact, one of its key tenets is known as the “Spirit of Curling,” a term that illustrates the respect that the athletes have for both their own teammates and their opponents. But if you’re one of the millions of people who get absorbed by the sport once every four years, you probably noticed one quirk that is decidedly uncivilized: the yelling.

Watch any curling match and you’ll hear skips—or captains—on both sides barking and shouting as the 42-pound stone rumbles down the ice. This isn’t trash talk; it’s strategy. And, of course, curlers have their own jargon, so while their screams won’t make a whole lot of sense to the uninitiated, they could decide whether or not a team will have a spot on the podium once these Olympics are over.

For instance, when you hear a skip shouting “Whoa!” it means he or she needs their teammates to stop sweeping. Shouting “Hard!” means the others need to start sweeping faster. If that’s still not getting the job done, yelling “Hurry hard!” will likely drive the point home: pick up the intensity and sweep with downward pressure. A "Clean!" yell means put a brush on the ice but apply no pressure. This will clear the ice so the stone can glide more easily.

There's no regulation for the shouts, though—curler Erika Brown says she shouts “Right off!” and “Whoa!” to get her teammates to stop sweeping. And when it's time for the team to start sweeping, you might hear "Yes!" or "Sweep!" or "Get on it!" The actual terminology isn't as important as how the phrase is shouted. Curling is a sport predicated on feel, and it’s often the volume and urgency in the skip’s voice (and what shade of red they’re turning) that’s the most important aspect of the shouting.

If you need any more reason to make curling your favorite winter sport, once all that yelling is over and a winner is declared, it's not uncommon for both teams to go out for a round of drinks afterwards (with the winners picking up the tab, obviously). Find out how you can pick up a brush and learn the ins and outs of curling with our beginner's guide.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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