Swiss Olympians - the solo specialists

When it comes to Swiss Olympic athletes, one trend in the data is particularly striking: There are no team players.

This content was published on August 4, 2016 minutes

That's not a value judgement. While Swiss cycling, sailing and horse-riding competitors make up an important share of the Swiss delegation in Rio, none will compete in team sports like basketball, football or water-polo.

For "team sport", we used the International Olympic Committee classification. Swimming, rowing, and track and field also have team components at the Olympics, but they are not designated as team sports.

Switzerland’s delegation of 105 athletes carries hopes of bringing home at least five medals. Almost three-quarters will be taking part in their first Olympics, while cyclist Fabian Cancellara will be enjoying his fifth Games.

The biggest Swiss hopes during the August 5-21 competitions are in rowing, road cycling, fencing, gymnastics, horse riding and mountain bike disciplines.

More than 11,000 athletes representing the nations of the world are competing at the Summer Olympics. We examined the full athletes' list to see which sports are the most-represented within various delegations.

The graphic below shows the share of athletes by sport and for selected countries, including the lack of representation in team sports (see the top-left chart below). This is unusual, given that team sport athletes represent over a quarter of all athletes present in Rio.

Out of the 34 national delegations with more than 100 athletes, only four have no athletes competing in team sports: the Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Switzerland.

In contrast, the Swiss are best represented at individual pursuits. 

Again, out of  the 34 national delegations with more than 100 athletes in Rio, Switzerland has the highest proportion of cyclists – 15.5%, or 16 athletes – and the second-highest proportion of sailors – 8.7%, or nine athletes – just behind Denmark. Switzerland also has the second-highest proportion of equestrian athletes – 6.8%, or seven athletes, just behind Sweden.

The Russian delegation presents an anomaly this year given the doping ban which prevented at least 110 athletes from participating in athletics and in weightlifting.

External Content


You can find the athletes on the Rio 2016 websiteExternal link, but not the whole list in one place. swissinfo.chExternal link had to "scrape", i.e extract, that data to bring you the full listExternal link of every competing athlete, the country they’re from, their gender and the sport they will compete in.

The Rio Olympics website reports 103 Swiss competitors, contrary to the 105 confirmed by Swiss Olympic on August 5.

The code used to get, to analyse and to visualise the data can be found hereExternal link

Which Summer Olympic sport do you think best embodies Switzerland? Tell us in the comments section below. 

Articles in this story

In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

Contributions under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

Share this story

Change your password

Do you really want to delete your profile?