Sport in Iceland
Sports in Iceland are very popular. For nine recent years, Iceland remains a very healthy nation. Popular sports include handball, football, athletics, basketball, golf, volleyball, tennis, swimming, and chess; horseback riding on Icelandic horses is also popular and also Archery. In some of those sports, namely handball, football and basketball, Iceland is extremely successful, especially considering its population. It manages to compete at comparable level with countries that have 10-200 times its population.
Team handball is often referred to as a national sport. Iceland's team is one of the top ranked teams in the world, winning the silver medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, and a bronze medal in the 2010 European Championship. Icelandic women are good at football, the national team being ranked eighteenth by FIFA.
The country's chess clubs have created many chess Grandmasters including Friðrik Ólafsson, Jóhann Hjartarson, Margeir Pétursson, and Jón Loftur Árnason, and Golf is especially common (around 1 in 8 Icelanders play), but the oldest sport association in Iceland is the Reykjavik Shooting Association, founded 1867. Rifle shooting became very popular in the 19th century and was heavily encouraged by politicians and others pushing for Icelandic independence. Shooting remains popular and all types of shooting with small arms is practiced in the country.
Ice and rock climbing are a favorite among many Icelanders; climbing the 4,167-foot (1,270 metre) Þumall peak in Skaftafell is a challenge for many adventurous climbers, but mountain climbing is considered to be suitable for the general public and is a very common type of leisure activity. Hvítá, among many other of the Icelandic glacial rivers, attracts kayakers and river rafters worldwide.
Ice hockey is gaining popularity in Iceland, with 1 in 512 of the population an ice hockey player. They have a larger 'hockey density' than Slovakia (1 in 630 people are players). The Iceland national ice hockey team has risen to 38th in the IIHF rankings, and has recently seen a fourth team added to their domestic league.
Crossfit is also one of the fastest growing sports in Iceland. Most famous athlete is the two times female champion of the crossfit games 2011 and 2012 in Carson City, Anníe Mist Þórisdóttir.
Iceland is also one of the leading countries in ocean rowing, boasting some of the most significant records in the sport. Icelandic rower Fiann Paul has claimed overall speed Guinness World Records for crossing each of the three oceans in a man-powered row boat, as well as the notable Guinness title of the first rower to ever hold all three records simultaneously, claiming 6 rowing world records in total for Iceland by 2016.
Iceland's most famous athlete comes from the world of football. Eiður Guðjohnsen has played in England's Premier League for Chelsea FC winning the League Title and the Community Shield twice, as well as the League Cup once. He also played in La Liga (Spanish Premier League) for FC Barcelona.
Archery as a sport started in disabled clubs in Iceland 1974 but it's only been a growing sport since 2013. A large part of that growth is a new facility that is opened in Kópavogur in 2013, and it is open to the public and training archers. Archery is one of the oldest Viking sports in Iceland.
In athletics, shot putter Gunnar Huseby became one of the country's first international champions when he won two gold medals at the European Athletics Championships in 1946 and 1950. Iceland's greatest period of success in the sport was in the 1950s, when Torfi Bryngeirsson was European long jump champion, Vilhjálmur Einarsson was an Olympic and European triple jump medallist, and Örn Clausen was European runner-up in the decathlon. Einarsson is the most decorated person of the Icelandic Sportsperson of the Year award, being a five-time winner.
Vala Flosadóttir, pole vault medalist at the 2000 Summer Olympics, is the country's most successful female track athlete, having set world indoor records and won European and World Indoor medals. Decathlete Jón Arnar Magnússon has also won several international indoor medals. Hreinn Halldórsson was the 1977 European Indoor champion in the shot put (Iceland's sole winner at that competition).
The annual Reykjavík Marathon is held in mid-August with around 10,000 people taking part in the various races on offer. The Laugavegur Ultramarathon, a 55 km running competition, has been held each year since 1997.
The Icelandic Olympic team first sent athletes to the Summer Olympics in 1948. Icelandic athletes competed at the 1908 and 1912 Olympics, but these were part of Denmark's delegation (Iceland not being independent at that point). Iceland has been present at the Winter Olympics for all editions since the inaugural 1948 games, bar 1972 when no Iceland athletes were present.
Iceland has won four Olympic medals in its history. The first was Vilhjálmur Einarsson, who won the 1956 men's triple jump medal. Bjarni Friðriksson won a bronze medal in 1984 in men's judo and Vala Flosadóttir became the first woman medalist in 2000, taking the pole vault bronze. Iceland's first team Olympic medal was won by the handball team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The Icelandic Paralympic team made its debut at the 1980 Summer Paralympics and has sent athletes to the competition for each subsequent edition. It has made only three appearances at the Winter Paralympics. As of 2012, the country has won over sixty Paralympic medals.
Icelanders are famous for their immense strength. Strength athletics and powerlifting have been Iceland's greatest success in sports on an international level. In the World's Strongest Man competition, Iceland has the most championships (Magnús Ver Magnússon and Jón Páll Sigmarsson with four victories each). In powerlifting, Benedikt Magnússon placed the world record deadlift, of 445 kg, at the early age of 20. He recently set the world record of 1100 lbs for the tire deadlift. Glíma is a form of wrestling, thought to have originated with Vikings, that is still played in Iceland.
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