THERE are only two sports in which Slovakia has ever won an Olympic gold medal - canoeing and the biathlon. And both of the two victories from the winter games belong to Nasťa Kuzmina. This statistic illustrates several points.

Firstly, small countries have it rough. The games in Sochi started just a week ago, and at the time of writing, Germany already had 10 medals. After 20 years, Slovakia has five. And it’s not like the country is in the middle of Africa and we only get to see ice and snow in the movies. No, the climate is exactly the same as in Germany.

As a result, the nation has developed an appreciation for small, awkward sports. Sure, there are the star tennis and hockey players. And sure, football is the most popular sport. But this is one of the few places on earth where a skeet shooter or kayaker can hope to reach celebrity status.

And lastly, the medal count explains why Kuzmina’s origin is such an intriguing and hotly debated issue. When three out of five winter Olympic medals are won by a woman who was born in Russia and only received citizenship at 24, questions about national identity and immigration policy naturally come up. Given that Slovakia is not known for its openness, the widespread enthusiasm for Nasťa’s success proves that sometimes sports are really about more than just medals.