France lead Global Cup after first quarter 2015

France power their way to victory in the Handball World Championships
The first quarter of the 2015 sporting year is past and the Global Cup, the ranking of the world’s best sporting nations, is showing some (relatively) new faces in the top spots.
After being top in February for the first time ever, France are still clinging to the no. 1 berth. They performed brilliantly across a wide range of sports: on the ski slopes, with 4th place in the Alpine Skiing World Championships and 3rd in the Alpine Skiing World Cup; on the track, finishing 2nd in the Track Cycling World Championships, and winning the Men’s Handball World Championships. France are 9 places above their March 2014 standing, the second-best improvement among top-20 countries.
It is now three months in a row that the 2014 Global Cup winners (for the seventh year running…), the USA, currently in second place, are not on top of world sports, and this is news in itself. We don’t think the Stars & Stripes have to worry yet – they were second in March 2014 too, and the gap with France is narrow.
The other high-performing country in the first quarter has been Australia. The only country ever to finish in the top 10 in both the Global Cup and the Per Capita Cup (which ranks nations in terms of points-per-inhabitant), Australia are the most improved country in the GSN top 20, up 10 places from March 2014.
The highlights for them have been wins in the Men’s Football Asian Cup, in the Cricket World cup they recently hosted with New Zealand, and once again in the Track Cycling World Championships.
While Norway (current Per Capita Cup leaders), Germany and Austria, who make up the Global Cup top 5 behind France and the US, are traditionally strong performers in winter sports, the negative surprises come from countries who are also usually successful on snow and ice. Sweden (14th place) are 8 positions below their March 2014 berth, the worst performance among the top-20 countries. Russia and Canada, though in respectable 6th and 7th place respectively, are both several places below last year (5 and 4 respectively).
Italy and Slovenia (Per Capita Cup winners in 2014 and currently second-placed), both improving over 2014, and the Ivory Coast, in 16th place after their Football African Cup of Nations triumph in February, are the other countries who are shining early on this sporting year.
There is still a lot to play for though, beginning with the Golf Masters and two big Marathons (Boston and London) in April, so follow how the race for best sporting nation on Earth unfolds on GSN!