After declaring independence from Russia in 1918, Estonia first competed as a nation at the 1920 Summer Olympics, although the National Olympic Committee was established in 1923. The first Winter Olympics were the 1924 Winter Olympics. Estonian athletes took part of the Olympic Games until the country was invaded and occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940. The 1980 Summer Olympics Sailing regatta was held in the capital city Tallinn. After the end of the Soviet occupation in 1991, Estonia has participated in all Olympics. Estonia has won most of its medals in wrestling (11), weightlifting (7), cross-country skiing (7) and athletics (6)
In the sports world Estonia is best known as a skiing country. Cross-country skiing is an important sport with a long tradition in Estonia. Our greatest successes in the Olympic Games have also come in this field. In addition to the gold and silver medals won by Andrus Veerpalu and the bronze won by Jaak Mae at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, at the 2006 Games in Turin the Estonian hymn was played three times in honour of our Olympic winners. Andrus Veerpalu was once again crowned an Olympic winner among stiff competition, but Kristina Šmigun became the hero of the Turin games with her two gold medal wins. International news agencies were astonished by the fact that the citizens of a small town in southern Estonia called Otepää won three Olympic gold medals—more than Norway, Finland, Russia or Germany. Turin Olympic hero Kristina Šmigun was also successful at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, winning a silver medal.
The team sports of basketball and football are also popular in Estonia. The fan bases are vast and each year fans eagerly await the national teams reaching the finales of major tournaments.
Estonia's sporting highlight for 2010 was the European Figure Skating Championships, which is the biggest competition to take place in Estonia in the last few decades. The events were viewed on TV by over a million skating fans worldwide. Estonia's top skater Elena Glebova competed successfully, backed by the support of the local fans.