Sometimes, it's useful to think in terms of the units that you want.
The number of medals is an absolute unit: it simply tallies the number of medals for each nation. Whereas if you want to control for population, then you might want to look at medals per capita, which is another way of saying medals/person.
However, you could also do more tricks in the same way. You might want to look at medals per GDP in dollars (directly): medals/\$GDP. Alternatively, maybe you feel that's not right, and what you really want is to normalize population numbers by GDP: $$\rm medals/person \cdot person/\$GDP = medals/\$GDP.$$
A useful trick is to note that units can be treated like variables: dividing by equivalent units "cancels them out" so to speak. So this is a way to approach your problem.
Formally, this is known as dimensional analysis, and if you're interested in the technique, you might want to look at the Buckingham Pi Theorem