TOKYO (AP) — The Tokyo Olympics open Friday and predicting the overall medal count will be more difficult than usual because of the pandemic and the absence of many qualifying events over the last year.
In one forecast done by Gracenote, which supplies statistical analysis to sports leagues around the world, the United States is picked to win the most overall medals. The Americans are also picked to win the most gold medals. After that, the picking gets more difficult.
China is probably the next choice but many athletes from the country have appeared in few international events since the pandemic. This makes predictions difficult since Gracenote’s calculations are based on the most recent performances in top level events like world championships and so forth.
A team from Russia, host nation Japan and Britain are expected to be among the top five.
“This Olympics is even more unpredictable than usual,” Simon Gleave, the head of sports analysis at Gracenote, wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “Many events were canceled in 2020 and although they have been replaced with events held this year, athletes from some countries have not competed in those more recent events.”
Gracenote has projected the United States to win 96 overall medals. This is down from the 121 the Untied States won five years ago in Rio de Janeiro. Gracenote has the United States winning 40 gold medals, 27 silver and 29 bronze.
China is picked to win 33 gold medals, and its overall total is projected to be 66. Gracenote acknowledges this is probably an underestimate since many Chinese athletes have not been seen competing abroad.
“We have made some adjustments to our usual model but there is little that can be done about the competitors with no results since March 2020,” Gleave said.
The shocker is the Russians.
Russian athletes will be competing under the name of the Russian Olympic Committee, the latest fallout from the Games’ longest running doping scandal. You will not see the Russian flag above any podiums, but athletes from the country will still be competing. Gracenote has Russia picked to win 68 overall medals and 21 gold.
There is giant pressure on host nation Japan.
Japan has never won more than 16 gold medals at an Olympics, doing it in Tokyo in 1964, and in Athens in 2004. Before the pandemic, the Japanese Olympic Committee had set its target firmly at 30 golds. Japanese officials toned down expectations, although almost all Olympic host nations get a bump by being at home.