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Winter Olympics forecast: Germany, Norway top medal table

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Simon Gleave is piecing together results from his statistical model to predict the top medal-winning countries for next year’s PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

He has one large problem: will Russia be in, or out, or somewhere in between?

Gleave, the head of analysis for Gracenote Sports, has created a virtual medal table on the assumption that Russia’s full team will participate and not be subject to a doping ban.

“At the moment we assume with everything we’re doing that Russia is in,” Gleave said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The International Olympic Committee said it hopes to decide on Russian eligibility in December with the Olympics opening on Feb. 9. But it may drag right up to the eve of the Games, as it did for Rio.

On Wednesday, Olympic officials in PyeongChang marked 100 days to go until the Opening Ceremony.

With Russia in, Gleave predicts that Germany will win the most gold medals, and the most overall. Germany is predicted to win 14 golds and 35 overall, followed by Norway with 12 gold and 32 overall.

The United States is next with 10 gold and 29 overall. Canada is predicted to win 31 overall, more than the Americans but with fewer gold.

After Germany, Norway and the United States, the top 10 in the gold medals are: France (9), Austria (7), South Korea (7), Netherlands (6), Russia (6), China (6) and Canada (5).

If Russia is out, Gracenote figures the 21 overall medals would be distributed among 11 different countries. The big winners would be Germany and the Netherlands.

Its six gold medals would go to the Netherlands (2) with one each for Canad6a, Germany, Japan, and Norway.

Accustomed to dealing with the unpredictable, Gleave said there is another dark spot.

Men’s hockey will be tougher to predict, since NHL players will not participate. That leaves him relying on results from recent world championships.

“The strong countries in ice hockey are the strong countries in ice hockey – whether it’s their first teams playing or their second teams,” he said. But he acknowledged his picks for men’s hockey will not be “as strong” as in other events.

To get his predictions for all sports, Gleave weighs results in recent world championships and other world-class events, giving more weight to the most recent.

In the case of winter sports, most seasons are just beginning. Gleave said he expects “minor changes” when he calculates the standings again in January with a month to go.

“It won’t change enormously,” Gleave said. “But there will be changes.”

At last year’s Rio Olympics, Gleave said 80 percent of the eventual medalists came from a top-eight list he compiled for every discipline. He said he expected the same for Pyeongchang.

This is Gleave’s fourth analysis, which he began for the 2012 London Olympics as a project for The Times of London.

He’s now doing it for Gracenote, which bills itself as a “sports and entertainment provider” that supplies statistical analysis for sports leagues around the world.

“We develop it as we go along to try to make some improvements,” he said. “But improvements in this are only very tiny. It’s very difficult to predict the unpredictable, which is obviously what makes sport most interesting.”

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The secret messages Lindsey Vonn wrote on her Olympic race suit

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SCHEDULE UPDATE: Vonn will will return for the final women’s downhill training run on Monday at 9 p.m. ET. LIVE STREAM

Look closely at Lindsey Vonn.

When NBC cameras zoom in on the two-time Olympic medalist, viewers will notice that she wrote a couple of messages on her uniform in permanent marker.

On the thumb of her right glove, Vonn has the word “believe” in Greek. It mirrors a tattoo she has on the inside of a finger.

“Signifying my last Olympics [in 2018] and just need to believe in myself,” Vonn said to NBC’s Nick Zaccardi.

On her helmet, Vonn has the initials “D.K.” and a heart. It is meant to honor her late grandfather, Don Kildow.

Kildow, who served in the Korean War from 1952-54, died on Nov. 1. Watch to learn more about Vonn’s special relationship with her grandparents:

Hard falls at Olympics, but no hard rules about concussions

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — At the bottom of the Olympic aerials landing hill, where crashes are common and the term “slap back” is part of the everyday lingo, skiers spend almost as much time figuring out how to protect their heads as they do working on all those flips and spins.

“We learn how to fall,” U.S. jumper Jon Lillis said.

Elsewhere around the action-sports venue, that’s not so much the case.

Concussion dangers lurk everywhere — from the iced-over deck of the halfpipe, to the steeply pitched landings on the slopestyle course, to the careening twists and turns of the snowboard cross track, to the aerials course, where “slap back” is the term for when a skier’s head slaps backward against the snow. But at the Olympics, there are no hard-and-fast rules regarding who diagnoses head injuries, and no hard-and-fast protocol that athletes must clear to be allowed back on the slopes after a concussion.

“A bit concerning,” says neurologist Kevin Weber of the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. “Because you worry that athletes in other sports that may not be as popular as football are getting, I wouldn’t say ignored, but the concussions they’re getting are under-scrutinized.”

Read the full story at NBCOlympics.com