Winter Olympics forecast: Germany, Norway top medal table

AP
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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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MORE: PyeongChang Olympic schedule daily highlights

Injured Ilia Malinin wins Grand Prix Finland, qualifies for Grand Prix Final

Ilia Malinin
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Ilia Malinin, competing “a little bit injured” this week, still won Grand Prix Finland and goes into the Grand Prix Final in two weeks as the world’s top-ranked male singles skater.

Malinin, who was second after Friday’s short program, landed four clean quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate to overtake Frenchman Kevin Aymoz.

Malinin, who landed a quad flip in competition for the first time, according to SkatingScores.com, also attempted a quad Axel to open his program, but spun out of the landing and put his hand down on the ice.

Malinin also won his previous two starts this season in come-from-behind fashion. The 17-year-old world junior champion became the first skater to land a clean, fully rotated quad Axel in September, then did it again in October at Skate America, where he posted the world’s top overall score this season.

Next, Malinin can become the second-youngest man to win the Grand Prix Final after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko. His biggest competition is likely to be world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who like Malinin won both of his Grand Prix starts this fall. Malinin and Uno have not gone head-to-head this season.

Grand Prix Finland highlights air on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

FIGURE SKATING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Japan’s Mai Mihara overtook world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium to become the only woman to win both of her Grand Prix starts this season. Mihara prevailed by .23 of a point. The top three women this season by best total score are Japanese, led by a junior skater, 14-year-old Mao Shimada, who isn’t Olympic age-eligible until 2030.

Mihara and Hendrickx qualified for the Grand Prix Final, joining world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Rinka Watanabe, both of Japan, South Korean Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini won both pairs’ programs and qualified for their first Grand Prix Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara and Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier headline the Final. Both pairs won each of their Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. The Japanese have the world’s two best scores this season. The Americans are reigning world champions.

At least one Russian or Chinese pair made every Grand Prix Final podium — usually pairs from both countries — but neither nation competed in pairs this Grand Prix season. All Russian skaters are banned due to the war in Ukraine. China’s lone entry on the Grand Prix across all disciplines was an ice dance couple.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier improved on their world-leading score for this season in winning the ice dance by 17.03 points over Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. Both couples qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the absence of all three Olympic medalists this fall.

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Lara Gut-Behrami wins Killington giant slalom, and the overall title race may be on

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Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami rallied from third place after the first run for her 35th career World Cup victory, taking a giant slalom in Killington, Vermont, on Saturday.

Gut-Behrami, 31, earned her fifth World Cup giant slalom win and first in six years. She prevailed by .07 of a second over Italian Marta Bassino combining times from two windy runs. Sweden’s Sara Hector, the Olympic champion and first-run leader, ended up third.

“Last two years I’ve been getting better in GS again,” said Gut-Behrami, who won the GS at the last world championships in 2021. “Last year I was struggling with my health. I was all the time sick.”

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Gut-Behrami’s best events are downhill and super-G, so a strong start to the season in GS could put her on a path to winning the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. She previously lifted that crystal globe in 2016.

Reigning World Cup overall champ Mikaela Shiffrin, who previously placed second, third, fourth and fifth in Killington giant slaloms, finished 13th after winning the season’s first two races, slaloms in Finland last week. It marked her lowest World Cup GS finish since December 2019.

“[Finland] was a spectacular weekend,” Shiffrin, who has not had much recent GS training, said after her 10th-place opening run Saturday. “Every race is a different story.”

Shiffrin won all five World Cup slaloms in Killington dating to 2016 and will go for her 50th career World Cup slalom victory across all venues on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC and Peacock).

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