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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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Swim meet canceled after FINA’s threat to ban athletes

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GENEVA (AP) — Amid growing conflict between swimmers and their world governing body, an international swimming meet was canceled on Thursday after threats to ban athletes who took part seeking better prize money.

The Italian swim federation called off the Dec. 20-21 competition it was organizing in Turin, saying it acted to protect athletes from FINA.

The Turin meet was linked to a proposed International Swimming League, a privately run operation which aims to operate outside FINA’s control and pay higher prize money.

“FINA declared the event ‘non-approved,’ threatening sanctions against the participating athletes,” Italian officials said in a statement.

FINA, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some Olympic champions have long criticized FINA, believing swimmers should be better rewarded, have more say in decisions, and could create their own union.

Olympic champion Adam Peaty of Britain wrote on Thursday on Twitter he was “incredibly disappointed” by the cancellation.

The politics involved will “galvanize swimmers, not break them,” wrote Peaty, who holds 50m and 100m breaststroke world records.

Peaty has previously supported Hungarian star Katinka Hosszu in her public criticism of FINA, and calls to create a swimmers’ union.

Italian organizers said Peaty, Hosszu and other Olympic champions including Chad le Clos of South Africa and Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden were due to take part in their 25-meter pool event. It was scheduled days after the short-course world championships being staged in Hangzhou, China.

The clash of events seemed to provoke FINA into finding more prize money for its worlds event in the smaller pool.

On Nov. 6, FINA added to its promised prize fund for China by almost doubling the total to $2.07 million.

FINA wrote to member federations on Oct. 30 warning of bans of up to two years for taking part in Turin.

However, a European Commission decision last year suggests swimmers could successfully challenge any attempt to limit their right to race and earn money.

The European Union’s executive arm ruled the International Staking Union in breach of anti-trust laws by threatening severe bans for speed skaters who wanted to compete in a South Korean-organized event in Dubai.

The ISU’s threats “also serve to protect its own commercial interests,” the European officials said.

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Simon Ammann believes ski jumping career end is near

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Simon Ammann, the most decorated active ski jumper with four Olympic gold medals, said it is hard to imagine competing beyond this season, according to Swiss newspaper Blick.

Ammann, 37, swept the individual Olympic titles in 2002 and 2010 to join retired Finn Matti Nykänen as the only four-time Olympic ski jumping champs.

In PyeongChang, his sixth Olympics, Ammann placed 11th and 13th, one month after making his first World Cup podium in nearly three years. He decided after those Winter Games that he would continue at least one more season, but has no plan to go all the way to a seventh Olympics in 2022, according to Blick.

Ammann has teased retirement since at least 2011 and even said going into the 2014 Sochi Olympics that he was “99 percent sure” they would be his final Games.

The now-father of two first gained crossover celebrity with his surprise Salt Lake City 2002 gold medals, his first wins in top-level international competition. The bespectacled Ammann’s victory screams and resemblance to Harry Potter helped land him on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and one of Europe’s biggest shows, sitting next to Shakira.

Fellow ski jumper Noriaki Kasai of Japan holds the Winter Olympic record of eight appearances. Kasai, 46, has said he plans to go for a ninth participation at Beijing 2022.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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