Olympic medal forecaster has U.S. topping Tokyo 2020 standings

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TOKYO (AP) — If the Tokyo Olympics were opening today, the United States would top the overall medal count and the gold-medal count.

That’s the forecast released Tuesday by Gracenote Sports, which supplies statistical analysis for sports leagues around the world.

Simon Gleave, the head of sports analysis at Gracenote, said his model has the United States winning 51 gold medals, 34 silver, and 41 bronze for 126 overall. China is picked to finish second with 38 gold and 81 overall.

Host nation Japan is third, which would be a strong showing for a country with a much smaller population than China or the United States. Japan is predicted to win 29 gold medals, 67 overall and take advantage of the “home-field advantage” that almost always goes to the host nation. Spain got a boost back in the ’92 Barcelona Olympics, China jumped in 2008 in Beijing, as did Britain in London in 2012.

The Tokyo Olympics open on July 24, 2020.

The next seven countries ranked in order of overall medals are: Russia (65), Britain (43), Australia (43), France (41), Germany (38), Netherlands (34), and Italy (32).

This is fifth forecast Gleave has put together and the record is solid.

“Sometimes countries over-perform, or under-perform, and that’s not to do with our model,” Gleave told AP in an interview. “That just happens in sport.”

Three years ago in Rio de Janeiro, Gracenote picked the order of the top three countries correctly, and picked eight of the top 10 medal-winning countries. In the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, it correctly picked Norway to win a record number of medals and finish ahead of No. 2 Germany. It also picked the top four countries correctly, and in the correct order. Its predictions for seven of the top 10 countries were within one or two medals of their final totals.

Russia is a major headache. Its track and field athletes are still banned from Tokyo following a widespread doping scandal. The governing body of track and field, the IAAF, has had a ban on the Russian athletics federation since 2015. Russia’s medal total of course will be impacted by any change in eligibility.

“If just before the Olympics, Russia is allowed to enter again it’s going to be a bit of an issue,” Gleave said of the medal predictions.

Other highlights.

— Britain finished in the top three in the last two Olympics, but is expected to fall out of that ranking. Look for Australia and Britain to be vying for a spot in the top five.

— The Netherlands is picked to surpass its best overall medal total of 25 — that was 2000 in Sydney — and reach 34.

— The second 10 in overall medal totals predicted are: South Korea (30), Hungary (27), Canada (25), Kenya (20), Spain (20), New Zealand (18), Ukraine (16), Brazil (15), Poland (14), and Turkey (14).

— Women’s participation in Tokyo will almost reach parity with men. Countries not promoting women’s sports are sure to suffer in the medal standings.

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World short-track speedskating championships will be moved, postponed or canceled

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The International Skating Union announced Tuesday that the world short-track speedskating championships will not proceed as scheduled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Seoul’s Mokdong Ice Rink, where the competition was set to be held March 13-15, held the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships earlier this month but closed on Monday.

The ISU left open the possibility that the championships will be postponed or relocated, but the window to do so may close rapidly.

“Taking into account the uncertain world-wide development of the coronavirus, the limited and uncertain available time slots during the coming weeks and the logistical challenges of potential organizers and participating teams, a postponement and/or relocation of the Championships would be difficult to achieve,” the ISU said. “Nevertheless, a postponement and/or relocation of this Championships might be considered if the circumstances would allow so in due time.”

South Korea is one of short-track speedskating’s traditional powers. Last year, the country dominated the world championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, winning both relays and taking gold in all of the men’s individual races. South Korea also led the medal count on home ice in the 2018 Olympics.

The coronavirus outbreak has forced the cancellation of many events in China, where the illness was first found. The world indoor track and field championships were pushed back a whole year.

With the virus spreading to other regions, other countries’ sports schedules are being affected. Several soccer games are proceeding in empty stadiums in Italy and Iran.

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Daniel Romanchuk’s ascent to marathon stardom accelerated at University of Illinois

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The rise of Daniel Romanchuk has been one of the major stories of this Paralympic cycle. The wheelchair racer was eliminated in the first round of all five of his races in Rio.

But now, he’s the world’s best marathoner with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, a world-record holder on the track and already qualified for the Tokyo Games.

Romanchuk, born with spina bifida, was profiled by NBC Sports Chicago as part of a series of NBC Sports Regional Networks pieces published this week — marking 150 days until the Tokyo Olympics and six months until the Tokyo Paralympics.

NBC RSN Olympic and Paralympic Profiles
NBC Sports Bay Area

Abbey Weitzeil (Swimming) — LINK

NBC Sports Boston
Margaret Bertasi (Rowing) — LINK
Abbey D’Agostino Cooper (Track and Field) — LINK

NBC Sports Chicago
Ryan Murphy (Swimming) — LINK

NBC Sports Northwest
Galen Rupp (Marathon) — LINK
Mariel Zagunis (Fencing) — LINK

NBC Sports Philadelphia
Vashti Cunningham (Track and Field) — LINK
Julie Ertz (Soccer) — LINK

NBC Sports Washington
Katie Ledecky (Swimming) — LINK
Kyle Snyder (Wrestling) — LINK

Romanchuk, 21, swept the Boston, London, Chicago and New York City Marathon titles in 2019. He attributes that success to his native Baltimore and his training residence of the University of Illinois.

At age 2, he was enrolled in Baltimore’s Bennett Blazers, an adaptive sports program for children with physical disabilities. Tatyana McFadden, a 17-time Paralympic medalist who dominated women’s wheelchair marathons, planted her athletic roots there.

“Their motto is to teach kids they can before they’re told they can’t,” Romanchuk said.

Things really blossomed for Romanchuk after he moved from Baltimore to the University of Illinois. Illinois was designated a U.S. Paralympic training site in 2014 and has produced McFadden, Jean Driscoll and other U.S. Paralympic stars.

“Without this program, I certainly would not be where I am,” Romanchuk said. “It’s a very unique combination of coaching and teammates.”

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MORE: Ten Paralympic hopefuls to watch for 2020 Tokyo Games