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U.S., China predicted to top Tokyo Olympic medal standings six months out

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TOKYO (AP) — The Tokyo Olympics open in exactly six months, and the United States and China are picked to finish 1-2 in the overall medal count and the gold-medal count.

That’s the easy part in a forecast done by Gracenote Sports about which countries will win the most Olympic medals. Gracenote supplies analysis for leagues around the world and has had a solid track record forecasting recent Olympics.

The United States and China are easy to handle. The tough part is figuring out how to deal with Russia.

Russia is facing a four-year Olympic ban for manipulating doping data. It has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport with a ruling expected in several months.

The sanctions imposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency forbid the use of the Russian team name, flag, or anthem. However, some Russian athletes are still expected to compete as neutrals — as they did in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Of course, no one knows how many.

All of this really fouls up Gracenote’s calculations.

First, a look at the United States and China with the Olympics opening on July 24.

Gracenote, which forecasts medals based on performances in major events since the last Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, has the United States leading the overall medal count with 117, and the gold-medal count with 47.

China is picked to win 87 overall and 43 gold.

Russia is next with 66 overall and 25 gold, followed by host nation Japan with 65 overall and 30 gold.

Japan is expected to take advantage of the host-nation advantage, which happens at every Olympics. It won a national record of 41 overall medals four years ago in Rio de Janeiro, and 12 gold. Its medals return this time should be a vast improvement, partly due to success in new sports, or returning sports like baseball and softball.

Russia is the headache.

“It remains to be seen how many of the 66 medalists (from Russia) currently forecast by Gracenote will be allowed to compete,” Simon Gleave, the head of sports analysis at Gracenote, wrote in an analysis.

Of course, the absence of any potential Russian medal winner opens a chance for somebody else. Gracenote says the United States will benefit the most if no Russian athletes compete. Gracenote figures the United States would win nine more medals, and Italy would be next with a gain of six.

Gracenote’s prediction record is decent.

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 PyeongChang in 2018 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 in PyeongChang, and in the correct order. Its predictions for seven of the top 10 countries were within one or two medals of their final totals.

Following the United States, China, Russia, and Japan, the next six countries in Tokyo in the order of overall medals are predicted to be: Australia (44), Great Britain (42), Netherlands (41), France (37), Germany (35) and Italy (32).

The second 10: South Korea (26), Hungary (23), Canada (22), New Zealand (21), Brazil (21), Turkey (18), Spain (18), Poland (18), Ukraine (16), Kenya (15).

And the third 10: Sweden (14), Serbia (13), India (12), Cuba (11), Taiwan (11), Kazakhstan (11), North Korea (10), Georgia (10), Jamaica (10), Iran (9).

The countries with the largest improvement in overall medals are expected to be: Japan (24), Netherlands (22), China (17), Australia (15), Russia (11), India (10), Turkey (10), Taiwan (8), Hungary (8), South Korea (5), Hong Kong (5), Ukraine (5).

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MORE: What you need to know about the Tokyo Olympics, six months out

Dan Hicks, Rowdy Gaines call backyard pool swim race

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Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines covered swimming together at the last six Olympics, including every one of Michael Phelps‘ finals, but they’ve never called a “race” quite like this.

“We heard you were looking for something to commentate during the down time….might this short short short course 100 IM help?” tweeted Cathleen Pruden, posting a video of younger sister Mary Pruden, a sophomore swimmer at Columbia University, taking individual medley strokes in what appeared to be an inflatable backyard pool.

“Hang on,” Gaines replied. “This race of the century deserves the right call. @DanHicksNBC and I are working some magic!”

Later, Hicks posted a revised video dubbed with commentary from he and Gaines.

They became the latest commentators to go beyond the booth to post calls on social media while sports are halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NBC Sports hockey voice Doc Emrick (who has also called Olympic hockey and water polo) did play-by-play of a windshield wiper installation.

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MORE: Ledecky, Manuel welcome Olympic decision after training in backyard pool

Which athletes are qualified for the U.S. Olympic team?

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Soon after Tokyo Olympic qualifying events began getting postponed, the International Olympic Committee announced that all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes.

The IOC repeated that position over the last week, after the Tokyo Games were postponed (now to open July 23, 2021). What does that mean for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee?

Well, 76 athletes qualified for the U.S. Olympic team before the Olympic postponement was announced. That full list is here.

Those 76 athletes can be separated into two categories.

  • Athletes who earned Olympic spots BY NAME via International Federation (i.e. International Surfing Association or International Aquatics Federation) selection procedures.
  • Athletes named to the U.S. Olympic team by their national governing body (i.e. USA Swimming or USA Track and Field) and confirmed by the USOPC using NGB selection procedures after the NGB earned a quota spot.

When the IOC says “all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes,” it means just that. USA Softball still has 15 athlete quota spots from qualifying a full team via international results. Surfer Kolohe Andino still has his Olympic spot from qualifying BY NAME via the International Surfing Association selection procedures route.

USA Softball named its 15-player Olympic roster last fall. Those 15 athletes did not earn Olympic quota spots for themselves. Unlike Andino (and 13 other American qualifiers across all sports), the 15 softball players had to be nominated by USA Softball and confirmed by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

Unless and until the USOPC confirms that any of those other 62 athletes remain qualified, for now the list of U.S. Olympic qualifiers is these 14 who qualified BY NAME:

Karate (1)
Sakura Kokumai

Modern Pentathlon (2)
Samantha Achterberg
Amro Elgeziry

Swimming (3)
Haley Anderson
Ashley Twichell
Jordan Wilimovsky

Sport Climbing (4)
Kyra Condie
Brooke Raboutou
Nathaniel Coleman
Colin Duffy

Surfing (4)
Caroline Marks
Carissa Moore
Kolohe Andino
John John Florence

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MORE: Qualified athletes go into limbo with Tokyo postponement