Like many trying to forecast the results of next year’s Winter Olympics, Simon Gleave has a major problem: Russia could be the subject to a doping ban.
All calculations are muddied when it’s not clear if Russia will it be in, out, or somewhere in between.
“At the moment we assume with everything we’re doing that Russia is in,” Gleave, the head of analysis for Gracenote Sports, said in an interview with The Associated Press.
The International Olympic Committee hopes to decide in December on Russia’s eligibility with the Pyeongchang Olympics opening on Feb. 9. But it may drag right up to the eve of the games, as it did last year in Rio de Janeiro.
Gleave has created a virtual medal table on the assumption that Russia’s full team will participate.
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 Canada, 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, acknowledging 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.
“Men’s downhill is always one of the toughest to predict,” he said. “The times are close, the course, the day itself. Surprises are frequent in downhill.”
This is Gleave’s fourth analysis, which he began for the 2012 London Olympics as a project for The Times of London newspaper.
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.”
Stephen Wade on Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP
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