Germany and Norway will fight it out to be the top medal winner at the 2018 Winter Olympics, followed by the U.S., whose women’s team will fare especially well in PyeongChang, South Korea, Gracenote predicted Feb. 7, before the start of the games.
The predictions are included in the Nielsen division’s latest Virtual Medal Table (VMT), a statistical model based on individual and team results in previous Olympics Games, World Championships and World Cups that is used to forecast the most likely gold, silver and bronze medal winners by country, Gracenote explained in a news release. The information is designed to “enable broadcasters, media publishers and pay TV operators to deliver unique Olympic-focused stories across Web, mobile and broadcast properties,” it said.
Its predictions factored in the most up-to-date athlete results from key competitions since the last Olympic Winter Games, analysis of team performance and recent rulings on Russia that could benefit other athletes, Gracenote said, pointing to the International Olympic Committee’s recent ban against Russia’s team competing this year due to doping violations.
Although the Gracenote algorithm used to make the predictions “does not use artificial intelligence or machine learning,” the company does “leverage optimisation processes to estimate some of the weightings the calculation uses to get the best fit for the data and thus the best possible predictions from the data,” Simon Gleave, head of analysis, told the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance Feb. 8.
“Of course, we can only do this for past competitions as we don’t know how this one will go yet,” he said. But he added: “After this Olympics, we will review the process both in comparison to other forecasts and other methods we have in order to improve for the next time.”
Despite Gracenote’s prediction that Germany or Norway will finish on top overall this year, it projected that the women of Team U.S.A. will dominate the podium among women.
There are 306 medals at stake at the 2018 Winter Olympics, with 48% (147) in men’s events, 43% (132) in women’s events and 9% (27) in mixed or open events, Gracenote pointed out. Of the 12 countries expected to win at least 10 medals, five are forecast to win at least 50% of their medals in women’s events and the nation that appears to benefit most from female contributors is the U.S., it said. American women are expected to win 18 medals, just over 62% of the country’s projected total of 29, it said, adding three of the remaining medals forecast for the U.S. are in mixed events where women will likely make significant contributions also.
Team U.S.A.’s women are led by the alpine skiers Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn, both of whom Gracenote expects to win two medals on the slopes, including one gold medal each. Speed skater Heather Bergsma, snowboarders Chloe Kim, Jamie Anderson and Lindsey Jacobellis, the women’s ice hockey team and cross-country skiers Ida Sargent and Sophie Caldwell are all expected to win gold also, Gracenote said.
Despite the Russian ban, a limited number of Russian athletes are competing in the games, each under the designation of an Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR). Gracenote predicted they will win eight medals instead of the 20 Gracenote said it would have projected for Russia if the team had competed as usual. It projected Norway will benefit the most from the Russian absences, adding five medals to its projected total. Gracenote predicted Germany and Switzerland will each win two more medals than it would have if Russia’s full team had competed, while France, the Netherlands and the U.S. will each win one extra medal as a result.
Gracenote projected the Norwegians will win an Olympic record 41 medals (13 gold, 13 silver and 15 bronze), beating the current best of 37 by the U.S. at Vancouver 2010. That would also be Norway’s best performance to date by a wide margin, it noted. Gracenote predicted Germany will win a combined 39 medals (14 gold, 11 silver and 14 bronze). That would be Germany’s highest medal total since winning 36 at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002, it said.
The U.S. is expected to finish in third place on the table, with a combined 29 medals (11 gold, 6 silver and 12 bronze), Gracenote said, predicting the country’s best performances should be in alpine skiing, freestyle skiing and snowboarding (Jamie Anderson and Julia Marino) and speed skating (Heather Bergsma). Gracenote projected Canada will fall one medal short of the U.S., with
a combined 28 medals (7 gold, 9 silver and 12 bronze).
Gracenote Sports offers rich data on 4,500 of the world’s most popular leagues and competitions, along with a “deep trove of historical Olympics information going back to the very first modern games” in 1896, it said.