There is a lot I like about watching the Olympics. Probably my favorite thing, though, is the opportunity to handicap and bet on sports that you just can't bet on most of the time. Some are sports I follow a bit and know at least the basics of who is competitive and what it takes to win. Others are sports that I barely know the rules of. In either case, it's a great chance to mix things up and to exercise your handicapping muscles in different ways. There can also be some nice value to be found because in a lot of cases most others don't know much more about betting on the sport than you do.
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Here are four plays in more obscure sports that stand out as interesting (all odds are from Bovada):
Gwen Jorgensen, U.S., women's triathlon: Jorgensen is -200 to win the women's triathlon on August 20. That's a low price, but she's a good bet. Starting in late 2014 Jorgensen won 13 straight events, including the test event on this Olympic course. This is a challenging course that rewards strong swimmers, technical riders, and fast runners. That pretty much describes Jorgensen. She'll be among the first out of the water, and she will assert herself on the bike. There is no one who can outrun her, so the flat and very fast run course will be a huge asset for her. She has been targeting this race for a long time and will be tough to beat.
McLain Ward, U.S., show jumping: Ward is at +650 to win the individual show jumping gold. This is an event that is close to my heart because I grew up around the sport - my dad was a farrier, the guy who puts horseshoes on horses, and my mom taught people to show jump and sold them the saddles and supplies they needed. I haven't ridden in many years, but back in the day I thought that this gold medal would be mine one day. It won't be, but it could be Ward's. He has a huge stable of horses and has been winning pretty much everything in Europe and North America the last couple of years. He has won team gold in 2004 and 2008, and this is his third games so he will not be intimidated at all. His mare Azur is very talented and should be well suited to this event. There is a deep field here, with the likes of defending gold medal winner Steve Guerdat of Switzerland, favorite Simon Delestre of France, and deep German and Dutch teams along with good American talent all very dangerous. Ward certainly doesn't lack talent or confidence, though, and this price is more than right.
Peter Sagan, Slovakia, mountain biking: I'm not at all convinced that Sagan is a value play at +750, but it's such a crazy story that it's worth a shot. Sagan is one of the top riders in road riding. He has won the green jersey at the Tour de France, which is given to the top sprinter over the three weeks, the last five years. He climbs well and is one of the very best sprinters on the planet. The road race here did not suit his style well at all, though - too much climbing, and the finish didn't set up well for a sprint. Instead of just showing up and enjoying the atmosphere, Sagan got creative in his pursuit of a medal. He is obviously not a mountain biker now, but he was before turning to the road - he was the 2008 junior world champion. He has been working on refreshing his technique as much as he can lately, though he obviously didn't touch a mountain bike through most of July as he was at the Tour. He's going to be at a big disadvantage in terms of sport-specific technique. He's one of the very best bike handlers on the road, though, and after the Tour and everything that goes into preparing for it he'll be at least as fit as anyone in the race, and no one will be able to handle pain better than him. This isn't a totally unprecedented move - Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer both used their road fitness to their advantage to win the Leadville 100, a 100-mile mountain bike race in Colorado, and current tour rider Joe Dombrowski is favored to win the same race this year. The Olympics is a different beast, though. This is just so bizarre that I have to have action on it.
Shi Tingmao, China, 3m springboard diving: Shi Tingmao is the -200 favorite here. There have been four diving contests completed as I write this. China has three golds and a bronze. They are as dominant in this sport as any country is in any sport right now - the equivalent of the American women in gymnastics. Her biggest threat here is teammate He Zi. Really, no one else stands a chance unless those two both falter badly. This is a safe bet.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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