It's too early to seriously be looking at Olympic medal props. Olympic teams haven't been named, and trials haven't even happened for some sports yet. Because it doesn't make sense right now, though, is exactly why we are doing it. The numbers that oddsmakers have posted can't be any more informed than we can be - they don't have better information in this case than we do. The public also isn't very interested in these numbers yet. That means that there is a greater chance of finding value here than there might be in other circumstances. I like value.
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Here's a look (odds are from BetOnline) It's interesting to note that the "over" is favored in every case here. That's not surprising - early views of events are almost always generally optimistic. But does that create value on the "under" in some spots?:
United States (over/under 41.5 gold medals, o/u 103.5 total medals): The first factor we need to consider here - and everywhere else in these discussions - is the absence of Russia in the track and field competition. The country has been banned from the events for doping concerns. Individual athletes can apply for inclusion, but few are expected to succeed. The country won seven gold medals in track and field events and nine more combined silver and bronze, too. That means that there are fewer strong contenders up for these medals. That's good news for the Americans - they won 28 there in London.
Really, though, the success or failure of the Americans against these props comes in the pool. They had 16 gold medals and 31 total medals in the pool last year. If it happens there it will be different people doing the heavy lifting - Michael Phelps should be competitive again, but Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin, who won 10 medals between them in London, have had disastrous outings at the Olympic trials and will not be nearly as productive in Rio.
Overall in London the Americans won 103 total medals and 46 gold medals. In Beijing four years earlier they had 110 total medals but just 36 gold medals. These numbers are tight.
There is one more factor to consider, though. In both Beijing and London the host countries have dramatically increased their medal hauls - China ran away with the medal win in Beijing, and the Brits were third in London. Brazil, which ranked just 22nd in London, doesn't have the means or depth to dramatically grow their medal haul in the same way. That again means there are more medals available for other countries.
Add it all up and I see some nice value in the over in total medals but not a lot of value in the gold medals.
Canada (o/u 17.5 total medals): As much as it pains me to say it, my home and native land is not a summer Olympics heavyweight by any means. They had 19 medals in 2008 and one less four years later. Hosting the Pan-am games last year increased investment in summer sports to a degree. It's still going to be far from a great performance for us - though we are fine with mediocre summer performance as long as we win hockey gold in the winter. I'd lean towards the over, but mostly because I'm a patriot. Not a lot of value here.
Great Britain (o/u 18.5 gold medals): I'll resist making any cracks about Brexit or Iceland here - the poor country has suffered enough already. They peaked at home in 2012 with 29 gold medals, which was up from 19 in Beijing. They will take an inevitable step back this year. However, given the facilities they have and the residual legacy of hosting the games, the step back shouldn't be hugely dramatic. There is some value in the over here.
China (o/u 34.5 gold medals): China won 51 golds in Beijing but regressed to 38 in London. They had won 28 and 32 golds in the two games before Beijing. It's very hard to get a sense of what is going on in China before the games, but it's not hard to imagine them taking another step backwards this year. I'd favor the under, but not aggressively.
Germany (o/u 15.5 gold medals): This represents a pretty big step forward for this remarkably-consistent country - they have won 13, 13, 13 and 11 gold medals in the last four Olympics. So, can they top their recent best by three golds and their 2012 total by five? I'm not at all convinced. Several of the golds were in high variability, wide-open events - equestrian eventing, eight-man rowing, sprint cycling, beach volleyball, field hockey. They could have a strong games and still not repeat any of those events. The under is the way to go here.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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