Predicting Olympic medal winners can be a futile business at the best at times; during pandemic times, when there’s still no predicting how exactly the Tokyo Olympics will unfold, it may even be foolish.
Still the Gracenote Virtual Medal Table has a good record on these matters, and to mark 100 days to go before the scheduled opening ceremony in Tokyo on July 23rd, they have made their predictions known for one of the last time before the Games begin.
It’s slightly mixed news when it comes to Irish medal predictions, Gracenote predicting five medal winners in Tokyo, including two gold, one silver and two bronze, which is actually one less than their last prediction table in January 2020, before two months later the Games were postponed for exactly one year due to Covid-19.
However, their latest virtual medal table was completed before last weekend’s European Rowing Championships in Italy, where lightweight double sculls rowers Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy won gold, and also ahead of next weekend’s European Gymnastics Championships in Switzerland, where Rhys McClenaghan is also fancied to win gold.
For now, Gracenote are predicting gold medals in Tokyo for single sculls rower Sanita Puspure, even though she didn’t compete at those same European championships, and are also predicting gold in Tokyo for the Equestrian-Showjumping Team.
O'Donovan and McCarthy are still predicted to win silver, even though they beat all their likely main contenders in those European Championships last weekend, including Germany, Italy and France. The two Olympic bronze medals being predicted are for lightweight boxer Kellie Harrington (even though she has yet to officially qualify for Tokyo), and also for McClenaghan in the gymnastics.
In January of 2020, Gracenote were also predicting a bronze medal in the Equestrian-Eventing individual with Padraig McCarthy, riding on Mr Chunky, only he has now dropped to fourth: according to Gracenote, “this is because the impact of his results, particularly his 2018 World Equestrian Games performance now have less weight due to the time factor we employ with this.”
Gracenote uses an extensive statistical model based on individual and team results since Rio, and is predicting the top-eight finishers across all the Olympic events.
Interestingly too, in January 2020, Rory McIlroy was predicted to just miss out on a medal in the golf, Gracenote ranking him fourth: he's now dropped to seventh, with the medal winners predicted as Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau.
The five predicted medal wins also means Ireland are ranked 42nd on total medals and 38th on gold medals, which would still more than double its Olympic medal count compared to Rio 2016 (the two silver medals won thanks to sailor Annalise Murphy and rowers Paul and Gary O'Donovan, placing Ireland 62nd overall). It is also still just one less than the record six medals won in London in 2012.
In Rio, Gracenote picked the order of the top three countries correctly, and picked eight of the top 10 medal-winning countries. At the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, it correctly picked Norway to win a record number of medals and finish ahead of Germany.
“Due to the impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic, the Tokyo Olympics is likely to be the most unpredictable Olympics ever,” said Gracenote. “As usual, Nielsen Gracenotes Virtual Medal Table has used the information available since the 2016 Summer Games to identify the athletes who are likely to be successful: still the projection contains more uncertainty than usual because of the pandemic.”
The United States is again expected to win the most medals overall at Tokyo, ahead of China and Russia, with Britain dropping three places since the last prediction table, and is now ranked only eighth best, “the reduction in medals for Britain is partially due to lower expectations in track cycling, gymnastics and rowing amongst other competitions. In 2016, those three sports accounted for nearly one third of British medals (22). In 2021 however, these sports could produce as few as five podium places.”
Tokyo 2020 - predicted medal table (total medals)
1. United States 114
2. China 85
3. Russia 73
4. Japan 59
5. Netherlands 46
6. France 41
7. Australia 40
8. Britain 36
9. Germany 34
10. Italy 33
* 42. Ireland 5