United States heads into Rio Olympics atop gold medal odds

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With Russia banned from track and field due to a doping scandal, medal projections for Olympic powers such as the United States and China must be adjusted accordingly.

There are almost as many ways to bet on the 2016 Rio Olympics, which commence Friday, as there are events in the Summer Games. To no surprise, the United States is a huge -600 favorite on the odds to win the most gold medals at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com, with China listed at +325. The absence of the Russian team will be a greater boon to the Americans, the stronger track-and-field nation, than it will be to China.

The over/under on the Americans’ performances are 42.5 gold medals and 103.5 total medals. Four years ago in London, the final tally was 46 and 103. Whatever the United States picks up in athletics could be handed back in the pool, where it might be in tough to pick up 30-some medals again. Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin are past their peaks, and neither American 4×100 freestyle relay is favored for gold.

In 2012, Great Britain’s heavy investment in Olympic sports paid off with 29 golds and 65 medals overall. Former host nations often get a bump for one or two cycles, but Britain’s total is 18.5 gold medals. That might be predicated on a belief it would be hard to win eight golds in cycling without home-soil advantage.

America’s northern neighbor, Canada, had just a single gold in 2012. However, having U.S. Women’s Open champion Brooke Henderson in the inaugural women’s golf tournament could help Canada beat its total of 2.5 golds. Canada has an over/under of 17.5 medals.

Usain Bolt is still just 30 years old, and is attempting to become the first man to win the 100 metres three times in a row, while also shooting for the sprinter’s hat trick of golds in the 100, 200 and 4×100 relay. Bolt is listed at -200 odds on the men’s 100-m futures board, with Justin Gatlin listed at +165 and Bolt’s Jamaican countryman Yohan Blake at +1100. Bolt is a bigger favorite for the 200 at -300, with Gatlin listed at +325 and American LaShawn Merritt at +750. Historically, repeat medal winners are more common in the 200.

Something to ponder is how much name recognition factors into props in certain events – as the saying goes, no one remembers No. 2. While Team GB’s Mo Farah, for instance, is -400 to defend his gold in the men’s 10,000, Kenyan Geoffrey Kipsang (+425) will have two teammates in the race to pressure the 33-year-old Farah.