With the Winter Olympics just days away, Norway has emerged as the betting favorite to take home the most gold medals and overall hardware in PyeongChang, South Korea.
The Norwegians might seem like an unlikely pick to top the medal table, even if the country does specialize in winter sports. But the national team is expected to have its best ever performance at any Olympics, far surpassing its record of 26 medals won at the 1994 and 2014 games.
Cross Country Dominance
The bulk of that haul is expected to come from cross country skiing. According to projections by Gracenote, the Norwegians are forecast to win 19 medals in the discipline, obliterating the record 13 won by the Soviet Union back in 1988. Norway is also expected to score well in snowboarding, alpine skiing, and ski jumping, among others. In total, Gracenote projects Norway to win 37 medals, 14 of which are gold.
Oddsmakers seem to believe that this haul will put Norway at the top of the medal standings. Bovada has made the Norwegians a -120 favorite to finish the Winter Olympics with the most gold medals, while they are also the top pick (+140) to win the most medals overall.
The most serious challenge is expected to come from Germany. Gracenote is currently projecting that Germany will share the lead with Norway for the most gold medals, and take down the most medals overall with 40. The German team is expected to win big in biathlon, and tend to do very well in the sledding sports (bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton) as well.
Oddsmakers are less certain about their prospects, but still see Germany as a serious contender. The German team is given +200 odds of topping the overall table, and is also a 2/1 pick to win the most gold medals in PyeongChang.
North American Power, Russian Absence
After the two favorites, only a pair of North American nations are given any real shot at a surprise finish atop the podium. The United States (+700 for most gold medals, +375 for most overall medals) is expected to score well across downhill skiing and snowboarding events. Meanwhile, Canada (+700 most medals, +1200 most golds) is always a force in winter sports: they are expected to be among the gold medal favorites in all curling and hockey disciplines.
The US and Canada have also been given over/under totals for their gold medal hauls. For the Americans, the number has been set at 10.5, while the Canadian total is 8.5 gold medals.
All of these nations will benefit from the lack of a full Russian team at the Winter Olympics. Russia was expected to be a favorite to top the medal standings, but the International Olympic Committee’s decision to ban the nation after a widespread state-sponsored doping program was exposed will throw many events wide open.
Many Russian athletes will still be competing in PyeongChang, but they will do so under a neutral “Olympic Athletes of Russia” banner. Only athletes and coaches who had been cleared of any doping charges are allowed to compete. Even the specifics of this rule have been controversial: on Monday, the IOC denied 15 individuals from participating even though the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that there was insufficient evidence that they had broken doping rules.