The United States earned the most medals at the past two Winter Games but finished third on the charts. How do sportsbooks think Team USA will fare this year when attempting to increase its gold intake against such fierce competition?
Team USA is expected to seize another strong medal haul when the world’s leading athletes descend on Pyeongchang, South Korea, for the 2018 Winter Olympics in February. The United States earned the most medals at the 2010 and 2014 Games, but did not secure enough golds to top the medal charts. The U.S. has a strong chance of finishing atop the table this time around, but faces stern competition from the likes of Germany, Norway and Canada. Russia has been banned from sending athletes to the Games as punishment for a doping scandal, and that removes one serious rival, but the other traditional heavyweight teams are packed full of formidable talent.
In 2010, Team USA traveled to Vancouver and emerged with an impressive 37 medals: nine golds, 15 silvers and 13 bronzes. Canada took just 26 medals in total but topped the charts with 14 golds, while Germany finished second after securing 10 gold medals, leaving the USA in third overall. It was a similar story in Sochi in 2014, where the USA earned more medals than any other team but finished third in the medals table behind Norway and Canada.
This year, Norway and Germany are joint favorites to top the medal table at +175 with Bovada. Next up is Team USA with odds of +400, followed by Canada (+600) and the Netherlands (+1600). If you shop around a bit you can get slightly better odds on the USA: Pinnacle is offering +427, and it has Norway as the outright favorite, narrowly ahead of Germany. The Norwegians are exceptionally strong in cross-country skiing and snowboarding, while Germany is always dominant in luge and biathlon and also has gold contenders in bobsleigh, skeleton and Nordic combined events.
Analysts at Gracenote, a Nielsen company, have a reasonably strong track record of predicting how the Winter Olympics will go down, and they think Germany will top the table with 14 golds and 35 medals in total, followed by Norway with 12 gold medals and the USA in third again with 10. Germany at +175 with Bovada therefore looks like a strong option if you agree.
The big question is, can Team USA get more than 10 gold medals? And where might they come from? The team is exceptionally strong in freestyle skiing and snowboarding, with 13-time Winter X Games champion and double Olympic gold medal winner Shaun White leading the charge. There are 15 events in total and the USA struggles in speed skating and cross-country skiing, but should be good for medals in 10 of the 15 categories.
In 2010, Lindsey Vonn became the first American woman to win gold for downhill skiing. She had to pull out of the 2014 Games due to injury, but she is back for 2018 and is the +300 favorite to reclaim her crown. She is also third favorite at +600 in the Super G. There are high hopes for Nathan Chen, the only unbeaten men's skater in the world, who has produced some sensational performances in the build-up to the Games. It will be a huge shock if Mikaela Shiffrin does not win gold as she is widely considered the best slalom skier in the world, with a gold in Sochi and three World Championship golds already to her name at the age of 22. She is the -450 favorite in the slalom, and +150 favorite in the giant slalom. Ted Ligety has a good chance of making the podium in the men’s slalom but is unlikely to usurp Austria’s Marcel Hirscher for the gold.
The NHL is not releasing players for the Games, so the U.S. men’s hockey team is an outsider. The women’s team is the -120 favorite, although it will have to overcome its nemesis, Canada. Jessica Diggins is the USA’s best skiathlon hope, but she is a long shot. Tyler Wallasch and Alex Fiva have a good chance in the ski cross, while Brittany Bowe looks interesting at +900 in the speed skating 500m. Heather Richardson-Bergsma will try to topple Japan's Nao Kodaira in the 1,000m and Miho Takagi in the 1,500m.
Snowboarder Jamie Anderson has a gold from Sochi and has a great chance of matching that feat this year. Gus Kenworthy took silver in 2014, but the skier has improved vastly since coming out as gay, claiming it has helped boost his confidence, and he will hope to go one better this time around by claiming gold. Winter X Games superstar Chloe Kim is on course to become the youngest American gold medalist of all-time as she is heavy favorite in the snowboarding. Bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor took bronze in Sochi and is an extremely driven individual, so she has a real chance of gold this year. Skier Maddie Bowman is favorite to defend the gold she won in Sochi after returning from an ACL ligament tear to win the X Games. Siblings Alex and Maia Shibutani are also in with a good shot in the ice dancing stakes after securing podium finishes in the past two World Championships.
Bovada has set the USA’s medal line at 10.5, so if Gracenote’s prediction is correct, under 10.5 will pay off at odds of +100. But the sportsbook’s line suggests over is more likely as that is -130. The USA has a lot of supreme individual talent heading to South Korea, so it has a strong chance of improving on the nine gold medals it earned in 2010 and 2014. The suspension of Russia helps its chances, and patriotic fans are likely to go over, but more pragmatic types will survey the depth of talent in the German and Norwegian teams and go under.