With six months to go until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the U.S. team is expected to continue a decades-long stretch of summer dominance by topping the total medals table once again, according to a forecast issued late Thursday night.
The prediction comes from Gracenote, a Nielsen company that analyzes individual and team results from past Olympics, world championships and World Cup competitions.
This statistical model places China in second and sees the Japanese, buoyed by a customary homecourt advantage, getting a 50% bump over their performance at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games to finish fourth.
The biggest question mark will be the Russians, embroiled in a long-running doping scandal that has them banned as a nation. As was the case at the 2018 Winter Games, individual athletes may compete as “neutrals” if they can persuade authorities they have not cheated.
Gracenote, which publishes an estimate before every Olympics, sees these special-category athletes finishing in third place with 66 total medals, depending on how many of them are accepted.
Though discounted by some who see it as counter to the spirit of the Games, the medals count has long been an unofficial competition among the leading nations involved.
While countries such as Germany, Norway and Canada excel at the Winter Games, the U.S. has led the count at the last six summer editions and is expected to reach the podium 117 times, slightly less than at Rio four years ago, but still 30 times more than the next closest nation.
That total could include a record if the Americans medal in 30 different sports, which would be two more than the previous mark shared by them and the former Soviet Union.
Farther down the table, Australia is expected to have renewed success in swimming and finish fifth, just ahead of traditional rival Britain. The Netherlands, France, Germany and Italy complete the predicted Top 10 in Tokyo.
Though nations rarely improve dramatically from one Olympics to the next, Gracenote sees a marked shift for three teams — China, Japan and the Netherlands — in part because the updated program will make more medals available.