It’s been tough to get excited this year for the Olympics with all the issues Brazil and the IOC have these days. But do you know the best way to turn sports you are unenthused about into something compelling, dramatic, and intriguing? That’s right! Gamble on it!! Wait. Did you have a different answer?
There are two superpowers in the Summer Olympics these days, Team USA and China. Oddsmakers have set the gold medals won by each at 41.5 for the Americans and 34.5 for the Chinese. Of those two, we’re taking the Over on China. Sure, they are the new Evil Olympic Empire, although Russia’s doping scandal has been a spirited effort to regain that crown that slipped away with the Soviet Union. But China is also the team that rakes in gold medals every four years, doing so in a lot of under the radar sports. Expect more of the same this year. After winning 51 and 38 gold medals in the last two Olympics, we like the Chinese to go Over 34.5 golds in Rio. We wont lie. Some of the motivation of this bet is to give us a reason to keep an eye on some of the more obscure events of the Olympics. The cornerstone of China’s medal haul will come from five sports: Diving, Badminton, Table Tennis, Weightlifting and Shooting. Outside of some shooting events, there will be little hope for Americans to even make the podium in these sports. China, however, will get at least two thirds and quite possibly up to 80-percent of the gold medals needed to hit the Over 34.5 in these sports alone. Let’s break it down.
China’s highest gold medal count will be in diving, where we could get close to a quarter of the wins needed for this over. Most medal predictions have tabbed the Chinese to sweep all eight events or at least win seven of them. And why not? China has won 19 gold medals out of 24 over the last three Olympics combined. The betting odds in most of these events show how the deck is stacked against the rest of the world in the chase for the top of podium. Check out the odds for the four sychchronized events and how heavily favored oddmakers have installed the Chinese teams: Men’s 3 meter, -425; Men’s 10 meter, -425; Women’s 3 meter, -900; Women’s 10 meter, -1050. To review, that means in that latter event, you’d have to bet $1,050 to win $100. It would be one of the major upsets of the entire games if they don’t win these events. The odds look more normal for the four individual events, but in each of them the top two favorites on the board are Chinese and then there’s a decent drop to longer odds on the rest of the field. Translation: Those individual diving golds are anybody’s to win, as long as they are on the Chinese team. Calling for an 8-gold sweep still seems ambitious. But you have to squint really hard to find anybody who can puncture their grip in these events. They’ve been knocking on the door of a golden diving sweep for a couple decades. This feels like it could be the Olympiad for that sweep to happen. Nevertheless, let’s be a little cautious, expect at least one upset, and call for seven golds.
We wont back down from a sweep of the four gold medals available in Table Tennis. Chinese domination in this event won’t be stopped. They’ve won 24 of the 28 gold medals awarded in the sport since being added to The Games. The team events are as much as a lock as the team diving ones. Betting odds are tough to find in these events, but using the world rankings as a guide, you get a taste of the expected Chinese dominance here. One the men’s side, the top four players in the world are Chinese, while on the women’s ledger four of the top five in the world are Chinese. We’ll take our chances that somebody in both groups will emerge as the individual champions as well. We’ll put four gold medals on the board here.
Team China will pick up a medal in every event in Badminton, but there will be a lot more competition for gold than in diving and table tennis. The order on these podiums are up for grabs. That said, they have the betting favorite in three of five events and have the second shortest odds in the other two. They have multiple threats in the men’s and women’s individual events. SI calls for 3 golds, while they AP only projects one. We’ll split the difference and put two in our tally.
China will probably medal in more than half of the 15 shooting events in Rio. It’s pretty much unanimous in the medal prediction crowd that the Chinese will shoot to gold in the women’s 10 meter air rifle, 10 meter air pistol, and 25 meter air pistol. The team has medal hopes in all six of the pistol and rifle events on the men’s side. They should be able to pick up at least one gold, if not two, from those events. Let’s put a total of four on our board.
In weightlifting, the Chinese will dominate the lighter weight classes. They have gold medal threats in the five lightest of eight events in the men’s field and four of the five lightest events on the women’s side. Once again let’s split the difference between the SI and AP predictions. The wire service calls for five. The magazine projects seven. We’ll go with six.
That’s 23 medals in those five main sports. Can Team China squeeze out at least another dozen golds elsewhere in these Games. Our lean is obviously to yes. Let’s count up the possibilities.
China will probably win one gold, if not both, in the two trampoline, 20K walk, and individual windsurfing events. The American women will own their gymnastic meets and it’ll be tough to crash the Simone Biles party. But all the men’s top medals are up for grabs, and Team China will bring in one of the best teams. It should be good enough to pull down at least two individual golds and go down to the wire with Japan for the team gold. The great freestyle swimmer Sun Yang is back and is the current betting favorite in both the 200 and 400 meter free. We’ll bank one gold from him. Their women’s team sprint are a chalky -210 price to win the country’s first cycling gold. Their women’s team epee are also the betting favorites over in fencing as the emerging Chinese Fencing Program tries to secure a gold medal somewhere in the fencing program for the third straight Olympiad after a 24-year drought. Expect their entrant to reach the individual championship bouts in the men’s foil, women’s epee, women’s judo 78kg, women’s taekwondo 49kg, women’s taekwondo 67kg; women’s wrestling 69kg; and women’s wrestling 75kg. Let’s put down golds in 3 of those. That gives us eleven. Can we find one more? With strong contenders in the 200 meter canoe, women’s individual cycling pursuit, both synchronized swimming events, men’s triple jump, and women’s shot put and hammer throw, we think yes. And don’t forget their women’s volleyball team which has a good a chance as anybody to reach the top of the podium, although competition will be strong from the Americans and hometown Brazilians.
The Over 34.5 will be a tight chase. It’ll come down to the penultimate day of the Olympics. The final Saturday of the Games and the last day China will have any real chance to win gold. China will have strong golden hopes in three events: the men’s 10 meter platform diving, men’s badminton singles and the women’s 67kg taekwondo. Our best case is the Over has already has hit by then. There is a good chance that will happen. If the expected gold medalists come in with an acceptable amount of success combine with just enough of the near 30 projected silver medalists (second to the US) overachieving a smidge, this bet will be ahead of pace the entire Olympics and cruise to the finish line. Our projected worst case requires a sweep of these three events to nab the Over 34.5. If it comes to that, there’s a good chance getting that sweep will happen too. Divers Aisen Chen and Bo Quo are co-favorites in the 10 meter with everyone else diving for bronze. One of Lin Dan and Chen Long should be in the badminton finals. And everyone predicts Zheng Shuylin to make the taekwondo gold medal bout. Those last two are probably coin flips to the oddsmakers, but it’s hardly a stretch to see Chinese gold in all three. How do we think it will actually play out? Everything more or less happens the way it should for Team China. They’ll have won 34 golds heading into that Saturday. And with a pair of heavy co favorites on our side in the platform diving, we’ll be in great shape to win this total bet as the evening unfolds. There will be a lot of ups and downs tracking this over the next fortnight, but China’s continued dominance in diving will drive a late gold rush during the Rio Games and a victory in the final event of the discipline will push this Over 34.5.
The other prop we like is Australia Over 12.5 Golds. We like this one a lot. They have more gold medal threats than ever before. The only drawback is the hefty juice attached to the Over. It was -200, crept as high as -240 and had settled back into -210 when we placed the wager. How expensive is this juice? It’s the second highest price on the Gold Medal prop board, behind the Under 5.5 golds for Canada, set at -320. Good luck with that, Canada. Ordinarily, we would eschew such a risk on the price alone. But we’re really bullish on Australia. Consider paying this an every four year Olympic exception. Frankly, if the juice was even a little more sane, we might do something silly. We’re that confident in a record setting golden haul for the Aussies.
The best case? The Australians dominate the swim meet. The earn double digit golds in the pool and become the first country since East Germany in 1988 to out gold the Americans. They add a few golds in Rowing, and the Aussies hit this over before the first week is complete. We stop sweating the gaudy price we paid early. Worst case? Somebody brings Stilnox to dinner, they get wigged out by soapy looking water in the natatorium, and they underachieve in the swim meet. They do well enough in rugby, rowing, cycling and sailing, but they don’t make up for any lost golds during the swimming. We’ll need at least one, or a combination of team golds, in the two field hockey tournaments and women’s water polo, the finals of which are spread out on Thursday and Friday of the second week. We’re not familiar with water polo or field hockey lines (No, really. We’re not. Nope), but maybe there’s a way to hedge and recoup some of the price of the original bet when we get there. The Aussies are a pretty good bet to make the finals in all three, but only their men’s field hockey is a better bet the win gold.
What do we think will happen? The Australians might not beat the Americans in the swimming golden count, but they will more than hold their own and come through on most expectations there. Cameron McEvoy will win a gold in one his three sprint freestyle events. Mack Horton will win a gold in one of his two distance freestyle swims. Mitch Larkin will win one gold in his two backstroke events. Emily Seebohm will win gold in one of her two backstroke events. A Campbell sister will gold in the women’s 50- and 100-meter free. Toss in a couple relay golds, and that is eight total in the swimming, with the potential more. Larkin and Seebohm are solid bets to win double individual gold. Both are the reigning world champion in their events.
Toss in a gold medal in women’s rugby, where the Australians are -150 chalk to win the sevens tournament, and as long as their rowing, sailing and cycling teams don’t collapse, it’ll be an easy walkabout to the Over 12.5. The Aussies are expected to bring home multiple golds in those three sports. We wont even need all of that if form holds enough in the pool.
As for the Americans, we’re a little intimidated by the Over 41.5 number. SI, for example, calls for 45. The Wall Street Journal predicts 42 with the American women carrying the torch and winning gold in 20 percent of the women’s events. That tells me there isn’t a lot of wiggle room if even a small amount goes wrong across the Olympic spectrum for Team USA. The AP, however, tabs 51 gold medals, so maybe there is a lot more margin of error than originally thought. In London 2012, the Americans won 16 golds in swimming and 9 in track en route to 46 golds. I think they will fall a few golds short of the 25 won in swimming and track four years ago. A jump from three to six gymnastic golds as the US Women led by Simone Briles obliterate the field this cycle might make up for that. I’ve been convinced that the Over 41.5 was too ambitious for a couple weeks now. You think the obvious response to this would be the bet the Under. Given the 2016 US Election, if there was a year to bet against America, in maybe anything you can find, it would be this one. But I’m loathe to do it. I don’t want to curse under my breath every time an American scores gold somewhere in Rio. I want them to hit this Over. I just cant bet on them doing so. But I look forward to cheering for them to do it.