China’s COVID-19 isolation hampers medal predictions – Community News
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China’s COVID-19 isolation hampers medal predictions

A staff member skis down a slope during an organized media tour to the National Alpine Skiing Center, a venue of the 2022 Winter Olympics, in Beijing’s Yanqing district, China, Feb. 5, 2021. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/File Photo

SYDNEY, Nov 10 (Reuters) – China can expect a surge in medals in the host country at next year’s Winter Olympics, but predicting how well they will fare in Beijing proves an unprecedented challenge for Simon Gleave and his team.

Head of sports analytics at Nielsen’s Gracenote, Gleave has used results data to predict the medal table for every Olympics since 2012, but the global health crisis has thrown a spanner in the works.

While adjustments were successfully made for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic ahead of this year’s Tokyo Olympics, Gleave is now grappling with the fact that most Chinese winter sports enthusiasts have not competed internationally for two years.

“With China you have the dual situation that they are the host country, so presumably they will do better than last time,” he told Reuters from the Netherlands.

“But they also have very little experience with winter sports, so all the investment they’ve made to improve this, we just can’t see because the data isn’t there. I don’t think we’ve ever had a situation like this before.”

Gracenote uses data from past Olympics, World Championships, and World Cups to provide a statistical model that predicts the most likely gold, silver, and bronze medalist in each event.

They adapt the model for the host country because of the heavy investments in sports development countries usually put in to ensure a strong show at their own Games.

For example, China won 32 gold medals and 63 medals in total at the 2004 Summer Olympics, but rose to the top of the table four years later with 48 gold medals and a total of 100 medals at home in Beijing.

In addition to the investment element, Gracenote refined their model after the 2012 London Olympics, when British athletes who they predicted would win small medals took gold.

“The number of medals we predicted was about right, but in the number of gold medals we were pretty far off,” he added.

“It would just be speculation to try and figure out what it is. But it happens and so we adapt to it. And it works out well.”

Of course, China is not nearly as strong a power at the Winter Olympics as it is at the Summer Games.

They claimed a lone gold medal over short track speed skater Wu Dajing in Pyeongchang in 2018 and the Gracenote forecast for Beijing sees the number improving to four. read more

In total of medals, China’s predicted number of six on last month’s first table was raised to eight on Wednesday.

Gleave hopes to see many Chinese athletes compete in the international winter sports season over the next three months before Gracenote publishes its final forecast.

“The feeling is that this is still too low and the hope is that the Chinese athletes will participate in this World Cup circuit,” he said.

“Obviously if they haven’t done anything for two years, we’re missing out on what we would normally see in the investment they’ve made.”

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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