Nielsen’s Gracenote Updates Virtual Medal Table Forecast with 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics Opening in 10 Weeks
Data points to Norway again bringing home most medals, Russia Olympic Committee beating Russia/Soviet Union records
Emeryville, Calif. – Nov. 24, 2021 – Exactly 72 days ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics opening ceremonies in Beijing, Nielsen’s Gracenote has released its latest Virtual Medal Table (VMT) forecast. Using the most up-to-date results from key competitions since the 2018 Winter Games, Gracenote projects gold, silver and bronze medal counts for participating countries at the XXIV Olympic Winter Games.
Since the last Beijing 2022 VMT was released last month, Russia Olympic Committee’s medal forecast has declined by five to 33 due to their results on the speed skating World Cup circuit. Projected medal totals for Canada, Japan and China are each up by two compared to four weeks ago. The forecasted medal totals for the Netherlands and Sweden are both down two on October 27.
Related VMT content
Here are VMT projection highlights for the upcoming Games, which begin on Feb. 4, 2022:
- Gracenote expects Norway to top the Olympics medal table for the second straight Winter Games. The 45 medals currently projected to be won by the Norwegians would break their previous Olympic record of 39 set at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in 2018.
- The U.S. is projected to finish ahead of Canada in Beijing 2022 after winning fewer medals than their northern neighbors at Pyeongchang 2018. Canada has never topped Team USA on the medal table at two consecutive Winter Olympics.
- Canada has improved by two medals since the Virtual Medal Table was relaunched 100 days ahead of Beijing 2022. The Canadian team’s medal forecast is now within one of the United States.
- With Russian athletes allowed to compete under the Russia Olympic Committee (ROC) banner, the team is expected to improve significantly over the performance of the Olympic Athletes from Russia team, its previous name in 2018. The Russia Olympic Committee is forecasted to win more medals than any team representing Russia or the Soviet Union at a Winter Olympics.
- Germany is forecasted to suffer a slight decline on its 31 Winter Olympics medals won in 2018 with 27 medals projected for 2022.
- The Russia Olympic Committee is forecast to win more medals than any team representing Russia or the Soviet Union at a Winter Olympics.
- The global COVID-19 pandemic forced many Asian competitors to forego major events between the Pyeongchang 2018 and Beijing 2022 Winter Games, resulting in a dearth of data. The performances of these countries, particularly China, could currently be underestimated by current results data. Asian participation in World Cup events this season will sharpen the forecasts for these countries.
The Top Ten Medal Winning Countries
(2022 projection: 45 medals, 2018: 39 medals)
Norway is expected to surpass its record-breaking total of 39 medals won at Pyeongchang 2018. Cross country skiing and biathlon will be key for the Norwegians if they are to achieve this target. Currently, 30 medals are forecast for Norway in those two sports, 10 more than they have ever won at a Winter Olympics.
Watch out for: Johannes Thingnes Bø (biathlon), Therese Johaug (cross country skiing)
(2022: 33 medals, 2018: 17 medals)
Russian athletes are allowed to compete at the Beijing Winter Games under the Olympic flag as Russia Olympic Committee and the team is forecasted to win 33 medals, more than any Russian or Soviet team has managed at a Winter Games. Cross country skiing is currently projected to be the most successful sport for ROC, delivering seven medals.
Watch out for: Alexander Bolshunov (cross country skiing), Natalya Voronina (speed skating)
(2022: 27 medals, 2018: 31 medals)
Germany is set for a slight decline on its 31 medals at Pyeongchang 2018. That was the country’s best Winter Games since Salt Lake City 2002 when Germany set a then-record of 36 medals. That record has since been beaten by the United States (37, 2010) and Norway (39, 2018).
Watch out for: Francesco Friedrich (bobsleigh), Julia Taubitz (luge)
(2022: 24 medals, 2018: 23 medals)
Only twice (1998, 2018) have the United States won fewer Winter Olympics medals than Canada. Current Gracenote projections suggest this should not repeat in 2022 but the two countries are close. U.S. medals are likely to be spread across seven sports with freestyle skiing delivering the most medals.
Watch out for: Nathan Chen (figure skating), Mikaela Shiffrin (alpine skiing)
(2022: 23 medals, 2018: 29 medals)
Canada is coming off of its best-ever total medal count from the Winter Olympics in 2018. The forecast of 23 medals for Beijing 2022 would be Canada’s fewest medals since Salt Lake City 2002. While freestyle skiing looks to be Canada’s strongest sport with seven medals projected, Canadian competitors are contenders in a broad range of sports as usual.
Watch out for: Mikael Kingsbury (freestyle skiing), Ivanie Blondin (speed skating)
(2022: 20 medals, 2018: 15 medals)
Switzerland’s 15 medals at the 2018 Winter Games matched the country’s best Winter Olympic performance since 1988. Current Gracenote forecasts suggest an even better performance in Beijing with 20 medals projected for the Swiss. Alpine skiing and freestyle skiing are the key sports if Switzerland is to achieve a new Olympic record number of medals.
Watch out for: Andri Ragettli (freestyle skiing), Corinne Suter (alpine skiing)
(2022: 19 medals, 2018: 20 medals)
The Netherlands is projected to decline slightly on its performance at the 2018 Winter Games by winning 19 medals. However, 10 of these medals are projected to be gold which would be a record for the Netherlands. Dutch performance is, as usual, heavily reliant on events on the skating track.
Watch out for: Thomas Krol (speed skating), Suzanne Schulting (short track)
(2022: 18 medals, 2018: 15 medals)
France’s two best Winter Olympic performances were in 2014 and 2018 when they took home 15 medals. In February, France is expected to improve upon this and win 18 medals. Strong performances in alpine skiing, biathlon and freestyle skiing will be critical to France taking home a new record number of medals from Beijing.
Watch out for: Alexis Pinturault (alpine skiing), Perrine Lafont (freestyle skiing)
(2022: 17 medals, 2018: 14 medals)
If Sweden can win 16 medals in Beijing, it would be the country’s best Winter Games performance, and the current projection has them doing even better than that. Sweden’s female athletes are particularly strong this year. Ten medals are projected to go to Swedish women with another two forecast in the mixed alpine skiing event and mixed doubles curling.
Watch out for: Nils van der Poel (speed skating), Frida Karlsson (cross country skiing)
(2022: 17 medals, 2018: 14 medals)
Austria is forecasted to win three more medals at Beijing 2022 than it did in Pyeongchang. This is, in part, due to Austria having medal chances in more Winter Olympic sports than usual. Forecasts for Austria have them winning medals in seven different sports in Beijing which would equal the country’s record set in 2010.
Watch out for: Vincent Kriechmayr (alpine skiing), Katharina Liensberger (alpine skiing)
A note on host nation China
In many winter sports, Chinese competitors have not participated since the 2019-2020 season. This means that, despite adjustments to our model, the VMT may underestimate China’s medal count. This issue also affects Korea in short track and Japan in speed skating. The situation will be mitigated to some extent if competitors from these countries participate in 2021-2022 winter sporting events prior to the Winter Games in February 2022. We are updating our VMT every two weeks between now and then to reflect these changes with our final projection released at the beginning of February.
Tracing the Evolution of the Nielsen Gracenote Virtual Medal Table
Nielsen’s Gracenote first introduced its Virtual Medal Table (VMT) methodology to forecast the most likely Olympic gold, silver and bronze medal winning countries more than a decade ago. As subsequent Games have taken place, the algorithm has been improved based on lessons learned. The greatest challenge yet to data-driven forecasting of Olympics performance has been the global COVID-19 pandemic.
It is inherently difficult to accurately forecast how athletes and nations will perform in an event that occurs every four years. COVID-19 added yet more unpredictability with championship events, trials and competitions postponed, cancelled, or missing athletes from many countries.
While Gracenote Sports continually adjusts its methods and uses each Olympic Games as an opportunity to sharpen our methodologies, COVID-19 has brought that process into even sharper focus.
Still, our methodologies, and the ongoing updates we make to them, were further validated following the recent Summer Olympics which ended just a few months ago. Here are some highlights:
- Our VMT model correctly projected the top-10 countries on total medals.
- Among the top-20 nations, Japan, Netherlands, Italy, Brazil, Turkey and India were all correctly forecasted to win their most-ever medals. Canada was correctly predicted to have its best Olympics since 1984.
- Four of the top-6 on the VMT forecast finished within one gold medal of their projected totals.
- Even without spectators, our home advantage factor worked again, with host nation Japan finishing within one gold and two overall medals of the medal tally predicted by the VMT.
- We correctly predicted the medal total for the Russian Olympic Committee, and were within two medals of Germany’s final results.
- Our prediction for a record-breaking performance by Italy was spot on as we forecasted within one medal and two golds of their final medal count.
- We correctly forecasted South Korea to be outside the top-10 gold medal winners for the first time in over 20 years; also had total medal count correct for South Korea, and gold medals missed by just one.
And, yet, there is room for improvement. Our predictions for host China and other Asian countries – eight medals for China, 15 for Japan and nine for Korea – are still in development due to athletes’ lack of participation in events leading to the Games because of COVID. While post-Olympic validation has shown that the VMT is performing well, we are constantly fine tuning our methods to ensure the best performance possible.
With that in mind, here are some ways we have adjusted the VMT over the years:
Prior to 2012, it was assumed that any home advantage was due to additional investment and would be reflected in results. Great Britain’s total of 65 medals was accurately forecasted by the VMT but the prediction fell short on gold medals. A home advantage factor was introduced to make the gold medal forecast more accurate. Tokyo 2020 again showed how well this works when the pre-Tokyo forecast of 60 medals (26 gold) for Japan proved to be incredibly close to the eventual 58 medals (27 gold).
In some sports, competitors record vastly different numbers of results between Olympic Games. Instead of including all of these results between Olympic Games, the VMT uses the best recorded by each competitor, along with other factors, to create the ranking. This means that competitors who participate significantly more than others are not rewarded for doing so.
Personal season bests
Forecasts for sports like athletics and swimming are improved by including a virtual race each year using personal season best times.
These changes, along with others, to the VMT algorithm have improved our forecasts for the Olympic Games over the years. The global COVID-19 pandemic has introduced other issues though.
Lack of competitions
Winter sports events around the world have been cancelled due to the global pandemic, particularly in 2020. Some sports have even had world championships cancelled, including the world championships for both curling and ice hockey.
Fortunately, most winter sports have many events each year. Therefore competition cancelations or postponements have not had as big an effect on forecasting the Winter Olympics just yet as the lack of summer sports events when projecting the medal table for Tokyo. However, the amount of data we are accustomed to using is relatively small. This can lead to less accurate assessments of those sports than usual.
The winter sports events have not been as well attended by athletes since the global COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020. This was particularly extreme at the 2021 world short track championships and world single distance speed skating championships when there was no presence from any Asian athletes. This is important since Korea and China won 16 of the 30 medals at the previous world short track championships in 2019 and Japan, Korea and China won seven of the 48 medals at the 2020 speed skating world championships.
To adjust for this situation, our analysts have reduced the weighting of these two World Championships in our algorithm. Both short track and speed skating have a number of World Cup events scheduled before Beijing 2022, so these events will help sharpen the Virtual Medal Table forecast given their proximity to the Winter Games.
During the 2020/2021 winter sport season, the only Chinese competitors were figure skaters and freestyle skier Eileen Gu, who is based in the United States. No other country has as little data for that season than the host nation.
The lack of participation by China’s athletes is currently the biggest issue for our Virtual Medal Table calculations. China doesn’t have a strong pedigree in winter sports, with a best return of 11 medals at previous Winter Olympics, but they have invested heavily ahead of these Games. Normally, we would see that investment in improved results but the lack of competition has not made that possible. As of now, the resulting projection of eight total medals is likely low.
With plenty of World Cup events to come in a multitude of sports before Beijing 2022 begins, forecasts will be improved if Chinese competitors perform well. In addition to the eight medals currently projected for China, the following are the most likely:
Bobsleigh – women’s monobob: Ying Qing
Monobob provides opportunities for China as it has never previously been an Olympic sport and the Chinese team will know the track better than anyone. Ying Qing looks the best of China’s three potential entrants as she won a very high quality competition in Königsee in December 2019. None of the Chinese monobobbers have competed since that competition.
Bobsleigh – 2 women: Ying Qing and Du Jiani
During the 2019/2020 bobsleigh season, Chinese competitors were finishing in and around the top-10 in this event. They have not competed since February 2020. With two years of further development and the home advantage which comes with knowing the track in Beijing inside out, China could well challenge the discipline’s best competitors. Ying Qing and Du Jiani are the best of the Chinese pairs.
Similarly, China’s young 2-man and 4-man bobsleigh teams could also be in line for medals but they also have no results since February 2020. The 4-man team finished seventh in St. Moritz in their last race (Feb. 2020) and the 2-man team had a best ever World Cup finish of 10th at the same event.
Snowboard – halfpipe: Cai Xuetong and Liu Jaiyu
Immediately prior to March 2020, snowboarders Cai Xuetong and Liu Jaiyu were posting impressive results in halfpipe. Cai Xuetong won her last three major events and Liu Jaiyu was regularly in the top three. Their absence from both of 2021’s most important competitions, the X Games and the World Championships, mean they have currently dropped out of the Virtual Medal Table top-3.
Freestyle skiing – aerials
A number of different Chinese competitors led by Xu Mengtao were producing good performances on the 2019/2020 World Cup circuit but have not competed since. China will have a strong chance in the team aerials competition with opportunities in the individual events.
If Chinese participation in World Cup events picks up between now and February 2022, the host nation’s projected medals will be closer to their likely performance in our final projection just before the Winter Games begin.
Adjustments are always ongoing to ensure the most accurate VMT results, but adjusting for the effects of the global pandemic has been the toughest challenge yet for our methodology. However, the changes our team made for Tokyo 2020 were effective, and other lessons learned along the way give us confidence in our Beijing 2022 forecast.
Can host nation China increase its medal count at the 2022 Winter Olympics?
China, the host nation of the 2022 Winter Olympics, is currently forecast to win a similar number of medals in Beijing as in the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang by the Nielsen Gracenote Virtual Medal Table (VMT). However, the lack of data for Chinese competitors between February 2020 and this winter sports season, due to no Chinese athlete participation at world events because of COVID-19, may be masking potential medal improvement.
Nations which host the Olympic Games – summer or winter – historically perform better than in previous Olympics. Host nations typically increase investment in sports. An improvement to financial resources has a direct link to medal success at the Olympic Games. Better coaches are employed, facilities are improved and there is more focus on talent development. This investment and improvement tends to reveal itself in results between Olympic Games but, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chinese competitors have nearly two years of missing results. The usual home advantage adjustment employed in the VMT has been expanded to help account for this missing data but after doing that, China still has a similar projected medal total to 2018.
Generally, host nations have been able to improve their medal counts over preceding games, often significantly. In fact, five of the last nine host nations have won at least twice as many medals than they managed at the previous Winter Games. But current data does not show Chinese athletes delivering such an improvement in February 2022, even with an adjustment to the usual home advantage factor in our Virtual Medal Table algorithms.
China won nine total medals at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Nearly four years later, the Chinese team is projected to win eight at Beijing 2022.
China has never won a Winter Olympic medal in alpine skiing, biathlon, bobsleigh, cross country skiing, ice hockey, luge, nordic combined, skeleton or ski jumping.
This trend appears set to continue as current Gracenote projections have no Chinese participants ranked in the top eight of these sports for the Beijing 2022 Games.
China’s medal chances in Beijing are likely restricted to curling, figure skating, freestyle skiing, short track, snowboard and speed skating. To double the number of medals that China won in 2018, from nine to 18, around 70% of the Chinese participants and teams ranked in Gracenote’s top eight in these sports would need to finish in the top three.
China’s best medal prospects at Beijing 2022 are figure skaters Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, freestyle skier Eileen Gu, the three Chinese short track relay teams and Wu Dajing and Fen Kexin in the same sport.
Freestyle skier Xu Mengtao and the aerials team she is a part of look like medal prospects for China but they haven’t competed since early 2020. Snowboarders Cai Xuetong and Liu Jaiyu have a similar record, performing well before the global pandemic but they have been without competitive results since February 2020.
It is reasonable to expect a home advantage boost for China in terms of its medal performance in comparison to previous Winter Games. However, the lack of data since February 2020 makes the likelihood of this difficult to estimate. With new winter World Cup seasons beginning to start, improvement amongst Chinese athletes will need to come to fruition in these events leading to the Olympics if China is to be expected to increase its medal total significantly on the 2018 Games.
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About Gracenote Virtual Medal Table
Gracenote Sports offers rich data on 4,500 of the world’s most popular leagues and competitions as well as a deep trove of historical Olympics information going back to the very first modern games in 1896. The Gracenote Virtual Medal Table is a statistical model based on individual and team results in previous Olympics Games, World Championships and World Cups to forecast the most likely gold, silver and bronze medal winners by country. This information is presented in simple to understand predictions and seamless data feeds that enable broadcasters, media publishers and pay TV operators to deliver unique Olympic-focused stories across Web, mobile and broadcast properties. For a closer look at the full Virtual Medal Table, its features and methodology, please visit: https://www.gracenote.com/virtual-medal-table/
For more information on Gracenote’s full portfolio of 2022 Winter Games offerings, visit Gracenote Winter & Summer Games Solutions
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