Olympic medal predictor: How will Canada do in Rio?
CBC's new virtual medal table looks at possible outcomes for 2016 Games
The medal count is always a focal point for every Olympics. Canada has set a target of finishing in the top 12 in overall medals for the 2016 Rio Games.
As we look ahead to Rio, CBC Sports is providing a variety of ways to track athletes on their journey to the Olympics. One of these tools is a virtual medal table, positioned on the right-hand column of our Road to the Olympic Games home page. Like the official Olympic medal table, these virtual standings are ordered by gold medals, as opposed to the overall medal count.
At the 2012 London Olympics, Canada finished 13th in the overall medal count with 18 medals. But it was positioned well back on the official medal table, in 36th, on account of producing only one gold-medal performance.
According to the December update to our virtual medal table, Canada is 14th in the overall medal prediction with 21 podium finishes expected, based on data from Netherlands-based Infostrada Sports. But with only one gold medal predicted — courtesy of paddler Mark de Jonge — Canada once again sits well back in the table standings. The Canadians are currently tracking in 39th place, sandwiched between Slovenia and Uzbekistan.
Canada behind Mongolia? Really?
Simon Gleave, head of analysis for Infostrada, believes the medal predictor can provide a good estimate of Olympic performance.
"In 2012, our forecast for Canada on the eve of the Games was 17 medals," he said. Canada won 18 medals in London.
Gleave admits the prediction was off in terms of gold-medal count — the projection suggested Canada would win seven in London — and the statistics program has since made adjustments.
The medal predictor takes into account all results from world championships, World Cup events and top-level international competitions from 2012 to 2016.
"Points are awarded for the rank achieved and are then weighted by the quality of the competition [a world championship weighs more than a World Cup] and how long ago the event took place. The method is the same across all sports and disciplines," Gleave said.
The table is automatically updated on the first Tuesday of each month, with a final prediction expected a few days prior to the start of the Rio Olympics.
De Grasse factor
The medal predictor is an obvious source of debate and questioning. For example, when you click on Canada and see who the potential medallists are, the only gold is predicted to come from de Jonge in the men's K1-200m. That means Canada would finish behind Mongolia and Azerbaijan in the medal table based on its low gold-medal count.
Before Canadians start throwing their arms up in disbelief, note a few quirks about the data. It takes into account competitions from as far back as 2012. Canadian sprinter Andre De Grasse, who many experts consider a medal contender for Rio, wasn't even involved in track and field back then.
In 2015, De Grasse had an unexpected banner season, taking double gold at the NCAA and Pan Am Games, then winning bronze in the 100m and 4x100m at the world championships.
Despite all of that, De Grasse isn't even on Canada's medal chart, according to the medal predictor.
"De Grasse doesn't currently feature in the predicted top three of the 100 metres because he has only one result in the model — his third place at this year's [worlds]," Gleave explains. "If he competes in more world class events — Diamond League for example — prior to the Olympics in 2016 and performs impressively, he will rise up the table, but currently his single data point is not good enough to bring him into the medal positions."
Be sure to check our website at the start of each month for updates to the medal table. Will Canada meet its target in Rio? The medal predictor should give us an early indication in the months ahead.