Olympics Predictions 2018: Medal Odds for USA, Russian Athletes and More

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistFebruary 3, 2018

Lindsey Vonn of the U.S. competes during the downhill Ladies combined FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup in Lenzerheide on January 26, 2018.   / AFP PHOTO / Ruben SPRICH        (Photo credit should read RUBEN SPRICH/AFP/Getty Images)

Norway have been installed as the favourites to win the overall gold-medal count during the 2018 Winter Olympics, but there are plenty of American and Russian athletes expected to dominate their respective events when the games kick off.

Russia may have been banned from the Olympics as a nation, but there are 169 Russian athletes who will compete as "Olympic Athletes from Russia," per Victor Mather and Rebecca R. Ruiz of the New York Times.

Their delegation includes figure skater Evgenia Medvedeva, while the Americans will rely on the likes of skiing stars Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin to bring home the gold.

Here's a look at the top contenders for the gold-medal counts, per OddsShark.com:

Norway: 3-2

Germany: 8-5

USA: 5-1

Canada: 7-1

Netherlands: 16-1

Here are some predictions for the upcoming games.


Vonn and Shiffrin Carry Form into Olympics

Both Vonn and Shiffrin can be found at or near the top of the oddsmakers' list for nearly every single women's Alpine Skiing event, courtesy of some solid form for both of the American stars of late.

The former took a big win in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, in January, finally putting her injury concerns to rest. At 33 years old, she's quickly closing in on Ingemar Stenmark's record of 86 World Cup wins, but Vonn has maintained her full focus is on the Olympics right now.

She spoke to AP Sports about her legacy and what's next:

AP Sports @AP_Sports

Lindsey Vonn hopes her legacy in skiing is similar to Serena Williams' in tennis. Watch the downhill star's story in this episode of "TheOlympians," @AP's exclusive series on the athletes headed to #Pyeongchang2018 https://t.co/4vQiniNuyM #MeetTheOlympians https://t.co/0eVrVtCZtx

Shiffrin won the gold medal in the slalom in 2014 and is the current overall World Cup champion, and the 22-year-old has been in fine form in the 2018 season as well―despite some recent struggles.

She failed to finish two races in a row, leading to some questions regarding her medal chances, but Shiffrin has been so dominant for such a long stretch, it would be a major shock to see her fail to win even a single gold medal.


Despite Ban, More Pressure for Russian Hockey

With no NHL players participating in these Olympics, Russia are the default favourites for the gold medal―despite not technically fielding a team.

Following the ban, the nation will instead skate under the "Olympic Athletes from Russia" banner. And that team isn't short on talent, per Sportsnet:

Sportsnet @Sportsnet

Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, and Nikita Tryamkin are among the 42 names available for the Olympic Athletes from Russia hockey team for #PyeongChang2018. https://t.co/rXOgSeKxfB https://t.co/yMcdCspnGO

The KHL is considered the second-best league in the world behind the NHL and is home to plenty of players who previously played in North America, as well as prospects with an NHL future. Most of the OAR players have been drafted from the league.

But the Winter Olympics have long posed an issue for the Russians, who have won four of the last 10 World Championships but haven't even medaled since the 2002 Games.

Russia's forward Ilya Kovalchuk is seen during the Channel One Cup of the Euro Hockey Tour ice hockey match between Russia and Sweden in Moscow on December 14, 2017.
 / AFP PHOTO / Alexander NEMENOV        (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/G

The pressure to end that streak will only increase this year, as the team is favoured by a significant margin, with odds of 9-4 for the gold. And while the lack of NHL stars will particularly hurt Canada and the USA, there's plenty of talent still available to the North American powerhouses and some of Europe's finest.

The Swedes won last year's World Championship, boast plenty of KHL talent themselves and have a thriving league of their own, with more than enough talent to choose from.

Rasmus Dahlin is just 17 years old but already looks like the sport's next great defenceman―it's those kinds of players who could make the difference, taking advantage of the huge pressure on the Russian athletes.