The latest projections have Germany and Norway going head-to-head to win the 2018 Winter Olympics overall medal tally, with Russia's ban opening up several sports for other nations.
As reported by Victor Mather and Rebecca R. Ruiz of the New York Times, a total of 169 athletes will compete under the flag of the "Olympic Athletes from Russia," including several favoured for the gold. The hockey team and figure skater Evgenia Medvedeva are among the favourites to win their respective sports, among others.
OddsShark.com has Norway as the slight favourites to win the overall gold tally, coming in at 3-2. Germany are right behind, at 8-5, ahead of the USA and Canada. The Germans and Norwegians have equal odds to win the overall tally.
Norway led the medal table in 2014, ahead of Canada, the USA and Russia. The Germans only managed a sixth-place finish, falling behind the Dutch, who did plenty of damage in speed skating.
Here's a look at some medal projections and predictions:
Nation, Total Medals (Gold, Silver, Bronze)
Norway, 37 (14, 10, 13)
Germany, 36 (14, 11, 11)
USA, 31 (10, 12, 9)
Canada, 28 (9, 11, 8)
France, 24 (9, 7, 8)
Netherlands, 23 (7, 6, 10)
NHL Absence Causes Hockey Chaos
In most years, the Canadians and Americans would easily be counted among the favourites to win the hockey tournament, with Russia doing their very best to finally get over the hump and perform up to standards on the Olympic stage.
But following the NHL's decision not to clear the schedule for the Olympics, the tournament has been turned on its head. There is no actual Russian team, but the "Olympic Athletes from Russia" by far have the best squad going into the tournament, at least on paper. Here's a look at some of their options, via Sportsnet:
The KHL―widely seen as the second-best league in the world―is littered with Russian talent but has plenty of prospects and veterans from elsewhere in Europe as well. Teams like Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic have been able to pull talent out of the KHL, as well as their domestic leagues.
All three groups appear challenging, but Canada in particular face a real battle in Group A, with the Czech Republic, Switzerland and hosts South Korea all keen to take advantage of the lack of NHL talent.
Don't be surprised if a traditional hockey giant falls early, and a team like the Czech Republic makes a very deep run.
Alpine Skiing, Ski Jump and Biathlon Give Norway the Upper Hand
The Netherlands have no real mountains to speak of or a real tradition of winter sports. But thanks to their brilliance in speed skating―a sport with plenty of distances and individual events―they consistently do well in the total medal standings.
Norway should beat Germany to the top of the table thanks to a similar principle. In Johannes Thingnes Bo, they have a biathlete who will be favoured to medal in every single race he starts, especially if he can consistently beat main rival Martin Fourcade.
The 24-year-old enters the Olympics in good form and high on confidence―confident enough to use a very special gun, per Eurosport UK:
The trend continues in alpine skiing, where there are numerous Norwegian contenders for gold, like Aksel Lund Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud.
Cross-country skiing and the ski jump are two more examples of sports the Norwegians traditionally excel at―and sports with plenty of events. They may lag behind Germany in other events―notably the luge and bobsleigh―but sheer volume should lead to an overall win.