• Kyodo


A team of statistical analysts said Tuesday it expects Japan to have achieved a record medal haul by the end next year’s Tokyo Olympics, ranking the host nation behind only two others on its predicted medal table.

The Netherlands-based Gracenote Sports forecasts Japan will win 67 medals in its 2020 Summer Games virtual medal table, a 63 percent increase on its Rio de Janeiro Olympic tally. Of the 67 medals, 29 are expected to be gold.

If Japan meets those lofty expectations, it would be a host country’s largest improvement on its previous games since Spain smashed its 1988 tally by more than 450 percent at the Barcelona Games in 1992.

“A lot of the so-called home advantage or host nation effect stems from much better results than usual in the years leading up to an Olympic Games,” said Simon Gleave, Gracenote Sports’ head of analysis.

“This is no different for Japan, and the 67 top-threes we currently forecast are on merit based on the results over the past three years.”

“Such a big difference is indeed high and has only been achieved by China in recent years, from a relatively high number of medals four years earlier.”

Four new sports have been added to the Olympic program for the Tokyo Games — skateboarding, surfing, sport climbing and karate — and Gracenote’s algorithm has placed Japan among the favorites in all.

The U.S.-born Kanoa Igarashi is predicted to win gold in men’s surfing and Aori Nishimura has been slotted in to become the first women’s Olympic street skateboard champion.

The company’s data analysis also picked three likely Olympic champions in karate — Ayumi Uekusa, Ryo Kiyuna and Kiyou Shimizu — and forecast Tomoa Narasaki and Akiyo Noguchi would scale the podium’s second step in sport climbing.

Japan is also expected to cash in on the return of softball to the Olympic program for the first time since 2008, with its world No. 1 team being tipped to defend their first title won in Beijing.

As the host nation, “some (Japanese) athletes and teams will be boosted from silver to gold or bronze to silver or gold (in the new sports),” said Gleave. “They appear to favor both Japan and the United States in terms of adding extra medals to their totals which weren’t there in 2016.”

Judo has long been a point of strength for Japan, but in Tokyo it is predicted the host nation will need to install a vault to hold its spoils at the Nippon Budokan venue.

At the Rio Games, Japan took 12 medals on the judo mats, three gold, a silver and eight bronze. In Tokyo, Gracenote sees a massive improvement, predicting local athletes will win 12 golds among an overall tally of 14.

Badminton is also destined to be a source of glory for Japan according to the company’s algorithm, with the gold in men’s and women’s singles going to Kento Momota and Nozomi Okuhara, respectively. Japanese pairs are also tipped to win the men’s and women’s doubles tournaments.

Gracenote also observes that the Tokyo Olympics, which begin in exactly 364 days, will be the most gender-balanced games in history.

The company says 46 percent of events are women’s, 48 percent are men’s and 6 percent are either mixed or open events, marking the first time that less than half of the events at a Summer Games are dedicated to men.

The United States is again a lock to top the medal table ahead of China and Japan, and Gracenote’s predictions put that down in large part to the performance of its female athletes.

According to its data, 56 percent of American medals will come from women as compared to 49 percent for China and 46 percent for Japan.

“Forty years ago at the Moscow Summer Games, less than one-quarter of events were women only,” Gracenote says. “Thanks to 10 successive increases in that proportion, gender equality is steadily improving.”

“This should also lead to a new record percentage of female competitors at a Summer Olympics, beating the 45 percent from Rio in 2016.”

Gracenote foresees Japanese women reaching the podium in 14 of the 33 sports contested at the 2020 Games.

Big names include Naomi Osaka, who is predicted to win singles silver in tennis, and Miu Hirano, a good chance at bronze in table tennis singles. Yui Ohashi is likely to win both gold and silver in the pool, in the 400-meter individual medley and 200-meter individual medley, respectively, and Mai Murakami is tabbed as the possible silver medalist in the gymnastics floor exercise.

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