Rob Wood

Rob's Sports, Fitness & Science Blog

Entries Tagged as 'Olympic Games'

Rio Medal Predictions Change Over Time

May 18th, 2016 · No Comments · Olympic Games

Wouldn’t it be great to know the results before the Olympic Games start? For the London Olympics in 2012 I made a prediction for the final medal tally. It was mostly based on my own guesswork, and surprisingly was not too far wrong in the end. For the Rio Games, I predict that the USA will again win the most medals, a pretty safe bet, but not based on any specialist knowledge or special formula. However, I prefer to rely on those a little more knowledgeable to predict the results.

There are plenty of people making predictions about the upcoming Rio Olympics. There are two main categories of medal count predictions. One way to predict the final medal tally is from scholars using economics and a range of factors to base their predictions. The other is to use actual competition results leading up to the Olympics to predict the specific winners of each event. After the London Games, I compared some of these predictions to the final medal count, and predictions using both of these methods were quite accurate.

It seems more logical to base the predictions on actual sports results, and we would assume that the most recent results would be the best indicators. The company Gracenote (was Infostrada) sports regularly update their predictions based on sporting results from around the world. The graphs below show how their predictions have changed over the last year for the top three countries. While the predictions of the actual number of medals has varied, the order has not changed – the USA is predicted to win both the most medals and most golds.

predicted gold

The most recent medal predictions, made with 100 days to go, show the USA pulling away from China and Russia on the table above. A factor that has not been considered is that Russian athletes may still be banned from attending the Games, which would put a large dent in their medal count.

predicted total

I will continue to monitor the changes in these predictions leading up to the Games, and afterwards I will again compare these predictions to the actual results. So far I am feeling pretty confident about my prediction of the USA leading the medal count, it will be a big upset if they don’t.

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10 Great Olympians You Probably Have Never Heard Of

May 12th, 2016 · No Comments · Olympic Games

With the Olympics just on the horizon, we’ll be hearing and talking a lot about some current great Olympic athletes such as Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt, and even past greats such as Jesse Owens, Nadia Comaneci and Mark Spitz. These popular names are only a small sample of great athletes who have graced the Olympic stage since the inaugural Games over 100 years ago. Listed below are 10 Olympians who I believe have had amazing Olympic careers and deserve greater recognition for their achievements. Have you heard of any of these athletes?

Elisabeta Lipă

Elisabeta Lipă is a former Romanian rowing athlete who had a spectacular Olympic career. She is currently the most accomplished rower in the history of the Olympics with five gold medals, two silver medals and one bronze medal. She competed in six straight Olympics from 1984 to 2004 and won a gold medal in every Olympics except 1988 where she picked up a silver and bronze.

Carl Schuhmann

Carl Schuhmann was a multi-sport German athlete who contested in the Olympics and won medals in Gymnastics and Wrestling. He was the most successful athlete in the inaugural modern Olympics held in 1896. He won three gold medals in gymnastics and one gold medal in wrestling. He also contested in weightlifting and finished fourth.

Ray Ewry is one of the most successful athletes of all-time in the Olympics. He won eight individual gold medals in track and field events.

Ray Ewry

Ray Ewry is one of the most successful athletes of all-time in the Olympics. The American won a total of eight individual gold medals in track and field events which stood as a record for 100 years until it was broken by compatriot Michael Phelps in 2008. His record still holds good for the most individual gold medals won by any athlete in track and field.

Birgit Fischer

Birgit Fischer is a former canoe athlete who holds the distinct record of being the youngest and the oldest athlete ever to win a canoeing gold medal. The German has won a record eight gold medals and four silver medals in a career that spanned seven Olympic Games from 1980 to 2004.

Larisa Latynina

Larisa Latynina is an ex-Soviet Union gymnast who contested in three Olympics from 1956 to 1964. She has won a total of 18 medals, 14 individual and four team. Her 14 individual medals still stand as the record for the most number of individual medals any athlete has ever won in the Olympics. Her 18 total medals stood as a record for 48 years before it was surpassed in 2012 (by Phelps).

Aladar Gerevich

Aladár Gerevich was a Hungarian fencing athlete who had an extremely successful outing at the Olympics. Regarded as the greatest fencer of all-time, Aladár contested seven games from 1932 to 1960 and won seven gold medals, one silver medal and two bronze medals. The 28 year span between his first and last gold medal remained as the longest successful Olympic run be anyone until it was tied in 2012.

Edoardo Mangiarotti

Edoardo Mangiarotti was a fencer who has had the most success in the history of Olympic fencing. The Italian participated in the Games from 1936 – 1960 and won six gold, five silver and two bronze medals. His total of 13 medals to this date remains as the highest number of medals won by any athlete in fencing.

Reiner Klimke

Reiner Klimke was an equestrian athlete from Germany who contested in Olympic dressage competition. He still holds the record for the most number of Olympic appearances by any equestrian athlete at six. In his Olympic span between 1960-1988, he won six gold medals, one in each of his appearances, and two bronze medals.

Gert Fredriksson

Gert Fredriksson was a Swedish canoe athlete who to date is one of the most successful men in the history of Olympic canoeing, and the highest individual medal winner from Sweden. Gert won a total of six gold medals, one silver and one bronze in four Olympics from 1948 to 1960.

Sawao Kato

Sawao Kato is a former Japanese gymnast who is one of the most successful athletes in the history of the Olympics. He contested in three Olympics between 1968 and 1976 and won 12 total medals, which includes eight gold medals, one of the few athletes to have won eight or more gold medals at the Olympics.

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The Olympics and the Seasons

January 9th, 2015 · No Comments · Olympic Games

On Topend Sports there is a list of Olympic Games Firsts, which inspired a reader, Hank Wisniewski of Austin, Texas, U.S.A., to send me a personal message with some very interesting information I just had to share with you.

He pointed out that the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will be the first to take place entirely in winter (to be held from 5 Aug 2016 to 21 Aug 2016).  A wintertime Summer Olympics is only ever going to be held in the southern hemisphere. The two other southern hemisphere Olympic Games, in Melbourne and Sydney, were held in spring and summer (local time). The 2000 Summer Games in Sydney was held completely during spring (15 September 2000 to 1 October 2000), and the Melbourne Summer Olympics were held over spring and summer (22 Nov 1956 to 8 Dec 1956).

Hank went on with more details about the timing of both the Winter and Summer Olympics.

Here is the rest of his message …

I thought it might be interesting to point out which Summer Olympics took place farthest from the equator and which Winter Olympics were closest to the equator, but after I started organizing the data I realized that since the Olympics have been held at various times of the year, the fact that the sun’s position covers almost 47 degrees of latitude from solstice to solstice makes those other facts irrelevant.  However, following my original thought, I found a web page that calculates the sun’s latitude for any day of the year, and for each Olympics I subtracted from the city’s latitude the sun’s latitude on the date directly between the opening and closing ceremonies.  To my surprise, when I sorted my list according to those angles, there was no overlap between Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics, even though the difference between the lowest sun peak in a Summer Olympics and the highest sun peak in a Winter Olympics is only 3.7 degrees!

The top five Summer Olympics held when and where the sun’s latitude was farthest from the host city’s latitude are…

  1. 1964, Tokyo, Japan (46.0°)
  2. 1972, Munich, West Germany (40.8°)
  3. 1952, Helsinki, Finland (40.8°)
  4. 1988, Seoul, South Korea (39.0°)
  5. 1912, Stockholm, Sweden (37.7°)

The top five Winter Olympics held when and where the sun’s latitude was/will be closest to the host city’s latitude are…

  1. 1960, Squaw Valley, United States (49.7°)
  2. 2018, PyeongChang, South Korea (50.0°)
  3. 1998, Nagano, Japan (50.3°)
  4. 2002, Salt Lake City, United States (53.7°)
  5. 1980, Lake Placid, United States (56.6°)
Winter Olympic Games cauldron in Vancouver, Canada

The Winter Olympic Games cauldron in Vancouver, Canada

While I’m at it, here are the extremes:

The Top Five Summer Olympics When & Where the Sun’s Latitude Was/Will Be Closest to the Host City’s Latitude:

  1. 1996, Atlanta, United States (14.6°)
  2. 1956, Melbourne, Australia (15.8°)
  3. 1984, Los Angeles, United States (16.9°)
  4. 1932, Los Angeles, United States (17.5°)
  5. 2020, Tokyo, Japan (17.8°)

The Top Five Winter Olympics When & Where the Sun’s Latitude Was Farthest from the Host City’s Latitude:

  1. 1994, Lillehammer, Norway (73.1°)
  2. 1952, Oslo, Norway (71.9°)
  3. 1956, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy (64.3°)
  4. 1964, Innsbruck, Austria (64.2°)
  5. 1924, Chamonix, France (64.0°)

By the way, the first Olympics to be held within the tropics were the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City. The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio will be the second time!

Hank has also provided me with the time zones for every Winter and Summer Olympics.

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Rio Olympic Games Mascot Announced

December 1st, 2014 · No Comments · Olympic Games

The Olympic Games mascot for Rio 2016 has recently been announced, a yet unnamed yellow creature. It is supposed to represent all the animals of Brazil. (There is another one, for the Paralympics, which represents all the plants of Brazil). I can definitely see a cat and monkey in there, though I’m not sure  what other animals it incorporates. Blue hands, green tail?

Unlike in recent times, the public were not consulted to choose the mascot, which is  a good thing as the general population are not the experts in marketing, and the aim of creating a mascot is clearly stated as being to make lots of money on merchandise! The general population still do have a say – they can help pick the names. There is a short-list of three choices, Oba and Eba; Tiba Tuque and Esquindim; and Vinicius and Tom. My vote is for Oba and Eda. I have no idea of the meanings of each of the names, Oba and Eda just  sound the coolest.

rio olympic mascot

my selfie with the Rio Olympic Games mascot

On the official Rio website you can go and make your own selfie with the mascot (like I did), and also cast your vote for the mascot names.

I’m glad there is just one mascot for the Olympic Games, as it was for London. When I saw that there were five mascots for Beijing in 2004, all I could think of was that they had trouble picking the best one to use. Sydney also struggled making a decision and had three mascots. Using a single mascot that represents an animal from the host country is what has been traditionally used. You can see our list of previous Olympic Games mascots.

What do you think of the mascot? Let me know in the comment section below.

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Unusual Ways To Carry The Olympic Games Torch

July 29th, 2013 · No Comments · Olympic Games

torch-relay-runEach Olympic Games torch relay begins with a torch being lit by the sun’s rays at the ancient site of Olympia, after which it is passed by torch from person to person all the way to the Olympic stadium in the host city. The torch relay tradition started in 1936 and this is one of the few times where just runners have carried it all of the way (it also happened in 1948 and 1980).

Recent Olympic torch relays have been a competition to see which host can have the most bizarre transport method. I have come up with a  large list of alternative transport types for the torch. Some of the more unusual transportation types include space ships and along a zip wire. In 1976 the flame was sent by radio signal between Greece and Canada and in 2000 it went underwater at the Great Barrier Reef. For the Sochi Games the Russians are taking it into space again. It will be interesting to see where else it goes, and also what the Rio organisers can come up with. Any suggestions?

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Review of the Dirtiest Race in History

March 25th, 2013 · No Comments · Olympic Games, Sports Medicine, Track & Field

Book: The Dirtiest Race in HistoryThe title of this book (The Dirtiest Race in History, By Richard Moore) refers to the 1988 Olympic Games 100 m sprint final (see a video of the race). This was perhaps the most thrilling sprint in Olympic history, but within 48 hours the gold medalist Ben Johnson had tested positive for anabolic steroids and the scandal and stories had begun. However, the full story did not begin with this race, but many years earlier.

The book follows the development of the two main combatants, Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson, from when they started sprinting; building a deep rivalry between them that fascinated the athletics world, culminating in the infamous race referred to in the title. The author Richard Moore was able to interview Johnson who gave some interesting insights into that period, but unfortunately Lewis was not available.

In the concluding pages of this book, we are given details of each of the competitors in this infamous race. It may be no surprise that ultimately most of them were tainted by drugs at some point in their career, possibly this is the message the book is trying to make. This may be the story about Ben and Carl, but it also defines the period in athletics history where drug use was widespread, and the fledgling anti-doping program had only started the game of catch-up.

More Info

  • The Dirtiest Race in History by Richard Moore.
  • Inside Track: My Professional Life in Amateur Track and Field, by Carl Lewis and Jeffrey Marx.
  • Speed Trap: The Inside Story of Ben Johnson and the Biggest Scandal in Olympic History, by Charlie Francis and Jeff Coplan.

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Oscar Pistorius the Anti-Hero

February 15th, 2013 · No Comments · Olympic Games, Track & Field

It is with no surprise that we hear the news that another sporting hero has fallen foul of the law. Although the full details are yet to emerge, it seems like the 2012 Olympian and multiple-paralympian Oscar Pistorius, also known as the ‘Blade Runner’, may have murdered his girlfriend.  I posted about him recently, saying he was not the first disabled athlete to compete at the Olympics. Not only that, now he may also not be the first sporting hero to cross to the dark side. Is Oscar Pistorius our next anti-hero?  I have complied just a short list of athletes who have done something bad, labeling them anti-heroes (my title). I don’t think there are more bad people in sports, probably the opposite. There maybe a higher level of arrogance in some sports stars, but generally being the focus of public attention keeps them on the straight and narrow. When one slips up, it is big news, as it is now with Pistorius.

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The Need to Modernize Modern Pentathlon

February 14th, 2013 · No Comments · Olympic Games, Sport

Modern pentathlon is not the most popular of world sports, but maybe the International Olympic Committee can see that it has potential. The sport, which was created for the Olympics, was highlighted by many as the one to be dropped from the Olympic program, but was saved for now when wrestling was dropped from the core sports list.

Despite being modern by name, the sport based on the skills of the ideal cavalry soldier is not currently relevant to many people. It has been trying to modernize itself, looking at changing the event so it can be completed in a single day and all at the same venue, making it more spectator friendly. The concept of the sport is great, the challenge to find the ultimate all-round-athlete – competing in the very different disciplines of shooting, fencing, swimming, equestrian and running. Lets get it on prime time TV, add some dancing girls and loud music, and they could be onto a winner.

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Wrestling gone from the Olympics

February 13th, 2013 · No Comments · Olympic Games, Sport

The IOC have voted to drop wrestling  from the list of core Olympic Games sports, a necessary step to make room for more relevant sports for today. Wrestling still has a chance to be on the program, though it will now join the seven shortlisted sports which are aiming for inclusion in the 2020 Olympic program: baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding and wushu. You can vote for which sport you think should be included in the Olympics. It is very unlikely that wrestling will be added back on the program, maybe something cool like climbing should be added. Dropping wrestling was a surprise to me, as it seemed like modern pentathlon was on the chopping block. There are a few other sports that should possibly be eliminated. Our poll of which Olympic sports should be dropped had equestrian as more unpopular than wrestling and modern pentathlon, and equestrian also topped our list of Least favourite Olympic sports. The word from an IOC inside source indicated that wrestling was voted out from a final group that also included modern pentathlon, taekwondo and field hockey, which gives an idea of which sports may next be on the chopping block. It seems like there is a bit more culling to do.

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Blade Runner Is Not the First Disabled Athlete at the Olympics

August 2nd, 2012 · No Comments · Olympic Games, Sports Medicine

There is a lot of hype surrounding the South African runner Oscar Pistorius (also known as the ‘Blade Runner’). Pistorius was born without fibulas and with deformities of his feet, and subsequently had both his legs amputated below the knee when he was only 11 months old. He competes with carbon fiber prosthetic legs, and is entered in the 400m and the 4 x 400 m relay races at the 2012 Olympics. This is a great story of achievement, though he has had to overcome a lot more than just his disability to reach the Olympics, having many bureaucratic hurdles to overcome too to get his place on the South African team. Even though he has been hailed by many as the first disabled athlete to compete at the Olympics, he is in fact part of a long history of disabled athletes to do so.

Some media have reported correctly that Pistorius is the first “double” amputee to compete at the Olympic Games. There has been other amputees missing portions of one leg who have competed at the Olympics, and some have even won gold medals. In 1904 American gymnast George Eyser won three gold medals for the vault, parallel bars and rope climbing. Eyser lost a leg when he was a kid in a train accident, and competed wearing a wooden leg. From 1928 to 1936, Hungarian Oliver Halassy won two golds and one silver in water polo. He achieved this despite missing his left leg that had been amputated below the knee following a childhood streetcar accident. Another amputee to compete at the Olympics is South African swimmer Natalie du Toit, who is missing her left leg. She came 16th in the open water 10km swim in 2008.

These are just some examples – there are many more disabled athletes who have participated at the Olympics, including other amputees, those that were blind, paraplegic or affected by polio. See more on Disabled Athletes at the Olympics, and also about the Paralympics.

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