Olympic Preview: Betting Picks for Medal Count & Athletics

Usain BoltIn just under a week, the world will come together as the torch is lit and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games emanating from Rio de Janiero, Brazil, will be underway. An international competition bringing together people from all nations, the Olympics are always one of the most anticipated sporting events every four years.

This year, coverage will be unprecedented as NBC, through its various platforms, will provide live streaming of every minute of the action for every sport. There are also more betting odds on more events than ever before. The USA sportsbooks have lines on all of the major team sports, the individual track and field competitions and of course, the medal table. This preview selects a few advised betting picks for these events.

Will the U.S. Once Again Win Medal Count?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the United States has been the most dominant name in Olympic sports history, taking home 2,400 total medals and winning more golds and more overall medals than any other nation. Additionally, no country has won more medals in tennis, basketball, boxing, diving, shooting, swimming, beach volleyball and athletics track and field, than the U.S.

Since boycotting the 1980 Moscow Olympics, USA has won the gold medal count five times, including at both games hosted in America. They have never finished lower than third in the same count throughout their history.

The only time in the last five Olympics the U.S. failed to win the gold medal count was in 2008 in Beijing in which they lost to the host nation 51-36. However, America took home the total medal victory, besting China 110-100.

This year the United States is a strong odds-on favorite at -500 with BetOnline and -550 with Bovada Sportsbook to top the gold medal list. The country’s biggest competitor over the past few cycles, China, is second best at +350. Great Britain (+2000) leaps ahead of Russia (+5000) in light of recent doping violations, which have seen many of the athletes in the Russian federation banned from competition though in some cases their participation is still to be decided.

Going up and down the list of sports, America is favored to take home medals in most of the team competitions. While these only yield one medal apiece, the bread and butter for America’s count once again will lie in swimming and track and field, where they have won 520 and 767 medals respectively. This amounts to 54% of the country’s overall medal count.

Essentially, when it comes to betting on the medals, it’s really a matter of betting on the U.S. against itself. That means deciding on an over/under of 42.5 total gold medals and 103.5 overall medals.

To put these numbers in some context, the U.S. has won 104 medals or higher in just three of the last eight Olympics. They have won 43 or more gold medals again in just three of the last eight Summer Games.

The U.S. is primed to take home a big haul again this year as they are favorites in most of the team competitions and are fielding the defending gold medalists in a handful of the individual events. The totals seem to be a bit lofty but looking at the medal potential, America might be in an even better position this year than they were last time around in London in 2012. That year, the USA won a total of 103 medals including 48 golds, their highest such output since winning 83 golds in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

  • Betting Pick: The United States has scored at least 100 overall medals in six of the last eight Olympics so take the over 103.5 total medals @ -125 with Bovada.
  • Betting Pick: As for the United States’ total gold medals, the absence of Russia helps America, as does the addition of sports such as golf which look to favor the red, white and blue. Bet on the over on 42.5 gold medals as well @ -105 with Bovada. You can go over 41.5 @ -150 with BetOnline.

Track and Field Betting Odds

The sportsbooks offers several betting opportunities for almost all of the track and field events including the high-profile men’s 100m and 200m races, the men’s 4x100m relay, and men’s decathlon just to name a few. For instance:

  • Men’s 100m: Usain Bolt (-200) vs. Justin Gatlin (+165)
  • Men’s 200m: Usain Bolt (-335) vs Justin Gatlin (+310)

In 2004, Justin Gatlin was the name on top of the world in men’s sprinting. He had been victorious in the 100m, had helped lead the U.S. to a silver medal in the 4x100m relay and won the bronze in the 200m. But then, in 2006, Gatlin tested positive for a banned substance and was forced to serve a four-year suspension from all track and field events. By the time he returned, having missed the Beijing Games, Gatlin found his replacement in the form of Usain Bolt (pictured), the new king of men’s sprinting races.

Gatlin did manage to win the bronze at London but he was no match for Bolt who has won six gold medals (100m, 200m, 4x100m relay in 2008, 2012) in six opportunities. He is undefeated in world championship competition in that span, again cleaning up, winning 11 golds in 11 opportunities. Most of the time, it is Gatlin who he has bested, as the American has finished second in both the 2013 and 2015 world championships.

Even with an injury that he is just now started to recover from, look for that same result to hold in Rio. Take Bolt to win both the 100m and 200m, with Gatlin likely picking up the silver in both events. As for the relay, largely because of Bolt, Jamaica is favored over the U.S., -155 to +115. Considering Bolt has never failed to win gold in his Olympic career, our betting pick would be to take the Jamaican squad to best the U.S. once again in this, their signature team event.

  • Men’s Decathlon: Ashton Eaton (-1000) defends against the field.

There is no reason to suspect that Ashton Eaton, the gold medalist in the decathlon from the 2012 Olympics, won’t win again in Rio other than the fact that defending a gold medal might be the most difficult feat in sports. However, Eaton continues to blaze his trail as the next great U.S. decathlete and enters this year’s summer games as the 2015 world champion in the event as well.

Eaton leads a field which includes Damian Warner (+850) and Rico Freimuth (+2200), the silver and bronze medalists respectively from the world championships. Both have had good seasons but Eaton’s all-around ability to score in all 10 events will once again lead him to the promised land.

  • Check back later this week for part two of USAbetting’s Olympic preview, in which we look at the odds in some of the team sports including tennis, basketball, soccer and more.
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