So this is why Canadians spend all that time and energy playing shuffleboard on ice.
Olympics: A Curling Letdown
The U.S. curling teams are struggling, causing some to question the team-selection process and whether they're looking ahead to the next Olympics. Curler Dean Gemmell joins Kelsey Hubbard to talk about the top curling contenders.
Olympics: Judging Fashion Over Form
WSJ's Rachel Dodes talks about Norway's crazy curling pants, Ryan Bedford's patriotic hair, snowboarders' denim-like garb and "aboriginal" ice skating outfits.
With four days to go in the Vancouver Olympics, Team USA looks to be running away with the overall medal count, which would give the U.S. its first overall medal victory since 1932. But the race for most golds, which is what matters to most of the world, is setting up as a four-way battle among the U.S., Canada, Norway and Germany. And that may very well come down to Canada's stature as a curling powerhouse.
While Canada likely will fall well short of its pre-Games goal of 34 overall medals—the centerpiece of its "Own the Podium" program—the final days of the Games are packed with events where Canadians have a strong shot at victory.
Right off the bat, or, stick, is Thursday's gold-medal game for women's ice hockey, against Team USA. Neither team has been challenged in the tournament, but the defending Olympic champion Canadians are on home ice. Advantage Canada.
Canada also is strong in the women's speed-skating relay, scheduled for Saturday. Add in two likely gold medals in curling, and Canada is set to be at the top of the list in number of golds. Suddenly, the gloom and doom over the home team's underperformance would be an afterthought.
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Canada skip Cheryl Bernard releases her stone down the sheet during a match vs. Great Britain.
Nate Silver, who has been averaging medal projections from nine sources and updating the figures daily on his Web site, fivethirtyeight.com, Wednesday had the U.S. winning the overall medal count, with Germany, Canada and Norway right behind.
"This is a game between the U.S. and Germany now," said Luciano Barra, an executive with the Turin Olympics and a noted Olympic predictor.
"The difference for those countries is they are winning medals in a lot of different sports, which is what you need to do to win," Mr. Barra said.
But Mr. Silver's Web site has Canada winning the gold-medal count by a healthy margin—12.8 to second-place Germany's 9.6. Norway was in third in golds, with 9.3, and the U.S. is projected for fourth place, with 8.4 golds.
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Canadian women's ice hockey player Jayna Hefford celebrates a goal during a game against Switzerland.
Mr. Barra and most other predictors appear to have overestimated Canada's home advantage. That was undoubtedly the flaw of The Wall Street Journal's projections at the start of the Games, which relied on statistical probabilities rather than simply predictions for gold, silver and bronze. These predictions placed Canada in first place in the overall medal count with what now seems like an absurd 37 medals in 86 events.
Canada threw millions of dollars in public money at its Olympic program, plus millions more in private funds, and it limited the access of foreign athletes to the venues.
"There's a historical average of the home field producing three more medals," said Dan Johnson, an economics professor at Colorado College, whose prediction model relies on home-field and socioeconomic factors. Mr. Johnson had Canada winning the medal count with 27, three more than its 24 in the 2006 Turin Games.
"Will they come in lower than that? Yes," he said. "But Canada has a reputation of not being a greedy host."
At the same time, most projections appear to have underestimated Team USA's home-continent edge. American Alpine skiers, who have won eight medals, say the snow feels like California, and, as opposed to most World Cup events, which take place in Europe, Vancouver puts most of the competition in a truly foreign land.
The Journal's projection of 10 gold medals and 33 overall for the U.S. just might end up being right on the mark. Team USA is guaranteed at least a silver in women's hockey, and it should pick up medals, some of them gold, in Nordic Combined, speed skating, short track and perhaps bobsled.
Norway, meanwhile, could sneak away with a gold-medal triumph if its biathlon and cross- country-relay teams, led respectively by Emil Svendsen and Petter Northug, prevail, and if Canada and the U.S. falter.
Likewise, Germany looms. Winner of the overall medal count in four of the past five Winter Games, Germany has gotten a huge lift from its "biathlon beauty," Magdalena Neuner, the winner of two golds and one silver. It also has enjoyed its usual dominance in sledding sports, where it has already won nine medals in luge, bobsled and skeleton.
Take away the sled track and Germany suddenly looks a lot like Korea, with 11 medals and five golds.
And the Winners Will Be…
Here are The Wall Street Journal's final projected medal standings for what we expect will be the top four finishers.
Source: WSJ Research
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