Tokyo Olympics: Medal Predictions for the "Calympians"

The Calympians should bring home at least a dozen medals from Tokyo

UPDATED (July 21) - I had overlooked a Calympian, but Andre Jin Coquillard and South Korea Men’s Rugby are unlikely to medal. I also left off a Cal alum on the Australian Men’s Quad Sculls boat, which has some chance of possibly getting on the podium.

2016 Rio Games was the best Olympic Medal haul for Cal. The Golden Bears led all schools with 20 in my “True Medal Count”, where we only count only one medal for multiple athletes on the same team1 and only include athletes who had competed at the school2. How would the 47 “Calympians” do in Tokyo3?

Near locks (> 75% chance)

Teams

USA Softball - Valerie Arioto

USA Women’s Soccer - Alex Morgan

Sure, USWNT Soccer did not medal in Rio but that was more of an aberration than anything else and should fuel their quest for Gold in Tokyo. With just six teams in the entire competing in Softball, USA Softball may have the best odds at earning a medal; USA and Japan are the only realistic picks for the Gold.

Of course, any medal less than Golds will be deemed a disappointment for these two teams.

Swimming Relays

USA Men’s 4x100m Medley Relay - Ryan Murphy, Tom Shields (in the prelim?)

USA Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay - Abbey Weitzeil

USA Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay - Ryan Murphy, Abbey Weitzeil

USA Women’s 4x100m Free Relay - Abbey Weitzeil

USA Men’s 4x200m Free Relay - Andrew Seliskar

USA Women’s 4x200m Free Relay - Katie McLaughlin

Where there are thoughts that USA Swimming would not be as dominant in this Olympic Games as in the past two decades, the Americans should still be on the podium for these relays, even if they don’t touch the wall first.

Individuals

Men’s 100m Back - Ryan Murphy (USA)

Men’s 200m Back - Ryan Murphy (USA)

Ryan Murphy is going for a repeat of both of Golds in both backstroke events. He actually does not have the top time this year but still holds the 100m Back World Record and could/should set the 200m Back World Record. With his track record, it is hard to bet against Murphy to medal, although there is some chance that he might *only* get the Silver in one of these.


Very good chance (~50% chance)

Teams

Spain Women’s Water Polo - Roser Tarrago

Hungary Women’s Water Polo - Anna Illes

Netherlands Women’s Water Polo - Kitty Lynn Joustra

Behind USA as the clear favorite for the Gold, Spain, Hungary, and the Netherlands are all in the mix as teams, along with Russia, that could get on the podium. Obviously, there is only room for two of them, barring a major upset of Team USA.

Boats

Men’s Eight - Netherlands (Maarten Hurkmans)

Women’s Four - USA (Kendall Chase), Australia (Rosemary Popa), Great Britain (Rowan McKeller)

Women’s Eight - Canada (Sydney Payne)

Women’s Single Sculls - Kara Kohler (USA)

Based on the info from row2k (too many to directly link), these are the boats that are expected to not just make the final but also contend for a medal.

For Rio 2016, Cal actually only got one rowing medal from Dutch’s Bronze in Men’s Eight. Chances are that they would get 2-3 here.

Individuals

Women’s 100m Free - Abbey Weitzeil (USA)

Men’s Golf - Collin Morikawa (USA)

Especially with Morikawa’s great start at The (British) Open this week, he should be a contender for an Olympic medal. Of course, golf is such a fickle game that nothing is really guaranteed.

I would love to put Weitzeil in the category above, but she also has yet to earn an individual Olympic medal. The Rio 2016 Games happened before Cal (Weitzeil had deferred by a year), and one would expect her to be stronger in 2021).


In contention (20% chance)

Teams

USA Men’s Water Polo - Luca Cupido, Johnny Hooper

As an American, I think I am rosier on Team USA’s chances here than what may be wise. Should the Americans be in a position to possibly medal, they would much more likely be playing for the Bronze than Gold.

Boats

Men’s Pair - Martin Mackovic (Serbia)

Men’s Eight - USA (Julian Venonsky), Australia (Angus Dawson)

Mackovic got downgraded to this tier due to his partner’s COVID diagnosis after arriving in Japan. USA with Venonsky as the coxswain since 2017 actually has had more experience as a group than many of the other countries. Both USA and Australia could be in the mix for a medal in an unpredictable field.

Individuals

N/A


Would be a great story (5% chance)

Team

Canadian Women’s Water Polo - Emma Wright, Kindred Paul, Kelly Mckee

USA Men’s Rugby 7s - Danny Barrett

Men’s Tennis Double - Ben McLachlan (Japan)

I think both Canadian Women’s Water Polo and USA Men’s Rugby should both be able to make the knockout stage where one big early upset win may put you on the easy path toward a medal match. That’s why these team sports offer a higher probability of upsets than races in swimming and rowing.

Boats

Men’s Pair - Joachim Sutton (Denmark), Niki van Sprang (Netherlands)

Men’s Quad Sculls - Jack Cleary (Australia)

Sutton and van Sprang both qualified at one of the last meets. The heavier contenders had earned their spots two years prior. Similarly, men’s quad sculls is wide open behind two favorites, why not Australia?

Individuals

Women’s Table Tennis - Lily Zhang (USA) [even if by my methodology, her medal would not count for Cal]

Women’s 100m Fly - Farida Osman (Egypt)

Men’s 100m Fly - Tom Shields (USA)

Men’s 200m Back - Bryce Mefford (USA)

Women’s Hammer Throw - Camryn Rogers (Canada)

Lily Zhang turned pro in table tennis and has significantly improved her game while playing in Germany, Japan, and China. She actually might be a medal contender at this Olympics, despite the lack of history for American Table Tennis in the Olympics.

I think Shields, Mefford, and Osman are all capable of making the finals of their event, but might really need to have a great personal best in the final to touch the wall in the top-3. Similarly, Rogers needs to improve her distance by nearly 10% to go from top-8 (set at the NCAA last month) to the top-3 in the world.


Tabulating everything, I would predict 13 Olympic Medals for the Calympians. If you count by the number of medals awarded (which would be the “usual” tabulation), Cal should have 15-16 Medals.

Of course, given the extra uncertainty of the pandemic (and so many of the 2020 events which would be great predictors canceled), the error bar on the prediction above is a pretty big 4. I would be very surprised if the Calympian total falls outside the range between 9 and 17 medals (but I would obviously take the over).

GO BEARS!

1

To take away Stanford’s advantage from having multiple members on USA Women’s Water Polo, Women’s Soccer (who didn’t medal in Rio), etc.

2

This was to take away the medals earned by Allyson Felix, who is on the verge of becoming the most decorated Olympian, from counting for USC since Felix never ran track for the Trojans. This method should also prevent any medals earned in the pool by Regan Smith and Taylor Ruck from counting for Stanford this year since they have yet to matriculate.

3

Technically, by my method, any medals earned by Robin Hanson (Sweden, swimming) and Gennaro di Mauro (Italy, rowing) will not count because they are only incoming freshmen. Medal earned by US Calympian Lily Zhang in table tennis also would not count because that is not a Cal Athletics sponsored sport (I believe Zhang had played with the Cal club team).