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Study predicts fewer NZ medals in London

Published: 2:15PM Thursday June 14, 2012 Source: Fairfax

A statistical study suggests New Zealand won't enjoy the same success at the London Olympics as we did in Beijing.

The study, released by PriceWaterhouseCoopers UK (PwC), has predicted the overall medal tally for the top 30 countries competing at this year's Games and has New Zealand placing 28th with seven medals, two less than the nine-medal haul four years ago.

The United States is expected to lead the medal charge with 113, followed by China with 87 - their tally has decreased substantially as they no longer have the host-nation advantage - and Russia with 68.

The nine medals won in Beijing was a significant step forward for New Zealand, equalling the combined tally of medals won in Athens (2004) and Sydney (2000).

Hopes are high that multiple Kiwi rowing crews and cyclists can make the podium this year, while the greatest expectations accompany defending women's shot put champion Valerie Adams and the men's rowing pair of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond.

The PwC study is based on a number of categories that have been statistically proven to reflect a country's performance at the Olympics. These include population, average income levels, whether the country was previously part of the former Soviet Union and whether the country is the host nation.

In general, the report said that the number of medals won increases with the population and economic wealth of the country, though it also factors in the possibility that "David can beat Goliath in the Olympic arena".

History also indicates the country hosting the Games generally over-performs, as was the case in Beijing where China won 100 medals, 37 more than they did in Athens, and in Sydney where Australia won 58 medals compared to 49 in Athens and 46 in Beijing.

Based on this, Britain is predicted to bag seven more medals than they did in Beijing, putting them fourth overall on the medal tally with 54.

Australia is expected to continue its decline since the Sydney Games, with the study predicting its athletes will take home 42 medals to finish fifth overall.

The study has also taken into consideration variables, including the opportunities for athletes from poorer nations to train in wealthier nations, the tendency for smaller nations to specialise in particular areas - as the Jamaicans do with sprinting - and nations that have more of a focus on non-Olympic sports, such as India.

While India is second among competing countries in terms of population size, it has significantly under-performed at past Olympics, winning only three medals in Beijing.