LONDON – The United States is an overwhelming favorite to finish the Olympic Games in style and finish ahead of China at the top of the medal table. British bookmakers are no longer taking bets on the U.S. to finish first in both the overall medal count and secure the highest tally of gold medals.
Even though the Americans led China by just four total medals – 81 to 77 – and trailed by 32 golds to China's 34 at the start of Thursday's competitions, the strengths of its track athletes and team sports representatives look likely to make the difference.
"You can't get a price on the United States," said a spokesman for gambling company Betfair. "When you look at what they have got coming up, it is all over. It's a shame, it would be like free money."
Yahoo! Sports predicts that the Americans will end on 97 medals: 43 gold, 26 silver and 28 bronze; with China ending up on 90: 40 gold, 26 silver and 24 bronze.
At the Olympic Stadium, decathlete Ashton Eaton, triple jumper Christian Taylor and both 4x400-meter relay teams are heavy favorites to clinch gold, with several other minor medals also likely.
The women's soccer team was already guaranteed at least silver heading into its final showdown with Japan on Thursday night, with women's volleyball, basketball and water polo also tipped for gold-medal glory.
Swimming star Ryan Lochte claimed on Thursday that the spirit in the U.S. camp was the primary reason behind its exceptional medal haul. "The whole team supports each other, and that is a huge thing," said Lochte. "You take out anything negative … and good things happen."
China's only realistic chance of getting close would be if it could clinch a swathe of unexpected medals in Greco-Roman wrestling and taekwondo, which both offer many pieces of hardware due to their various weight classes. However, the U.S. also has medal possibilities in taekwondo, with 2000 and 2004 gold medalist Steven Lopez competing in the men's under-80kg discipline.
China is the favorite to win a pair of golds in diving, thanks to superstars Chen Ruolin and Bo Qiu, while it could potentially occupy all of the podium places in one of its strongest events, the women's 20km walk
Four years ago in Beijing, the U.S. finished with the most medals, 110, which was 10 clear of China. However, the Chinese finished well clear in terms of gold, winning by 51 to 36.
China feels it has been unfairly treated however, with its state-run media complaining of "wrongful convictions" and stating that the "unfair judgment by referees has frequently cast a show over the London Olympics."
The United States will have few complaints though, as it prepares to top the medal table and the gold-medal count for the fourth time in the last five Games, a feat that could be capped off by the superstars of the men's basketball squad on Sunday afternoon.
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