China have the power to beat USA in Olympic gold rush again

OLYMPIC fever is upon us at last. With one study suggesting home support can boost a host nation’s medal haul by over 50%, Team GB’s official target of 48 medals, just one more than they claimed in Beijing four years ago, seems conservative. Sporting Index’s spread of 62-64 is more realistic but we shouldn’t get caught up in the hype and that may actually prove an astute sell.

The spread betting firm have a number of interesting Olympic specials markets – not least ‘Bottoms Up’, a prediction on how many medals Team GB will win in the sitting down sports of canoeing, equestrian, rowing, cycling and sailing. We normally excel in these disciplines and are predicted to win more than half our gold medals in these five sports.

In the gold medal betting market, CHINA are simply the wrong price at a general 11/8. They won 51 golds to rivals USA’s 36 four years ago and, while home advantage was arguably a big factor, their sports chief, Liu Peng, has made no secret of his country’s desire to target more medals in sports we wouldn’t normally associate with the Chinese. Having pumped millions into programmes to maintain their supremacy, I cannot leave them unbacked at odds-against.

Beijing four years ago was Usain Bolt’s Games. The Jamaican speedball ran off with the 100m, 200m and 4x100m gold medals, setting world records in each event. A year later the ‘Lightning Bolt’ lowered his own 100m world record to an incredible 9.58 seconds and he was seemingly a certainty for more Olympic glory this month.

However, YOHAN BLAKE, current world champion after winning the Daegu final where Bolt was disqualified for a false start, has burst into the headlines recently after defeating his training partner over both 100m and 200m. The 22-year-old has time on his side and ranks as a solid bet for gold at 6/4 with Coral.

Bolt has struggled with niggling injuries and only Carl Lewis has ever retained the 100m gold which suggests it’s near impossible to maintain peak speed and fitness for two Olympic campaigns.

Sporting Index’s ‘Cool Runnings’ special allows punters to bet on the cumulative success of all the Jamaican sprinters in action – both male and female – with 25 points awarded for every event the Caribbean team triumph in. Remembering that Team Jamaica won five of the six disciplines four years ago, with a spread of 100-108, they look a good buy, especially considering they will get a 50 point bonus for triumphing in all six events.

The men’s football kicked off yesterday and I’m not keen on Great Britain’s chances of going far. Their poor warm-up defeat at the hands of tournament favourites Brazil last Friday is still fresh in the mind and even at a double-figure price Stuart Pearce’s men make no appeal.

On the other hand, record five-time World Cup winners BRAZIL are my big fancy as they seek the Olympic crown that has so far eluded them. Mano Menezes has picked a strong squad and they should really win the event at a canter. Neymar has already been in the goals over the last week and the striker could realistically have won top goalscorer honours by the time Group C is concluded.

Record-breaking Spain sit second in the market but their squad lacks the big name players that Brazil boast and it may well be Uruguay, with both Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani up-front, who prove the biggest threat to the Samba Boys.

Despite a record 17 Grand Slam titles in his locker, ROGER FEDERER has so far failed to match the achievements of Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal, the only players to have won the ‘Career Golden Slam’ – all four Grand Slams and individual Olympic gold. The Swiss maestro won’t have a better chance after the defection of defending champion Nadal through injury, and is worth backing at 2/1 with Coral.

Novak Djokovic is the favourite at 6/4 despite losing his number one ranking to Federer last month. Andy Murray will carry home hopes with revenge in mind after his valiant bid for Wimbledon glory was dashed by Federer and is as big as 6/1.

Finally, having equalled her sister Venus by powering to a fifth Wimbledon title this month, SERENA WILLIAMS, at 6/4 with Coral, is hard to oppose for the women’s gold. The Williams pair should also claim a remarkable hat-trick of Olympic doubles titles.