Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

NZ tipped to win 11 golds in Rio

Lisa Carrington. Photo / Getty Images.
Lisa Carrington. Photo / Getty Images.

New Zealand will have its finest Olympic gold medal haul in Rio and crack the top 10 list for just the second time.

That's the exciting - and perhaps over-excited - prediction being made by a "sports data company" called Infostrada whose latest virtual gold medal list has been published on Britain's Telegraph news site.

The report predicts New Zealand will finish 9th on the gold medal list with 11 and score 23 medals overall, significantly more than the 14-plus medals targeted by High Performance Sport New Zealand. The medal predictor reckons the USA will finish top with 43 golds in the August Games, followed by China, Russia and Australia.

Unsurprisingly, HPSNZ chief executive Alex Baumann regards such predictions "with a grain of salt" and emphasised how tough it was to succeed at the Olympics.

Baumann - who knows all about competing at the top of world sport - agreed it was nice to hear such an optimistic appraisal of New Zealand sport.

"But I wouldn't want to over-cook it...we need to manage expectations," said Baumann, who won two swimming gold medals for Canada in world record times at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

"I relate it to politics, and all the polls that are held in advance. It's who wins the election that counts."

Baumann said caution was needed when using lead-up performances because athletes were not always at their peak in pre-Olympic meetings, and in a sport like cycling technology advances might be kept under wraps.

An obvious case in point is Tom Walsh, who won the world indoor title in Oregon this year. Walsh, who is tagged with a gold medal in the virtual table, won in a field missing a few of the world's best.

Still, Baumann was hoping the top ranked Kiwis would do a little better than in London. New Zealand went into the last Olympics with 21 competitors ranked in the world top three on 2011 results, and emerged with 13 medals.

"Our conversion rate in London was a little low to my mind - it should be 65 to 70 per cent."

New Zealand's best Olympic gold haul came at Los Angeles in 1984, when a boycott by eastern bloc countries (in retaliation for the American-led boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games) skewed the results. Led by the golden generation of canoeists, New Zealand topped the podium eight times, and finished 8th on the gold medal table.

New Zealand has some outstanding gold medal prospects for Rio this year and particularly on the water where canoeist Lisa Carrington, sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke and rowing pair Hamish Bond and Eric Murray are supreme.

World golf number one Lydia Ko, who will want to avoid any water, will also be a hot favourite.

But New Zealand's rugby sevens teams have had erratic results and might not be the hot gold medal prospects they once were.

The Infostrada predictor believes shot put superstar Val Adams, who is returning from injuries, will claim a bronze medal.

NZ's predicted gold medallists
Tom Walsh (shot put),
Lisa Carrington (canoe 200m/500m),
Cycling sprint team
Lydia Ko (golf)
Women double sculls - Zoe Stevenson/Eve Macfarlane
Women lightweight double sculls - Julia Edward/Sophie MacKenzie
Mens rowing pair - Eric Murray/Hamish Bond
Rugby sevens (men and women)
Mens 49ers sailing

NZ's top gold medal hauls
8: 1984 - Los Angeles (8th on gold medal table)
6: 2012 - London (13th)
3: 2008 - Beijing (19th); 2004 - Athens (20th); 1996 - Atlanta (21st); 1988 - Seoul (15th); 1964 - Tokyo (11th).

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