Olympics Debrief

Once again the Olympics delivered. Despite all the challenges it provided its usual mix of outstanding performances, high drama and captivating stories. Team GB’s success, escalating as the Games went on, across a range of sports, added to the appeal for UK viewers. They finished 4th in the medal table, below their 2nd place in Rio but equal on 65 medals with London.

There was uncertainty about how Tokyo 2020 would come across without paying fans but there seemed to be enough spectators (athletes, staff and officials etc) at most events to create a decent enough atmosphere.

There were 22 Team GB golds but three in particular had the SPOTY markets scrambled. Breakfast time on the first Monday and Tom Daley finally wins a first gold at his 4th Olympics in the synchronised diving with Matty Lee – his price tumbling from 80/1 into around 4/1 (available at 160 and bigger on Betfair a couple of days before the opening ceremony).

After Dina Asher-Smith failed to qualify for the 100m final and withdrew from the 200m, Daley became the new SPOTY favourite.

The market settled down until Laura Kenny won gold with Katie Archibald in a dominant display in the madison on Friday. This, along with an earlier silver in the team pursuit, made Laura the most successful female Olympian (5 golds and 1 silver) and the first to win a gold at three successive Games. She traded as short as evens for a moment on Betfair and Daley was briefly forgotten.

Daley shored up his position by winning bronze in the individual event on Saturday morning. At this point Jason Kenny had drifted out to 100+ on Betfair. He had not been showing his usual big meeting form – he said he was ‘rubbish’ during the team sprint (where he won silver) and ‘struggling’ in the individual sprint (eliminated in the quarter-finals).

Suddenly, surprisingly Kenny then burst into life in the keirin final in the small hours of Sunday morning launching off the front to shock everyone. His gold was his 7th in total going clear of Sir Chris Hoy as Britain’s most successful Olympian of all-time. He became the new SPOTY favourite, also trading around evens on Betfair before settling around the 9/4 mark with the bookies.

The current market looks like this: J Kenny 9/4, Daley 9/4, Peaty 10/1, L Kenny 12/1, Lewis Hamilton 16/1, Mark Cavendish 16/1, Max Whitlock 20/1, Lauren Price 25/1.

The Kennys have made history and the titles of being the most successful male and female Olympians give them a certain gravitas. Jason’s overall record eclipses Laura’s so it seems right that he is shorter in the odds.

There are some warning signs around the likelihood of Jason winning SPOTY though. It has to be noted that in 2016 he won 3 golds, the most by a GB athlete in Rio, yet finished only 10th in SPOTY (Laura was 8th). He’s someone who generally doesn’t seek the limelight and is potentially up against not only Laura but also Cavendish who could still yet prove to be a bigger draw for cycling fans.

Could it be that the market is also overplaying the appeal of the historical feat to voters. After all in 2016 Jason had gone level with Hoy at the top of the all-time list. And Hoy himself in 2012 went clear at the top with his 6 golds in total yet only finished 7th that year (although he had already won it in 2008).

At this stage my feeling is the value lies in Daley. He has a long history with SPOTY being the only person to win Young SPOTY three times (voted for by a panel, rather than the public) in 2007, 2009 and 2010 (when he also finished 6th for the main award with 50k votes).

He has a huge following (2.3m Twitter followers), with a life story that is inspiring to many. The social media hits on his Olympics performances exceed his main SPOTY rivals and he was clear leader in a BBC poll of people’s favourite Tokyo 2020 gold.

His bronze medal in the individual event should secure him a place on the shortlist. Finally winning Olympic gold after all these years provides some of that novelty value that is key in SPOTY winners – he offers something different to his competitors that in some ways are hard to separate from each other. I’d expect a strong VT on the night, some knitting chat, and a desire among the BBC audience to vote for him.

In terms of the rest of the year we have the Paralympics to come which can always provide a good story or two. The world track cycling championships will also take place in October where it may be worth keeping an eye on the Kennys. There is the Ryder Cup too. Hamilton can never be entirely discounted if we wins a record 8th F1 title. But overall there may not be too much opportunity left for others to get involved.

* 3 pts win Tom Daley 9/4 Sky Bet, Betfred, Boyles, 5/2 Bet 365, 11/4 Coral / Ladbrokes

It will be interesting to see how long the shortlist will be this year. In 2016 it was 16 and 2012 it was 12. There is always the possibility of a big priced contender coming with a late charge.

I’d be interested to know if people think I’m being too positive on Daley’s chances as I know some are concerned he may not appeal to a typical SPOTY voter, please feel free to add a comment.

15 thoughts on “Olympics Debrief”

  1. Hi Paul,

    That’s a great write up and really interesting to hear your views. It was a rollercoaster couple of weeks from a betting perspective but hopefully profitable if you were able to take some of the big prices.

    I had already loaded up on Laura Kenny with the intention of laying it all off as soon as she hit low odds, so that was mission achieved somewhat although I laid off too early at around 6s and was kicking myself for not leaving shorter prices when I saw she was matched at evens! I thought it was a huge over reaction that she stayed in the 3s territory for a couple of days.

    Charlotte Dujardin was a complete let down for me and I really should have done more research before backing her quite heavily at big odds.

    I was able to grab some 100/1 on Tom Daley so it was fantastic to see him win the Gold in the way that he did and I agree he deserves to be favourite. I expect Jason Kenny will continue to drift while Tom’s price will contract. I agree that he is the most likely winner particularly because all of Laura / Jason and Mark will split the cycling fans votes.

    I backed Jason Kenny earlier in the year at 33/1 Each Way so would be very happy with a Daley / Kenny forecast at this stage.

    My biggest winner however would still be on Mark Cavendish, as I continued to take the 10s, 15s and upwards as he drifted. In hindsight this looks like a poor decision but I felt he had a strong voter base and was good value at the odds.

    I am now covering Lewis at around 16/1 as it’s too much of a risk to leave my book exposed if he has a dramatic finish in winning a record number of titles. We know that he has a very loyal and large fan base.

    So far, so good and I agree that Tom is the rightful favourite at this point in time. Best of luck with your bets

    1. Sounds like you played things nicely there Fred and are well covered. I thought you would be set up with your Daley pick. I managed to get some of the bigger prices on him too – I’m annoyed that I didn’t properly put him up on here – and then it all happened very quickly on that Monday morning.

      The swings in prices were crazy, don’t feel I quite made the most of them really in retrospect. But fine overall at this stage.

      Cav is still an interesting player this year I feel.

  2. Great analysis. I feel that you are correct re Tom as he has a great fan base as well as terrific back story. I’m certain that Jason Kenny will drift in the market and he doesn’t seem to appeal to the masses. I can see Hamilton getting lots of votes if this seasons F1 turns into a titanic struggle with him pipping Verstappen. I quite like the look at Lauren Price whose boxing gold as well as her playing football for Wales could see her be shortlisted.

      1. I reckon that if it’s a tight title race and he wins it a few weeks prior to spoty he will go very short possibly 4/1 in my opinion. Certainly needs covering

  3. Great article. There was a worry that the Olympics wouldn’t capture the public imagination in the same way given the state of the world, but I’d now be very surprised if the winner doesn’t come from a Tokyo gold medalist.

    I personally can’t see either Kenny challenging for 1st, for the reasons that you mention. Neither polled well in 2016 when they achieved more in terms of gold medal success than this year. I could see Jason getting on the podium what with the novelty of the record breaking 7th gold but just can’t see him having the personality and public appeal to win overall. Plus if Laura, Jason and Cav all make the shortlist (one would imagine at least 2 of them will be on there), there would surely be something of a vote split.

    If it’s done purely on sporting achievement, Adam Peaty should be winning this comfortably in my opinion, what with his multiple golds and being untouchable in his specialist event. But he’s similarly polled pretty badly when shortlisted before and it would need a big push in a public vote to reach the top 3.

    I agree with what you say on Daley. He is probably the most well known household name of the main contenders and given inclusivity efforts by the BBC, I could imagine him getting a great edit on the night, tearful montage about finally reaching gold, his diving partner VTing about how great he is to work with etc. I know that past winners in Olympic years have tended to be multiple gold winners (Holmes/Hoy) or one with something extra behind their achievement (Murray reaching number 1, Wiggins winning Tour de France) but there hasn’t really been a standout in the same way this year so I reckon that could well be enough for Tom.

    1. Great to hear your views apleximus. I know what you mean about those previous Olympic-year winners – this year doesn’t seem quite the same. Gold medal winners are a curious bunch as they generate a very wide range of votes – they need that something extra. Daley does seem to provide it, as do the Kennys to a certain extent to be fair, but perhaps the others not so much at this stage.

      The consensus around Daley here is reassuring (and disconcerting at the same time!) Let’s see how it all develops.

  4. Incredible win from Emma Raducanu today, down to 5.3 on Betfair. She seems a guarantee for the Young award, two more wins and I imagine she’d go odds on for the main prize as well.

    It’s a long shot but given her performances the past fortnight I certainly wouldn’t rule it out.

    1. Stunning stuff from Raducanu.

      I think it may be the case that she wouldn’t qualify for Young SPOTY as it’s for those 17 or under at the start of the year.

      If she won the US Open it would be a huge story – a much more significant sporting achievement than Daley’s.

      I wonder if Amazon might make the final free-to-view if she made it.

      It seems anything is possible with Raducanu and you can’t rule her out whatsoever. A wonderful talent. I have been covering on her. Comparing the respective US Open and SPOTY odds, agree it looks like she would maybe go odds on.

      1. She’s a great talent. I managed to get in on Ladbrokes early doors at 100/1 so fingers crossed she does win the Us open. 2 more games. All 4 semi finalists could win though

  5. I haven’t got a penny on Emma… sadly it looks as though I’m going to pay the price for it! I just didn’t like the value vs her odds of winning the tournament.

    Looking at Betfair now for example, why would anyone back her for SPOTY at 1.66 when you can get better odds on her winning the tournament?

    1. She really has ripped up this market. No-one was could really have anticipated this pre-tourn but having seen her form in it, and thinking how much of a sensational story it would be, I should have played it safe and properly recommended a bet on her here. I was probably wary of making too many picks before shortlist time but this is a special sporting achievement in the making.

      I guess the current relative prices for the US and SPOTY reflect some feeling that even if she loses the final she would still have a fair chance in the latter. Thought it might have taken her winning the final to go really short but the cut-though to the mainstream has certainly arrived already.

      It will be interesting to see how it all pans out later.

      1. Agree with your comments, I think what has surprised me is how quickly she went very short in the market. I saw her as a risk when she was at QF stage but thought I could still probably get 3/1 – 4/1 on reaching the final, at which point I could have comfortably covered my bets.

        I didn’t fancy backing her at 4/1 when she made the SF as it looked quite likely her run would come to an end. I then woke up yesterday and she’s odds on, at which point it is not worth backing her (in my view anyway).

        We have seen a general trend of overreaction this year in market prices with Laura, Jason etc being over bet at times. I think this is yet another example but she does now look likely to be the winner.

        I’d love to see her win from a sports fan perspective, but with my betting hat on it would be much more interesting (and hopefully more profitable) if she saves her first major for next year!

        Good luck everyone whichever way you have bet.

      2. What’s interesting is that even if she loses she will still probably feature as a candidate and still win. Didn’t Greg Rusedski win spoty and lost in the final? I think if she’s wins tonight she’ll probably win. Still don’t write off Tom Daley’s fan base. Could be a closer vote than people think. I’m thankful that I’m well covered on both. Sad thing is I had £10 at 100/1 on her to win usopen and cashed out at £50. Still a profit is a profit. Good luck all

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