TORONTO - Alan Ashley
isn't paying attention to the medal table at the Pan Am Games, but the American will be riveted to it at next year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Ashley, the chief of sport performance for the United States Olympic Committee, is working the Pan Am Games like a laboratory: trying out younger athletes, giving many their first taste of a large multi-sport event, and using the 41-nation championships to qualify some athletes for Rio.
"I feel an enormous amount of pressure to deliver for the athletes," Ashley
said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press
It's still early, so Ashley
declined to make predictions.
However, several widely circulated forecasts show the United States as a slight favorite to finish ahead of China with Russia in third.
said prospects for Rio will be clearer after the world swimming championships opening this week in Russia, and the track and field world championships in August in Beijing.
"After the world championships, everybody will have a better idea of how their countries are stacked up against each other," Ashley
The United States won the most gold medals in London with 46, and also led the overall count.
China had 38 gold and was second overall.
Host nation Brazil won only 17 overall medals - only three gold - and is hoping to use the home-nation advantage and win about 30.
"I think China will be really solid, and I wouldn't discount Russia," Ashley
"I feel a little bit different than I did in London only because I've tried to make sure we are working harder to support the athletes," Ashley
"I think our connection with many of the sports is a little higher than it was going into London.
That's a good thing from the standpoint of shaping up as one team when we hit ground in Rio."
, who expects to have a team of about 570 in Rio, said he
follows athletes' numbers and listens to coaches as he
weighs where to invest time and money.
"You can't go with one or the other.
The trends in the data don't always tell you what's going on," he