Who are the medal hopefuls for Team GB in Rio?
With the Rio Olympics just weeks away and the majority of the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team having been selected, talk has turned to just how many medals Team GB can win following their huge success four years ago.
London 2012 was a success beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. The collective excitement and support throughout the country channelled through to the athletes and saw Team GB end the Games with 65 medals including 29 golds. It was their best ever return and meant a third place finish behind Olympic heavyweights China and the USA in the medal table.
Predictions are mixed this time around. Some believe it’s almost impossible to match the total achieved in London, but others say the collective team is one bursting once again with talent that can easily match, if not better, 2012.
UK Sport, who have invested £350m of public money into elite sport since London 2012, has set Team GB a target of between 47 and 79 medals, which if achieved would make Rio GB’s most successful overseas Games, surpassing the 47 won in Beijing in 2008.
Of that £350m, £74m has been invested in para sports. London was an even bigger success for Team GB’s Paralympians – they finished the Games with 120 medals, including 34 golds. However, unlike their Olympic colleagues, they’ve been asked to better their 2012 target and return home with at least 121 medals, having been set a target of between 113 and 165 medals.
Will the lack of home advantage have an effect? There won’t be the same British roar that greeted athletes on every bend and every touchline in London, but this is Rio – the carnival capital of the world. The World Cup in Brazil two years ago was one of the best in recent memory because of the colourful and vocal support seen at all grounds. There’s no reason to suggest it won’t be the same this time around.
Leading the way for Team GB will be the icon and hero of the 2012 Games – Mo Farah. Already considered the greatest athlete in British history, Farah won gold in the 5,000m and 10,000m events in London, a year after winning gold in the 5,000m and silver in the 10,000m at the World Championships. Amazingly, he has since followed that up with gold in both the 5,000m and 10,000m at the World Championships in 2013 and in 2015, taking his tally of world gold medals to five, alongside his two Olympic golds. The smart money is on another remarkable Mo double in Rio.
Another gold medal hero from London who hopes to be among the medals again this time around is Jessica Ennis-Hill. The heptathlete was part of the Super Saturday four years ago when she, Farrah and long-jumper Greg Rutherford all won gold in a spellbinding evening at the Olympic Stadium. Ennis-Hill showed her talent once again when she won the World Championships in 2015, just a year after giving birth. She only decided to take part in the competition a month before it began. Despite her fears over the Zika virus panic in Brazil, Ennis-Hill is one of Team GB’s big medal hopefuls.
Other GB stars to look out for will be gymnast Max Whitlock, who this year became the first British male to ever win a world title; boxer Nicola Adams will be hoping to repeat her gold success from London; cyclists from the track and road including Sir Bradley Wiggins and Laura Trott will look to keep up Team GB’s amazing medal record in the sport; expect medals on the water in the rowing, and don’t bet against Andy Murray, buoyed by his brilliant Wimbledon victory, retaining his gold medal from London in the tennis.
UCFB’s Desislava Goranova, the Programme Leader of the BA (Hons) Stadium & Event Management degree, has studied Olympic participation in recent years and researched the legacy Olympic Games leave in host countries. She worked at the London Games as a transport coordinator for athletes and the media, and was previously the coach of gymnast Rachel Smith before she was picked for the Team GB squad in London.
She hopes that as well as seeing Team GB’s household names do well in Rio that new athletes will also come to the fore.
She said: “While in athletics the spotlight is on Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Greg Rutherford, it’d be good for the sport and the nation to see more athletes doing well. I think seeing ‘new’ athletes doing well and ultimately winning medals is crucial not only for Team GB to surpass its own medal success in consecutive Olympiads, but crucial to the nation’s grassroots and elite sport development.”
The Rio Olympics take place from August 5th – August 21st