With Team GB’s historic haul at Beijing and this year’s home advantage, here is Impact’s list of British athletes from those all but guaranteed Gold to those seeking to do better than Bronze.
Andy Triggs Hodge & Pete Reed
The pair defended their men’s title with an impressive display in the British trials at Eton Dorney, and with the current British rowing team being hailed as the best in the world, they are one of many shining talents. They were both Gold medallists in the coxless four in 2008 and have now formed a potent partnership as the men’s pair; their experience will be key in coping with the level of expectation that surrounds them.
Beijing was nothing short of remarkable for Sir Chris Hoy; the first Briton to win three Gold medals in a single Olympic games since Henry Taylor (1908) and the most successful Olympic male cyclist of all time. Hoy continues to prove that he is a force to be reckoned with, winning Gold in the keirin and Bronze in the team sprint, before winning Gold in the Men’s Sprint, losing just one race in four rounds at the 2012 World Cup event held in the new London Velodrome. At 36, the knight will be difficult to dismount in his last hurrah and where better to do it than on home turf.
The numerous replays of her stunning two Olympics Golds triumph in Beijing frustrated swimming champion Adlington. A true athlete is never satisfied and since then she has stepped up her game. She has had several dips in form due to nerves but has still bounced back to record personal bests at the World Championships (2009) in Rome. She has witnessed a return to form in recent months, regaining the confidence that gave her such momentum in Beijing. At 23 years of age, she is still fresh and ready to defend her titles in London.
If any event fulfils the urban, multicultural image that the Olympic Association has courted, it is the BMX, and Shanaze Reade represents Britain’s best chances in the sport. Shanaze, who spectacularly crashed out in Beijing despite being favourite for Gold, now shows a greater maturity and should be poised to banish the nightmare of four years ago. Reade possesses great potential, winning the 2007 sprint track championship with Victoria Pendleton, and is rumoured to be a stand-in should there be injuries in the track squad, though she is primarily focusing on the BMX event. As long as Reade maintains her concentration amongst increased media attention, which she admitted was her downfall in Beijing, she looks certain for Gold.
Our finest ever long distance runner suffered agony at the 2008 Olympics, coming short before the final in the 5,000m event. He has bounced back stronger than ever, claiming five Gold medals at the European Championships, European Indoor Championships and the World Championships. His achievements saw him finish third for British Sport’s Personality of the Year, as he became the first British man to win a global title over 5,000 and 10,000 meters, hitting form at the best possible time. Expect history to be made by Farah if he continues this surge in form.
This is her last hurrah and whether she gets the Gold or not, she will go out with a bang. She still continues to prove that despite being on her last legs, she is a top sprinter, having recently won off the floor (literally) to record a brilliant semi-final victory over Australia’s Anna Meares en route to world sprint Gold. Pendleton won the Gold medal in the Women’s Individual Sprint Event at Beijing, but it may be just beyond her this time despite some fabulously gutsy performances recently.
Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter
Zac Purchase said “the old saying is that you never perform best at your first Olympics”. However, at Beijing they broke that trend, claiming a Gold medal with a time of 6:13.69. Since then, they have won two Golds at the World Championships in New Zealand (2010) and most recently in Slovenia (2011), which was a close-run thing. Nevertheless, it secured a near clean sweep of medals for not only them but also the rowing team.
One of the more contentious figures in the squad whose confidence could see him produce a shock result by beating the current World Champion Quin Bo. In 2009, the 17-year-old was criticised by former partner Blake Aldridge and more recently, Britain’s performance director Alexei Evangulov. However, good showings in the FINA Diving World Series both in his individual event, the 10m board and in the synchronised 10m event with Pete Waterfield offer encouragement. Whilst Gold seems out of reach given the expertise of Bo, Daley should achieve a medal in the individual event and with his ever-improving relationship with Waterfield, two is not out of the question.
Already a national hero, as much for his eccentric hairstyle and dress sense, as his Silver medal in Beijing, Hackney-born Phillips Idowu has the chance to become a local hero this summer. Idowu, after landing the second longest jump of the year at last August’s World Championships in Daegu, only to be trumped by the United States’ Christian Taylor, will be hoping for revenge at his home Olympic Games. However, this will not be an easy task for the 33-year-old as Teddy Tamgho of France, who holds the World Indoor Record, and Cuban Alexis Copello, start as favourites. However, with reigning Olympic champion Nelson Evora out injured, a medal should not be out of Idowu’s long reach.
After his triumph in the Korean Republic last summer, one may be wondering why Greene does not feature higher in our medal prospects. However, if one puts things into context, the 400m hurdles in Daegu was incredibly slow; Greene’s winning time was the seventeenth quickest of the season. Indeed, the Welshman’s fastest time of the whole of 2011 was only thirteenth, with six men clocking times faster than him. One cannot believe that the immediate circumstances will again be so favourable to Greene. If Greene wants to prevail, he will have to outperform favourites van Zyl of South Africa, Bershawn Jackson and Angelo Taylor, of the United States.
Ranked #4 in the world, Murray would have to defy the odds to win a medal at this summer’s Olympics. However, Murray has regularly beaten one of the Djokovic-Nadal-Federer triumvirate above him in the world rankings this season, and spurred on by a roaring Wimbledon home crowd this looks increasingly possible. Furthermore, with the event coming shortly after the Wimbledon championships, Nadal’s injury-prone knee could further Murray’s chances.
The Women’s Football Team
After England’s ladies finished runners-up at the 2009 European Championships and only lost on penalties in the quarter-finals of last year’s World Cup against France, they will fancy their chances of gleaning a Bronze or maybe a Silver medal, with the Germans likely to dominate. Furthermore, Arsenal’s advance to the semi-finals of this season’s Champions League will further boost British hopes of a first medal in the women’s game.
Matt Williams, Will Cook & Jake Batty