The London Olympics saw an unprecedented level of British success. This has led the public having high expectations for the success of British athletes at the Rio Games later this year. In 2012 British athletes brought home 65 medals and nearly a third of these were won by cyclists and rowers. Once again we’ll expect the Great Britain and Northern Ireland (GB&NI) team to be strong in these sports.
But which other sports will we get medals in, and who are the new breed of medallists?
Slowly but surely British gymnasts are putting themselves in the spotlight. Team GB&NI has virtually no Olympic history in gymnastics and they did not win a single medal between 1928 and 2004. However, in the wake of Beth Tweddle there is a posse of female British gymnasts who have huge potential. In particular there is Ellie Downie, who won Young Sports Personality of the Year (2015), her sister, Becky Downie, Amy Tinkler and Claudia Fragapane (pictured), who won 4 Commonwealth gold medals in 2014. This team won a bronze medal at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow. The only problem is that the US and China have very strong teams and in Simone Biles, the US have one of the greatest gymnasts in history, so gold medals are going to be hard to come by.
The men’s gymnastics team, however, might have a chance of gold medals. In particular Max Whitlock, who recently won gold on the Pommel Horse at the World Championships. The team that includes Daniel Purvis, Kristian Thomas, Nile Smith and Brinn Bevan won bronze at the 2012 Olympics and a silver in the 2015 World Championships.
Badminton is another sport where GB&NI have never won a gold medal, but recently Chris and Gabby Adcock created history by becoming the first British badminton players to win a title at the World Superseries final. Again, in Rio, they will come up against strong opposition from Chinese players who won gold medals in all of the badminton events at the 2012 Olympics.
For the first time since 1904 Golf will be included in the Olympic Games. It will be an individual tournament played over 4 rounds with each country eligible to enter 3 players. Unfortunately, world number 3 ranked player, Rory McIllroy, has decided that he wants to boost the medal tally for the Republic of Ireland team, so the hopes of GB&NI fall onto the shoulders of Justin Rose (pictured), who is ranked number 6 in the world. I also hope to see Ian Poulter playing for GB&NI as he seems to play much better for his country (or Europe) than he does when playing for himself. The women’s team should also be fairly strong with Charley Hull being the highest ranked British golfer. The 19-year old has one tour title but has finished in second place on 5 occasions.
Charley Hull was beaten into second place in the Young Sports Personality of the Year 2012 by a Paralympian swimmer, Josef Craig. Josef won a gold medal in the 400m freestyle (F7) at the 2012 Olympics and followed this up with two more gold medals at the world championships in 2013. Despite not winning as many medals as expected at the 2012 Olympic Games, British swimming looks in good shape with young swimmers like Adam Peaty, Ross Murdoch and Chris Walker-Hebborn all winning gold medals at the Commonwealth Games and European Championships in 2014.
Sprint Relay Team
My final athletes to look out for in 2016 are the British female sprint relay team led by Dina Asher-Smith. At the age of 20 Asher-Smith now holds the British record for 60m, 100m and 200m and came fifth at the 2015 World Championships over 200m. However, the standard of International sprinting is incredibly high with Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Dafne Schippers dominating the 100m and 200m events but along with Asha Philip, Jodie Williams and Desiree Henry the GB&NI relay team came fourth at the 2015 World Championships in a new national record. As long as they keep practicing their baton changes they have every chance of improving this year.
These are just a few names to watch out for and does not take into account the medal potential of current established British Olympians, such as Jess Ennis and Mo Farah. While it may be difficult to match the third place in the medals table achieved at London 2012 I am sure that the 2016 Olympic Games will produce a new group of sports stars to follow in the footsteps of great Olympians, such as Chris Hoy, Ben Ainsley and Katherine Grainger.