Athletes across the world have been preparing for the Tokyo Olympic Games for five years following its delay amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Preparations for this year’s event have been like no other. Many athletes have struggled to train in their usual surroundings, while others have been stuck in the four walls of their homes for months on end due to restrictions put in place.
But despite the challenges leading up to the event, and the expected hurdles that could occur during the games, team GB athletes are ready and raring to go ahead of one the biggest global sporting events in the calendar.
Team GB finished 2nd in the medals table at Rio 2016 with 67 medals including 27 golds. And, although that was seen as a good haul, they are hopeful of performing even better this time around.
With the start of the delayed Tokyo Olympic Games just a few days away, we thought we’d take a look at some of Team GB’s biggest medal hopefuls and what they could achieve this summer.
Adam Peaty: Swimming
Peaty won gold in the 100m breaststroke in Rio five years ago and is hoping for yet another dominant display in Tokyo.
In 2019, Peaty set a world record time at the World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea which further pushed home his dominance in the sport.
Before April 30 this year, when Dutch swimmer Arno Kamminga set a Dutch record of 57.90 seconds, Peaty had all the top 20 fastest times ever in the distance.
And the crazy thing is Peaty believes he can go quicker.
‘We’ve done the sums and I think if it went absolutely perfectly, and I’m talking the fastest parts that I’ve done in a physical race and you put them all together, it’s 56.2 or 56.3, which is absolutely ridiculous,’ he said.
Dina Asher-Smith: Athletics
Current 200m world champion Asher-Smith is seen by many as the favourite to win over the distance, but she faces serious competition from rivals such as Gabrielle Thomas, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and defending Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah.
Asher-Smith, who is from London, has recently withdrawn from the British Grand Prix event in Gateshead, her last scheduled race before the Olympics due to a tight hamstring.
She has a busy games lines up, having also entered herself in the 100m and the 4x100m relay, in which she won a bronze medal in at Rio 2016. She’ll certainly be hoping to add to that medal tally in Tokyo.
Laura Kenny: Track cycling
Kenny will be going to her third Olympic Games this summer with all eyes on getting more gold medals.
She will compete in three events, the omnium, team pursuit and madison, as she seeks to become Team GB’s most successful female Olympian and at the same time overtake Dame Katherine Grainger’s five-medal haul on the domestic all-time list.
Kenny believes the pandemic has helped in her preparations to compete in all three events. She will again be joined at the games by husband and fellow cyclist Jason Kenny.
Tom Daley: Diving
Having won bronze at both Rio 2016 and London 2012, Daley will be hoping to go one, or maybe even two better this time around.
He will compete in both the individual competition as well as the synchronised discipline, in which he is paired up with teammate Matty Lee.
Daley won two gold medals in Tokyo during the diving World Cup last year, and will be hoping to continue his fine form later this month.
As always, China will again be the country to beat with 2019 world champion Yang Jian and silver medallist Yang Hao both set to push Daley all the way. Meanwhile, US diver David Boudia, who picked up Olympic gold in 2012 and a bronze medal in 2016, failed to make selection.
Max Whitlock: Gymnastics
Two-time Olympic gold medallist Whitlock is to compete in his third games in Tokyo, but this time he has restricted his focus to his favoured apparatus- the pommel horse.
Having faced hurdles within his preparation, which included a recent fall on his return to competiton at the European Championships, Whitlock is still the favourite to add to his gold medal collection.
His biggest rival for a third Olympic title is expected to be Ireland’s 21-year-old rising star Rhys McClenaghan, who could push Whitlock all the way.
Pat McCormack: Boxing
Sunderland born McCormack has had preparation like no other coming into these games. Having won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, he scooped another victory in the European Olympic Boxing Qualifiers in June, beating one of his main rivals, Russia’s Andrey Zamkovoy in the final.
He will compete in the welterweight division and is adamant he is ready and has what it takes to win gold.
‘I’m the man to beat when I go to this Olympics. I’ll go there as number one seed so hopefully I can perform well and bring home the gold medal,’ McCormack said.
The women’s football team
The squad, which comprises players from some of the biggest clubs in the world including Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea, is heading to Tokyo with hopes of going all the way.
The squad is a mix of youth, with 13 players taking part in their first games, alongside experience as Karen Bardsley, Steph Houghton, Ellen White, and Kim Little will all play in their second Olympics.
Coach Hege Riise has previously won Olympic gold at the 2000 Sydney Games, and she will hope that previous experiences will put her and the rest of the squad in a good position to emulate the feat.
Jade Jones: Taekwondo
Jones will look to become the first taekwondo fighter in history to win three Olympic titles having won gold at both London 2012 and Rio 2016.
The 28-year-old from Wales is a hot favourite to win again in Tokyo, and is number one seeded in the -57kg division going into the event.
She is joined by four other athletes, including world gold medallists Bianca Walkden and Bradly Sinden, in Team GB’s largest ever taekwondo team at an Olympics.
Seonaid McIntosh: Shooting
Mcintosh, who is Britain’s most successful female shooter ever, heads to Tokyo as the world number one in her sport.
The Edinburgh athlete will compete in the women’s 3×50 rifle event as well as the 10m air rifle. Having won three World Cup medals, she is expected to add to that tally in Tokyo.
Success runs in the family too, McIntosh’s father Donald is a former British rifle shooter, while her older sister Jennifer won three Commonwealth Games medals in the same sport.
Giles Scott: Sailing
Having won in the Finn class in Rio five years ago with a day to spare, Scott will be aiming to repeat the feat in Tokyo.
Having taken some time out of Finn racing to race in the Americas Cup alongside four-time Olympic gold medalist Ben Ainslie, he returned to action earlier this year to win silver for the second year in a row at the European Championships, only losing to Hungary’s Zsombor Berecz.
Known as one of the best tacticians in the field, Scott will be hoping the time spent tapping into Ainslie’s brain will help him become an Olympic champion once again.
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