Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

Can Team GB hit their Olympics target?

Mo Farah is a major medal hope for Britain at the London Olympics

Britain's best-prepared, best-funded and largest ever Olympic team is on course for a record-breaking Games. The 550-strong team has the potential to gather as many as 70 medals with fourth place in table a stated ambition.

The predictions were released yesterday by UK Sport, the body that oversees elite sport, who presented a broad range of 40 to 70 medals, with 48 cautiously highlighted as that would achieve the much-promised increase on Beijing four years ago.



Britain exceeded expectations in 2008 to secure fourth with 47 medals, six more than predicted, to secure its best since London first hosted the Games in 1908. It faces a battle with Australia, Germany and France to hold on to fourth, but with funding levels at an all-time high – £264m is being invested in this Olympic cycle – and a promising record in recent international competition there is cause for optimism.



UK Sport's chief executive Liz Nicholl admitted the middle of the range, around 55, was "probable".



Swimming: 5-7 medals



Swimming provided the surprise of 2008 thanks to the dramatic emergence of the teenage Rebecca Adlington and her stunning double gold in the Water Cube in Beijing. The team doubled their predicted medal tally (six to three) leading to much greater expectation this time around. Britain have their strongest ever women's team – Adlington should earn at least one more gold, while Hannah Miley and Keri-Anne Payne are lively contenders in the i ndividual medley and open water respectively – but competition is extremely fierce via the US, Australians and French and reaching the lower end of the forecast would be a satisfactory return. The pressure will be on the women to medal as with the likes of Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte around, Britain's men only have distant chances.



Athletics: 5-8 medals



Charles van Commenee has not shied from making a more definite, and career defining, prediction than that of his sport's ultimate paymasters. The Dutchman has said his team will deliver eight medals and if they do not he will quit. The sport receives £25m in funding over this Olympic cycle and, through the likes of Mo Farah, looks well placed to make up for its disappointing return four years ago where it won one fewer medal than predicted.



Cycling: 6-10 medals



The big hitter in Beijing, where 14 medals were won in arguably the greatest performance by any British Olympic team, is under intense pressure to produce again. Cycling will not though match the return of four years ago because of some bizarre changes to the Olympic programme. Only rowing has had more funding than the £26 million ploughed into the sport and recent performances in the world championships in Melbourne – where Britain topped the medal table in Olympic events – and in the World Cup event staged in the Olympic velodrome in London, suggest that it has once again been money well spent. Expect the cyclists to reach the top end of their predicted tally, with up to five gold medals from the likes of Chris Hoy and Laura Trott.



Rowing: 6 medals



The sport that has been at the heart of Britain's Olympic revival, and indeed there holding its oar up through the bad times as well – the one lonely gold during the disastrous Atlanta Games came from rowing. Its consistent success means it is the best funded sport and £27.3m is set to float a lot more boats towards medals, in particular golds. Rowing's approach is very definite in that it targets gold medals rather than a bulk return bolstered by silver and bronze. In Kath Grainger and Anna Watkins in the double sculls it has one of the entire 550-strong Team GB's surest chances of victory. It would be a huge surprise if what has been widely branded as Britain's best-ever rowing team do not enjoy a hugely productive regatta.



Sailing: 3-5 medals



The last of the big five sports that receive more than £20m funding. Like their waterborne rivals rowing – there's a healthy competition between the two to rule home waters – Britain's sailors exceeded expectation four years ago, winning two more than their four-medal target. This time they should do so again given what is not an ambitious target for a team that is rich in experience and racing in home waters. Most of the team have long been based down in Weymouth. It will take something extraordinary to stop the chances of the remarkable Ben Ainslie winning gold No 4, while Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark are good bets in the 470 – as are the redoubtable Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson in the Star class.



The mid-rankers: 15-29 medals



Boxing The inclusion of women boxers should work out well for Britain, whose men have produced good returns at recent Games – it was three medals in Beijing. Savannah Marshall and Nicola Adams both have good medal chances, while the men too have a number of decent contenders, including Luke Campbell. 3-5



Canoeing Canoeing was another to prosper in Beijing and while it will do well to secure four medals there are serious golden hopes in David Florence and Ed McKeever. Success in mid-range sports is likely to make the difference to whether Britain can hold on to fourth or even push towards third in the medal table. 3-4



Equestrian Something of a dark horse in Britain's medal hopes and, like canoeing, a sport that can make a key impact in what is expected to be a close-run contest from third to eighth in the medal table. Two gold medals, in eventing and dressage, are not beyond reach in a sport that has received £13.4m. 3-4



Diving UK Sport's predictions are based on form in recent international events which means Tom Daley is considered a genuine prospect for two medals, albeit not gold, such is China's dominance. Beyond Daley and his partner Peter Waterfield, Tonia Couch and Sarah Barrow have a chance in the women's 10m synchro. 1-3



Taekwondo Surprisingly rated green according to UK Sport's traffic light system for determining each sport's health. There are four athletes in the team which means it will be a struggle to reach the top end of the target; it would have been easier if Aaron Cook was there. Sarah Stevenson has an excellent golden chance. 1-3



Gymnastics Having claimed a first British gymnastics medal for a century in Beijing, Louis Smith has real hope of gold in London. The non-selection of former world silver medallist Dan Keatings demonstrates the improvement in the sport and Britain could challenge in the men's team event. Beth Tweddle is another prospect but securing two medals will be tough. 1-2



Hockey One of the success stories of this Olympic cycle, with the women in particular now considered worthy gold medal contenders. Both men's and women's teams are ranked number four in the world and have had encouraging recent results. A funding package of £15m is acknowledged to have made a marked difference. 1-2



Modern Pentathlon A low-key sport which has done its job for its country in recent Games with medals at the last three, including gold in Sydney. Mhairi Spence is the current world champion, a status achieved in Rome early this year. Sam Murray finished third in Italy so two medals are a realistic aim. 1-2



Triathlon Another sport to attract attention over its selections. British Triathlon made the hard-headed decision to pick domestiques to help its trio of medal prospects, the Brownlee brothers and Helen Jenkins, on to the podium. Two medals should be the least Britain wins on current form, three is a real possibility. 1-2



Tennis Tennis has joined the UK Sport programme for the London Games. Since the sport returned to the Games in 1996, Britain has won a solitary silver. As you would expect its medal targets at Wimbledon will rest on Andy Murray, both in the singles and doubles, where he plays with his brother. 0-2



...and the rest: 0-5 medals



Archery Alison Williamson is heading for her sixth Olympics but is still an outsider for a medal at Lord's. 0-1



Badminton Failed to medal in Beijing and prospects are not encouraging this time either. 0-1



Fencing Another sport heavily criticised for its selection process and not expected to win much. 0-1



Judo There is little cause for optimism after entire coaching staff replaced recently. 0-1



Shooting Peter Wilson is the world record holder in double trap so may gain a medal. Beyond him there is not much hope. 0-1



Basketball Finishing between fifth and eighth is the height of ambition for a team that has been troubled by selection issues. 0



Handball Came heroically from nowhere and may return there after home Games. 0



Synchronised swimming Have improved notably in this Olympic cycle. 0



Table tennis A young team is there for the experience but will struggle at this level. 0



Volleyball Modest target of winning "one match". 0



Water polo First Games for a century. Women target top seven. 0



Weightlifting Zoe Smith carries home hopes of a top-10 finish. 0



Wrestling One athlete and little chance for troubled sport. 0



* Football is not included as it is not funded by UK Sport

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