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At the best of times, predicting the Olympics is a mug’s game.
During a pandemic, it’s the preserve of the desperate.
So, come on down Sportsbeat’s super six reporters who will have eyes on Team GB’s every move in Tokyo. Here are their predictions on the fun and Games to come - including that dreaded medal target.
Biggest British star will be: Sky Brown. The story starts here when they sit down to write the Sky Brown story. Aged 13 years and 23 days, she’s Britain’s youngest Olympian of all-time. She’s in X Games winning form, not bad a year since a horror crash her watching parents feared was fatal. Skateboarding will be a huge hit at these Games and this sassy teenager certainly delivers star power.
Biggest British breakout performance will be: Charlotte Worthington. The BMX freestyler was working as chef when the sport was included in the Olympics. No high-tech training centre for her - Corby's 'Adrenaline Alley’ is where the grounded European champion hones her skills. Just don't come crashing down to earth in a sport where broken bones come with the job description.
Team GB gold medal count will be: 19. Many of the stars that shone bright in London and Brazil have started to fade - Nicola Adams, Alistair Brownlee and Mo Farah all retiring have topping the podium at both Games. New stars are on the rise but Team GB faces a more powerful Russian team, still not competing under their own flag after their failure to confront institutionalised doping, and much stronger strong home nation in Japan than they did in Brazil. 19 golds would be a repeat of their haul from Beijing in 2008 - and no bad result - don't forget just 25 years ago they won just one.
Favourite Team GB athlete journey/human story is: Helen Glover. Her return to rowing following three children and four years off the water is a story in itself. Adding another gold to her collection from London and Rio would be her greatest achievement yet, though she prefers to draw her satisfaction from inspiring so many mums to return to sport. For all those with a lockdown project, prepare to stand back and accept defeat. Glover's comeback plan, hatched during the pandemic, beats you all.
The sport that will capture the imagination at the Games is: Surfing. The IOC know they need to find a way to appeal to a young audience, the average-aged Olympic fan thinks TikTok is something clocks do. Surfing will be a viral hit and bring some much needed cool vibes to those IOC suits. Cut to Thomas Bach greeting the new gold medallists with a 'Killer, dude'.
British star: Adam Peaty – the obvious answer, and yet he is still criminally underrated. Not since Hungary’s Krisztina Egerszegi at Atlanta 96 has a swimmer dominated a stroke the way that Peaty does breaststroke. A second Olympic gold, along with potentially more titles in the medley and mixed medley relays would cement him as Britain’s greatest ever swimmer and perhaps behind only Sir Mo Farah in terms of British Olympians not on wheels or in boats.
British breakout performance: Mathieu van der Poel might just be the greatest all-round cyclist on the planet. He turned down the chance of gold in the road race to focus on his first love, mountain biking. And yet, 21-year-old Tom Pidcock has every chance of beating him. At a recent World Cup event in Czechia, Pidcock beat runner-up Van der Poel by exactly a minute, the biggest margin in the 31-year history of the event.
Team GB gold medal count: 23 – it’s a lot to expect them to come close to matching the efforts of London and Rio, but I still expect them to beat the tally they managed in Beijing, which would be an amazing achievement. It might even be good enough to crack the top three in the medal table.
Favourite athlete journey: Seonaid McIntosh – taking medication to treat rheumatoid arthritis, McIntosh is a strong medal contender in the shooting where she is a world and European champion. She is the younger sister of 2012 Olympian Jennifer McIntosh, and is eminently capable of bettering her older sister’s achievements on the biggest stage.
The sport that will capture the imagination at the Games is: Speed climbing – simple to understand, dramatic setting and breathtakingly demanding, it’s the sort of event that will draw people in.
Biggest British star: Dina Asher-Smith. Who else? Only a crowd of blue-bibbed volunteers, intrepid reporters, lens-wielding photographers and broadcasters will be there in person, but there’s an air of destiny that she’ll shine when the lights are on brightest. There will be millions watching at home as she claims her rightful place as Team GB’s most prized performer for a new generation.
Biggest British breakout performance will be: Caroline Dubois. A serious contender for boxing gold having only just turned 20. She fights in honour of her cornerman Tony Disson, who tragically lost his life in the Grenfell Tower disaster. This measured, sagacious southpaw could announce her arrival on the world stage in knockout fashion.
Team GB gold medal count will be: 20. Overzealous? Foolish? Maybe so. But this is my first in-person press pass for an Olympic Games, therefore I am fuelled by boundless optimism and, frankly, delirious excitement. A glass half-full, relentlessly positive mentality I feel will be crucial for all involved at this most unique Games.
Favourite Team GB athlete journey: Helen Glover. Her return to elite sport after giving birth to her third child, in a sport as physically and mentally demanding as rowing - make her a role model for a generation of parents, children and families everywhere. A real-life Supermum. A third gold medal, this time with Polly Swann for company, would cap off one of the great Team GB comebacks.
British star: How about an outside punt on Tom Daley? It seems a lifetime ago that he made his Games debut in Beijing. But as he approaches his fourth Olympics, he’s in fine form and is a real contender in the individual 10m and 10m synchro alongside Matty Lee.
Biggest British breakout performance : Sky Brown. She will become Team GB’s youngest ever summer Olympian – but she’s not only there to make up the numbers. The teenager has a genuine chance of a medal and if she does finish on the podium, then she’ll become an instant star back home.
Team GB gold medal count will be: 21. But who really knows?! There is a general acceptance Team GB will not quite do as well as London or Rio, though some predictions still feel a little low. They are unlikely to be as dominant in cycling or rowing – but there is plenty of cause for optimism in swimming and boxing, as well as the likes of shooting and modern pentathlon.
Favourite Team GB athlete journey: Charley Davison. The flyweight boxer sparred with Nicola Adams in the build-up to London 2012, before deciding to hang up the gloves and start a family, bringing sons Arnell and Amir and daughter Amani into the world. But in 2019, Davison made an unexpected comeback and heads to Tokyo as a genuine medal contender.
The sport that will capture the imagination at the Games is: Sport Climbing. After the success of Sevens in Rio, organisers will be desperate for just one of their five newbies this year to have a similar impact. If there’s one that will, it will surely be climbing. Expect plenty of viewers to Google their nearest wall after seeing this test of strength and speed.
Biggest British star will be: Is it cheating to say Adam Peaty? It feels like it, so I’ll go for Caroline Dubois. A supremely talented boxer, she has a great backstory including disguising herself as a boy called Colin in order to box as a child. Despite her inexperience, I’m confident her talent will shine through to win gold.
Biggest British breakout performance: Kathleen Dawson has really benefitted from the year’s delay to the Games. The Scot is now the European record holder in the 100m backstroke and the cool head she showed to twice win gold in the event at the recent European Championships (after the first race result was annulled around an hour after it had finished due to a faulty speaker in lane 9, causing it to be re-swum) bodes well for dealing with the pressures of an Olympics. Don’t bet against her matching that result in Tokyo.
Team GB gold medal count will be: less than London 2012 and Rio 2016. Those two Games, with 29 and 27 gold medals respectively were remarkable. It feels like the normally gargantuan hauls from the velodrome and sailing will drop and while the slack will be picked up elsewhere I’m predicting around 18 or so.
Favourite Team GB athlete journey: There are so many. But I think my favourite might be Charley Davison, who came back after seven years away and having three children. Also a shoutout to shooter Aaron Heading, who almost lost a leg in a motorbike crash and credits working as a volunteer coastguard with giving him a sense of perspective.
The sport that will capture the imagination at the Games is: Sport climbing. All three disciplines – bouldering, lead and speed– are a lot of fun but speed is on a different level. Think of it as a 100m sprint, except going vertically! For those old enough to remember 1990s TV show Gladiators, it’s not dissimilar to The Wall and the excitement of it all could well have fans shouting ‘awooga’.
British star: Dina Asher-Smith always delivers at a major Championships and don’t expect that to change. She will take silver to become the first British woman to win a 100m medal since 1960. Then, she will need a healthy lead on Shaunae Miller-Uibo off the bend and a perfect dip to become Olympic 200m champion. Three gongs on the cards with Darryl Neita and Asha Philip in great form, so expect a 4x100m relay podium finish too.
British breakout performance: Few have given Sholto Carnegie, Matt Rossiter, Rory Gibbs and Ollie Cook any credit or leeway as the wearers of the weightiest crown in British Olympic sport, rowing in the men’s four. The European champions will beat Australia to win a sixth successive gold in the class and give some old occupants of the boat a slice of humble pie.
Team GB gold medal count: 17. It won’t be Rio. It certainly won’t be London. It might not even be Beijing. What it will be is the start of a new era for Team GB. The team is stuffed with exciting talents that can take them through a shortened Paris cycle and beyond. Another question that matters is: who’s counting?
Favourite athlete journey: Sam Ward. Like a hen’s tooth in hockey - from neither a private school nor elite university background - Sam was days away from signing up for a life as a Volkswagen car salesman. His recovery from a horrific eye injury is truly inspiring.
Sport to capture the imagination: Mountain biking. I would take Mathieu van der Poel vs Tom Pidcock for a candlelit dinner. And apparently the Mount Fuji camera angle is epic.
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