Somehow it’s four years since London 2012 and with memories of ‘Super Saturday’ still fresh in the mind, national favourites such as Jessica Ennis-Hill, Greg Rutherford and the indomitable Mo Farah will once again grace the world’s biggest stage to the delight of millions of sports lovers.
As with every Games however, a new collection of talent has emerged, looking to cement their own places in British sporting history and whilst Farah and co are likely to add to their medal drawers, we’re taking a look at five stars hoping to make their mark on Rio 2016…
Katarina Johnson-Thompson, heptathlon
A familiar name in unfamiliar territory. KJT is undoubtedly the most illustrious of our ‘five to watch’ and she approaches Rio with very real prospects of a medal of any colour. Hyped for years as ‘the next Jessica Ennis’, she arguably enters the heptathlon as a better prospect than the defending champion. Whilst Ennis-Hill has had to battle injury, missing the prestigious Gotzis meeting and faltering in the long jump at the Anniversary Games, KJT won the long jump ahead of GB specialist Shara Proctor and recorded a personal best in the high jump.
For KJT, London 2012 was all about the experience, whereas for Ennis-Hill it really was her time. This year may be very different and KJT will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing World Championships last year to take the gold. Canadian hotshot Brianne Theisen-Eaton may have something to say about that though.
Dina Asher-Smith, 200m
Dina Asher-Smith was a kit-carrier at London 2012, an experience that has clearly inspired her to follow in the footsteps of the senior athletes. How fitting then that she broke Kathy Cook’s longstanding national 100m record in the Olympic Stadium at last year’s Anniversary Games.
Since then she has added the national 200m record, running 22.07 secs at the World Championships in Beijing last year to become the fast teenager in history – agonisingly it was a time that would have won her the gold medal at seven of the past 10 World Championships.
She has used most of this season to focus on the 200m and with another year under her belt she offers a genuine medal threat. Catch in-form Dafne Schippers on a bad day and she might just bring back gold.
Adam Peaty, swimmer
It’s hard to believe that Team GB’s most sure-fire medal hope, 100m breaststroke swimmer Adam Peaty, was scared of swimming as a child. He scooped three gold medals at last year’s Swimming World Championships and followed that up with a further four golds at this year’s European Championships in London.
He’s the most dominant athlete on this list and apart from Mo Farah, arguably the most dominant in Team GB. Already the fastest British man in the breaststroke and as part of a team that set a world record pace in 4x100m mixed medley relay, he’ll be gunning for glory and might even have an individual world record in his sights.
Tonia Couch, diver
All eyes will undoubtedly be on Tom Daley this year as he looks to complete his collection of gold medals. However on the women’s side of the board, Tonia Couch has quietly positioned herself as a dark horse in the female competition. With a recent silver medal at the European Championships this year and medals in the World Series events of late, she has an outside chance of a podium finish on the greatest stage of all.
Max Whitlock, gymnast
Max is one of a number of British gymnasts enjoying unprecedented success after the likes of Beth Tweddle and Louis Smith ushered in a golden generation for the sport in the UK. He has already experienced Olympic success, taking bronze in the pommel horse at London 2012.
Since then he has set a course to establish himself as a household name and last year became the first British man ever to win a World Championship gold medal, with a score of 16.133. He comes in this year’s Games in fine form, taking all-round gold in the Glasgow World Cup in March and even wants a gymnastics move named after him.
Gold in Rio certainly won’t hurt his ambitions.
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