The Independent's golden hopes for 2012: 30-21
PART 1 of 3: On Wednesday there will be 100 days to go to the Olympics. To celebrate, Robin Scott-Elliot and Simon Turnbull count down Britain's 30 best gold-medal chances, starting with 30-21
30 Yamile Aldama, Athletics
This time last year the veteran triple jumper was not even in the British team and not in the frame for Olympic medal contention, having given birth to her second child in the summer of 2010. Fifth place at the outdoor World Championships in Daegu last year, with little training and only a UK Women's League outing, hinted at what was to come at the world indoors in Istanbul last month. At 39, Aldama became the oldest ever British global track and field champion, jumping 14.82m. Fourth for her native Cuba at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and fifth for Sudan in Athens four years later, the Shaftesbury Barnet Harrier and long-time Wembley resident has emerged as serious contender not just for any medal in her adopted home town but for the gold.
29 Louis Smith, Gymnastics
The 22-year-old is at the forefront of a British gymnastic revival. Between the men's and women's team and individual events, the hosts could garner a number of medals but Smith represents their best chance of actually going all the way and claiming gold. He also has a pretty good chance of falling flat, literally. Smith's routine on the pommel horse is the world's most difficult but if he gets it right then he will be within touching distance of gold. There have been hiccups since he won Britain's first individual medal for a century in Beijing. He has twice fallen off at high-profile events, including the 2009 world championships, but everything clicked into place when he won the test event last year.
28 Tom Daley, Diving
A good run of improving scores in the world series suggests the 17-year-old is closing the gap on Qui Bo, the Chinese world champion. Daley's Olympic year began with him on the receiving end of an unwarranted and very public verbal assault by Alexei Evangulov, Britain's performance director but the pair have resolved their differences and Daley is diving at his highest level since winning the world crown three years ago. He has made a largely impressive start to the world series in both the synchro event, in partnership with Pete Waterfield, and the individual. It would probably need Bo to have an off day and Daley, with the lift of home support, his best but it is a sport where the tiniest slip can have dramatic consequences.
27 Luke Campbell, Boxing
There is an air of quiet optimism surrounding British boxing at their base the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, with medal hopes across the men's and women's teams. It is a difficult sport to forecast but Campbell, a 24-year-old bantamweight from Hull, is perhaps the best bet to finish on top of a podium. He qualified by reaching the last eight at last year's world championships in Azerbaijan and demonstrated why he is so highly thought of by going on to reach the final, where he finished with silver after losing against Lazaro Alvarez of Cuba. Campbell, the first Englishman to win the European championships for nearly half a century, has delayed turning pro in order to make up for failing to earn selection for Beijing.
26 Three-day event team, Equestrian
The selection for the equestrian team is not made until a matter of weeks before the Games – to ensure the most in-form horse/rider combinations are chosen – but whoever is picked for the quartet that represents Britain in the event team, they will be expected to push for gold. Britain are the current world champions after William Fox-Pitt, Mary King, Nicola Wilson and Tina Cook took gold in Kentucky in 2010. In Beijing, they won bronze to continue Britain's recent Olympic tradition of being close but not close enough – the two previous Games had brought British silver. Not since 1972 have Britain won this event but on home soil, with some experienced heads to choose from, there is a good chance of minding that gap.
25 Phillips Idowu, Athletics
The Hackney boy could emerge as the local hero in the showpiece track and field arena. In Beijing four years ago, Idowu finished 5cm short of the triple jump gold in the silver-medal position. The 33-year-old has two hugely talented young rivals to contend with. Teddy Tamgho of France and Christian Taylor of the United States both went close to the 18m mark last year. Tamgho, though, missed the World Championships with a broken ankle and has been suspended by the French federation until next month after an unseemly altercation with a female athlete at a national training camp. Taylor relegated Idowu to silver at the outdoor world championships last summer but was himself beaten at the world indoors last month.
24 Women's hockey
Both the men's and women's team have enjoyed a renaissance over the last few years and each goes into the Games, which will be played on distinctive blue pitches, ranked fourth in the world and with medal prospects. But of the two, it is Kate Walsh's team that is attracting the most global attention. They finished runner's up in last month's Champions Trophy and left Argentina with the coach of the host nation, who won the event, and the captain of the Dutch side, the defending Olympic champions, suggesting Britain have a burgeoning chance. "They have improved a lot in the last two or three years and can win gold," said Maartje Paumen, who led the Netherlands to victory in Beijing against – take note – a host nation who played above themselves on home soil.
23 Women's 470 Sailing
February figures strongly in Hannah Mills's life; she was born on the 29th of the month and it was last February she first teamed up with Saskia Clark (whose on-shore other half is Paul Goodison) in the 470. Since then they have installed themselves as gold contenders with Ben Ainslie predicting the pair will win in Weymouth. They took silver at the world championships last year, an event they entered to fine-tune their partnership, rather than go for gold. Clark is the senior partner, aged 32 she has eight years on Mills. She finished sixth in Beijing in the 470 and afterwards teamed up with Sarah Ayton, one the "blondes in a boat", but Ayton's sudden retirement left a space in her boat – one which the Cardiff-born Mills appears to have filled nicely.
22 Paul Goodison, Sailing
The Sheffield United supporter won laser gold in Beijing and, despite a disappointing world championships last year, is a strong contender to repeat the feat in home waters. Goodison finished fifth in Perth, and behind British team-mate Nick Thompson, who won silver, but Goodison had already been chosen for the Games – in sailing entry is limited to one per nation per class. In the build up to the Olympics, it is more about preparation than placing; as Goodison says, there is only one medal that counts. The 34-year-old, who was spurred to Olympic gold by the memory of finishing fourth in Athens 2004, is a world champion from 2010 and is currently ranked two in the world. With his Beijing experience and local know-how, he will be hard to beat in Weymouth.
21 Dai Greene, Athletics
Greene produced a never-say-die finish to strike 400m hurdles gold at the World Championships in Daegu last summer, judging his effort to perfection. The Swansea Harrier has acquired a winning habit on the major championship stage, having pocketed the European and Commonwealth titles in 2010. He stands to become the first Welsh athlete to win Olympic track and field gold since Lynn Davies leaped to a surprise long-jump victory in Tokyo in 1964. Expect the Americans to raise their game this summer – they always do in the 400m hurdles in Olympic year – but expect Greene to keep on improving also. He has far from exhausted his potential under the guidance of Colin Jackson's old hurdles guru, Malcolm Arnold.
Golds: Britain's tally
2008 gold winners
Nicole Cooke cycling, road race
Men's team sprint cycling
Bradley Wiggins cycling, individual pursuit
Sir Chris Hoy cycling, keirin
Rebecca Romero cycling, individual pursuit
Men's team pursuit cycling
Victoria Pendleton cycling, sprint
Sir Chris Hoy cycling, sprint
Men's coxless four rowing
Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase rowing, lightweight double sculls
Rebecca Adlington swimming, (below) 400m freestyle
Rebecca Adlington swimming, 800m freestyle
Christine Ohuruogu athletics, 400m
Tim Brabants canoeing, K1
Women's yngling sailing
Ben Ainslie sailing, Finn
Paul Goodison sailing, Laser
Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson sailing, star
James DeGale boxing, middleweight
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