Forget the doomsayers. GB athletes can win 16 medals at Games, says stats man

Stan Greenberg is predicting great things – and he's usually right

Stan Greenberg's updated weekly UK track-and-field performance lists arrived on Monday with a customary covering message. "Things are starting to look so good that I am really beginning to get scared – that I have severely underestimated our possible medal haul: 10 medals and a possible five to six more," it read.

For some time now, Greenberg has been telling the world that our runners, jumpers and throwers would hit double figures on the medal front at the London Olympics. Given the national tendency towards caution in these matters, some folk have not been listening all that attentively. After all, the medal target of eight set by Charles van Commenee, the head coach of UK Athletics, has long been seen by many as a bit of a stretch. At each of the last two Olympic Games, in Beijing in 2008 and in Athens in 2004, the British athletics team finished with a tally of four medals.

Not since the boycotted Los Angeles Games of 1984 has the track-and-field section of Team GB gathered a double-figure haul – in that case 16, one short of the all-time record from the 1908 Games in London. And yet Greenberg has been going against the grain in predicting better than widely expected British performances at every major championship since the Beijing Olympics. And he has proved just about spot-on in every instance.

That Greenberg knows his track-and-field onions is beyond doubt. The 80-year-old north Londoner is one of the world's leading authorities on the sport – a founder member of the International Society of Olympic Historians and the National Union of Track Statisticians. He is the author of the excellent Stan Greenberg's Olympic Almanack (the 2012 edition of which is published by SportsBooks at £12.99). From 1968 to 1994, he worked as the stat man with the BBC television athletics commentary dream team of David Coleman and Ron Pickering.

"Coming into June, looking at the UK lists now, they're remarkable," Greenberg says. "They're better than at any other time in history at this time of the year, and it's been the same since February. It's just all suddenly come together. I saw this coming. There were so many good youngsters coming up in the last couple of years I just had this feeling that something was going to go right – and, for once, it does seem to be going right.

"There are so many doomsayers about, downplaying any chances we've got at major championships. It's not cautious; it's negative. We always do it. We always downplay our people but why?

"At every major championship since the last Olympics, indoors and outdoors, I've made what some people have called 'lunatic predictions'. But nine times out of 10 – in fact, probably 10 times out of 10 – they've come right.

"I've been saying since the end of last year that we'll win 10 medals in London, with possibly four to six more. I honestly think we can do remarkably well. I'm quite happy to stand up and be shot at."

To allow some natural slack for injuries and fluctuating form, Greenberg spreads his 10 medal picks across 13 chances (see panel above). For his "four to six possibles", he names eight contenders: the rapidly emerging Robbie Grabarz in the high jump; Greg Rutherford in the long jump; the men's 4x100m relay team; Hannah England in the 1,500m; Perri Shakes-Drayton in the 400m hurdles; Shara Proctor in the long jump; Goldie Sayers in the javelin; and Paula Radcliffe in the marathon.

"There are several names over in each category, so I don't see it's outrageous at all," Greenberg said, with the clock ticking down to the Aviva 2012 Trials, which open in Birmingham on Friday week. "Obviously we'll have injuries – we're getting them now – but there are still all those chances. Of course, they're not all going to come off, but they're there. And there are other people around.

"I think there is a slight home advantage for our athletes. It's not just about the effect of the home crowd. What's far more important, I think, is that you've got the same food, the same water, the same weather, and not so much travelling. The fact is you're going to be much more relaxed on home territory.

"Also if you look at the figures... a perfect example to me is the men's discus. This boy [Lawrence] Okoye has got more consistent in his throwing and he's got a best of 68m. That's put him right up in the top four, and in the discus you only need one big throw. I think I'm right in saying that 70m has never been beaten in a major championship, so if he can come out with one decent throw he's got a medal. To me, it's that simple... And why shouldn't he?"

Stan's 10 from 13

1 Mo Farah 5,000m

2 Mo Farah 10,000m

3 Dai Greene 400m hurdles

4 Jack Green 400m hurdles

5 Phillips Idowu triple jump

6 Lawrence Okoye discus

7 Men's 4x400m relay

8 Christine Ohuruogu 400m

9 Tiffany Porter 100m hurdles

10 Holly Bleasdale pole vault

11 Yamile Aldama triple jump

12 Jessica Ennis heptathlon

13 Women's 4 x 400m relay

Olympic news you may have missed

One of the major threats to Phillips Idowu's hopes of a home gold in the triple jump has been ruled out of the Games because of injury. Teddy Tamgho, the 22-year-old Frenchman who holds the world indoor record for the event, announced on Facebook that an ankle problem would keep him out of London 2012. "End of the season for me," he said.

Tamgho, who had surgery on a bone growth last week, said he did not want to jeopardise his career by attempting to return too soon. The Parisian has endured a troubled 12 months. He missed last summer's World Championships in Daegu because of injury and in December he was banned for six months by the French athletics federation following an alleged altercation with a female team-mate.

Meanwhile, Patrick Makau, holder of the world record for the men's marathon, has been snubbed for a second time by the Kenyan selectors. In April, Makau was left out of his country's chosen trio for London and he was overlooked again yesterday following the withdrawal of the injured Moses Mosop.

Who's up? Anne Keothavong

Thanks to her semi-final appearance in the Aegon Trophy in Nottingham last week, the 28-year-old has overtaken Elena Baltacha as Britain's No 1 women's tennis player and is expected to claim a host nation wild card for the Olympic tournament at Wimbledon.

Who's down? Naide Gomes

The former world and European indoor long jump champion is out of the Olympic Games after rupturing an Achilles tendon at the weekend. Her Portuguese team-mate, sprinter Francis Obikwelu, is struggling to make the Games after suffering a groin tear.

Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits