No country will send more athletes to the London Olympics than the hosts. Among them are those who are along for the ride – a well-prepared, well-trained and well-intentioned ride, but a ride nonetheless.
We are unlikely to see British handballers, volleyballers, water-polo players or basketballers at a Games again anytime soon, nor will a British football team be in Rio in four years time. But, outside the big five, there will be a steady stream of British medals, from the expected in sports such as boxing and equestrianism that have traditionally provided small but crucial ballast to Britain's place in the medal table, to the surprise successes, those spurred on by what is a genuine once in a lifetime opportunity.
UK Sport, the body that distributes lottery funding to elite sport, has studied the performances of host nations in previous Games. It does not take much examination to reveal that the last six Games have resulted in notable increases in the home country's medal total, more than 50 per cent at the last three Games. Part of home advantage also tends to bring an increase in scoring in subjective sports, such as diving, boxing and gymnastics. It is slight and inconsistent, but it exists.
Boxing has a good case for being one of Britain's success stories. A target of three to five medals is the same as has been demanded from sailing. All three women in the team, Nicola Adams, Natasha Jonas and Savannah Marshall have expectations of a podium place, while in Anthony Joshua, Andrew Selby and Tom Stalker the men have three capable of reaching their respective finals.
The men's and women's triathlon could both go Britain's way, indeed it would be a surprise if Alistair Brownlee and Helen Jenkins did not win gold in Hyde Park. Britain's canoeists, in particular David Florence and Richard Hounslow in the slalom and Ed McKeevor in the sprint, have the potential to snatch their 15 minutes, while the gymnasts can break new ground. A bronze in the men's team event is not out of reach, while Louis Smith and Beth Tweddle have individual hopes. Smith is the best chance of Olympic gold Britain has ever had in the sport but then this is an event where there is no margin for error.
Others worth watching for individual golds include the remarkable Sarah Stevenson, a taekwondo world champion who has recovered in quick time from serious injury to be here, Mhairi Spence, the world modern pentathlon champion, and Peter Wilson, a shooter who this year broke the world record in the double trap.
Gold may prove beyond Tom Daley given the dominance of the Chinese but medals in the synchro with partner Pete Waterfield and on his own in the 10m are unquestionably within reach.
In team sports it is hockey that offers the best chance of a medal. Both the men and women enter the Games ranked fourth in the world, with the women in particular fancied to reach at least the semi-finals. The women's football team have a tough draw but if they come through the group a medal is not beyond them either.
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- Athletics, Track And Field
- Combat Sports And Martial Arts
- Hyde Park
- Tom Daley