Britain's Olympic sports have the potential to improve on their stunning performance in London to win even more medals in Rio in four years' time.
Britain won 65 medals, 29 of them gold, in London to finish third in the medal table in what was the country's best return since 1908. UK Sport, the body in charge of elite sport, is in the process of determining the level of support each sport receives for 2016 and insists the aim is to do better than London.
"We think more medals is entirely possible," said Liz Nicholl, UK Sport's chief executive, yesterday. "It is entirely possible this system could get better – if it gets better then there is no reason we can't get more medals."
The planning for Rio is already under way. Each sport has submitted a business plan outlining their path to Rio and their aims for 2016. Sports are required to project how many medals they can win in Rio and name the athletes who have the potential to make it on to the podium along with evidence why they can do so.
Fewer sports will be funded for Rio, even though the total available remains similar. Sports are only backed if they can demonstrate medal potential or failing that show they are likely to qualify – Britain received a number of host-nation places in London for sports such as water polo and handball. It means that the £508m of lottery and exchequer funding available for Rio – it was £511m for 2012 – may be split between fewer athletes, thereby ensuring there is no drop off in preparation, and so, the plan goes, no drop in the number of medals, as is usual for a former Games host.
It will though be difficult to equal the number of gold medals in London; there is an acknowledgement that some were won because of home advantage.
The reason for the confidence within UK Sport is the build-up to each Olympics begins eight years ahead of the Games.The number of medals Britain won in London tallied with numbers produced internally by UK Sport in 2006. Those involved already have figures in mind for Rio – they will be firmed up in December, three and a half years ahead of the next Games.
"It wasn't spectacularly better than we thought," said Peter Keen, who was UK Sport's performance director until he switched to a consultancy role shortly before the Games. "Sixty-five medals is pretty much the number the board of UK Sport has seen on spread sheet after spread sheet for the last six years."
The board meet in December to settle the funding and determine the medal targets. The successful sports, such as cycling and rowing, will receive an increase – and in return will be expected to deliver more medals. "It is a very, very special time for British sport," said Nicholl. "The high-performance system is clearly working. Our no-compromise approach to focusing on athletes and sports with medal potential is working."
Some face a cut, notably swimming, which failed to meet its target, while the likes of water polo are unlikely to receive any funding for Rio – they were given £2.9m for London. Nineteen of the 28 funded sports met their targets.
The long-term preparation made possible by good funding was praised yesterday by the gold medallist Katherine Grainger.
"It's incredible to be part of a team that delivered 65 medals but it wasn't a huge surprise," she said. "It maybe was at the top end, the number of golds, but as athletes we felt that we had to deliver because we were the best prepared we have ever been."
Golden contenders: GB hopefuls for 2016
The German-born – he has a British father – Hindes already has one Olympic gold to his name as the lead-off man for Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny in the team sprint. Hoy, in particular, has been hugely impressed with the 19-year-old and suggests that he is capable of achieving individual success, too.
Controversially overlooked for London 2012 despite being No 1 in the world, Cook will be 25 come Rio and, if he maintains his current levels, will be a golden contender in taekwondo's -80kg class. Fourth in Beijing, he is the European champion and has beaten the US world champion, Steven Lopez.
The next off British cycling's golden production line. Next month Garner will defend her junior world title having last week won the European road championships. The 17-year-old was one of a number of young athletes who spent time at the London Games as a taster for years to come.
The heptathlete enjoyed a hugely encouraging Olympic debut, finishing 15th and breaking Jessica Ennis' junior British record. The 19-year-old from Liverpool displayed a telling indication of her all-round ability by winning gold at the world junior championships in the long jump this summer.
The 6ft 18-year-old Scot is a former world junior record holder and champion in the 100m breaststroke. Reached the semi-finals in his first Games in London and shone in the medley relay, too. Next year's world championships will give an indication of Benson's progress.
George Nash and Will Satch
That British rowers will be queuing for the podium in Rio goes without saying and these two could be at the front. Nash and Satch won a surprise bronze in London in the men's pair – they had been sent into the regatta with instructions to treat it purely as a staging post for Rio.
The 18-year-old former footballer burst on to the sprint scene this summer with 100m gold in the world junior championships. He relished the chance to run in London, failing to make the final by 0.04sec. His personal best is 10.05sec – expected to be the first Briton to break the 10sec barrier.
Britain desperately needs some young swimmers to come through after the teenage success enjoyed by others in London. The 16-year-old Renshaw was particularly unlucky not to be selected, falling foul of British swimming's peculiar qualifying criteria. A talented breaststroker who has succeeded at junior level.
The 21-year-old from Northampton only switched to boxing from kick boxing two years ago but came close to winning a place at the London Games. Last year she won bronze at the women's European Union championships losing only to Katie Taylor, who won gold for Ireland in the 60kg division.
Took two bronzes in London, in the team event and on the pommel behind Louis Smith's silver. Whitlock will only be 23 come Rio and, given the dramatic improvement he has made over the last couple of years, he will expect to be going for an historic gold in four years' time.
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