Team GB’s ‘trailblazers’ produce ‘miracle of Tokyo’ with 65 medals and zero Covid cases

A stunning summer of achievements for the entire travelling party of Great Britain’s Olympic team

Tom Harle
Tokyo
Sunday 08 August 2021 13:20
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Team GB returned no positive Covid cases and matched their London 2012 medal tally in Tokyo in what officials rightly labelled ‘the greatest achievement in British Olympic history.’

It sits above staging a home Games three years after World War II, resisting government calls to boycott Moscow 1980 and delivering medals from millions of public pounds in 2012.

There is no Tokyo medal table equivalent for Covid tests but Team GB would be top, administering 20,000 tests in 40 days in Japan with not one single confirmed positive.

“It’s been against all odds and it’s been the miracle of Tokyo,” said Chef de Mission Mark England.

“Our medical team have been absolutely outstanding and we got our athletes safely onto the start line in a highly complex, high risk and challenging environment.

“We were a Delta variant country, there were additional protocols put on us. All the athletes who came through the Olympic Village said what a wonderful level of support they received. We wanted to make Britain proud and we knew one of the ways we could do that was how our athletes respected the local population and they absolutely did that.”

Shooter Amber Hill was the only athlete prevented from competing by Covid-19 after she tested positive before travelling to Japan.

One of the keys to avoiding further issues was a pre-Games preparation camp in Yokohama, which many other countries scrapped for financial and logistical reasons.

That allowed Team GB to run an ‘intense’ closed-loop testing regime, PCR rather than Games-mandated saliva testing, with each and every one observed by staff from local health authorities.

Yokohama wasn’t without scares - six track & field athletes were forced to self-isolate after being pinged on their flight, and special dispensation was sought for them to continue to train.

It emerges there were four ‘false positives’ at the holding camp, with those who tested positive immediately isolated, re-tested and found to be negative.

“Those were heart in the mouth moments because of the track and trace implications,” said British Olympic Association (BOA) chief executive Andy Anson.

“What was incredible was the professionalism and experience shown by the team, not to panic, to isolate immediately and do our tests. Those moments were terrifying but were handled with calmness.”

Once their Covid security became clear, Team GB’s sheer brilliance on the field of play took over.

They won an incredible 65 medals, exactly the same number as London 2012.

It was their fourth-most successful Games ever and second-most successful overseas, behind only Rio 2016.

They won medals in more different sports than any other nation - again - and delivered handsomely on an informal target of 45 to 70 medals. The list of achievements is as good as endless.

BOA officials singled out the triathlon mixed relay gold, Laura Kenny’s Madison victory, Charlotte Dujardin’s fifth and sixth Olympic medals and double BMX glory for Kye Whyte and Bethany Shriever as iconic moments.

But it seems those at the top took as much pleasure from the athlete activism shown by the likes of Adam Peaty, Tom Daley and Hannah Mills.

“Team GB this year feels like the team of trailblazers,” said UK Sport chair Katherine Grainger.

“I really think they have just set new standards, in so many different ways, and burned their names into Olympic history in ways we didn’t expect.

“This team have gone above and beyond their own sport. We have got the most memorable role models and people who speak out on issues close to their heart.

“We had Adam on mental health, Tom on LGBTQ rights, Hannah on sustainability and Alice Dearing on diversity.

“These athletes are more than just athletes, they’re incredible people who are examples to us. They are trailblazer in different ways and will continue to be for a long period of time.”

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