The countdown is almost over….
Today, Melosport looks at the heavyweights of the Olympics. Historically, the USA has dominated the Olympics, amassing 931 gold medals. In second place, the old Soviet Union combined with today’s liberated Eastern Bloc have won over 600 golds. Third placed Germany have claimed 413, whilst Great Britain have won 211. The Brits are closely followed by France and Italy who are both just shy of the 200 barrier. Sweden, China, Hungary, Australia and Japan make up the best of the rest with well over 100 gold medals each.
Michael Phelps, already the most successful Olympic athlete ever with 14 Olympic golds, has entered seven swimming events in London 2012 (his third Olympic Games). However, he does remain two overall medals behind Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, who won 16 medals over three Olympics (1956 – 1964). Not to be out done, fellow swimmer Natalie Coughlin needs two medals to become the second most successful female Olympian.
On the track, Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin pose a real threat to the Jamaican sprinting dominance in both 100m and 200m. Meanwhile, decathlete Ashton Eaton (pictured) broke Roman Sebrle’s 11 year-old world record at the recent US trials. The 24 year-old won the two-day event with 9,039 points and is practically an even-money favourite for Olympic gold.
Not quite the force that the nation used to be but Russia still expects. Maria Sharapova, Russia’s flag bearer, will be back at Wimbledon hoping to add an Olympic gold to her French Open title this year. 55kg freestyle wrestler, Viktor Lebedev, is gunning for the Olympic title having being crowned world champion in 2010 and 2011. Quite a dominant force in 2011, he only lost two points during the entire world championship.
Heptathlete Tatyana Chernova, is expected to provide strong competition to Team GB’s Jessica Ennis. She set a personal best on her way to gold at last year’s world championships. The Russian’s speciality is the 800m and the long jump.
Double gold medalist in Beijing in the 50m and 100m freestyle swimming event, Britta Steffen, will be in the mix for gold. In the field, women’s hammer world record holder, Betty Heidler, is also likely to challenge for gold.
Looking to defend his Olympic title will be, Alexander Grimm in the K-1 canoeing class. Germany are also expected to make a significant impact in equestrian.
A great deal of pressure will be on British shoulders to perform on home soil. Team GB were the surprise package at the Beijing Games – finishing fourth in the medals table.
Jessica Ennis, who broke Denise Lewis UK heptathlon record in May, is Britain’s poster girl for the Olympics. The 2009 world champion and 2011 runner-up will have to pull out all the stops to beat reigning world champion Russian Chernova. Along with Ennis, current world champions, Mo Farah and Dai Greene (400m hurdles), are the strongest candidates for Olympic gold.
For the head coach of UK Athletics, Charles van Commenee, the Olympics is crunch time. Solely employed to oversee the development of elite British athletes to peak at London 2012, he has set himself a lofty target of eight medals, with one being gold. The Dutchman is adamant that failure to achieve this target will result in his resignation but then backtracked to say that a strong medal showing, with no golds, could also be sufficient for him to remain in the £250k per year post. Commenee has also decided to keep faith with Phillips Idowu, who has not jumped since 1st June, as injury rumours persist. Having pulled out of Team GB’s recent warm weather outing in Portugal, Idowu will do well just to make the Olympic triple-jump final after two months on the sidelines.
On the saddle, Bradley Wiggins, decided not to celebrate his Tour De France win on the weekend and immediately returned to training for this weekend’s road race. Team GB’s cycling team did extremely well in Beijing and the British public would love nothing more than a repeat from Britain’s flag bearer, Sir Chris Hoy.
Commonwealth diving champion Tom Daley and Olympic swimming champion Rebecca Adlington are also tipped for possible golds.
Best of the rest
Always a dominant force in the pool, Australia continue to be a considerable threat. Stephanie Rice will be hoping she can defend her Olympic titles from Beijing. Strong performances are also expected in the Velodrome and in hockey.
In track and field, the team from Down Under has a strong case for two golds. Reigning world and commonwealth 100m hurdles champion, Sally Pearson, is in top form and is seeking to add an Olympic gold to her collection. Steve Hooker, the Australian athletics captain, will be defending his Olympic pole vault title. Hooker holds the second highest vault of all-time, at 6.06m, behind only to the legendary Sergey Bubka.
France’s Christophe Lemaitre represents Europe’s best hopes for an unlikely medal in either the 100m and 200m sprints. Gregory Bauge could throw in spanner in the works for both Team GB and Australia in the men’s sprint in the Velodrome due to his superb form this season. The French are heavily tipped to win fencing medals.
After dominating their home games in Beijing, several of China’s medalists in 2008 have either retired or been banned. In light of this, the slimmer 2012 team is, understandably, not expected to replicate the success of 2008 (second place in the medal table). 110m hurdler and world record holder Liu Xiang will be looking to secure the gold after his heart-breaking injury ruled him out of the Beijing Games. Li Na will be going up against Sharapova for Olympic gold at Wimbledon.
This article merely scratches the surface of the Olympic hopefuls. Undoubtedly, the Olympics is a platform where stars are made, as per Usain Bolt in Beijing 2008. Years of blood, sweat and tears in training come down to the next few weeks. Get ready – the greatest show on Earth is on our doorstep.
Categories: Olympics 2012