Can you believe that it is already time for another Olympic Games? It hardly feels four years since London 2012 was captivating a nation and inspiring a world. It was a showpiece event that will live long in the memory from a British perspective because it was Great Britain’s most successful ever Games, with 65 medals won, including 29 Golds. It is perhaps then little surprise that Team GB has now been set the task of making Rio 2016 their finest overseas Olympics ever by winning at least 48 and at most 79 medals. With this in mind, who are the five Team GB athletes with the greatest chance of earning the most coveted title in sport by becoming an Olympic Champion?
Adam Peaty - Swimming 50m and 100m breaststroke
You wouldn’t have heard of Adam Peaty during the London Games because he hadn’t even made it into the senior levels of UK swimming. There isn’t anyone within the sport who hasn’t heard of him now. The 21 year-old is already a world champion in both the 50m and 100m breaststroke and recently won his second European 100m crown. He currently holds the world record for the 100m and incredibly has 6 of the 10 quickest times in history for that particular event. There simply is not a swimmer out there at present in better form or with greater confidence than the man who won 2 Commonwealth and 4 European titles as a teenager. Sublime technique is enhanced by pure speed and raw power that can take him away from the chasing pack. He is a phenomenal athlete who is well placed to win a first swimming Gold for Great Britain since 1988. In the list of gold medal contenders for Rio he sits near the very top.
Heather Stanning and Helen Glover - Rowing Women’s coxless pairs
The Gold rush that occurred for Team GB back in London was catalysed by Heather Stanning and Helen Glover, whose coxless pair’s victory earned them the honour of being the first British oarswomen to become Olympic champions. Astonishingly, in the proceeding four years they have competed in over 30 races and not been beaten once. They blew away their opponents at the last World Championships, recently defended their European Championship crown and set a new world record in 2014. This is all despite having a six-month separation in 2013. What is daunting for the rest is that they still seem to be improving. They are the crew everyone else has to chase and are rightly the red-hot favourites to be on the very top of the podium again this summer in Brazil.
Andy Murray - Tennis Men’s singles
When Andy Murray brushed aside Roger Federer in straight sets to win Olympic Gold, on the same court where the same player had brought him to tears weeks before following the Wimbledon final, he went from a player with great talent to a real champion. It was the pivotal moment in a breakthrough 12 months for the British number 1, preceding his win at the US Open and his first Wimbledon title. Many forget that he also won a Silver medal in the mixed doubles alongside Laura Robson. The world number 1 Novak Djokovic will still be the overall favourite but Murray has arguably never been in better form, is brimming with confidence and is back under the tutelage of Ivan Lendl. He will likely have to beat his old nemesis to win a second Gold medal of his career but is extremely well-placed to do so. He could even return from Rio with two of those treasured medals around his neck if he decides to compete in the doubles with his brother Jamie, who is now a doubles Grand Slam Champion and spent some of this season as world number 1.
Chris Froome – Road Cycling and Time Trial
Despite all the success he has achieved in his career to date, Chris Froome has yet to win an Olympic Gold, although he did win a Bronze at London in the time trial. This summer he is aiming to do what no cyclist has ever done before by winning the Tour de France and then both the Olympic road race and time trial. The first stage of this unprecedented hat-trick looks likely to be achieved and it would surely be one of the most remarkable feats seen in sport if he manages to pull off the next two. To put it into perspective, no one has ever even completed the road race-time trial Olympic double, let alone the Tour on top. The hilly Olympic courses will suit his climbing style and he is the undoubted favourite for both events. Ultimately this personal target may be just beyond him, and it has been reported that the 30 year-old may sit-out the road race, but it would be a big shock if he came back from Rio not clutching Gold in his hand.
Jessica Ennis-Hill - Heptathlon
A vital characteristic needed to become a champion is being able to deliver when it matters most. Jessica Ennis-Hill has it in abundance. At Rio she will be aiming to become the first woman in almost a quarter of a century to defend the heptathlon title, following her iconic triumph in London 4 years ago. Undoubtedly talented and highly experienced, Ennis-Hill knows what it takes to win major titles – the fact she has Olympic, European Championship, World Indoor Championship and two World Championship Golds to her name is testament to that. Her 2016 has been interrupted by an untimely Achilles injury and there are many talented athletes itching to knock her off her perch, notably her teammate Katarina Johnson-Thompson. Nevertheless, Ennis-Hill is crucially in good form after winning that second World Championship in Beijing last year just 13 months after returning to the sport after giving birth to her first child. It is by no means a forgone conclusion but it would be a very brave person to bet against Jessica Ennis-Hill becoming a double Olympic champion.
Such is the depth of talent that is in this GB squad, there are many others who could easily be on this list. Watch out in Rio for Laura Trott, the Brownlee brothers, Mo Farah, Lizzie Armitstead and Greg Rurtherford to name but a few. That medal target may not be so ambitious after all…