No one ever thought that Team GB would better the medal tally achieved four years ago at London 2012. Certainly not in the very next Olympics. Rio 2016 was meant to be the Games when they secured their finest ever medal haul for a foreign Olympics. They’ve ended up being the greatest in the country’s history. A total of 67 medals that included 27 gold, 23 silver and 17 bronze smashed the initial target of 48, went beyond what was earned in London and left them second in the medal table ahead of China. They are the first to improve on a home medal haul at the next Games, won gold medals across more sports than any other nation and improved their overall tally for the 5th straight Olympics
It is almost impossible to cover every achievement in one analysis. Nonetheless, we have given it a go anyway. Here are just some of the marvellous accomplishments of our British athletes at Rio 2016.
The gold rush began in the pool, when swimming sensation Adam Peaty beat the world record he had set in the heats to win the 100m breastroke. Peaty was always seen as the favourite, having won three golds at last year’s World Championships, yet it was still thrilling to see him produce such a performance in Rio. He is an astonishing talent. The 21-yearold destroyed the rest of the field, becoming the first British man to win an Olympic swimming gold medal since Adrian Moorhouse in 1988. Expect many more to arrive in the future.
Jason Kenny and Laura Trott
The soon to be married stars of British cycling are as inseparable on the track as they are off it. In an astonishing few hours in the velodrome they each made cycling history one after the other in one of the most thrilling and emotional nights of the whole Games for Team GB. First Laura Trott was brought to tears after retaining her Omnium title and becoming the first British woman ever to win 4 gold medals, adding to the gold in the team pursuit in which a new world record was broken and the two titles she won in London. Then, after two dramatic re-starts, Jason Kenny officially became Britain’s most successful Olympian by equalling Sir Chris Hoy’s 6 gold medals when winning the keirin event to go with wins in the team and individual sprints. They are truly Britain’s golden couple.
Mo Farah cemented his position as Britain’s most successful Olympic track and field athlete of all time. He replicated his titanic fete of London 2012 by retaining both the 5,000m and 10,000m titles, meaning he is the first track athlete from this country to win four gold medals. The scale of his achievement becomes even further apparent when you consider that he is only the second man in history to retain those specific titles. His 10,000 win was particularly theatrical, as he overcame a fall half-way through the race before showing one of those trademark bursts away from the pack in the last 100m. Combine this with his five world and five European championships and you can understand why many think that a ‘Sir’ should soon be placed at the front of his name.
Team GB Women’s Hockey
The wonder of this particular gold medal winning story is that no one really saw it coming. Even when they swatted away New Zealand to deservedly reach the final, Team GB’s women’s hockey team were not expected to beat the defending Olympic and World champions and favourites the Netherlands. Yet after a brilliant tournament, beat them they did. It needed a dramatic penalty shoot-out to do it, after normal time ended 3-3 in what was an enthralling match in which goalkeeper Maddie Hinch excelled. The shoot-out was won 2-0, with Helen Richardson-Walsh and Hollie Webb getting the decisive strikes, and Great Britain finally got its hand on an Olympic hockey gold.
Jack Laugher and Chris Mears
For almost decade, British diving has all been about Tom Daley. Yet in Rio two new starts came to the fore. In the men's synchronised 3m springboard, Jack Laugher and Chris Mears won Great Britain’s first ever diving gold medals. Even those watching who had never seen professional diving before were utterly engrossed as they flawlessly carried off their routines and handled the immense pressure as the event reached its climax. It was no random performance either – they are now Commonwealth and European, as well as Olympic, champions.
Team GB had never won an Olympic gymnastics gold. Then Max Whitlock managed to win two in one day. Firstly he won in the men’s floor before then delivering the goods again in the pommel horse, overcoming team-mate Louis Smith in the process. Having the physical and mental strength to win under the most intense of pressure is impressive. Being able to do it twice in one day is truly staggering. He also won a bronze in the testing all-round event, adding to his two third place finishes in London 2012 and taking his overall medal haul to five. At just 23 years of age, do not be surprised if Whitlock goes on to become Great Britain’s most successful Olympian.
Nicola Adams rose to national attention at London 2012 and is now one of Britain’s premier athletes, having become the first British boxer to retain an Olympic title for an astonishing 92 years. Her flyweight final with Sarah Ourahmoune of France was barely a contest, with the 33-year old from Leeds winning on a unanimous points decision over her old rival. Adams is now a European, World and double-Olympic champion. She is one of the true pioneers of modern boxing.
Another tournament, another milestone for Andy Murray. If people doubt how much Olympic tennis means to the very top players, they should take a look at the world number 2. Murray could not hide his joy and relief in the Olympic Tennis Centre as he became the first tennis player to win two Olympic singles titles by beating Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro in an exhausting four-set final. It also capped off what was officially Great Britain’s finest ever day at an overseas Games. His glory in London was seen as the catalyst towards him becoming a real champion. This was confirmation that he is now in the best form and period of his career and ready to become a world number 1.
Sir Bradley Wiggins
Despite all he had already achieved in his career, there still felt a degree of pressure on Sir Bradley Wiggins. A pressure to prove that he could still cut the mustard at the highest level at the age of 36. A pressure to give his Olympic career the fitting end it so deserved. Was there really any doubt that it wouldn’t? Along with his brilliant teammates Ed Clancy, Owain Doull and Steven Burke, Wiggins won the 4km team pursuit in a new world record time, defeating the old enemy Australia in the final. It all means that Wiggins is the first from these shores to win eight Olympic medals with five golds, one silver and two bronzes to surpass another famous British knight of the velodrome, Sir Chris Hoy.
In another remarkable feat for British sport, Alistair Brownlee became the first athlete to win successive Olympic gold medals in the triathlon. He copied his efforts from London 2012 as he cruised to victory following an impressive breakaway in the 10k run. His brother Jonathan Brownlee took silver, just like he did in London. The performance of the elder of these famous siblings was even more admirable as he had spent much of the season injured. His is one of the grandest jewels in Britain’s Olympic crown.