Team GB at Rio 2016 – Part 1: Rising Stars

Award of Victory

London 2012 was all about legacy. The Olympic Torches being handed to our next generation of stars during the opening ceremony – and that spectacular rose petal cauldron rising up – were an unforgettable part of Danny Boyle’s heralded opening extravaganza. Each torch bearer had been nominated to represent their sport by an Olympic Legend – the likes of Sir Steve Redgrave, Dame Kelly Holmes, Duncan Goodhew, Dame Mary Peters and Daley Thompson. But what of them now – and are any of them amongst the Team GB ones to watch for Rio 2016? And which other stars might breakthrough at Rio 2016? They don’t necessarily be youngsters either – Katherine Grainger finally won gold in the Women’s Rowing Pairs.

So here’s Part 1 of our look at Team GB’s prospects for Rio 2016 – and we’re firing the start pistol with the Rising Stars… 

At London 2012 there were 7 names. Young athletes you’d never heard of, but who had talent and amazing prospects to succeed. How many of the will be at Rio 2016? Sadly, the answer is just one – Desiree Henry, who will run in the Women’s 100m. Most of the others have decided to concentrate on their University studies and have indicated that they might return to competition and prepare for 2020. It shows just how difficult it is to break into the elite athletes and how much natural talent – as well as dedication really – is required to even make an Olympic Team.

Desiree Henry

Since 2012 Henry has stuck with a programme. It’s seen her move to the Netherlands to train, but a setback in the European Championships in Amsterdam meant she didn’t complete the final – she was stretchered off with injury. She did post a time that would have been good enough to secure Silver during the heats and heads to Rio with the potential to surprise.

Amber Hill

Amber Hill shoots clay pigeons, competing in the Skeet category. At just 18, she’s a hot prospect for Rio 2016. She made her first appearance for the UK at just 12 years old and over the past three years has won 3 gold medals in ASSF world cup series events and most notably Gold in the inaugural European Games held in Baku in 2015 – notable conquering all during her first attempt at senior competition. You may have heard her name before – she was BBC Young Sports personality of the year in 2013. Definitely one to watch in Rio.

Sam Walker

Sam is the youngest member of Team GB’s 3 man Table Tennis squad – and on paper the least experienced. But he is part of the same team – along with Liam Pitchford and Paul Drinkhall that won Bronze at the World Team Championships. Let’s hope for great things from the trio and that they can pull off a surprise and go two steps better.

Tonia Couch

This will be Tonia Crouch’s third Olympics. But she’s in the form of her life. She’s also something of a Pin-up, so if she does well expect the world to be her oyster. You’ll almost certainly have seen her hanging out with Tom Daley, even if you don’t know who she is. Focussing on the 10m Platform she goes to Rio with a Silver medal under her belt from the 2016 European Championships in Eindhoven last March. It’s easy to make a mistake in diving – as easy for the opposition as it is for her – so let’s hope she can pull off the perfect dive whilst her main opponents falter.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson

During London 2012, you might have noticed Katrina Johnson-Thomson. She was competing in her first Olympics, against Jessica Ennis-Hill in the Heptathlon, eventually placing 15th overall. Perhaps most telling is that in the same year Johnson-Thompson broke Ennis-Hill’s British Junior Heptathlon record, and earnings Gold medal at the World Junior Championships. Since London 2012 she’s shown here mettle – in 2013 she won Gold in the European U23 Championships and came 5th in the World Champs, in 2014  she came second in the Long Jump (her best heptathlon event) at the World Indoor Championships. In 2015, at the World Championships in Beijing she was lying in Silver medal position – after Ennis-Hill – but uncharacteristically posted three fouls in the long-jump, resulting in an eventual placing of 28th (in fouling Katarina only scored in 6 out of the 7 events ). One to watch – she could even give Ennis-Hill a run for her money.

Becky James

Cyclist Becky James was at London 2012, but only as a reserve. In 2013 she proved her prowess and became the first British Cyclist to win four medals at a World Championships – earning Gold (Sprint & Keirin) and Bronze (500m TT, Team Sprint) pairs apiece. Since then she’s consistently placed on the podium – with two Silver medals in the 2015 British Track Championships – finishing second to Katy Marchant (another name to watch – whose record is a bit unproven as she switched from Heptathlon in 2013) in both the Sprint and Keirin.
There will undoubtedly be more surprises from Team GB characters who come to the fore through their Olympic exploits. We can’t second guess them all, but it’s surely one of the greatest pleasures of any Olympics – seeing the emergence of new names and talents and watching them transition from rising star to superstar and maybe even legend. However you’re enjoying the Olympics we hope Team GB can provide excitement, although no one is expecting us to reach third in the medal table like we did at London 2012.

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