London 2012: Team GB boss Andy Hunt predicts bumper medal haul

Team GB chief Andy Hunt is confident Great Britain will enjoy a fruitful 2012 Olympics on home soil next summer

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The Olympic Park is now 90 per cent compete Photo: Locog/Getty Images

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Team GB chief Andy Hunt has spent his Christmas crunching the numbers and analysing the spreadsheets – and is cautiously predicting a bumper medal haul at the London 2012 Olympics.

Great Britain won 47 medals in 11 sports in Beijing, including 19 golds, to finish fourth on the medal table behind hosts China, the United States and Russia – their best Olympic performance since the 1908 London Games.

UK Sport, which funds elite level sport, is demanding a repeat performance on home soil, although British Olympic Association chief executive Hunt has stopped short of setting firm medal table targets.

And sports statistics specialists Umbra – after reviewing data from all this year’s World Championships and other relevant world events and rankings in every Olympic discipline – show Team GB placing sixth on a relative 2011 medals table, with 59 medals in 13 sports.

“Although predicting sporting outcomes is far from an exact science, I firmly believe in the benefit of analysing performance data to provide insight into our progress towards one of our primary objectives for London 2012, which is to see Team GB athletes win more medals across more sports for over a century,” said Hunt.

“We must ‘protect’ as many of those 50-plus podium finishes as possible, which is an extraordinary challenge given the fact that some nations, principally China, typically don’t send their top competitors to major international events in the years preceding an Olympic Games, while other nations place a much greater emphasis on success in the Olympic Games than in events such as World Championships or World Cups.

“We also know that London 2012 will be the most competitive Olympics in history, with more nations capable of placing athletes on the podium than ever before.

“Second, we must convert a greater percentage of British medals into gold, which is the measure by which placement in the Olympic medals table is determined.

“Our data shows British athletes won 14 gold medals this year, good for sixth place in the 2011 medals table, compared to 19 at the Beijing Games, good for fourth place.

“As a point of comparison, our top rival, Australia, is in fourth place in the 2011 medals table with 16 gold medals and 36 in total.

“With more than 50 podium finishes for British athletes in 2011, the talent, depth and potential is clearly there. For 2012, a priority will be to push some of those second and third place finishes to the top of the podium.

“Third, it will be important to translate some of the fourth, fifth and sixth place finishes from 2011 into podium finishes for 2012. These athletes are within clear reach of the podium, and 2012 should be their moment to shine.”

Team GB will number 550 athletes in London – compared to 311 in Beijing – with representatives in every sport thanks to use of host nation qualification places.

Hunt has previously fended off criticism about certain sports not being competitive and believes the decision to back athletes that wouldn’t have qualified of their own right will pay long-term dividends for their respective events.

“Many of the sports that were awarded host nation qualification places for London 2012 made great strides in 2011 toward their ambition of competing with the top nations in the Olympic Games,” he added.

“I was particularly impressed by the women’s handball and beach volleyball teams, which recorded fantastic wins against higher ranked opposition at their Olympic test events.

“We must make certain these sports continue to progress in 2012 and, ultimately, deliver the type of performances that will inspire the next generation of athletes to take up these sports and, in time, qualify by right for future Olympic Games.”

© Sportsbeat 2011

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