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Moments in 2010 that will matter in 2012

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Martin Gough | 08:30 UK time, Friday, 1 January 2010

As the new year begins, there are still two-and-a-half years to go until the start of the Olympic Games in London but 2010 will provide another crucial proving ground for British competitors hoping to step on to the podium in 2012.

And this year will also provide a great chance for people living all around the UK to watch Olympic sport at the highest level, as part of an initiative to hold a world-class event in the UK every fortnight between now and 2012.

Here is a taste of what is to come in 2010 - important dates for GB athletes and events that you can attend yourself - as momentum builds to the London Olympics.

There are loads of events not on this list but I've aimed to cover as wide a spread as possible. Please let me know what and who you will be watching in the next 12 months.

January - Handball

In the past, handball has been one of those Olympic novelty sports that fills the schedules when there are no Brits in action, but the GB teams qualify as hosts for the 2012 Games and are busy raising their games to ensure they will be competitive.

Although they are not taking part in the World Championships in Croatia in early January, Great Britain's men will be taking part in a qualifying tournament for the next world champs, which take place in Sweden in January 2011.

They must face Bosnia & Herzegovina, Romania and hosts Finland, with the winner going into a further qualifying round in June. Realistically, GB's hopes will be to grow further in experience, rather than qualifying this time, but they are taking another big step to 2012.

February - Winter Olympics

The sports may be different but the last big Olympic party before 2012 takes place for a fortnight in Vancouver, starting on 12 February.

Despite funding levels that are roughly 1.5% of that available to the summer sports - which will receive around £235m between 2008 and 2012 - Britain's winter Olympians could return from Canada with as many as six medals.

The men's and women's curling teams, figure skaters Sinead and John Kerr, world bobsleigh champions Nicola Minichiello and Gillian Cooke and the skeleton team - including 2006 Olympic silver medallist Shelley Rudman - all have their sights on podium places, while skiier Chemmy Alcott and snowboarder Zoe Gillings are both optimistic of success.

March - Track Cycling

Victoria PendletonVictoria Pendleton was the only one of Team GB's Olympic champions to win a gold medal at the World Championships in Poland

After the relative disappointment of last year when Great Britain returned from Poland with just two gold medals - from sprinter Victoria Pendleton and the women's pursuit team - the squad that won four times as many track cycling medals as any other nation in Beijing must reassert their Olympic credentials at this year's World Championships in Copenhagen from 24 March.

Sir Chris Hoy is back in action after a hip injury that ruined last season, and we should get an early idea of whether he will be able to repeat his Beijing haul of three golds in London, when he will be 36.

There will also be a chance to assess the new Olympic programme, which will include the omnium, track cycling's pentathlon, in which David Daniell and Jessica Varnish could be Great Britain's best bets for success.

April - Badminton

From 14 April, Manchester's MEN Arena will showcase Europe's best efforts to break the dominance of the east on Olympic badminton, as the best from the likes of Great Britain and Denmark battle at the European Championships.

In Beijing in 2008, China won eight of the medals on offer, while Indonesia, South Korea and Malaysia took the rest.

Can Great Britain's Nathan Robertson who won Olympic silver in 2004 and world gold in 2006 in the mixed doubles with Gail Emms, enjoy similar success with new partner Jenny Wallwork on the European stage?

Keep an eye out too for British youngsters Chris Adcock and Gabby White, who have both impressed since Beijing.

May - Gymnastics

Beth TweddleBeth Tweddle celebrates after winning the fllor exercise gold at the World Championships

After the resounding success of the World Artistic Gymnastics at London's O2 Arena in 2009, the European Championships take place in Birmingham from 21 April 2010.

The first week of action at the National Indoor Arena showcases the men, with 2009 all-around silver medallist Daniel Keatings now a household name and 2008 Olympic bronze medallist Louis Smith - who fell in the the pommel final at the O2 - bidding to bounce back from that disappointment in front of another home crowd.

The second week is for the women, with 2009 world floor medallist Beth Tweddle getting a clearer idea of whether she will be able to challenge for 2012 gold or whether 2010 will prove her final fling.

May - Paralympic World Cup

Since 2005, the Paralympic World Cup in Manchester has been the largest multi-sport elite disability event outside the Paralympics and has provided some top-class competition for GB athletes against some of the world's best.

The likes of South African sprinter Oscar "Bladerunner" Pistorius and his compatriot, swimmer Natalie du Toit, regularly feature alongside top Brits like wheelchair racer Dave Weir and swimmer Ellie Simmonds and cyclists Sarah Storey and Jody Cundy.

The format, which has generally included athletics, swimming, wheelchair basketball and track cycling, has yet to be finalised for this year but, with world championships coming up later in the year, the swimmers and basketball players are likely to view this as a key warm-up event.

June - Women's Boxing

Women have competed under the banner of the Amateur Boxing Association of England since 1996 but their Championships this year have extra significance after the 2009 decision to include women's boxing at 2012.

When the finals take place on 6 June, keep an eye out especially for the top boxers in the Olympic categories - 51kg (flyweight), 60kg (lightweight) and 75kg (middleweight).

Rotherham-based veteran Sharon Holford won at 51kg last year and has her sights firmly set on 2012 but where will we see Liverpool's three-time national champion Natasha Jonas, who must either slim down or bulk up from the 64kg she fought at in 2009 if she is to be an Olympian?

July - Hockey

The Women's Champions Trophy, for the top six teams in the world, takes place at Highfields Sports Club in Nottingham from 10-18 July, and will be a useful form guide for September's Women's World Cup in Buenos Aires.

England, who finished bottom in this event last year but went on to take European bronze later in the summer, are joined by defending champions Argentina, World Cup holders and Olympic champs the Netherlands, China, Germany and New Zealand.

A parallel event in Nottingham will see the country's top men gain a rare chance to compete as their Olympic line-up, Great Britain rather than England, in a four-team tournament also involving regular nemesis Germany, New Zealand and Japan.

July and August - Athletics

Phillips IdowuPhillips Idowu hopes to add Olympic gold to his world triple jump title

Every summer seems like a big one for athletics. The European Championships, starting on 27 July at Barcelona's 1992 Olympic venue Montjuic Stadium, provide this year's showpiece, but there are also some interesting moves afoot that could help make the world's top athletes the household names they were a generation ago.

In Barcelona, heptathlete Jessica Ennis and triple jumper Phillips Idowu will aim to continue the fine form that brought them world titles last year, while Olympic 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu will aim for a return to form after struggling last season.

Two weeks later, they will be in action at Crystal Palace, where the London Grand Prix is part of the new IAAF Diamond League (successor of the Golden League), which comprises 14 meetings around the world from May to August.

London is the only meeting that will take place over two days and feature all 32 "diamond" events, with a four-carat diamond (worth approximately £50,000) up for grabs to the winner of each series. Olympic 100m and 200m champ Usain Bolt is likely to be just one of the stars on show.

September - Archery and Road Cycling

Edinburgh plays host to the biggest archery event ever seen in the UK on the weekend of 18 and 19 September, when the world's top 32 archers will compete in the World Cup Final at East Princes Street Gardens.

This event, which is the culmination of four World Cup qualifying stages hosted around the world, will allow new Great Britain coach Lloyd Brown to assess his team - which includes 2009 World Cup Final silver medallist Simon Terry in front of a home crowd.

Arguably the most significant event with Olympic implications this year, though, will begin in Melbourne on 29 September, where Britain could have credible candidates for each of the top four events at road cycling's World Championships.

British Cycling have had a long-term plan to deliver a 2010 world crown to Manx Missile Mark Cavendish, on a circuit that is expected to see a bunch sprint at the finish. Meanwhile Nicole Cooke, who won world and Olympic road titles in 2008, will aim to bounce back here.

Bradley Wiggins will focus on the Tour de France with the new British-based Team Sky this season but will also be eager to make up for last year's world time trial, when a mechanical problem robbed him of a medal.

And Rebecca Romero will have a chance to find out whether she has a hope of winning an Olympic title in a third discipline. The former rower won track pursuit gold in 2008, only to see the event removed from the Olympic programme a year later. Can she make a successful transition to road racing?

October - Commonwealth Games

The closest most British athletes get to the Olympic experience at any other time is at the Commonwealth Games, starting on 3 October in Delhi, which feature 13 of the 26 disciplines that will feature at London 2012, rugby sevens - which will be in Rio in 2016 - and lawn bowls, among others.

For some aspiring British Olympians, for example the swimmers, this will be the highlight of their year as they compete for England, Scotland or Wales. Others, like track-and-field athletes, are likely only to take part as long as there is no clash with their long-term aims, and there is an outright clash for gymnasts with the World Championships.

The likes of wrestling and weightlifting will see the event as a chance to give competitors who do not usually star on the world stage, the chance to experience the pressure of a multi-sport event, and perhaps pick up the odd medal too.

And watch out for cyclist Mark Cavendish, who might just crown his year with a victory on the track for the Isle of Man. Four years ago he won the island's first Commonwealth gold for 20 years in the scratch race (which will feature here but not at 2012).

November - Rowing

Rowing's World Championships, which take place in the first week of the month, are in New Zealand for the first time since 1978 and are the point at which Great Britain must prove that the experimentation of 2009 has paid off.

They will also provide a challenge for coaches and athletes, who will aim to be competitive at the World Cup series in Europe in the early summer, then take a break but maintain their form before the Worlds, which are two months later than usual.

Will Katherine Grainger stay in a single or move back to a crew boat as she bids to follow three successive Olympic silvers with a gold to end her career? Will Andy Hodge and Pete Reed continue their bid to be the next Redgrave and Pinsent, or head back to the four, where they won Olympic gold in 2008? Will Greg Searle continue his comeback to 2012? Results here are likely to answer those questions.

December - Equestrian sport

Just as equestrian sport took place in Hong Kong rather than Beijing during the 2008 Olympics, the likes of dressage, showjumping and three-day eventing seem to follow their own schedules with little reference to the Olympic movement for much of the period between Games.

However, the London International Horse Show at Olympia, which begins on 14 December in 2010, is an annual chance to see the world's best in dressage and showjumping, with FEI World Cup qualification places on offer for the top events, as well as the annual crowd-pleasers, such as the Christmas Puissance and the Shetland Pony Grand National.

One of the stars of the 2009 event, Ellen Whitaker, missed the Beijing Olympics because her horse, Locarno, was lame. The duo are likely to be reunited and back in form with less than two years to go before another Olympic shot in London.

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