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London 2012: How are Britain's rivals doing?

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Ollie Williams | 22:59 UK time, Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Next year may be a home Olympics for the British but Team GB are not the only ones hoping London 2012 will be their greatest Games ever.

The British Olympic Association and UK Sport tell us everything is on track, Britain's athletes are "better-prepared than ever to succeed" and fourth place in the medal table is the least they expect. But GB's rivals are racing to outdo them at every turn.

With one year to go, projected medal tables - where statisticians distil data from major championships to decide how the Games would go were they staged today - are coming out of the woodwork.

Going by the most comprehensive of these virtual tables, the British are no longer the comfortable fourth they finished at Beijing 2008. They are fifth.

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These projected medal tables are curiosities at best and easily misleading.

But they serve as reminders that for every British Olympic hopeful throwing the kitchen sink at a medal, there are a dozen foreign athletes looking to defend titles, right prior Olympic wrongs or make their first mark on the world stage.

The virtual medal table compiled by statistics company Infostrada, and published by The Times, USA Today and The Australian, claims to meticulously sweep all sports and competitions to produce a definitive guide where performances gain or lose importance according to how recently they occurred, where the athlete finished and the prestige of the event.

The conclusion? At the start of July 2011, the United States led with 37 gold medals to second-placed China's 30. Russia are third - as they were at Beijing 2008 - with 25 projected golds based on current performances.

Then it gets interesting. Germany have usurped Britain in fourth with 18 golds to fifth-placed GB's 15. One gold medal further back are France and Japan. Australia, sixth at the last Olympics, languish in eighth with a mere 10 golds.

You can see the full projected table on the USA Today website. If the real London 2012 table ends up remotely like it, I project I'll eat my hat. But it's as good a statistical guide as anyone will get.

So how do some of the nations most likely to rub shoulders with Britain feel with a year left to prepare?

Australia may look like they are lagging behind but, in the words of Sky News Australia's James Bracey, they have just pocketed "the country's biggest sporting result in decades" - Cadel Evans' triumph in cycling's Tour de France. Can that kickstart an Antipodean sprint for the 2012 finish?

"Cadel was the world champion in 2009 and he's now the Tour de France champion. He'll be dead keen to add an Olympic gold medal in the time trial," says Bracey.

"There's a lot of hope for Australia, especially when you throw in Ian Thorpe and Michael Klim coming back in the swimming.

"There's always a hidden challenge between the Aussies and GB, and deep down, the Australian Olympic Committee would love to finish fourth in the medal tally. That's a huge ask - almost ridiculous, per capita, to even ponder it."

The Australians are smarting post-Beijing and working overtime to make good their losses. Forget eighth in the projected medal table: sixth in 2008 was not good enough for Australia or Bracey.

"Beijing was a wake-up call in terms of funding and support in some sports where Australia had slipped away. We see London as real chance to bring the team back.

"Cycling was a massive loss for Australia in 2008. That GB started to pick up the medals added salt to the wound. Swimming too: that's the core of Australian sport but the men really underperformed in Beijing.

"Now there is pride at stake. The men have made pacts among the team heading to Shanghai for this week's World Championships, they want to start getting their pride back in a sport where the girls are bringing home all the bacon.

"There will be a major overall improvement on Beijing for Australia, but you can't lose sight of the competition out there. The Chinese were phenomenal in Beijing; the US, too; and Britain with home-ground advantage. That gave Australia 16 golds in 2000, finishing fourth. You can't emphasise how important that is."

Ian Thorpe

Ian Thorpe hopes to lead Australia's male swimmers to better things in London. Photo: AP

As in Britain, funding for Olympic sports in Australia has increased, with expectations Down Under that Beijing will be consigned to history. In Moscow, BBC Russian Service correspondent Rafael Saakov says the same is happening - not because of Beijing, but Vancouver.

"Here in Russia, people don't see much difference between the summer and winter Olympics," says Saakov.

"In Beijing the result was not too bad [third with 23 gold medals, 13 behind the United States] but Vancouver 2010 was a big failure. Now everybody is waiting for revenge in London. The Russian Olympic Committee wants 25 gold medals in London, and 75 medals in all.

"They say they need to be in the top three and they think the main competition is the US, China and Britain. So every year, the financial support from the government has increased. The ministry of sport says 1,500 sportsmen are now preparing for London."

There has been talk that fourth place is not ambitious enough for a British team whose funding and performance charts are ablaze in green lights. Why not go for third place?

Good luck. Russia, the incumbent, believes a new generation of its sports stars will rapidly halt any talk of losing grip on third.

Says Saakov: "After Beijing, it changed. The team totally changed and not a lot of the people who competed in Beijing will be there in London. We have new talents in the team.

"Yelena Isinbayeva is coming back, she is a huge star and it's about 90% certain that she will win. But there is a big swimming tradition in Russia and a lot of hope with new swimmers there.

"People also expect Aliya Mustafina from artistic gymnastics to do well. She is a newcomer to the Games and 100% a gold-medal competitor. She has made a big impression and is already the world and European champion.

"And in high jump, there are huge difficulties even deciding the Russian team in the men's event. The Olympic champion from Beijing didn't qualify for the national team last week."

That's leaving aside, as most Brits might, Russian ambitions in race walking and rhythmic gymnastics.

If Russia maintain third then Germany, fifth behind Britain in Beijing, may be the likeliest threat to fourth. Step forward Sven Busch, sports editor at German news agency the DPA.

"London 2012 is a very big deal," he says. "I'm sure it's a bigger deal in Britain than it is here, but everybody's talking about it being one year to go."

Germany is sometimes said to be almost a medal-for-medal match for Britain at the summer Olympics. Now, where Britain has UK Sport's backing and various "elite" or "podium" funding categories for each sport, Busch says Germany has established Top-Team 2012, a funding drive to prioritise its medal hopes.

"There are currently 174 athletes in it, and they get preferential treatment. You have to be in that pool to get special funding and their preparation is very good.

"The sports where the Germans should be doing well are athletics - where they are coming on strong - swimming, shooting, rowing, gymnastics, field hockey and equestrian.

"The biggest star of the team is a horse," he adds, referring to a dressage horse named Totilas, an equine superstar "signed" from the Netherlands for an apparent fee well above £10m (I've met him). "That horse is a big deal."


Totilas, the new saviour of German Olympic ambitions at London 2012? Photo: Reuters

And yet, fourth place in the medal table doesn't seem to motivate Busch. Where Bracey boasts "there's always a fairytale with Australia" and presents a list of Aussie athletes who are "the tip of the iceberg", and Saakov reels off ranks of Russian rhythmic gymnasts each ready to make third place theirs, Busch almost laughs at the suggestion the medal table matters.

"Well, this is not the answer you want," he says, "but the German officials have always said they would like to defend their top-five finish from Beijing.

"If you look at the number of nations capable of winning medals, it's rising with every Olympics. They are very cautious with medal predictions, and they would be ecstatic if they could match that."

And, even with that approach, the virtual medal table has Germany three precious gold medals ahead. Does that matter now?

Will it matter at the closing ceremony?


  • Comment number 1.

    The medal table should not matter to the athletes because there are in the main indivduals and should be selfish to think just for about winning for themselves.

    However I think that that China and US will be 1 and 2 China because they can sweep sports like Diving, Table Tennis and Weightlifting and the US because of their strength in the two sports with the most medals Track and Field and Swimming. Russia will be a more comfortable 3rd then in China they are strong in all olympic events and can sweep sports like Wrestling.
    For forth spot its a bun fight between Germany, GB, France, Australia and also Japan and S Korea. As a tip I think that France may surprise they have world champions in a lot of sports already this year and it would be a bit of an irony if they beat GB in the table. As an aside as long as Ireland win a gold hopefully in Boxing and new countries win medals remember the guy from Togo in the Canoe!

  • Comment number 2.

    I, too, did not receive tickets - but I'm absolutely buzzing for the Olympics to come to London. I do not expect huge displays as in Beijing, but I'm hoping that there's a really good atmosphere around the Olympic park and other venues. And I'm expecting ALOT of British Support and Union Jacks. Even if they could repeat their 4th Place I would be impressed.

  • Comment number 3.

    Well, the dreaded games are nearly here again, surprisingly not held in Olympia! That's because the rest of the world spotted a way of cashing in on the revenue from sports fanatics. Today's games, yes, they are only games, bear no resemblance to the way the original games were contested. The original athletes didn't have specially designed Nike trainers or composite materials to make there javelins, discuses or other equipment lighter. They did not have the specialist food supplements that one must have today, nor did they have today's vitamins, minerals, electrolytic drinks or anything else that our namby pamby athletes tell us they must have.
    The games cost a fortune to stage, not only for the numerous venues that must be constructed, in a country that is facing economic meltdown, but as a tax payer, what do I get out of it? Absolutely nothing! So why should I pay anything towards it. What's more, taxpayers that do want to be at the games, have to pay for a ticket! A double whammy for you! As for myself, I don't want to hear it, see it or have it rammed down my throat via the press. It does not pay my mortgage, put food on my table or do anything for anyone bar the egotistic contestants, who, when they lose, usually blame the rest of society for the lack of training facilities or poor grants for them to live on whilst training

  • Comment number 4.

    Extraordinary amount of space devoted to Australia ...GB"s natural rivalry is with Germany , France and Italy which all have geographical proximity , EU membership ( much more relevant than the Commonwealth ), similar population and economic size in common. Australia is on the other side of the world with a population and economy of around a third to a half of GB's.Furthermore demographically the two are becoming quite different societies ( just look at the athletes profiled in the two countries ). I'd be pretty sure that there would have been little talk of GB in Australian previews of Sydney 2000

  • Comment number 5.

    Not sure the Germans or Australians will beat us on home soil. The Aussies have improved in some sports, but the Germans?

    I think we should get some pleasant surprises if our athletes can channel the huge partisan crowds effectively!

    However we need a lot more from our sailing, swimming and cycling compared to last time to be assured of 4th spot.

  • Comment number 6.

    bigotboy - surely the natural rival is the one that is aiming for medals at the same events - e.g. the UK and Australia, both aiming for lots of medals at track cycling, rowing, and swimming.

  • Comment number 7.

    In moderation - It is completely impossible to get as many medals at track cycling as GB did in Beijing, as you could have more than one individual in the competition in 2008, but only one per country at the London Games. As there are only ten events, that means we can't get twelve medals again.

    That's before you consider that it is unlikely anyone will dominate the cycling as much as GB did at Beijing ever again.

  • Comment number 8.

    Interesting that the virtual medal table had USA ahead of China. Russia is also an interesting one - despite what your Russian correspondent says I can't help thinking that Russia will be concentrating that bit more on doing well in the Winter Olympics on their own soil. And some of his analysis is off the mark - Isinbayeva has been out of form for 2 years so is far from being 90% certain to win & with Mustafina there has to be a doubt whether she will make it to the games following her serious knee injury & even if she does, will she be as good as before?

    It would still be a very tall order for Britain to pip the Russians in the medal table though. Fourth is the right target - it's not a certainty but I'm sure they will still achieve this. Of the usual big 3 I think Rowing will do a bit better than Beijing, Sailing about the same or a little better but Cycling will win fewer medals due to having limited competitors in the track events & also the sheer difficulty of matching their Beijing tally. Cycling won 14 medals in beijing including 8 gold. I think the tally will be nearer 10 & 5 respectively in London.

    To maintain 4th in the medal table we probably need Swimming & Athletics (where most medals are available) to win more medals.

  • Comment number 9.

    4th is ambitious and I can't see us doing it again. Frankly, it's over-performing on a massive scale to see the UK 'best-of-the-rest': there's no beating China, Russia and the USA and no hope of doing so. We'll be lucky to get half the golds we did in cycling in 2008, so the rest of the team will have to pitch in with at least 5 more just to 'break even'. Still, any performance in the top 10 will be an achievement for a nation our size.

  • Comment number 10.

    Ollie, always good to read your comments. These virtual medal tables with a year to go are interesting and a great gauge for the Performance Directors. With a year to go there is still time for them to alter athlete programmes to maximise their medal chances. It's clear that other nations will be doing the same.

    The big BUT though is the shock results and that is where I think a home crowd will have an impact on where GB will finish. That home support should allow some of our athletes to find that last bit of energy/motivation to cross the finishing line first. The Canadians "Owned the Podium" in Vancouver. A similar programme here would bring our supporters together in a way that would maximise their influence on the medal table.

  • Comment number 11.

    I agree that we'll be lucky to get as many as we did in Beijing. But to say "not bad for a nation our size" - the only countries ranked above UK in the population tables that could be reasonably expected to outrank us in the medal table are China, USA, Russia, Japan, Germany and France.

    So it could be argued that yes, fourth is ambitious, but even coming sixth represents pretty much performing as expected, and given that we have home advantage...

    Looking forward to it already, despite (like everyone else) not having any tickets!

  • Comment number 12.

    Had a quick scan of the table from Infostrada - certainly makes for fascinating reading. Certainly they have not over-estimated GB's strength in some events - no medals for Nicole Cooke or Mark Cavendish in the road races, according to this.
    GB have most of their medal wins in cycling, rowing & sailing. However, there are a number of areas where home town advantage could pull GB up from 5th - 8th placing into a medal position (4 boxers. for example)
    With a year to go, there appears to be no reason why 4th place is not achieveable again - anything more than that would be a massive bonus.

  • Comment number 13.

    Not logged in, I know we can't get as many medals in cycling as last time. However if you view the last track cycling world championships as a barometer, we'll only get one gold. We need to do a lot better. If you look at the forecasts the Aussies could well possibly get at least four. This is why we need to pull our socks up and Boardman's comments the other day do not help!

    I think Brailsford and Sky are becoming to obsessed with the Tour!

  • Comment number 14.

    A home crowd will have little added advantage for the British athletes, given that most of London hails from all over the world. Pakistan and Somalia should certainly surpass their highest ever medal haul in 2012.

    Of course, whatever happens, the games will be hailed as a success. Some will suggest that the opening and closing ceremonies were the 'best ever' and the hosting of the event as 'unparalleled'.

    In reality, Britain will not eclipse Beijing 2008 either as hosts or on the medal table.

  • Comment number 15.

    It’s not really a prediction of medals, just a ranking system of who the best teams are. No-one would expect the rankings for the football World Cup, Wimbledon or any other event to accurately predict winners. So it’s a rankings table, but a predicted medals table.

    The men’s football (or Soccer as they like to call it) shows this well. Argentina are predicted to get a Bronze Medal, despite having to failed to qualify.

    It’s good that there are 15 events in which we are favourites to win, and 22 were we are second favourites. A year is a long time though. I doubt Usian Bolt would have been predicted to win any medals in July 2007.

  • Comment number 16.

    As stated before, these athletes enter as individuals and yet the uber-nationalistic, jingoistic claptrap and table rankings will dominate the Olympics again. The entire enterprise which the Olympic Games has become needs to be severely reined back and curtailed and returned to become an event for individuals, especially when so many competitors are so highly paid and could well afford to fund their own participation, rather than to be supported by taxpayers and, even worse, big business.

    In talking to a prominent South African businessman last week, I asked about the FIFA World Cup legacy. Empty, unused unaffordable stadia.....nothing more than a meteor shower of usefulness to show for all that effort! Many Greeks believe their current woes were firstly fuelled by an unaffordable Olympics and all the infrastructure put in place. Montreal had 30 years of debt from 1976. These 'legacy' expectations and promises appear tobe nothing more than what the IOC want to hear at the time of awarding the Games to a city. The reality is often something far less rewarding for those who host this circus of nationalistic trumpet blowing.

  • Comment number 17.

    Have you seen some of the rankings?

    Any prediction that seriously expects Ghana to win the mens football tournament and doesn't even include Mark Cavendish in the top 10 for the road race (he is odds on favourite for a sprint fionish which is at least an evens chance in itself) is ridiculous.

  • Comment number 18.

    I agree with 17, some of the rankings are just ridiculous! Would love to know where some of this data came from. Regardless them im thoroughly looking forward to all the events!
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 19.

    Just read that Usain Bolt is not favourite for the 100m...

  • Comment number 20.

    The Russian guy is just doing the same as anybody else, hyping his team up and I hope that both Isbinayeva and Mustafina are there at full fitness because they both have star quality which is what the games needs Likewise I'm a huge Mo Farah fan but I still want Kenensia Bekele there fully fit and running fast.

  • Comment number 21.

    As we have a year to go until the "O" lympics start, would it be possible for the BBC to ensure that all commentators call them the "O" lympics and not the "Ah" lympics.

  • Comment number 22.

    When you look at the detail here it's a load of drivel. Does anybody really believe that the U.S. are only ranked 19th in the Womens 4x100m relay??!! or that Jonathan Brownlee doesn't even register in the Mens triathlon reckoning (and his brother the undisputed current World No.1 is only ranked Silver)?? It's a good idea but poorly executed. Don't even give it the credit of a read.

  • Comment number 23.

    A good article and the project medals table made interesting reading. However, they do appear flawed even just in the sports that I am familiar with let a lone passionate enthusiasts of other sports.

    To have Cadel Evans fourth after his outstanding time trial that secured his maiden tour win is unfounded. He should be comfortably second behind Cancellara.

    Not even having Cavendish in the top ten of the road race is arguably the worst projection ever. Gilbert who is ranked one finished second in the race for the green jersey and Cavendish is regaled as the greatest road race sprinter on the plantet.

    In the men’s 4 x 100 freestyle relay, the US are ranked one despite this week finishing third behind Aus and France at the Worlds. In the same race the young lead out Ausi swam the fastest ever 100m (without a suit) and doesn’t make the list.

    Also, Ian Thorpe is not mentioned in any of his events, understandably dues to his absence, however, he is sure to place.

    In the men’s 100m Usian Bolt is not number one??? He should have a category all for himself.

    I am sure if I knew about any other sports these issues would be re-iterated. However, it is but a projection and interesting reading.

  • Comment number 24.

    Ludicrous but what do you expect from Americans who think there are only 50 countries in the world.

  • Comment number 25.

    #24 However the company that compiled this list are Infostrada, and they are not American. They have offices in Netherlands, Denmark and China.

    Having looked at the swimming projections they are indeed ludicrous and I don't even know where to start with some of their 'projections' Missy Franklin will be the female superstar in London and they don't even have her in the Top 8 of any event. Spofforth and Steffen are a million miles away from winning gold in the 100m back and 100m free respectively. It appears to me they are simply ranking names from the 2009 World Championships.

    #23 I'm not sure Thorpe medals in an individual event. He's already said he's left it too late for the 400m free and he'll find it very tough to make the 100 free with teammate James Magnussen the world champion and fastest ever in textile. That leaves the 200m free which will have Lochte, Phelps, Biedermann, Park, Agnel and maybe even Sun Yang who have all swum under 1.45 this season. Thorpe should make the 200m squad but he's far from assured a medal as its without a doubt the most competitive event of the entire swimming week.

    eg) men's basketball has 6 European teams ranked in the Top 8 and not one of the 6 is Great Britain. This is impossible as Europe has a max of 5 European qualifiers and 1 European host - Great Britain. Just one example of how poorly researched this whole thing was. I'd wait till about 4 weeks before the Opening Ceremony before making any sort of predictions.

  • Comment number 26.

    From an Aussie:

    I love saying this: Australia is the best performing Olympic nation in the world.

    Recent results: 7th in 1996 (GB 36th), 4th in 2000 (GB 10th), 4th in 2004 (GB 10th), and 6th in 2008 (GB 4th). It's usually USA, Russia and China that beat us.

    Populations: China (1.3B), USA (310M), Russia (150M), Japan (130M), Germany (82M), France (65M), Great Britain (60M)...AUSTRALIA (21M).

    All that bragging aside, let me say that we were filthy that GB beat us in medals in Beijing 2008 - we expect to beat GB in any sport, especially at the Olympics. That said, as host, GB should comfortably beat us in the 2012 tally. However, the GB swim team are massively overrating their chances - it's always a contest between the USA and Australia and 2012 will remain that way.
    We're not expecting a top 4 finish but we may get one, and the pressure is all on the Brits!

  • Comment number 27.

    Australia - 2 golds at the World Swimming championships. Overtaken by China, behind Great Britain (if you include open water) and light years behind the USA. What's happened to your swim team myislandhome? That's got to be a worry as Australia were relying on swimming for the bulk of their Olympic gold.

  • Comment number 28.

    Yeah but one of our golds were in the 50m backstroke not an Olympic event. So really it was only one in the pool and one in open water which I think is seperate from the pool. Australia won more medals overall bar everyone except USA and China.
    I admire the Austalian Sports system they have for years punched above their weight despite haveing a much lower population. I don't think they will get forth next year but I also think that Great Britian might not either.

  • Comment number 29.

    At the last Summer Olympics, Great Britain won 19 Olympic gold medals. China won 30+ gold medals in Athens. Greece won 4 in Sydney. Australia won 7 in Atlanta. When Australia, Greece, and China hosted their respective home Olympics, their gold medal totals were significantly larger. I believe that even with competition from other countries, Great Britain can possibly win 30+ Olympic gold medals on home soil. And at some point, the USA/Russia/China hegemony has to end.

  • Comment number 30.

    I am a huge olympic fan, and although I may not be there at the olympics cheering on great britain (crycry) i will certainly be watching every single second of coverage every day!
    I am rather skeptical about the medal table predictions, one big reason is the fact that Australia are doing quite poorly. I was watching the Cycling Track Championships a couple of months ago and, unfortunately for GB, they looked unstoppable, that alone puts the very close to 10 gold medals.
    Also, France is a funny one for me. You see them doing extremely well in european championships, but not so much in world championships. Take the swimming for example, there men are the best in Europe, but nothing compared to the US. Like the Brits, there women are the best in europe, but austalia and the US have the upper hand.
    I do worry about Germany though, they are improving quickly. Im hoping that 2011 has been a 'down year' for team GB, as I dont feel that we have performed well in some sports (cycling) but I hope that they will turn it around in one year. Also, this table hasn't factored in home support. I love watching sports in britain, hearing the loud cheers and chants gets me very excited

    Good luck team GB!

  • Comment number 31.

    Also Chris1977 a lot of swimmers in Shanghai were either ill or had, had a bad year. Gemma Spofforth had food poisoning, and a bad year in general. Fran Halsall was recovering from an ankle op earlier this year but finished 4th twice. Lizzie Simmonds was ill too. Home crowd and a fit team will hopefully bring more medals, including golds.

  • Comment number 32.

    boknows34 #27 - I would hardly say from the Swimming World Champs that Australia (16 medals) are "behind Great Britain"(6). We pride ourselves on competing/beating such a large, powerful country such as the US but not this year. Ours is a young team but 10 of our medals were silver so plenty of room to improve. That said, we were certainly below below what we usually produce. Add to the team the greatest freestyler in history (Thorpe) as well as Klim and Trickett (multiple gold winners) and I'll think we'll be ok.

    As for cycling, the Brits have certainly taken some medals away from us and the home crowd is a big advantage. However, Cadel, Meares & Co will perform strongly as usual.

    Our other medals come from a spattering of other sports - rowing, hockey, aths, sailing, equestrian. In Beijing we fielded more teams than any country: a team in every event (apart from handball). We'll do alright but we couldn't possibly beat GB on their home soil...could we?

  • Comment number 33.

    #32 I'm talking about gold medals only as most countries prefer to rank their medal tables with priority given first to gold medal count. Clearly Australia have more depth in swimming and some of those silvers could be converted to gold in London 2012 (Alicia Coutts having the best chance imo). The same however could also be said about GB (Fran Halsall in the 100free, Hannah Miley 400IM and Ellen Gandy 200fly).

    Of those on the comeback trail I hope the Aussies aren't putting too much pressure on Thorpe and Klim. As great as Thorpe was he's been away from the pool for 4 years and will have arguably the strongest competition of the entire swimming programme in the 200free. Lochte swam to 0.4 of Thorpe's old 200m WR in Shanghai and Phelps broke that old WR back in 2007 before the shiny suits. Ask Britta Steffen how hard it is to take time off and then make a return and she wasn't away for 4 years like Thorpe. Klim won't be closing the gap on Phelps in the 100 fly just like Huegill found the going tough in that event in China.

    IMO Trickett has the best chance of gold from the comeback swimmers in the 50 and 100free as those events are wide open. Of the rest of the team I can't see Leisel Jones closing the gap on Rebecca Soni in breastsroke. And I think we have only just seen the start of a new era in women's swimming with American superstar Missy Franklin, who could win 7 golds (100, 200 free, 100, 200 back, and 3 relays) and leave the likes of Hocking, Trickett, Coutts, Seebohm (and our own Halsall and Simmonds) with the minor medals.

    Very impressed with James Magnussen however. Should be a strong favourite in the 100 free.

  • Comment number 34.

    A pom that knows his strange.

    Thorpe has indicated that his focus is the 100m Free...which to me is crazy, given he never really tried it in earnest (notwithstanding bronze at Athens). Despite an unmatched swim stroke, he's never had the body for was the 200 and 400 that he was unbeatable in his prime. If he does medal (in any colour) I think it would rank as one of the greatest comebacks in the history of sport...particularly if he comes back to an unfamiliar event like the 100m. If anyone can though...

    As for Magnussen, very pleased with him right now. He was the youngest in that Shanghai field and will only get quicker approaching London. He's similar to Thorpe in that he holds his speed throughout the last half of the race and so seems to get quicker as the other tire. Much improvement to be had for the whole squad but the word from over here is that the coaches are well pleased with the collective progress in tuning up for the big one next year.


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