The eight great British athletes to look out for at the Tokyo OlympicsJuly 17, 2021
THE Tokyo Olympics start on Friday, and while Covid has led to spectators being banned from stadiums, a global TV audience of more than four billion is still expected to tune in.
And today The Sun on Sunday reveals eight great British athletes to look out for. Attention will naturally focus on gold-plated veterans such as Jason and Laura Kenny and Adam Peaty, but we also predict a new young British ace, aged just 13, will be the breakout star of the Games.
Our eight aces certainly have a lot to live up to when judged against Team GB’s superb performances at the last three Olympics. They won 51 medals at the 2008 Games in Beijing – 19 of them gold – while London 2012 saw them take a record 29 golds out of a total of 65.
The British team claimed their biggest ever Olympic haul at the 2016 Games in Rio, winning 67 medals – 27 of which were gold.
But this time round sports chiefs have not set a medal target because they reckon the pandemic has made it impossible to predict how the British stars will fare this year.
Despite this, experts still foresee a golden summer for our Olympic heroes.
Here is our guide to who’ll be making waves at the big event.
SHE is the fastest British woman in history – and now Dina is in a rush to add Olympic gold to her trophy cabinet.
The 25-year-old sprinter, from Orpington, Kent, won a gold medal in the 200 metres at the 2019 World Championships.
But experts predict she is still to reach her peak.
Dina says: “I pride myself on being very normal. I love floating under the radar. I pop out, run, then spend the rest of my time with my friends. But when I came home from the World Championships suddenly people were diverting their train routes to get on my carriage and say, ‘Well done’. It’s just insane.
“I hope and honestly believe the Olympics will be safe in terms of Covid. If it wasn’t going to be, I don’t think the people would put both the citizens of the host nation and us in danger. Well, I’d hope they wouldn’t.”
Dina, who features in Stormzy’s children’s book Superheroes, continues: “I’m proud of who I am, proud to be black and proud not only to represent women in sport but black women and black womanhood on the world stage.”
SHE took up taekwondo on the advice of her grandad to improve her skills in self-defence – and now Jade is on the verge of securing a third consecutive Olympic gold.
With the Tokyo Games having been postponed for a year due to Covid, she is also planning to carry on and compete at Paris 2024.
Jade, 28, said: “I was thinking this would be my last Olympics, but by the time we finish, it will only be just over two years until the next one.
“If I win in Tokyo, I’ll have so many points already that I’ll only need a few more to qualify for Paris.”
And Jade is spurred on by the successes of other Team GB athletes. The star, from Bodelwyddan, North Wales, says: “I come from a council estate and it’s amazing to see those kinds of stories – to see that no matter what background you’re from, you can make it.”
Jade received the MBE in 2013 and an OBE in 2019.
RING ace Caroline had to pretend to be a boy named Colin when she was nine because boxing gyms near her home in Enfield, North London, did not allow girls to train.
Now 20, the sister of heavyweight star Daniel is gunning for her first Olympic medal. She said: “It’s been a long time coming. I watched London 2012 and said to myself, ‘I want to go to the Olympics. I believe that I can win a medal.’ ”
Revealing the hurdles she overcame in her youth, she added: “At the time, I didn’t really care whether I was Colin or Caroline. When I retire, if I’m good enough I want people to acknowledge I was just a good fighter, not a good female fighter.”
Caroline has also dealt with personal heartache. Her former cornerman Tony Disson was one of the 72 people to die in the Grenfell Tower tragedy. She said: “He always said I would go to the Olympics.”
SHE is just 13 – and a year ago the chances of Sky making it to the Olympics were close to zero.
After a horrific 15ft fall in training, the skateboard wizard was taken to hospital unconscious and was left in a coma with a fractured skull.
But now she is set to become the youngest British Summer Olympian ever.
Sky, whose dad Stuart is English, was born in Japan and spends half of her school year there and the rest in the US.
She is the youngest professional skateboarder in the world but does not have a coach, preferring to learn her tricks from YouTube videos.
Skateboarding will be a new event at the Olympics – and 4ft 6in Sky is not daunted by her adult rivals.
The skate ace, who has more than 602,000 followers on Instagram and 29million views on YouTube, said: “I want to go to the same height as boys and push the boundaries for girls.
“I’m just excited to be in the Olympics. It’s insane.
“I’m just going to do my best. I’m going to try to win a medal for Team GB.”
WITH five Olympic medals – including two golds – in his cabinet, many would forgive Max for easing off a little.
But the 28-year-old gymnast from Hemel Hempstead, Herts, is more determined than ever going into this year’s Games.
He said: “I never want to fade out. I’ve got a lot more targets I want to hit and I’m always trying to improve, so I don’t see myself retiring after Tokyo and I certainly want to try to make it to Paris 2024.
“But if I get to the point where I don’t feel I can improve, that will be the time to stop.”
ADAM is an unlikely swimming hero – he was scared of water as a kid.
“I even hated having baths,” he admits. “I’d scream every time. My older brothers had told me sharks could swim through the plughole.
“My first memory of swimming was just trying not to drown.”
Now the 26-year-old, from Uttoxeter, Staffs, goes into the Olympics as one of our best medal hopes.
And the dad-of-one has set his sights on swimming in another TWO Olympics after Tokyo.
He says: “I want to keep going until the 2028 Olympics in LA. I’ll only stop when I stop having fun.
“I don’t think competing at the Olympics without a crowd will make a difference to me, even though I normally thrive on the noise.
“There will be millions tuning in wanting me to bring back gold.”
JASON and LAURA KENNY
WHATEVER happens in Tokyo, husband and wife Jason and Laura have already etched their names into the history books.
With six golds to his name, Jason, 33, from Bolton, Gtr Manchester, is the joint holder of the highest number of Olympic golds for a British athlete alongside fellow track cyclist Chris Hoy.
But Jason has no plans to slow down as he prepares to overtake Hoy. He said: “The record is not something I think about, but it would be nice.”
With four gold medals, Laura, originally from Harlow, Essex, is the most successful female Olympian track cyclist and Britain’s most successful female Olympic athlete.
Mum-of-one Laura, 29, said: “In Rio, someone was like, ‘You know no other female has ever won more?’ I was like, ‘Oh, I hadn’t realised’.”
Her success is all the more amazing as she was born a month early with a collapsed lung and was later diagnosed with asthma.
Speaking about the Games’ postponement in 2020, she said: “This extra year has just helped me as an athlete.
“I want to be my best, I don’t want to just be fit.”
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