It’s 2012, It’s Time to Deliver
December 29, 2011 11:23 am
For the athletes aiming to represent Team GB next summer, the past year has been one of intense training, preparation and anticipation as they look ahead to the greatest moment of their sporting careers at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
These are sentiments shared by those of us at the British Olympic Association (BOA) who, working in partnership with the National Governing Bodies, are responsible for making certain every detail has been considered, every stone unturned, every system tested, to give Team GB athletes the maximum opportunity to succeed when it matters most and the next seven months will be absolutely crucial.
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. We have recently reviewed the data for 2011 across all World Championship and other relevant World events and rankings in every Olympic discipline for 2011 – this shows Team GB finishing in 6th position with 59 medals across 13 different sports in what would be a relative Olympic medals table. This includes an outstanding 50 medals won in Olympic disciplines at World Championships this year and shows that we are indeed on course.
While these results underscore what an outstanding year 2011 has been for British athletes and give reason for optimism for 2012, there is still considerable work to be done.
First, 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 Olympic Games 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.
And finally, 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. 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.
For each of these priorities, we have worked closely with the National Governing Body team leaders and performance directors to make certain Team GB athletes have the high performance services and logistical support necessary to succeed on the Olympic stage. And in each of these areas, one of the key factors that will contribute to success is the support of the British public. Talk to legendary athletes such as Sir Steve Redgrave and Dame Kelly Holmes, or leading performance directors such as Dave Brailsford, David Tanner and Charles van Commenee, and they all point to the uplift and momentum an athlete can gain from the support of a passionate home crowd.
Simply said, one of the key elements to the success of Team GB at London 2012 will be the unwavering support of the most knowledgeable, passionate sports fans in the world – and we will do everything possible to make the most of this not-so-secret weapon. Competing at home should be a definite advantage, and during the next few months, the BOA will introduce a number of exciting opportunities for fans throughout the United Kingdom to show their support for Team GB and build a wave of momentum that will lift our athletes to even greater heights of success in 2012.
It is worth remembering that in Beijing, four of Team GB’s fantastic Olympic gold medals were won by a cumulative difference of just 0.87 seconds. This is an illustration of the narrow margin that often defines Olympic success – and it is the combination of talent, preparation, coaching, logistical coordination and the support of a home crowd that makes all the difference.
In these closing days of 2011, and as we look ahead to the Olympic Year, I hope that 2012 is a golden one that we will all be able to remember and celebrate for decades to come.
Team GB Chef de Mission & BOA Chief Executive
The British Olympic Association reviews statistical data provided by Rob Whittingham of Umbra Ltd.