Greg Rutherford backs Britain’s athletics team to shine at Rio 2016

Published: Thursday 11th August 2016 by The News Editor

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Great Britain’s athletes are on course for a glorious Olympics in Rio, according to Greg Rutherford.

The track and field competition gets under way on Friday as Britain look to better the six medals, including four golds, they won on home soil in London four years ago.

Rutherford, who is out to retain his long jump title, believes the team is as good as any he has been a part of in his 10 years in senior squads.

“I think when we look at the strength in depth we now have within the team, we’ve got youngsters coming through who are doing incredible things and old hands who are still in there,” he said.

“I think as a mixture as a team it’s one of the best I’ve been involved with. There are a lot of medal hopes we have got out there.”

The medal target set by UK Sport for athletics is a tough-looking seven to nine, but the first weekend of competition on the striking blue track at the Olympic Stadium offers the chance of a flying start.

On the second day of competition, Rutherford, Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis-Hill have the opportunity to recreate ‘Super Saturday’, when they all landed gold in the space of a barely-believable 45 minutes at London 2012.

Farah is favourite for the 10,000 metres title, which would see him become the first British athlete in history to win three Olympic golds, while heptathlete Ennis-Hill, now a mother to two-year-old Reggie, is out to become the first British female track and field star to retain an Olympic crown. She starts her campaign in the 100m hurdles on Friday morning local time.

Her team-mate Katarina Johnson-Thompson is one of those out to stop her, meaning four medals are well within Britain’s grasp on Saturday night.

The first final on Friday will see the most experienced member of the British team, 42-year-old mother-of-two Jo Pavey, become the first track athlete from the country to compete in five Olympics.

Her son Jacob and daughter Emily have stayed at home with her husband Gavin.

“It’s tough, I’m not used to being away. I haven’t been on a training camp for eight years,” she said. “I’ve only ever been away for three or four nights at the most.”

At the other end of the age spectrum is 20-year-old European 200m champion Dina Asher-Smith, one of the new guard of British athletes looking to make their mark in Rio.

“I feel quite good going into the Olympics, which is a scary phrase because it’s my first Games,” said Asher-Smith, who was a box carrier at London 2012 and has since gone on to break the British 100m and 200m records.

“If that means it results in a medal, I’m not entirely sure. I want to produce the best performance I’ve ever done in my life.”

Other medal hopes include Laura Muir in the 1500m, who broke Kelly Holmes’ British record in her last race, Eilidh Child in a wide open 400m hurdles, Andy Pozzi in the 110m hurdles – assuming his seemingly often fragile body can cope with the rounds – and all four relay teams.

On the international front Usain Bolt is once again set to be the star attraction, looking to complete the ‘triple triple’ of 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay titles in his final Games.

“A lot of people are not happy, but sorry,” said the Jamaican on his plans to retire after next year’s World Championships in London.

South African 800m runner Caster Semenya also looks set to kick up a storm.

The 25-year-old, who was subjected to gender testing after winning the world title as a teenager in 2009, looks capable of breaking the 33-year-old world record, so dominant has she been this season.

Her final, in which Lynsey Sharp will also hope to feature, is on the penultimate day of the Games.

The only Russian on show will be Florida-based long jumper Darya Klishina, who passed the stringent eligibility guidelines laid down by world governing body the IAAF after banning Russia due to state-sponsored doping.

There remains a concern over attendances at the 60,000 capacity arena, with empty seats in venues a theme of the Games so far.

Bolt has even had to take to social media in a bid to persuade fans to buy tickets. It remains to be seen whether the world’s fastest man’s sales skills are as good as his sprinting.

Published: Thursday 11th August 2016 by The News Editor

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