Great Britain could see the biggest drop in medals of any nation at this year’s Tokyo Olympics, with forecasts suggesting Team GB could miss out on more than one-third of the podium finishes they claimed in Rio four years ago.
Britain became the first country ever to win more medals immediately after hosting an Olympics when they won 67, including 27 gold, to finish second in the Rio medal standings behind only the United States.
That could drop dramatically to just 42 medals, with 13 gold, this time around, according to forecasts released by sports data company Gracenote with exactly six months to go until the Olympics begin.
Such a drop would see Britain suffer its worst haul since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, with the predictions placing the country seventh in the overall standings.
The biggest reduction is forecast to come across three sports – track cycling, gymnastics and rowing – which accounted for a huge 22 medals in Rio but is currently expected to produce just eight podium places in Tokyo. Indeed, no individual British cyclist is predicted to make the podium, with the only medals coming from team events.
Dina Asher-Smith is predicted to lead the way in athletics with a gold (200m) and bronze (100m), alongside a men’s 4x100m team also forecast to win gold. The likes of Adam Peaty (swimming), Jade Jones (taekwondo) and Max Whitlock (gymnastics) are all predicted to top the podium, with equestrian forecast to provide Britain with three gold medals.
The United States are anticipated to retain top spot in the medal table with China second, although one major unknown is a Russian team currently forecast to come third. Banned from international competition, it is unclear how many of their athletes will be allowed to compete in Tokyo under a neutral flag.
Whether Gracenote – which collates and analyses results data from all key competitions between Olympics – will prove correct remains to be seen. Britain has a history of exceeding expectations at recent Olympics and at this stage four years ago, Gracenote was predicting a total haul of 49 medals for the Rio Games, which they increased to 56 on the eve of the Games. Both of those fell well short of the 67 Team GB eventually achieved.
There has been something of a culture shift in UK Sport away from winning medals at all costs since the last Olympics. A 2017 report by British Cycling claimed the preoccupation with medals was having a “blinding effect vis-a-vis culture” and Team GB’s rather gentler slogan ahead of the Tokyo Games is “medals and more”, suggesting an importance beyond purely making podiums.