Beijing's Finest Five

Posted on: 05 August 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Beijing promises to be Team GB's most successful Olympics ever - we outline our five to watch.

Mary Peters in 1972, Sebastian Coe in 1980, Linford Christie in 1992, Kelly Holmes in 2004 - the Olympics has a knack of conjuring up some of the most famous sporting images in British history.

From the swimming on 9th August to the boxing finals on 24th August, we take a look at Great Britain’s best medal hopes as well as the names who could rewrite the record books over the coming weeks in Beijing.

Britain's Best

We have selected five of Team GB’s most likely medal contenders who will either be front-page news or branded with an underachiever's tag within a few weeks.

These are Britain’s five candidates in the track and field with the potential plus the ability to grab medals and crown themselves in glory.

1) Christine Ohuruogu

The 24-year-old is the world champion at 400m, but that came in the absence of Sanya Richards, the American who failed to qualify for the event after suffering with illness on the day of the US trials.

Christine OHURUOGUThe Londoner was black marked after missing three drug tests in 2006 but showed her inner strength by winning gold on the back of being cast out of the funding system.

Ohuruogu was forced to take a part-time job at Newham Council to get by but things are looking up. She’s been working on her tactics and has run the 400m sparingly this season which could work in her favour.

Yet Richards is back and she will take some stopping.

Kelly Holmes' verdict: "Christine has been excellent in the 400m and she's proven herself at the highest level. She's very motivated, determined and focussed and I'm excited to see how she performs."

Women’s 400m Final: 19th August

2) Phillips Idowu

Idowu is considered Britain’s number one gold medal hope in the triple jump but the 28-year-old has recently been heard bemoaning the growing attention and media focus.

Phillips IDOWUThe Londoner sports fire red hair and multiple facial piercings but his leap of 17.58m at the Olympic trials means he leads the world in his event.

Climbing out of Jonathan Edwards’ shadow, he has forecast a world record and a gold medal. Only time will tell if he can handle the pressure after a series of no-jumps saw him exit the Athens Olympics in a cloud of disappointment.

Christian Olsson’s absence will enhance his chances.

Kelly Holmes' verdict: "Phillips is world number one at the moment. As long as he keeps his head, goes there and just treats the event like any other, he'll do very well. He's always shown so much promise over the years but not always delivered on the big stage."

Men’s Triple Jump Final: 21st August

3) Kelly Sotherton

With Sotherton’s main rivals battling fitness and mental fatigue, this could be her golden opportunity.

The 31-year-old from the Isle of Wight still faces problems ahead in the form of the United States’ Hyleas Fountain, Russia’s Tatyana Chernova and Lyudmila Blonska, the former drug cheat from Ukraine. As well as strong rivals, she’s had the worst year of her career with injuries and illness but thrives on adversity.

Sotherton claims she no longer throws the javelin like a girl but she has not competed in a heptathlon since winning bronze at the World Championships and will probably need a personal best to get another.

Kelly Holmes' verdict: "Kelly is looking at the gold this year, with her main rivals Carolina Kluft and Jessica Ennis not competing in the heptathlon. She's had a rough ride but she loves a challenge and I'm sure she'll do herself justice."

Heptathlon: 15th August - onwards.

4) Nicola Sanders

Sanders has punched above her weight in the 400m but has struggled with injuries this season and has done little to worry the global elite.

Nicola SANDERSThe 26-year-old from High Wycombe is quite capable of upsetting the applecart if fit and the European indoor champion and world silver medallist has brilliant finishing ability.

As for Ohuruogu, the obstacle is Sanya Richards but Sanders will be concentrating on her own race. She enters Beijing after one 400m in six weeks but can still make the podium.

Kelly Holmes' verdict: "Nicola doesn't always get the same praise as Christine but she's a real fighter and I like that. Her injuries have been a little disruptive but she's good enough to challenge for more than just a podium finish."

Women’s 400m Final: 19th August

5) Mara Yamauchi

All the talk has been about whether Paula Radcliffe will make it but let us not forget the woman who led at the World Championships and returned to Osaka in January to win the city’s marathon.

In a tactical race, not an especially fast one, she’s in with a shout. The 34-year-old is ranked 12th in the world but could upstage Radcliffe and could well finish in the top three.

Kelly Holmes' verdict: "Everyone's been talking about Paula and whether she'll make it to Beijing or not. Paula's proven herself but now may be the time for Mara to step into her shoes."

Women’s Marathon Final: 17th August

Beijing's Best

If you’re looking for more than your British fix in Beijing, then take time out to watch the world’s finest athletes.

These five world beaters should make your list of unmissable athletes and events in China.

1) Usain Bolt

The 21-year-old sprinting sensation is still unsure whether to run in the 100m as well as the 200m but the laid back Jamaican is sure to fire in both if needs be.

Usain BOLTHe ran a mindboggling 9.72 seconds to break the world 100m record a couple of months ago in only his fifth race at the distance.

Bolt’s showdown with his old friend Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay, the American World Champion, will be one of the Olympic highlights and debatably one of the best ever races if Bolt chooses to run.

Men’s 100m Final: 16th August

2) Jeremy Wariner

Wariner has been talking about breaking Michael Johnson’s 400m world record of 43.18 seoncds for as long as anybody will listen to him.

People have started to take notice after some eye-catching displays, but he suddenly has a major problem in the form of fellow American, LaShawn Merritt who has beaten him twice this season.

The 24-year-old from Texas now knows the outcome of the 400m is no forgone conclusion, but the threat of losing his title might just propel Wariner to Johnson’s historic time.

Men’s 400m Final: 21st August

3) Liu Xiang

In China, Liu Xiang is a megastar of David Beckham proportions. The 25-year-old is an Olympic 110m hurdle champion and has beaten racial stereotypes to get there.

Liu XIANGXiang can no longer live a normal life in Shanghai and admits that the pressure on him to perform is overwhelming, with 1.3 billion Chinese backing him.

Cuba’s Dayron Robles has hit top form, taking Xiang’s world record while China’s great hope struggles with injury and focus.

Whatever the outcome, the atmosphere for the 110m hurdles will be the most electric of the Games.

Men’s 110m Hurdles Final: 21st August

4) Carolina Kluft

The glamour girl of Swedish sport was simply unbeatable in the heptathlon and so decided to look elsewhere for her kicks.

Kluft has opted to go for the long jump, where she is currently outside the world’s top ten, and has turned her back on an almost certain gold medal.

The 25-year-old however, should never be written off and if she adds another Olympic medal to her mantelpiece it will be one of the feats of the Games.

Women’s Long Jump Final: 22nd August

5) Yelena Isinbayeva

Russia’s pole vault queen counts politicians, oligarchs and sporting celebrities like Michael Schumacher as her friends.

Yelena ISINBAYEVASetting 22 world records, the 26-year-old has a love of fast cars and chic clothes and will add even more glamour and drama to the Olympics' maddest event in the track and field.

Isinbayeva is by far and away the likeliest gold winning athlete but watch her go for yet another record in Beijing.

Women’s Pole Vault Final: 18th August

Who do you think can strike gold in Beijing for Team GB? Who will win the men's 100m? What event are you most looking forward to?

Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment in the box below. Alternatively, share your thoughts in the 50connect forums.

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