Winners in Tokyo can inspire a fitter Britain

So, who was your favourite Team GB winner in Tokyo?

Was it Adam Peaty, the man who got the gold rush started with his 100m breaststroke win on day three? The first British swimmer to defend a title at a Games and quite possibly our finest ever swimmer.

Or maybe it was Tom Daley and Matty Lee, taking first place in the synchronised 10m platform. Daley’s tears (and cardigans) took all the headlines as the nation celebrated his deserved victory in his fourth Games but he was quick to credit his partner Lee with whom they saw off their Chinese rivals who were favourites for the event. Daley then picked up a bronze in the individual event to complete a stunning Olympics for him.

And then there was Tom Pidcock. The 21-year-old Yorkshireman produced a remarkable performance to win the men’s mountain bike race at the Izu track on the outskirts of Tokyo. Quite unlike Daley, this was Pidcock’s first Games and, until six months ago, said he hadn’t ever really thought about the Olympics.

Back in the pool, a new start was born when Tom Dean from Maidenhead took gold from his old friend Scotland’s Duncan Scott in the 200m freestyle. Dean’s victory was even more extraordinary given that he had twice been taken ill with Covid-19 during the pandemic.

The next day Dean and Scott were back on the podium as they won the men’s 4x200m relay with James Guy and Matt Richards. The quartet finished in six minutes 58.58 seconds, just 0.03 seconds off a world record time. And the achievement also meant that Dean became the first British swimmer to win more than one gold medal at a single Olympics in 113 years. 

And then came Bethany Shriever on her BMX bike. The 22-year-old from Leytonstone won the women’s racing gold on Day Seven. Her win came just moments after teammate Kye Whyte secured silver in the men’s event. Shriever utterly dominated the women’s event, winning all three of her semi-final runs before leading the final from start to finish.

Another great story was Jonny Brownlee’s first gold,  coming in the triathlon mixed relay, a first for the Olympics. Brownlee, at the age of 31, finally won the biggest prize with his teammates Jessica Learmouth, Georgia Taylor-Brown and Alex Yee.

Team GB were beginning to enjoy the mixed relays with victory in the swimming pool for our mixed 4×100 medley team consisting of Peaty, Guy, Kathleen Dawson and Anna Hopkin on day eight.

Photo credits: SWPix & British Cycling

Meanwhile back at the Ariake Sports park, Charlotte Worthington was winning the women’s BMX park freestyle. The 25-year-old Mancunian overcame a strong challenge from Hannah Roberts of the USA.

Our first gymnastics gold came from Max Whitlock on the pommel horse. Whitlock was favourite to win which brought about even more pressure but he overcame any nerves to become the first Olympian in 30 years to defend a pommel horse title.

Another wonderful team gold came in the equestrian arena from Tom McEwen, Oliver Townend and Laura Collett who comprised Team GB’s eventing team. It was GB’s first victory in this discipline for 49 years. It was also an incredible triumph for Collett, who suffered a horror fall in 2013 that left her in a coma and from which she lost the sight in one eye.

We have come to expect sailing success these days and Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell did not disappoint in the men’s 49er class, beating an impressive New Zealand team to take first prize on day 11. This was followed up by serial winner Giles Scott, taking gold in the men’s Finn. The 34-year-old’s success meant Britain had won six successive titles in this discipline dating back to Iain Percy’s win in Australia in 2000.

Another sailing victory came swiftly after on day 12 when Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre won the women’s 470 event. Mills became the most successful female sailor in British Olympic history in the process, adding to her gold at Rio 2016 and silver at London 2012.

Ben Maher and his amazing horse Explosion then won gold in the individual showjumping, following up Nick Skelton’s Rio success. The 38 year-old from Enfield is getting married this summer and joked that he thought competing at the Games was probably less stressful.

Joe Truman

A really important win for the cycling team came back in the velodrome as Matt Walls won Team GB’s first ever omnium gold. Despite huge success across all disciplines over the years this was the one event that had eluded them – Ed Clancy coming third in 2012 and Mark Cavendish in 2016 – but Walls pulled off an incredible sprinting and tactical display to take first prize.

And it wouldn’t be an Olympics these days without Laura Kenny breaking records. Kenny and Kate Archibald took gold with an incredible women’s madison ride, giving Kenny a fifth career Olympic gold (she has won at three consecutive Games) and making her the most successful female cyclist in Olympic history. Husband Jason then had to break another record of his own, becoming the first Briton to win seven Olympic golds with a spectacular defence of his keirin title.

Kate French, meanwhile, was claiming her first gold in the modern pentathlon. French, from Kent, had finished fifth in Rio but made no mistake in Tokyo with a dominant performance in the equestrian round sealing the deal. And Jo Choong followed up French’s success with a first ever men’s individual modern pentathlon gold a day later in hugely dramatic fashion.

And finally, having not won a gold in the boxing ring all Games, Galal Yafai made sure in the men’s flyweight with an incredibly composed performance to give him victory and then Lauren Price followed his win up on the last day of the Games with a middleweight gold, becoming the first Welsh fighter (and the second British woman) to win first prize at the Games. Price’s own backstory is extraordinary with her 50 caps for Wales football and successful kickboxing career already under her belt at the age of 27, she now has an Olympic gold medal in boxing.

There are so many amazing stories behind these winners, but the same could be said for all of our medallists – and indeed all our competitors, every competitor at the Olympics.

So it really doesn’t matter what your favourite is, or who you think is most deserving of the rewards that the Tokyo Games deliver. The point is, and the hope is, that the event has inspired people all around the world to get active and play their sport. Team GB, we salute you.

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