British Olympic bosses believe the nation’s leading medal hopes are exceeding expectations with exactly 500 days to go until Paris 2024.
Keely Hodgkinson, Laura Muir and Jazmin Sawyers all grabbed gold at this month’s European Athletics Indoor Championships after British Rowing roared to a rampant table-topping haul of 12 medals at last year’s World Championships.
Athletes have had to adapt to a shortened three-year Olympic cycle after the Covid-enforced postponement of Tokyo 2020 but UK Sport chair Dame Katherine Grainger, a five-time rowing medallist at the Games, insists they are expertly navigating those challenges.
The 47-year-old, speaking ahead of the 500 days to go milestone this week, said: “I think we’re probably seeing more success across a wider range of sports than we expected at this time in the three-year cycle.
“What’s very exciting is that it feels like, even within a short season across a lot of sports, the British team are already excelling.
“We’ve recently some brilliant indoors from the track and field teams and we are just seeing rowing team bounce back very quickly.
“I think there’s a lot of unknowns ahead of Paris.
“Everyone around the world felt the delay in Tokyo by a year, which meant suddenly we had a five year build up between Rio and Tokyo and then a very shortened three-year cycle between Tokyo and Paris.
“No one quite knew what the extra year added on Tokyo would feel like, but then also we weren’t sure what would happen during a shortened Olympiad coming into Paris.”
Grainger knows the benefits of a home Games more than anyone, finally winning her Olympic gold medal on her fifth attempt at London 2012 in front of a huge home crowd.
And with Paris just a trip over the Channel and an hour’s time difference, Grainger believes that British athletes will be able to use the temperature and time zone to their advantage – but should never underestimate the strength of a home Games for France.
The Scot, speaking at a SportsAid Week event held at RBC Headquarters, added: “This coming summer will be qualification for most sports.
“And you know, that’s the first hurdle is almost to make sure you’ve got the place of the games.
“And with it being in Paris will really help, for a lot of the British team.
“I think there is something special about hosting the Games in your own country as you suddenly realise the impact it has on you and you really realize the impact sport has in people’s lives.
“It’s short distance travel and it’s a climate we’re very used to so there’s huge advantages you can play.
“I think from an athletes’ point of view, you can play some of that to your advantage but do not underestimate that this is France’s home Games.
“I will meet people now over 10 years later who will talk about that summer.
“There was something about 2012 across the weeks of the Olympics and the Paralympics that was magical and felt like everyone could be part this incredible collective positive experience where there was just hope and joy and celebration and it was a really iconic.”
SportsAid Week 2023 took place from Monday 6 March to Sunday 12 March and was a dedicated week of fun and awareness-raising based around theme of accessibility and inclusion. Please visit www.sportsaid.org.uk