Funding body UK Sport has strayed from setting a specific medal target given the lack of recent international competition. However, there is a general expectation that the team will be strong enough to surpass the 51 medals secured in Beijing in 2008. But a downturn in previously strong medal sports like cycling and gymnastics is likely to see the team come up short of Rio’s total.
It would take something major to happen, such as falling off his blocks, for Peaty not to defend his 100m breaststroke title in Tokyo. Owner of the 20 fastest times in history and having surged under the 57 seconds mark, there is more chance of him lowering his world record again than there is of anyone challenging him. Indeed the real battle will be for the minor medals.
Peaty started Team GB’s gold rush at Rio 2016, expect him to help kickstart the party in Tokyo too.
Dina Asher-Smith: athletics
Asher-Smith is the greatest female sprinter Britain has ever produced. She confirmed her status as a potential world-beater when she claimed three gold medals (100m, 200m and 4x100m) at the 2018 European Championships. A year later she won world 200m gold and 100m silver, breaking her own British record in both records.
Shaunae Miller-Uibo, of the Bahamas, is the heavy favourite for gold in Asher-Smith’s favoured 200m event but the Briton is high on confidence and knows how to perform on the biggest stage. Her 100m medal chances have also been boosted by American Sha’Carri Richardson’s absence in Tokyo due to serving a one-month suspension for testing positive for cannabis.
Laura Kenny: track cycling
Kenny sits one behind Dame Katherine Grainger’s five-gold medal haul on the domestic all-time list, having won double gold in the team pursuit and omnium at the last two Games.
The British team pursuit outfit were pipped to silver at the 2019 worlds but they will almost certainly be in the medal mix again in Tokyo. It wouldn’t be an Olympic team pursuit competition if not.
Having competed in the Madison and team pursuit, Kenny rounds off her third Olympics by attempting to successfully defend the omnium title. She returned from injury to win European omnium silver in November 2020. Like taekwondo’s Jones, she is looking to become the first British female to win gold at three successive Olympics.
Jason Kenny: track cycling
Taking part in his fourth Olympics, Jason Kenny already has the joint-highest number of gold medals for Britain and could go clear at the top, ahead of Sir Chris Hoy, with a seventh in Tokyo. He currently boasts seven Olympic medals in total, one short of Sir Bradley Wiggins’ career tally of eight.
He has won the last two Olympic sprint titles, although age is not on the 33-year-old’s side and he failed to make the quarter-finals of the men’s sprint at the last World Championships. Saying that, both British Cycling and Kenny know how to peak for the Olympics and his team sprint colleagues will be doing everything they can to extend his golden run in that event.
Jade Jones: taekwondo
Jones was a teenager when she won her first Olympic taekwondo gold at London 2012, and followed up her triumph in Rio four years later. Now 28 and also the reigning world champion, Jones is a hot favourite to secure an unprecedented third consecutive Olympic title.
Not only would she be the first taekwondo athlete to ever do so, but given the way the scheduling has fallen, she would also enter the history books as the first British female athlete to win golds at three successive Olympic Games.
Bianca Walkden: taekwondo
Like Jones, Walkden is a strong bet for a medal in Tokyo (in fact all of the British taekwondo team have a chance). The Liverpudlian is desperate to upgrade on the bronze medal she won in Rio. A three-time European and world champion, gold would complete the set of major medals.
She comes into the Games in strong form too, having won her third European title in Sofia, Bulgaria in April.
Laura Muir: athletics
Muir has just missed out on a global medal so many times during her career, but the absence of some of her main rivals over her preferred 1,500m gives her an excellent chance of making the podium in Tokyo.
She qualified for both the 800m and 1500m – and recorded the second fastest time by a British woman in the former at the Monaco Diamond League earlier this month. However the Scot has opted to put all her eggs in the one basket, competing in just the 1500m in Tokyo. It is a decision that the clearly in-form runner could well look back on fondly in a few weeks if she returns home with a medal.
Tom Daley: diving
Daley makes his fourth Olympic Games appearance, seeking to land that elusive gold after individual and synchro bronze in 2012 and 2016 respectively.
Since Rio, Daley has added another individual world title as well as European synchro gold this May with new partner Matty Lee (he also took individual silver at the same event, posting his highest ever score for an individual dive in the process). If he can get it all together with his dives, and crucially hold his nerve, he will give the Chinese a run for their money. In the synchro, it seems likely he will add another medal to his collection with he and Lee putting up strong scores this year.
Pat McCormack: boxing
McCormack has proved a class apart from most of his Olympic rivals over this extended cycle and will start as a clear favourite for welterweight boxing gold.
His recent win over Russia’s Andrey Zamkovoy – who denied him world gold in 2019 – was a clear sign of his intent to go all the way in the Japanese capital.
Max Whitlock: gymnastics
After claiming two historic gold medals in Rio on the pommel and floor, Whitlock has restricted his focus to his favoured pommel for Tokyo.
Despite his recent fall on his return to competition at the European Championships, the 28-year-old will start as favourite – although he is sure to be facing stiff competition from Ireland’s rising star Rhys McClenaghan, who won Commonwealth gold ahead of his older rival in 2018.
Charlotte Worthington: BMX freestyle
In 2019 former chef Worthington, who only took up the sport as a 20-year-old having learned the tricks on a scooter, won the inaugural British and European titles, before becoming the first ever British woman to win a world medal in the discipline, taking bronze at the World Championships in Chengdu.
With BMX freestyle making its Olympic debut in Tokyo, the chance of making history is up for grabs and Worthington is sure to be in the mix, although she will have to find a way past three-time world champion Hannah Roberts, the 19-year-old trailblazing American.
Seonaid McIntosh: shooting
The daughter of four-times Commonwealth Games medalist Shirley McIntosh and Donald McIntosh, and younger sister of Olympic Shooter Jennifer McIntosh, the Edinburgh shooter heads to Tokyo as the reigning world number one and 50m prone world champion, and a strong medal bet in the women’s 50m 3 positions rifle event.
She is also an outside in the 10m air rifle, which represents the first medal up for grabs at the Games but most of the expectation is on the 50m 3 positions rifle event. She is a real contender to become the first British female to climb the Olympic shooting rostrum, after the 46 medals won previously by the country’s men.
Sky Brown: skateboarding
Brown, 13, will become Britain’s youngest summer Olympian when she competes in the skateboard park competition in the second week of the Games.
But the young prodigy stands every chance of a medal, having qualified in third place and also claimed a World Championship bronze medal in Sao Paolo in 2019. In her final outing before the Games, she returned to action a year after suffering a life-threatening injury and took silver at the Dew Tour.
Ben Maher: equestrian
Making a fourth Olympic appearance, London 2012 showjumping gold medallist Maher heads to Tokyo with two confidence-giving wins on the Global Champions Tour this spring.
His ride, Explosion W, already has a serious reputation as a winner with the 12-year-old chestnut one of the most consistent performers on the circuit and boasting a record that is hard to match.
Joseph Choong: modern pentathlon
Modern pentathlon has featured at every Olympics since 1912 but Britain have never won a men’s individual medal. Joe Choong (and team-mate Jamie Cooke) could end that drought.
Having finished tenth on his Olympics debut in Rio, Choong returns to the team having won gold at the 2019 World Cup Final, in doing so securing himself the title of world number one.
Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre: sailing
Mills won sailing 470 silver at London 2012 and gold at Rio 2016, both times with Saskia Clark as her crew. She now has a new partner in McIntyre, whose father won an Olympic sailing gold in 1988, and together they won the world title in 2019.
A Tokyo medal for Mills would make her the most successful female Olympic sailor of all time.
Duncan Scott: swimming
The expectation will be on Adam Peaty to spearhead Britain’s gold medal rush in the pool but Scott is no stranger to standing on the medal rostrum, including at the Olympics where he won double relay silver in Rio.
The Scottish all-rounder has pushed on since then, winning multiple individual and relay medals at World, European and Commonwealth level since then. Currently ranked world number one in the men’s 200m freestyle this year.
Alex Yee: triathlon
It has been the Brownlee name which has dominated men’s triathlon at recent Games but only half of that power duo will be in Tokyo, with Alistair unable to follow his brother Jonny in qualifying.
But the person who beat him to a place, Yee, is a more than capable substitute. The 23-year-old may be at the start of his Olympics journey – with perhaps better chances of a gold to come in the future – but there is serious talent there and he does not seem intimidated by the big stage.
Yee warmed up for Tokyo by finishing fourth in the season-opener in Yokohama before winning home World Series race in Leeds. He has recovered from broken rib and collapsed lung suffered in a race accident in 2017 and will be part of a British mixed relay team expected to challenge for gold.
Matt Coward-Holley: shooting
Rugby’s loss is shooting’s gain with Coward-Holley having returned to the sport after injury dashed his oval-ball dreams.
His transition from double trap (no longer an Olympic discipline) to trap has also paid dividends with world gold in 2019, followed by the European title this year. Currently ranked world number two in Olympic trap.
Georgia Taylor-Brown: triathlon
The women’s triathlon team is blessed with talent in the form of Rio bronze medallist Vicky Holland, world silver medallist Jess Learmonth and world champion Taylor-Brown.
Individually all could be in the mix for a medal with Taylor-Brown, a two-time world bronze medallist before taking top honours last year, one of those chasing the chance to become Britain’s first female Olympic triathlon champion.
Three into two does not go, so one of the three will miss out for the mixed relay team.