By Maria Hopwood
- Jessica Ennis-Hill, Greg Rutherford, Mo Farah defending their titles
- Jo Pavey hoping to win her first medal in her fifth Olympics
- 4×4 400 metres teams in great form
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Athletics finally hits the Olympic fray on Friday with Team GB athletes hoping to improve on the six medals they won on home soil in 2012.
For Ennis-Hill this is likely to be her last Olympics, following an impressive heptathlon comeback from time off to have a baby. Winning the heptathlon at the Beijing World Championships and the recent IAAF event in Ratingen, notching up a personal best, will have filled her with confidence. The favourite to retain her Olympic title, she faces stiff competition, not least from fellow Brit Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who is approaching her peak.
Farah is in good shape to retain his two Olympic long distance titles, having won the 5000m at the recent London Anniversary games. Finishing over 15 seconds (almost 100m) in front of his nearest rival, the impressive run signposts his intentions for Rio.
Long jump champion Rutherford has proved his doubters wrong since his gold medal in London, having won gold at the Commonwealth Games, European Championships and World Championships since. Despite recent injury problems, it seems Rutherford is in great form and ready to defend his title.
Also look out for the Men’s and Women’s 4x400m teams, both of whom have spectacularly recorded the fastest times in the world this year. Their impressive build up has seen both installed as real challengers to the likes of the Jamaican and US relay teams.
Long distance runner Jo Pavey impressed everyone at the Commonwealth games and is now competing in her fifth Olympics, a record for a British track athlete. Pavey, who has never won an Olympic medal, faces tough competition in the 10,000m particularly from her Kenyan and Ethiopian counterparts.
Watch out for promising Hammer thrower Sophie Hitchon, throwing in her second Olympics. Once a keen ballet dancer, she improved on the British hammer record at the World Championships last year. Coached by ex-Olympian Tore Gustafsson, Hitchon trains twice a day and is thought to have thrown the hammer over one and half million times in training, certainly one to watch.
All eyes will be on 400m hurdler Eilidh Doyle, with Sally Gunnell tipping her to win a medal in Rio, but is likely to need to run a personal best whilst also ensuring her stride pattern is right. Currently ranked sixth in the world, her stride pattern at the end of races has let her down on occasion, something she will have been working on in the run up to Rio.
The Olympic Track and Field events begin on Friday 12 August
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