They want more! Britain look to top home haul at Rio Games
LONDON, England (AP) — In the opening days of the Olympics, as British athletes fell short of expectations, the country anxiously awaited word of its first gold.
It just required a bit of patience. Four days worth.
But from the fifth day, Britain was losing track of its triumphs as athletes emerged from obscurity to become the nation's new sporting icons.
Boxer Anthony Joshua was the last yesterday, providing the hosts with one final success in the super heavyweight division, hours before the closing ceremony.
The gold medal haul of 29 — 65 in total — made it Britain's most successful games since the 1908 London Games when the hosts provided a third of the athletes.
Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain had "astonished the world" by finishing third in the medals standings, with only superpowers, the United States and China, ahead of them.
Fourth place had been the British Olympic Association's target just like in Beijing four years earlier.
"I was quietly thinking (in Beijing) if we went into London 2012 third we would have a really much tougher task than if we went into it fourth," BOA chairman Colin Moyinhan recalled yesterday.
So, job done?
Not at all for the BOA, which is determined to see its success grow in Rio in four years.
"If you're an athlete, if you're a team, your aspiration is always to do better," Moyinhan said.
There's no doubting that home advantage paid off as Britons abandoned traditional national sports to pack every venue.
"The interesting thing now is how can we make this an away advantage," said Clive Woodward, the World Cup-winning rugby coach turned deputy British team chief.
"How can we rethink all our thinking now to make sure that when we go to Rio now, can this be an advantage actually playing away from home?
Despite Britain's double-dip recession, the government yesterday guaranteed funding for Olympic sports until Rio at the same level as the run-up to the London Games.
"I want one of the legacies of these games to be our athletes triumphing in Rio in 2016, and in future Olympic Games," Cameron said. "Guaranteeing this funding will help ensure that happens."
Just 16 years after Britain left Atlanta with one gold, £125 million ($196 million) will be given annually to UK Sport, which allocates funding for athletes.
"I was at Atlanta in 1996 when GB finished 36th in medal table so to see where we are now in third place at London 2012 demonstrates just how successful this strategic investment has been," said Ben Ainslie, who has just won a fourth sailing gold medal.
But for all the successes — Mo Farah in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres, and Jessica Ennis in heptathlon — there were some setbacks.
And underperforming sports could see their funding cut, with the BOA putting sports that haven't "lived up to expectation" under warning.
The biggest letdown for Britain was in the swimming pool. After a six-medal haul in Beijing, there were just three medals — two bronz from Rebecca Adlington and a silver from Michael Jamieson — despite having 23 places in finals.
"I don't want to feel like I am feeling now," performance director Michael Scott said as he reflected on the swimming struggles.
The swimmers have four years to make amends.