London 2012: Team GB’s Awards Ceremony

Best Quote:

Nominees: Boris Johnson – “They [the female beach volleyball players] are glistening like wet otters”, Boris Johnson ” ‘Inspire a generation’ is our motto. Not necessarily ‘Create a generation’, which is what they sometimes get up to in the Olympic Village…”, Ben Ainslie – “They’ve made me angry and you don’t want to make me angry”, Lord Coe – “When the time came, Britain, we did it right!”

Ben Ainslie Angry

You don’t want to make him angry…

Winner: Ben Ainslie’s fighting talk

Ben Ainslie’s threat to the rest of the Finn Class field may have sounded a little preposterous at the time but he yet again proved himself a class apart as he recovered a sizeable early deficit in the competition so sufficiently that he went into the final race in pole position and managed to hold on for his fourth gold medal. Like he said, you don’t want to make him angry…

Golden Oldie:

Nominees: William Fox-Pitt, Nick Skelton, Mary King, Greg Searle, Ben Ainslie, Katherine Grainger, Sir Chris Hoy

Winner: Nick Skelton

54 year old Nick Skelton may have narrowly missed out on a gold medal in the individual showjumping competition but in playing a huge part in Team GB’s gold medal winning success in the team competition he proved that he is still a spring chicken at heart.

Most Inspiring Member of Team GB:

Nominees: Jess Ennis (‘The face of the Games’), Anthony Agogo (Won boxing bronze and dedicated his triumph to his hospitalised mother), Nicola Adams (Women’s boxing trailblazer and gold medal winner), Gemma Gibbons (Judo silver Medallist who dedicated her success to her dead mother), Katherine Grainger (Three consecutive Olympic silver medals and now, finally, a gold medallist), Bradley Wiggins (Tour De France winner and now a four time Olympic gold medallist), Sir Chris Hoy (Six time Olympic gold medallist), Tom Daley (Bronze medallist so soon after the death of his beloved father), Joanna Roswell (Alopecia sufferer and now an Olympic gold medallist)

Winner: Nicola Adams

In a home Games that were full of emotion and tales to tell this was undoubtedly one of the most hotly contested categories and I have opted for Adams who endeared herself and her much-maligned sporting discipline to the nation. Before the Games many would have had reservations about women’s boxing but Adams’ bravery and skill turned people’s frowns upside down and she deserves an enormous amount of credit for playing a huge part in convincing the nation and indeed the world into giving the sport a chance and then some… 

Saddest Moment:

Nominees: Zak Purchase and Mark Hunter post-final interview, GB’s lighweight four post-final interview, Gemma Gibbons’ “I love you mum” moment

Winners: Zak Purchase and Mark Hunter

Most Exciting Moment:

Nominees: Mo Farah (Home straight of the 10,000m), Mo Farah (Home straight of the 5,000m), Laura Trott (Final event of the Omnium), Etienne Stott, Tim Bailie, David Florence and Richard Hounslow (C2 Canoe Finale) Peter Wilson (Double Trap Shooting Final), Tom Daley (10m Platform Diving Final), Victoria Pendleton (Individual Sprint)

Mo Farah Mobot

The ‘Mobot’

Winner: Mo Farah (10,000m home straight)

Mo Farah’s double gold medal winning performance at London 2012 was a treat to behold and for me at least his 10,000m race was the most exciting moment of the Games. It put the icing on the cake of an incredible Saturday night in the Olympic Stadium as it was Team GB’s third gold medal in the space of an hour and it was the ‘mo’ment which ensured that that night would forever go down as one of the very finest in British sporting history.

Best Team:

Nominees: Cycling, Rowing, Equestrian, Tennis, Gymnastics, Canoe/Kayak

Winners: Cycling

Gold after gold after gold. Once again the cycling team were unbelievable and there huge level of achievement was made all the more incredible by the heartbreak of Mark Cavendish’s ‘failure’ to live up to the huge weight of expectation on his shoulders when he finished way off the lead in the men’s road race on the first day of the Games. Such was the British cycling team’s success that the French team were crying foul play, accusing Dave Brailsford and his team of cheating by way of having wheels that were unfairly round… 

Biggest Disappointment:

Nominees: Dai Greene, Shanaze Reade, Perri-Shaykes Drayton. Phillips Idowu, GB Relay Teams, GB Swimming Team

Winner: Phillips Idowu

As the Olympic Games have been such an overwhelming success in London and as Team GB have for the most part been terrific it is easy to forget that there have been some major disappointments along the way. The greatest of the disappointments was arguably been Phillips Idowu both in terms of his behaviour in the lead up the Games and then his performance in the Games itself. His ‘invisible man’ act beforehand and his poor performance in the preliminary rounds of the triple jump contest at which he was eliminated will have won him few admirers and one would hope he can find a better performance soon otherwise this will have been a horrible way for one so talented to leave his sport.

Best Celebration:

Nominees: Tom Daley (Pool jump), Mo Farah (The ‘Mo-Bot’), Andy Murray (A la Pat Cash), Sophie Hoskings and Kath Copeland (Kath Copeland’s ‘The face of victory’), Etienne Stott and Tim Bailie (Capsize into the rapids), Jade Jones (Good, old-fashioned scream, roar and phist-pump)

Tom Daley Team GB

Daley’s bronze medal celebration was one of the highlights of the London Games

Winner: Tom Daley (Pool jump)

There was so much reason for celebration within Team GB during Olympic fortnight that it all seems to blend into one but one of the stand-out celebrations of the Games was undoubtedly that of Tom Daley and his diving team mates. Imagine if he’d won gold…!

Superstar in the making:

Nominees: Anthony Joshua (Boxing gold medallist), Laura Trott (Track cycling double gold medallist), Jason Kenny (Track cycling Double Gold Medallist), Lizzie Armitstead (Cycling Road Race Silver Medallist), Alistair Brownlee (Triathlon gold medallist), Adam Gemili (100m semi-finalist), Sophie Hitchon (New British record holder in the hammer throw), Michael Jamieson (Swimming – Breaststroke), Jade Jones (Taekwondo gold medallist)

Winner: Laura Trott

It is hard to see Laura Trott not ending her cycling career amongst the most decorated British Olympians of all time as she has already bagged two golds at the age of 20. If she continues at her current rate then she could well be a ten-time gold medal winner if she carries on until she is Sir Chris Hoy’s current age!

Star Performer:

Nominees: Mo Farah, Jess Ennis, Laura Trott, Jason Kenny, Andy Murray, Sir Chris Hoy

Winner: Mo Farah

There have been almost too many success stories to mention for Team GB and for London over the past few weeks but the stand-out performer of the Games has to be our favourite Somalian born distance runner, Mo Farah.

Farah’s nerve, concentration, strategic nouse and physical strength have peaked at the perfect time and in becoming only the eighth person ever to do the 5,000m and 10,000m double he has written his name into the history books as one of the greatest ever Olympic athletes.

So, huge congratulations are in order to the likes of Jess, Jason, Sir Chris and Laura as well as the rest of Team GB’s medal winners  and emerging talents but perhaps even greater congratulations are due to Mo. He might not have the looks of  our “Face of the Games” Jess Ennis but who can resist a scrawny-looking, bald, bearded man win a penchant for slapping his own slap-head and for performing the now infamous ‘Mo-bot’… Sir Mo, we salute you!

London 2012: 100m Men’s Prediction

The Semi-Finals:

Semi-Final 1 Winner: Justin Gatlin in around 9.85

Semi-Final 1 Runner-Up: Asafa Powell in around 9.90

Semi-Final 2 Winner: Usain Bolt in around 9.80-9.85

Semi-Final 2 Runner-Up: Daniel Bailey in around 9.85

Gemili Olympics

I have an inkling that Gemili will run his first sub-10 second time in the 100m and will get into contention for a place in the final

Semi-Final 3 Winner: Yohan Blake in 9.80

Semi-Final 3 Runner-Up: Tyson Gay in 9.85-9.90

Fastest Losers: Richard Thompson in around 9.90 (Semi-Final 2) and then either one of Adam Gemili, Dwain Chambers or Keston Bledman in around 9.95

In short, I think that all the usual suspects will advance to the final as well as young talents Ryan Bailey and perhaps even Adam Gemili. If events on the track so far are anything to go by then I have a feeling that the home crowd could inspire either one of Gemili or Dwain Chambers to make the final as one of the fastest losers from the semis.

I think Yohan Blake, Justin Gatlin and Usain Bolt will set the tone for medal-winning finishes in the final with victories in each of their semi-finals and I think that each of their times will crank up into the region of 9.80-8.85 seconds as they start to move through the gears of the competition.

The Final:

Gold: Yohan Blake in around 9.65

Silver: Usain Bolt in around 9.65-9.70

Bronze: Justin Gatlin in around 9.75

Fourth: Asafa Powell

Bolt and Blake

Will Bolt hold onto his 100m crown or will the young pretender Yohan Blake pip him to the post?

Fifth: Tyson Gay

Sixth: Ryan Bailey

Seventh: Richard Thompson

Eighth: Adam Gemili/Dwain Chambers/Keston Bledman (Second fastest loser from the Semi-Finals)

You heard it hear first: Usain Bolt will ‘only’ win a silver medal! You can never rule out Bolt, I know that of course, and I am not ruling him out. I think the pace of the final will be very decent and I think it will be either Blake or Bolt that win it in around 9.65 seconds but for the sake of interest and in aid of backing up what I have been saying to anyone who will listen for months I have gone for Blake to win.

I then think their will be a real dog-fight for the Bronze medal in a time of 9.75-9.80 seconds with Justing Gatlin pipping Asafa Powell, Tyson Gay and Ryan Bailey in the battle for a third-placed finish.

Whether Bolt wins tonight or not, tonight is sure to be another historic night for both British and World athletics so sit back, relax (if you can…) and enjoy another sporting feast.

Euro 2012 Group D: How will Roy’s boys fare in their testing group?

England:

The past five years have been very tough for the English national side in the wake of their failure to qualify for the Euros in 2008 and their dismal showing at the 2010 World Cup when handed a very favourable looking group draw but with a new man at the helm England will be hoping for greater success, stability and continuity.

Hodgson and Gerrard England

New manager Hodgson and new captain Steven Gerrard are hoping to lead by example

Given the disappointments of recent times, their performances and results throughout the qualification for Euro 2012 must have gone some way towards restoring some lost confidence and were deserving of a fair amount of credit. It was of course Fabio Capello who lead England throughout this process but perhaps his departure was for the best for England and for Capello himself as the English public, media and even some of the national team players never really warmed to the Italian.

In charge of England now is Roy Hodgson who has already been the target of some pretty unfair criticism just for being appointed as boss but the fact of the matter is that Hodgson is a wily old fox and will have been prepared for the glare of the media and some of the negative criticism that has come his way. Roy is a man who lives and breathes football and being a proud Englishman will realise that English fans are amongst the most passionate in the world and that sometimes this passion will spill into the realms of harshness and irrationality.

In spite of Hodgson’s critics and the slightly stand-off-ish nature of their two performances under his guidance to date, England have won both of their games since Hodgson took charge of the side and Roy will head into the Euros pleased with the fact that he has a 100% record as England manager. Probably the major concern for Hodgson heading into the tournament is the late losses of the experienced Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard and the talented Gary Cahill to injury, all of whom had a genuine chance of making Roy’s starting line-up against France next week.

One to watch… Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: Since Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger opted to give ‘The Ox’ a run in their first team the winger-come-attacking-central-midfielder has developed at a frightening pace. The really impressive thing about him as a young player taking his first major steps into top level professional football is that he seems not only to be un-phased by the big occasion but that he appears inspired by such scenarios. If given the chance to impress I could see him having a similar impact to Wayne Rooney in Euro 2004.

Euros nostalgia: In 1996 England hosted the European Championships and they were denied a place in the final and quite possibly their first major tournament victory since 1966 by Germany who out-witted and out-nerved them in a penalty shoot-out. Gareth Southgate’s failed attempt to score from the spot will live painfully long in the memory for all England fans. Cue the following classic Pizza Hut advert…

Tournament prospects: Given the difficulty of their group some might argue that England would do well to make it into the last eight. If they were to progress through the group via a second placed finish then an intimidating tie against Spain could lie in wait in the quarters…

France:

The past fifteen or so years have seen the French become arguably one of the most maverick and most frustrating sides in international football game. Having won the World Cup in 1998 and the Euros in 2000 France looked set for an era of dominance but since then their major tournament success has been horribly inconsistent.

Benzema and Ribery

Benzema and Ribery are both magnificent players but have both struggled with inconsistency

In 2002 France made an embarrassing first-round exit when defending the World Cup, in 2004 they lost out in the quarter-finals when defending their European crown, in 2006 they defied most people’s expectations of them in reaching the final only to lose out on penalties, in 2008 they were again left embarrassed as they failed to get out of their group and worst of all in 2010 they collapsed into a state of mutiny and were again eliminated in the group stage.

This time around though some peace seems to have been brought to proceedings in the French camp and their squad is packed full of young and precocious talents and it is in attack where they look most exciting. They are likely to opt for Karim Benzema up front with the likes of Franck Ribery, Samir Nasri, Jeremy Menez and Hatem Ben Arfa likely to provide the support on the flanks. Each of the aforementioned players have on occasion failed to live up to the hype that has preceded them in both domestic and international football and each of them will be keen to prove their doubters wrong.

One to watch… Frank Ribery: There are several very exciting players in the French squad going into the Euros including many players in their infancy as international footballers but my ‘one to watch’ is Ribery who is arguably their greatest example of a player who has struggled to live up to his own billing on the biggest stages in world football. At times Ribery can look like the most threatening and technically able wide-man in world football but up until now he has too often had his threat negated by teams who have put thought into how to stop him and he, his club sides and the French national side have paid the price.

Euros nostalgia: France have twice won the tournament, their first triumph was in 1984 where UEFA President Michel Platini was their captain and then their second European Championship win came in 2000 courtesy of an extra-time winner from David Trezeguet.

Tournament prospects: As ever it is almost impossible to know how this tournament will go for the French. If their inexperienced players grasp their opportunities and adapt quickly to the requirements of major international football then they could well be set for a long run this summer but if not then another embarrassment could be on the cards. I think they will at very least get through the group and progress to the knock-out stages.

Sweden:

Sweden may not appear to have quite as good a squad as England or France heading into the Euros but it does contain some very experienced players. One of these veterans is Zlatan Ibrahimovic who as well as providing leadership and inspiration will also try and provide the flair, imagination and world-class conviction needed to mount a challenge towards progression from the group stages.

Ibrahimovic Sweden

Zlatan has become well renowned for epitomising the term ‘mercurial talent’

Other players who could have a big impact for Sweden this summer include Kim Kallstrom of Lyon, Sebastien Larsson of Sunderland, Johan Elmander of Galatasaray and Ola Toivonen of PSV each of whom have impressed in some of Europe’s top domestic leagues over the past few seasons whilst having featured regularly with the national side.

It isn’t only in the experience department where Sweden are looking strong either as they have named the likes of Rasmus Elm and Emir Bajrami in their squad, both of whom have impressed in the infancy of their club and international careers.

One to watch… Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Ibrahimovic is one of football’s more interesting characters as well as being one of the most talented players on the planet. He has enjoyed great success throughout his club career but he continues to be thought of by many as being overrated. The only way for him to prove his doubters wrong is for him to perform in a huge tournament in which the whole world will see him and appreciate him and the Euros provides him with a great opportunity to do so.

Euros nostalgia: Sweden’s best performance in the Euros came when they were the host nation in 1992. They performed strongly in the group stages on home turf and went through to the last four as group winners only to be knocked out by Germany at this stage. Their fellow Scandinavians, Denmark, were the surprise winners of the competition that year.

Tournament prospects: If France and England both perform to their potential then it is hard to see Sweden progressing, particularly as co-hosts Ukraine make up the group. However, both France and England have underachieved at times over the past decade so the Swede’s certainly do have a hope of making it through and into the knock-out stages.

Ukraine:

Co-hosts Ukraine look the weakest side in group D on paper but they will be banking on home advantage to help them spring a surprise and make it through to the last eight of the competition.

 Tymoschuk

The co-hosts will rely heavily on their experienced stalwarts like Tymoschuk

The vast majority of Ukraine’s squad play their football on home soil and as a result they will go into the competition as something of an unknown quantity as most people, including myself, are fairly ill-informed about the Ukranian leagues.

Though much of their squad will be relatively unknown to many, there are a few very familiar names present including legendary striker Andriy Shevchenko, former Liverpool forward Andriy Voronin and Bayern Munich’s hugely experienced holding-midfielder Anatoliy Tymoschuk.

One would assume that Shevchenko in particular could bow out of international football after this tournament on home soil and how he would love to sign off in style with a reminder of the old magic that once made him one of world football’s most celebrated front-men.

One to watch… Andriy Yarmolenko: The young Dynamo Kyiv prospect has already shown great versatility in his fledgling career as he has demonstrated an ability to switch seamlessly between playing as a striker and playing in midfield for both club and country. The 22 year-old already has a very impressive international record having scored eight goals in just twenty appearances.

Euros nostalgia: Since becoming an independent nation and football side Ukraine have never qualified for the European championships so the opportunity to host the tournament has provided them with a huge opportunity given that the hosts have an automatic right to qualification.

Tournament prospects: As I’ve mentioned, Ukraine definitely appear to have the weakest squad on paper but being the host nation can sometimes inspire greatness. Even some of football’s lesser sides have prospered when given such an advantage and Ukraine will hope to join the list but in reality they are more than likely to fall at the first hurdle.

A brief summary of Group D:

If England and France play to their potential then they should both progress to the knock-out stages. However, both Ukraine and Sweden possess a decent threat and the two favourites to move forwards from the group will have to be very watchful in order to avoid an upset.

England France football

England and France look like the favourites to progress from a tricky Group D

I am finding it hard to call who I think will top the group but I will go for France with England qualifying in second place. I think both Sweden and Ukraine will pick up at least a point in the group with Sweden to finish third and co-hosts Ukraine to struggle into last place.