Cyclist Matt Walls struck gold today as Team GB raced past 50 medals in Tokyo to guarantee our second-best foreign Olympics ever.
Holly Bradshaw’s pole vault bronze, our first ever medal in the sport, and a bronze for kayaker Liam Heath took the tally to 51, including 16 gold and 18 silver.
And with two boxing medals guaranteed thanks to a semi-final for Lauren Price and a final for Galal Yafai we are set to reach at least 53, with three days to go.
The impressive total beats the 51 won in Beijing in 2008, our most successful games abroad before the 67 at Rio 2016.
It leaves us sixth in the Tokyo medals table, behind China, USA, Japan, Australia and the Russian Olympic Committee.
The haul means they have comfortably passed the bottom end of our medal target range of 45-70 set by UK Sport.
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“We can look back on these Games with some pride given the preparations were in the middle of a global pandemic,” said a Team GB insider.
“This is a young squad and the athletes have done a fantastic job in the most difficult circumstances imaginable.”
Matt, 23, from Oldham, Gtr Manchester rode smartly through the four-part omnium to beat New Zealand’s Campbell Stewart by a 24-point margin.
Even testing positive for Covid-19 in March, which hampered his training, couldn’t knock him off course.
“It’s been a hard day,” he said after clinching victory. “I came into that points race with a bit of a lead which was nice, it gave me a bit of breathing room.”
Matt, who’s Instagram account proudly has a picture of him as a boy with hero Chris Hoy, thanked his parents, Larry and Lorraine, who travelled “around the country” with him as he entered events. “There’s no chance I’d be here without them,” he said. It is the first time Team GB have won the men’s omnium – Ed Clancy took bronze at London 2012 and Mark Cavendish silver at Rio 2016.
Laura Kenny has won the women’s event twice and goes for the hat-trick on Sunday. Holly, 29, of Preston, was filled with pride after her historic pole vault bronze.
“This is what I’ve worked for through my whole career,” she said.
“I’m proud of myself for sticking with it. I knew I could get it one day.”
She added: “What a competition. We’ve worked so hard, my family, my coach, my husband all stuck with me.”
On the water, Liam became our most successful kayaker of all time as he added a fourth Olympic medal to his collection in the 200m sprint.
It followed his K1 200m gold in Rio, K2 200m silver at London 2012 and K2 200m bronze in 2016.
“To win a medal at a third Games, it’s hard to put it into words,” he said.
“Each one is an incredible achievement in their own way, they represent the journey you take as an athlete.
He put it all down to years of gruelling training, some of which makes “you feel very sick very quickly.”
Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)
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But he added the pain was all worth it “because you feel the benefits later on.” He paid tribute to wife Emma –who organised a viewing of the race with his parents Lawrence and Linda, and pals in Guildford, Surrey. praising for her “incredible support”, and gave a shout-out to daughter Sarah Rose, three.
Our boxers are guaranteed six medals – their best haul since the 1920 Games in Antwerp. But they are yet to take gold, which Yafai will do if he beats Carlo Paalam tomorrow.
Team GB’s women also spoke of their pride at being part of our biggest ever female contingent – and outnumbering the men.
A total of 31 have now won medals. And there could be more to come in the women’s 4×100 relay tonight after Dina Asher-Smith returned from injury to help the team set a national record while finishing ahead of the USA and a below-strength Jamaica in 41.55 seconds.
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Dina, who tore her hamstring in July, pulled out of the 200m after failing to make the individual 100m final.
But heaping praise on relay teammates Asha Philip, Imani-Lara Lansiquot and Daryll Neita she said: “There was never any doubt in my mind that I’d be lining up here today.
“We got a bronze in Rio. These ladies are in great shape.”
Bryony Page, 30, who in 2016 became the first British trampolinist to win Gold, took a bronze here.
And she and teammate Laura Gallagher, 32, of Bridgwater, Somerset, spoke about the support of being in a team with more women than men.
“Rio was a fantastic experience. I get quite emotional when I think about it,” said Bryon, from Crewe, Cheshire.
“But the build up to these has made them very special.”
Lauren added: “I have noticed that they are looking much more at female health and issues like avoiding long term injuries.
“It has been made a lot easier for women to get personal support and that has made a big difference to all athletes in every sport.”
Sports minister Nigel Huddleston also paid tribute to our female stars. “One of the great things about these Games is that there are more women than male athletes,” he said.
“And with the likes of swimmer Matt Richards and weightlifter Emily Campbell, there are new stars emerging, and they are role models.’
The North West has provided more Olympic medallists than any other region of Great Britain – beating all-conquering Yorkshire into second place.
Team GB’s athletes born in England account for three quarters (288) of this year’s 376-strong team.
A total of 55 English Olympians have come out of at least one event with a place on the podium.
Out of England’s nine regions, the North West has seen the most medallists so far in this Games, with 15 athletes born there.
Getty Images for The National Lo)
Greater Manchester is the most common place for the medallist to be born.
These include Bury swimmer and double gold medallist James Guy, and the most recent medallists – Wigan’s Keely Hodgkinson, who won a silver in the 800m track, cyclist Matt Walls and pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw.
Not far behind with eight medal winners was Yorkshire, including diver Matty Lee and triathletes Jonny Brownlee and Jess Learmonth.
In 2012, Yorkshire athletes brought seven gold, two silver and three bronze medals home.
That would have placed the county, and its population of 5.3m, higher up the table than countries such as Jamaica, Spain, Brazil and South Africa.
Four of West Yorkshire’s five athletes were born in Leeds, making it the single city with the most medallists.
Olympic medalists by region of their birth (Individual athletes making the podium, including in team events, at least once): North West: 15; South East: 11; Yorkshire and The Humber: 8; London: 7; East of England: 7; South West: 5; West Midlands: 5; East Midlands: 3; North East: 1