With Rio 2016 just around the corner, it is hard not to reflect back to the London 2012 Olympics athletics programme which provided us with many magical moments which included eleven Olympic records and four world records.
FOX Sports athletics analyst, Ian Deeth, watched every minute of the action and listed his top six performances from the field (in no particular order). Can any of these athletes reclaim their Olympic titles in Rio or will new stars emerge?
1. Renaud Lavillenie (France) – Pole Vault
After winning the IAAF World Indoor Championships and an excellent Diamond League season, Renaud Lavillenie entered London 2012 as the firm favourite for gold. However, as the competition entered its latter stages, he found himself in the bronze medal position, behind German duo Bjorn Otto and Raphael Holzdeppe. After hitting the bar on his first attempt at 5.91m, a height both his German competitors had cleared, Lavillenie took a risk and raised the bar to 5.97m, which he also failed to clear. With one attempt remaining, the Frenchman soared cleanly over the bar to set a new Olympic record. When Otto and Holzdeppe failed to match this height, he was crowned Olympic champion.
Since London 2012, Lavillenie has failed to add the IAAF World Outdoor title to his impressive CV. Can he regain his Olympic crown in Rio?
2. Greg Rutherford (Great Britain)- Long Jump
After equalling the British record with a leap of 8.35m to lead the long jump world rankings, Greg Rutherford entered London 2012 as a medal contender in a season where not one athlete had really stood out. After reaching the final, Rutherford took pole position in the second round with a jump of 8.21m and then later extended his lead in the fourth with 8.31m. This would prove decisive as Rutherford claimed his first world title. In the space of just an hour, fellow Brit’s Jessica Ennis (Heptathlon) and Mo Farah (10, 000m) also won gold medals, to create a momentous night for the host nation, which would go down in history as, ‘Super Saturday’.
Since winning in London, Rutherford has become double European, Commonwealth and world champion. Can he perform yet again on the big stage and retain his Olympic title?
3. Robert Harting (Germany) – Discus
Reigning world and European champion Robert Harting from Germany, went into the London 2012 Games as firm favourite and was one of only two men that season to throw over 70m. In one of the closest contests at the Games, Harting’s throw of 68.27m gave him a narrow victory over Iran’s Eshan Haddadi. Although many predicted the German would win, no-one was ready for how Harding would celebrate. After ripping off his shirt ‘Hulk Hogan Style,’ Harting began to sprint down the home straight which was set up for the women’s 100m hurdles, bounding beautifully over the 2.75ft barriers, with his national flag draped over his shoulders.
Harting will face stern opposition from his own family at Rio as younger sibling Christoph looks to kept the Olympic title in the family but under a different name. However, Piotr Malachowski from Poland will enter the discus as favourite.
4. Valerie Adams (New Zealand) – Shot Putt
Defending the title she won in Beijing four years earlier, Valerie Adams was denied her moment of glory on top of the podium in London when she initially finished in second position to Nadzeya Ostapchuk from Belarus. However, seven days later, Ostapchuk was stripped of her title as it emerged that she had tested positive for the anabolic agent methenolone and Adams was rightfully upgraded to gold. Shockingly, the bronze medalist from the Games, Russia’s Evgeniia, would also fail a drugs test, meaning the New Zealander was the only clean athlete on the podium.
Adams has been a dominant force in the shot for the last 10 years and at one stage had won 56 competitions straight. She will need to be in top form in Rio to claim a third straight Olympic title as she will face fierce opposition from China’s Lijiao Gong, who leads the IAAF world rankings.
5. Brittney Reese (USA) – Long Jump
In 2012 America’s Brittney Reese was the firm favourite going into London and had an outstanding record in recent major championships, winning gold at the last two indoor and last two outdoor IAAF World Championships. She also had recorded the furthest jump in the world that year with a leap of 7.15m. In an epic night for U.S. track and field, Reese flew out to a distance of 7.12m, winning by just 5cm, to become the first American woman to win a long jump title since Jackie Joyner-Kersee at the 1988 Seoul Games. Within the same 30-minute period Aries Merritt won the 110 metres men’s title and Allyson Felix claimed victory on the women’s 200m, the first of what we be a total of three golds for her at London 2012.
Brittney Reese’s leap of 7:31m at the U.S. trials was the best in this event for 12 years and she will be confident of retaining her Olympic title in Rio.
6. Keshorn Walcott (Trinidad and Tobago) – Javelin Throw
Walcott began 2012 by becoming the world junior champion in Barcelona but was not considered a medal contender at London. On the night of the final, many of the event’s leading contenders, such as two-time reigning Olympic champion Andreas Thorkildsen, failed to adjust to the gusty winds in the stadium and the Trinidad and Tobago athlete threw a personal best in the first round to take a surprise lead. He extended this margin with his next throw, which at 84.58m, ended up being the winning distance. With this, he became the first black male athlete to win a gold medal in a throwing event in the history of the Games.
Walcott will have to produce something special to make the podium in Rio, as he lies in ninth position in the world rankings. Germany’s Thomas Rohler will line up as favourite and is the only man to throw in excess of 90m in 2016.