AFTER almost a year of crippling uncertainty, we are now close enough to the Tokyo Olympic Games to dare to begin thinking about the actual sport.

Tomorrow marks 150 days  until the Opening Ceremony and despite the devastation the pandemic has caused, it seems the odds are now in favour of the event going ahead this summer. It may be in an altered form, but nevertheless, my money is on it happening.

So, with Team GB having such phenomenal success in recent times, what are their chances of continuing that run in Japan?

At London 2012, GB finished third in the medal table with 65 medals, 29 of which were gold. 

Four years later, in Rio, GB did something unheard of – they eclipsed their home Games’ performance by finishing second in the table, winning 67 medals, 27 of which were gold.

As 2019 came to a close, there were murmurings from UK Sport they were confident the team would surpass the impressive haul from Rio.

However, just weeks after that, Gracenote, a reputable analysis company, released their projection that GB would drop to sixth in the medal table in Tokyo, winning only 42 medals, with less success in gymnastics, rowing and track cycling primarily responsible for that fall.

A year on from those initial forecasts, predictions are significantly harder to make.

The chaos to the sporting calendar caused by the pandemic means there will not be a single athlete in Tokyo who has not had their preparation disrupted and no one is clear what impact the past 12 months will have.

From a British perspective, a number of the usual suspects are likely to back up previous medal-winning performances.

Adam Peaty in the pool, Laura Kenny in the velodrome, Mo Farah on the track, triathlete Alistair Brownlee and taekwondo player Jade Jones are all likely to be challenging for podium places once again, while despite Gracenote’s assertion that rowing and track cycling success would be down, GB remains heavy favourite to pick up a good few medals in these sports.

While it is just as tricky to predict Scottish success, the signs are looking good.

Laura Muir has established herself as one of the best middle-distance runners in the world over the past few years and while claiming her first global major championship medal will be an almighty task, she certainly has it within her grasp.

Her training partner, Jemma Reekie, has forced her way into the conversation in the 800m, while Jake Wightman is in excellent form and has proven himself to be a big-race performer.

In the pool, Duncan Scott could well add individual medals to his relay haul from Rio, while Grace Reid is in with a real shout of a diving medal.

Shooter Seonaid McIntosh is world No.1, track cyclists Katie Archibald, Neah Evans and Jack Carlin are all looking strong, while a number of Scotland’s hockey players are decent bets to make the final squad, with the women in particular a good bet to get on to the podium for the third consecutive Olympics. 

As always, Scots will have a presence in the rowing team as well as the sailing team, and judoka Sally Conway has managed to improve year on year since winning bronze in Rio, which bodes well.

Medal predictions are always something of a lottery; there are so many variables, with countless things needing to go right on the day for any individual to end up with  silverware. But what makes the Olympics so special is the unpredictability of it.

In a normal year, handling the pressure of being at the biggest sporting event in the world is not easy, and that task has been made even harder with the crazy year-and-a-half that will have preceded these Games.

However, as much as it’s possible to make forecasts, things are looking bright for both Team GB and the Scottish athletes within it. 

So finally, we might have something to look forward to.


THE immediate aftermath of Serena Williams’ loss to Naomi Osaka in the Australian Open semi-finals three days ago was notable, with the American’s departure from the court  particularly poignant. 

She left Rod Laver Arena after her defeat to Osaka with her hand over her heart, pausing to acknowledge the crowd, before undertaking a short but tearful press conference.

Clearly her retirement isn’t too far away. With Williams just one major title short of Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slams, it seems certain she will continue for the remainder of this season.

But beyond that, things are far less certain. She will turn 40 in September and so it is not a stretch to imagine she has mapped out a plan into retirement.

In her press conference in Melbourne, she remarked that even were she to be thinking of hanging up her racket, she would not tell anyone ahead of time. 

So it is likely we will not know when Serena’s last match is until it has happened. 

After two decades of watching her dominate the women’s game, breaking records left, right and centre, the thought that the coming months might be the last time we see her compete will make me appreciate her just that little bit more.