Team GB chief hails ‘greatest achievement in British Olympic history’

Mark England says fact team’s competitors delivered 65 medals in Tokyo ‘absolutely extraordinary’

Team GB’s trailblazing performance in Tokyo has been hailed as “the greatest achievement in British Olympic history” after the young team matched the tally of medals from London 2012 on the final day.

With Jason Kenny successfully defending his keirin title to become the first Briton to win seven Olympic gold medals, and boxer Lauren Price also winning middleweight gold, the British team ended fourth in the medal table with 65 overall – 22 of them gold.

While that was behind the United States, who finished top with 39 gold medals, with China on 38 and Japan on 27, Team GB’s chef de mission, Mark England, said it still amounted to Britain’s finest hour given the problems caused by the Covid pandemic and the inexperience of the team.

“Against all odds, it is, I think, the greatest achievement in British Olympic history,” he said. “It has been the miracle of Tokyo.”

England also revealed that Team GB had faced numerous challenges, including four false Covid positives during the Games. One of those was in a team sport and would have forced the whole squad to self-isolate given the strict rules surrounding close contacts.

“For this team to deliver 65 medals is absolutely extraordinary,” he added. “The team has made history on the back of the most complex, challenging and most difficult environments that we will ever face, certainly in my lifetime. And I can say that because I’ve been involved in five or six summer Games.”

The UK Sport chair, Katherine Grainger, also praised GB’s “team of trailblazers” for forging new ground on and off the field of play.

Composite image of Team GB medallists from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, with 22 gold medals, 21 silvers and 22 bronzes.
Composite image of Team GB medallists from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, with 22 gold medals, 21 silvers and 22 bronzes. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA

“I really think they have just set new standards in so many different ways, and they have truly burned their name into Olympic history in ways that we didn’t expect,” said Grainger, a five-time medallist and one of the most well-regarded figures in British sport.

“We had Jason Kenny, our most decorated Olympian. Charlotte Dujardin and Laura Kenny as our most decorated female Olympians as well. We’ve had our most successful swimming team ever. We’ve had our most successful boxing team in a century. We have just had these incredible moments.

“But beyond that, we’ve got a lot of firsts,” she added. “We’ve had our first medals in skateboarding, BMX and female weightlifting. We have had a lot of debutantes in these Games and there’s always a question of ‘can you deliver in your first games?’ and they have. And we’ve also had seasoned campaigners, such as Laura Muir and Tom Daley, who have finally made their dreams come true for themselves.”

Grainger also said how proud she had been of Team GB athletes for speaking out about mental health, or trying to do more for the environment, and said they were role models that should not only be thought about once every four years during an Olympics.

“This team is actually trailblazing as they’ve gone above and beyond their own sport in so many ways,” she said. “We’ve got the most memorable role models who speak out on issues that are very close to their heart, who are powerful on the field of play, but equally powerfully off the field of play.

“We have Adam Peaty speaking out about mental health. We’ve got Tom Daley speaking about LGBTQ issues. We’ve Alice Dearing in the water, talking about inclusion and diversity. And Hannah Mills talking about sustainability. These athletes are more than just athletes, they’re wonderful people who are incredible examples to the rest of us. And I think that’s why they’ll trailblaze in all different ways and will continue to do so for a long time.”

Boris Johnson said Team GB “have shown us the very best of this country – demonstrating our sportsmanship, hard work and determination”. His words were echoed by the Labour leader Keir Starmer, who told the Olympians: “We cannot thank you enough for all the joy the last 17 days of sport have brought us through the darkness of the last 17 months.”

England pointed out that not only was this the second-most successful overseas Olympics after Rio 2016, but Team GB also won medals across 18 sports – more than any other country.

Once again it was the Kennys who were the centre of attention on the final day of action in Tokyo, with Jason sprinting clear with three laps remaining to claim victory in the kierin and his ninth Olympic medal overall. His wife, Laura, finished sixth in her bid for a third successive omnium title. She leaves the Games as the only British woman to have won golds in three successive Olympics, having stormed to gold in the madison on Friday alongside Katie Archibald. Jason and Laura also each won silvers in team events earlier in the week.

Britain’s final medal of these Games was won by Price, who outclassed Li Qian to win middleweight gold with a unanimous decision.

England said Team GB would only get better for the Paris Olympics in three years’ time. “We have had 16 fourth places in Tokyo,” he said. “This is a very young team. It’s a very talented team. And it’s a team that I’m absolutely confident will go to Paris in less than three years and do exceptionally well.”


Sean Ingle in Tokyo

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Mohamed Sbihi to make history as Team GB’s first Muslim Olympic flagbearer
Britain's gold medal-winning rower will be joined by sailor Hannah Mills at Friday’s opening ceremony in Tokyo

Sean Ingle in Tokyo

22, Jul, 2021 @5:00 AM

Article image
Tom Daley ‘incredibly proud to say I am gay and an Olympic champion’
Tom Daley sends message to inspire LGBT community after finally securing a gold medal with Matty Lee in his fourth Games

Barney Ronay at Tokyo Aquatics Centre

26, Jul, 2021 @10:30 AM

Article image
Team GB make best start to an Olympic Games in modern times
Four golds in four days plus further successes in the pool, gym, taekwondo, triathlon and dressage take overall medal tally to 13

Sean Ingle in Tokyo

27, Jul, 2021 @7:16 PM

Article image
Team GB’s gymnasts hail ‘incredible’ first Olympic team medal since 1928
Britain’s bronze medal capped an astonishing comeback in the team finals, described by Jennifer Gadirova as ‘more than a dream come true’

Tumaini Carayol at Ariake Gymnastics Centre

27, Jul, 2021 @5:59 PM

Article image
Team GB rise to fourth in Olympic medal table after flurry of success
Laura Kenny the first British female Olympian to take gold at three consecutive Games as Kate French wins modern pentathlon

Alexandra Topping

06, Aug, 2021 @4:45 PM

Article image
Team GB eclipsed by Denmark’s Olympic record in men’s team pursuit
Denmark broke the Olympic men’s team pursuit record set by Britain in 2016 as Britain’s men qualified in fourth while the women were second fastest behind Germany

Kieran Pender at the Izu Velodrome

02, Aug, 2021 @12:04 PM

Article image
‘They’re not treating us as small men’: Team GB women get the right bras
Female Olympic athletes have been fitted with individually designed sports bras to enhance performance

Linda Geddes Science correspondent

18, Jun, 2021 @1:30 PM

Article image
‘Brutal but effective’: lottery funding secures 100 golds for Team GB
Numbers 101 and 102 soon follow, underlining huge change in fortunes since single gold at Atlanta in 1996

Alexandra Topping

26, Jul, 2021 @3:56 PM

Article image
Team GB shifts Olympic focus from superpower to more human approach | Sean Ingle
The relentless drive for more medals has been replaced by a more human message in Tokyo: it is a welcome change

Sean Ingle in Tokyo

23, Jul, 2021 @1:35 PM

Article image
Porridge, Jenga and 45,000 teabags: Team GB’s Olympic luggage revealed
A ship carrying provisions will soon dock in Japan to power a Team GB ‘on course to qualify more women than men’

Exclusive by Sean Ingle

13, Apr, 2021 @9:00 PM