Tokyo Olympics: Who are the Team GB medal hopes you've never heard of?


The Olympic Games is an opportunity for athletes to become household names and a dazzling, medal-winning performance can completely transform your career.

Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Max Whitlock and Laura Kenny have all become sporting success stories because their Olympic performances captivated the entire nation.

The delayed Tokyo 2020 Games is finally on the horizon and will provide the latest opportunity for others to follow in their footsteps.

Everybody is hopeful that Dina Asher-Smith and Adam Peaty can deliver the gold medals that they are capable of. But who are some of the unknown athletes hoping to catapult themselves into stardom in Japan? 

Here, Sportsmail has picked out some largely unknown Team GB athletes who all have a chance of winning a medal in Tokyo this summer.

Tokyo 2020 gets underway on July 23 with plenty of British athletes hoping to strike gold

Tokyo 2020 gets underway on July 23 with plenty of British athletes hoping to strike gold

Jessica Ennis-Hill became an overnight star when she won heptathlon gold at London 2012

Jessica Ennis-Hill became an overnight star when she won heptathlon gold at London 2012

Kimberley Woods – Canoe Slalom

The 25-year-old from Rugby, Warwickshire has won plenty of world and European titles during her career but she will be making her Olympic debut this summer. 

Woods chose to take up canoeing after watching footage of her aunt, Diane Woods, who won silver at the 1994 World Junior Championships.

Her training for Tokyo 2020 has not been disrupted by Covid too bad but she only competed for the first time since October 2019 at the European Championships in Ivrea earlier this month.

She will be competing in the K1 canoe slalom class in Tokyo and took home team gold in that discipline in Ivrea. She also finished sixth in the C1 solo event and second in the C1 team race.  

Kimberley Woods comes into Tokyo 2020 on the back of a strong European Championships

Kimberley Woods comes into Tokyo 2020 on the back of a strong European Championships

Callum Hawkins – Athletics

The Scot will be competing in the men’s marathon in Tokyo and will want to improve on his ninth-place finish on his Olympic debut at Rio 2016.

He finished just over three minutes behind gold medallist Eliud Kipchoge and just under two minutes behind the bronze medallist so that has got to be the goal.

Hawkins has continued to make improvements though and was narrowly beaten into fourth place at the 2019 World Championships in Doha.

He was just six seconds from a medal in Qatar back then and that will have filled him with hope that he can break into the top three in Japan. 

Callum Hawkins will want to improve on his ninth-place finish on his Olympic debut at Rio 2016

Callum Hawkins will want to improve on his ninth-place finish on his Olympic debut at Rio 2016

Matt Coward-Holley – Shooting

Coward-Holley may be another Olympic rookie for Team GB but he has already proven his ability on the big stage.

He became Britain’s first-ever world champion in Olympic trap shooting in Lonato del Garda, Italy back in 2019.

The 26-year-old is currently ranked world number three in Olympic trap, according to the International Shooting Sport Federation’s rankings.

Matt Coward-Holley became Britain's first world champion in Olympic trap shooting in 2019

Matt Coward-Holley became Britain’s first world champion in Olympic trap shooting in 2019

Elliot Hanson – Sailing

After a knee injury and ankle surgery threatened to derail his promising career, Hanson looks to be approaching his best form going into Tokyo 2020.

The 27-year-old will be competing in the men’s Laser class and claimed fifth place at the 2020 World Championships in Australia, missing out on the top three by the finest of margins.

He also won gold at the 2018 World Cup Series in Enoshima – the same venue that will be in used in Tokyo – and won European gold in Gdansk in October 2020. 

Hanson is one of six debutants in the Team GB sailing team that is full of promise.

Elliot Hanson won at the 2018 World Cup Series in Enoshima - the venue to be used in Tokyo

Elliot Hanson won at the 2018 World Cup Series in Enoshima – the venue to be used in Tokyo

Luke Greenbank – Swimming 

The backstroke specialist won two World Championship medals in Gwangju in 2019, winning gold in the 4x100m medley relay and bronze in the 200m backstroke. 

He’s also won Commonwealth Games silver and European Games gold and there is a lot of excitement going into his Olympic debut.

Just two months ago, Greenbank broke a 10-year record by posting a British-best time of 1:55.34 in the men’s 200m backstroke at the British Swimming Invitation Meet.

At the time it was the fastest 200m backstroke time in the world this year and has fuelled hope that he can deliver a similar performance for a gold medal in Tokyo.

Luke Greenbank broke a 10-year record with a British-best time in the men's 200m backstroke

Luke Greenbank broke a 10-year record with a British-best time in the men’s 200m backstroke

Marcus Mepstead – Fencing 

Mepstead is Britain’s sole competitor in fencing at Tokyo 2020 and will be in action in the men’s individual foil.

A two-time Olympian, Mepstead also competed at Rio 2016 and helped Team GB to a sixth-place finish in the team event.

Since then, Mepstead has risen through the world rankings and currently sits 14th in the world.

He has proven himself on the biggest stage and took the silver medal at the 2019 World Championships in Budapest. 

Marcus Mepstead is Britain's sole competitor in fencing at Tokyo 2020 but is 14th in the world

Marcus Mepstead is Britain’s sole competitor in fencing at Tokyo 2020 but is 14th in the world

Molly Renshaw – Swimming

Staying in the pool now and Renshaw is another definite medal hope for Team GB in Tokyo.

The English breaststroke swimmer won 200m World Championship gold back in 2016 and made the final at Rio 2016 but finished sixth, less than 0.5 seconds behind bronze.

Now going into her second Olympics, Renshaw will be hopeful she can go one better and break into the top three.

At the recent British Swimming Invitation Meet she touched the wall just seven-tenths off a new national record, showing she is in good form.

Molly Renshaw won 200m World Championship gold in 2016 and made the final at Rio 2016

Molly Renshaw won 200m World Championship gold in 2016 and made the final at Rio 2016

Vicky Holland – Triathlon

While much of Britain’s attention in the triathlon has been on the Brownlee brothers in recent years, Holland has enjoyed plenty of success of her own.

She became Britain’s first female Olympic medallist in triathlon when securing the bronze medal at Rio 2016.

The 2018 world champion also competed at London 2012 but finished in 26th place.

Holland has racked up plenty of World Triathlon Series wins in her career, winning on the Gold Coast, Montreal, Edmonton and Leeds in 2018.

Vicky Holland became Britain’s first female Olympic medallist in triathlon with bronze in Rio

Vicky Holland became Britain’s first female Olympic medallist in triathlon with bronze in Rio

Chris Thompson – Athletics

Thompson’s euphoric celebrations after winning the British marathon trials in March showed how much it meant for him to return to the international stage.

Remarkably, Thompson will line up in Tokyo this summer 23 years after competing for Britain for the first time – he ran in the 3000m steeplechase in the World Junior Championships in 1998.

His career has been plagued by injury and he admits he has come close to retiring ‘countless times’. Thompson raced in the 10,000m at London 2012 but came 25th. 

The 40-year-old, who also recently became a father for the first time, won his sole international medal in the 10,000m behind Mo Farah at the 2010 European Championships in Barcelona, winning silver.

Chris Thompson, 40, will compete at Tokyo 2020 after winning the British marathon trials

Chris Thompson, 40, will compete at Tokyo 2020 after winning the British marathon trials

Seonaid McIntosh – Shooting

Another shooter that Brits will want to keep a close eye on is former world champion McIntosh.

The Scot won gold in the world 50m rifle prone event at the 2018 World Championships in Changwon. 

McIntosh, 25, is also a three-time European champion and double Commonwealth Games bronze medallist. 

She is considered by many to be Britain’s most successful female rifle shooter of all time and will be desperate to add Olympic gold to her achievements this summer.

Seonaid McIntosh is considered Great Britain’s most successful female rifle shooter of all time

Seonaid McIntosh is considered Great Britain’s most successful female rifle shooter of all time

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