Britain's success was in getting golds
One month ago, I noted that Britain were inevitably going to be successful. We were in a solid fourth place, only one medal clear of Australia but three gold medals clear of fifth, in the 2008 Olympics and had only grown stronger and more able since then. I predicted an increase from 47 medals to over 70, with 19 golds taking the top spot.
Yet, despite smashing that golden figure completely, we didn't reach the expected increase in overall medals. We certainly did well - we had an extra 18 medals in total - but lost out here and there. With so much pressure on our athletes, it's no surprise; either our athletes were spurred on to victory against the odds (as with Andy Murray, to pick one example), or our favourites crumbled under pressure to drop below the medals completely (as with Mark Cavendish, whose potential gold ended as a 29th position).
Even in the final event, this win-or-nothing mentality could be seen. Samantha Murray, who had previously won a bronze medal, pushed far beyond her ability to take the silver medal from fourth place. Her teammate, Mhairi Spence, who was the world champion going into the event, started in a decent fourteenth place (of 36) but could only make a final twenty-first position. For a potential gold-medal-winner, you'd expect an upward movement in the final round.
It seems that the world media not only treat gold medals as the only thing of true importance (as seen by ranking the countries by gold medal tally instead of total medal figures), but also see anyone in 4th or below as a failure, regardless of circumstance. This has particularly been noted in Australia, where the world's 52nd largest country received the seventh largest number of medals yet remains lambasted for the 'lack of effort'. And only the medal result counts, not the number of finalists, or the number of broken world records.
But where did we lose out? Well, broadly speaking (full breakdown at the end), our problems were two-fold: firstly, whilst some silvers and bronzes were upgraded to gold, we failed to keep a lot of the fringe event bronzes or grab anything massively unexpected. Secondly, we lost a total of eight medals (from that predicted) from the athletics and swimming events. The biggest improvement in medals came from the medium-sized events, where our sailing, boxing, equestrian and canoeing teams all exceeded expectations.
But before you jump in and complain that I'm bringing down our massive success (and it is massive), I will take a look forward. Our cyclists and rowers should continue to dominate their respective sports, and our downward swing in swimming and athletics should be bolstered by the amount of youth talent that we have coming through. The boost in our moderate scorers should hold true for at least another Olympics. And at the bottom end, impressive results in a number of events put us in good stead for 2016. As long as we continue to develop our younger athletes, and we have a good infrastructure to do so, we should be able to finish in a similar position to this Olympics, with similar-sized Germany, Italy and France trailing.
We may not have as many gold medals next time (and the number for 2016's Team GB to aim for is, realistically, beating the nineteen of Beijing), but I remain confident that we are developing more athletes in a wider variety of events than ever before, and that Brazil's Olympics will see another international success for our sterling athletes.
Special thanks must be due, though, to our amazing gold medallists (in order of winning): Helen Glover, Heather Stanning, Bradley Wiggins, Tim Baillie, Etienne Stott, Peter Wilson, Katherine Grainger, Anna Watkins, Philip Hindes, Jason Kenny, Chris Hoy, Ed Clancy, Geraint Thomas, Steven Burke, Peter Kennaugh, Dani King, Laura Trott, Joanna Rowsell, Scott Brash, Nick Skelton, Ben Maher, Peter Charles, Victoria Pendleton, Pete Reed, Andy Triggs Hodge, Tom James, Alex Gregory, Sophie Hosking, Katherine Copeland, Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford, Mo Farah, Ben Ainslie, Andy Murray, Alistair Brownlee, Laura Bechtolsheimer, Carl Hester, Charlotte Dujardin, Nicola Adams, Jade Jones, Ed McKeever, Luke Campbell and Anthony Joshua.
Where did we miss out on those bronze medals?
Big scorers: Cycling saw twelve medals (including eight golds) to my predicted eleven; six athletics medals (albeit including four golds) fell short of my anticipated ten (predicting two golds); eight predicted medals in swimming/diving turned out to only be four, and in the rowing, eight were predicted to the final tally of nine. Losing out on swimming and athletics medals cost us eight medals, showing the importance of the heavy-weight events' sizes.
Moderate scorers: Six predicted in sailing became five; five each in boxing and equestrian were both perfect in accuracy (with more golds than expected); four anticipated medals in canoeing turned out to provide four - though, as with all of these medium scoring events, the total was right and a number of expected bronzes turned out to be golds.
Lower scorers: Three each predicted in gymnastics and taekwondo gained us six between them, as the expected six medals between triathlon, pentathlon and tennis provided us with five. The numbers, again, were broadly good, though Andy Murray upped his game in both events from the predicted bronze medal.
Low and no scorers: Expecting one medal, and a total of six medals, in hockey, archery, badminton, football, judo and shooting (gaining an actual total of four) and expecting no medals in handball, volleyball, water polo, fencing, weightlifting, basketball, table tennis or wrestling (and indeed gaining none), these fringe elements were sorely lacking in reaching those hopeful medals - and none sadder to miss out on in my eyes than the women's football team (who lost to a team similar in ability to themselves).