Team GB surpass unofficial medal target as Tokyo 2020 becomes second most successful foreign Olympics

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Bronze medalist Holly Bradshaw of Great Britain celebrates after the Women's Pole Vault Final during the Athletics events of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan, 05 August 2021. Olympic Games 2020 Athletics, Tokyo, Japan - DIEGO AZUBEL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Bronze medalist Holly Bradshaw of Great Britain celebrates after the Women's Pole Vault Final during the Athletics events of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan, 05 August 2021. Olympic Games 2020 Athletics, Tokyo, Japan - DIEGO AZUBEL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Great Britain on Thursday night surpassed its unofficial Olympic medals target as Tokyo 2020 became the team's second most successful Games on foreign soil.

With three days of competition still to come, a gold and two bronzes took Team GB to 51 medals - matching the haul at Beijing 2008.

However, another two medals are now guaranteed in the men's and women's boxing to ensure these Games will better the count in China.

Challenging Britain's highest modern haul of 67 medals at Rio 2016 appears unlikely, but senior sporting officials and Government are ready to declare efforts an unmitigated success. "We can look back on these Games with some pride given the preparations were in the middle of a global pandemic," said one senior source in the Team GB camp.

Of the medals already secured, it is the North West that has proven the Team GB powerhouse - contributing 15 athletes who have made the podium at least once. The South East has contributed 10, Yorkshire and the Humber eight, but the North East - home to the likes of Sir Brendan Foster and Steve Cram - is no longer a hotbed of talent, having contributed just one medal.

The squad of 375 in Japan is one of the youngest in modern history and preparations have been disrupted by the nation spending longer in lockdown than some rival nations. "This is a young squad and the athletes have done a fantastic job in the most difficult circumstances imaginable," the source added.

For the first time, Britain has fielded more women here than men. With 30 female medallists already, Nigel Huddleston, the sports minister who has been in Tokyo this week, hailed a landmark for women's sport. "It's one of the great things about these Games - that there are more women than male athletes," he said. "That was really quite momentous. And people like [swimmer] Matt Richards and [weightlifter] Emily Campbell - there are lots of new stars emerging, and they are role models."

Across the sports, swimming, sailing and equestrian have improved on their numbers from Rio, but athletics, cycling and rowing could all finish the Games significantly lower than 2016.

On day 13 in Tokyo, Matt Walls clinched Britain's first gold in the velodrome, Holly Bradshaw took Britain's first-ever bronze in the pole vault and Liam Heath also came in third in the 200m kayak while attempting to defend his 2016 crown. Walls, who tested positive for Covid-19 in March, secured the team's 16th gold, the same number as the Russia's controversial team.

To ensure Britain will pass the Beijing benchmark by at least two medals, boxer Galal Yafai won a thrilling semi-final to reach the gold-medal match in the 52kg flyweight division. Lauren Price had also guaranteed herself at least a bronze in the women's middleweight.

Senior figures within Team GB had privately set beating Beijing as the measure of success at the Games, although Chef de Mission Mark England said last month that no targets would be announced due to the problems caused in preparation by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Prior to the pandemic, UK Sport, the Government agency which has provided £345 million worth of Tokyo 2020 funding, set a range of 54 to 92. But, on the eve of the Games, chief executive Sally Munday said the funding body was taking a more "holistic" approach, with a revised range of between 45 and 70.

The lack of available data from a locked-down sporting calendar meant predictions much harder than in previous cycles.

"We haven’t put a medal target on it - and we won’t," England had said. Team GB won a record 67 medals at Rio 2016, including 27 gold, to finish second on the overall table behind the United States. The host country also finished third at London in 2012 with 65 medals, including 29 golds.

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