Five years ago in Rio, Team GB defied all prior expectation by claiming a staggering 67 medals – 27 of which were gold – as they finished behind only the United States in their most successful Games since 1908.
Now, after a year-long delay due to the outbreak of coronavirus, the Olympics are set to return, with the Tokyo Olympics getting underway this week.
Indeed, this year’s spectacle will be like none other in history, with rising coronavirus cases and Tokyo in a fourth state of emergency meaning fans are prohibited from the venues.
Team GB enjoyed a stunning Olympic Games in Rio 2016, finishing second behind only USA
A mass of uncertainty remains, with a recent survey published by the Asahi newspaper revealing that two-thirds of people in Japan do not believe the country can host a safe and secure Games.
With such apprehension, it’s the athletes to will have to renew the excitement with their performances. And after such a successful Games last time out in Rio, Team GB will be looking for another historic tournament in Tokyo.
Below, Sportsmail takes you through all the Team GB athletes looking to defend their titles this summer.
Liam Heath (men’s 200m single kayak)
First up on our list we have Liam Heath, who took gold in the men’s kayak single 200m sprint back in 2016.
Then aged 32, Heath backed up an impressive silver medal performance in the K2 200m alongside Jon Schofield, making history with a time of 35.197 seconds.
The Englishman now returns for his third Olympic Games, having claimed a bronze in London in 2012. And he’s certainly a man in form, having won the men’s K1 200m gold at the Canoe Sprint World Cup in May, before claiming a silver at the European Canoe Sprint Championships in June.
Jason Kenny (men’s team sprint, men’s individual pursuit, men’s keirin)
With his hat-trick of gold medals in 2016, Jason Kenny cemented himself as one of Britain’s most successful athletes ever.
His triumphs in the team sprint, individual pursuit and keirin formats saw him finish the Games on six career gold medals, level with Chris Hoy as Britain’s gold medal record holder.
Laura Kenny (left) and husband Jason (right) are both out to make history in Tokyo this summer
Kenny will compete in the team sprint, keirin and match sprint in Tokyo, with a gold in any making him the most successful British Olympian ever.
Laura Kenny (women’s team pursuit, women’s omnium)
With four gold medals to her name, Laura Kenny is Britain’s most successful female Olympian in history.
She successfully defended her team pursuit and omnium golds in 2016, and will once again fight for them in Tokyo, alongside the madison format.
Now competing as a mother, Kenny has the chance to create history once more.
Elinor Barker (women’s team pursuit)
Elinor Barker was part of the team – alongside Kenny, Katie Archibald and Joanna Rowsell Shand – that smashed the world record as they took the women’s team pursuit gold in 2016.
Barker will once again compete in Tokyo as she looks to claim back-to-back gold medals.
She will lineup alongside Kenny and Archibald again, with Neah Evans and Josie Knight joining them in the squad.
Ed Clancy (Cycling, men’s team pursuit)
With four medals – three of which are gold – Ed Clancy is another of Britain’s most decorated Olympians.
The 36-year-old – who is competing in his fourth Games – has been part of the winning men’s team pursuit side in three consecutive competitions.
He will compete for a fourth-straight title and will be joined by Ethan Hayter, Ethan Vernon, Matt Walls and Ollie Wood.
Jack Laugher (men’s synchronised 3m springboard)
Jack Laugher, alongside his partner at the time Chris Mears, became Britain’s first-ever diving Olympic champion in Rio.
Mears has since retired, and Laugher will instead partner with Dan Goodfellow, who together claimed World Championship silver in 2019 and World Cup gold at the Olympic test event earlier in 2021.
Laugher will also compete in the individual 3m springboard event, a format in which he claimed a silver medal five years ago.
Jack Laugher (left) celebrated winning the men’s synchronised 3m springboard gold in 2016
Charlotte Dujardin (individual dressage)
Charlotte Dujardin comes into Tokyo with high expectations, having won the individual dressage event in back-to-back Games.
The 36-year-old won team and individual gold on her horse Valgero in 2012, before defending her individual title in 2016.
It will be the first time she competes at the Olympics without the now-retired Valgero, however, instead atop Gio.
Charlotte Dujardin is looking to win the individual dressage event for a third Games running
Max Whitlock (men’s floor and men’s pommel horse)
Max Whitlock is Team GB’s most successful gymnast, having won two historic gold medals in the men’s floor and pommel horse at Rio 2016.
The highly decorated athlete, who is also a three-time world champion on the pommel, will compete at an Olympic Games for the first time since the birth of his daughter.
Having claimed a bronze medal in 2012, Whitlock is competing in his third Games and he still has ambitions to make the Paris Olympics in 2024.
He will have to shake off a fall in the European Championships earlier this year, however.
Max Whitlock is Team GB’s most successful gymnast and is defending two gold medals
Team GB hockey
The Team GB women’s hockey team will go in search of a second successive Olympic title, having claimed gold in Rio in 2016.
They beat the Netherlands in a dramatic penalty shootout to claim their first-ever Olympic title and now return looking to defend their crown.
Over 10 million people watched the triumph five years ago, in what was one of the most iconic moments of the Games.
Seven members of the 2016 squad have made it to Tokyo this time round, and they’ll be hoping for another memorable display.
They are: Giselle Ansley, Maddie Hinch, Shona McCallin, Lily Owsley, Hollie Pearne-Webb, Susannah Townsend and Laura Unsworth.
The women’s hockey team made history in Rio as they beat the Netherlands to claim gold
Helen Glover (women’s pairs)
Helen Glover is another of Team GB’s most decorated athletes in history. In competing in her third Games, she will become the first British rower to enter the Olympics after having children.
Partnered with Heather Stanning, Glover won the title in 2012 and successfully defended it in 2016.
After retiring and having three children following her double-triumph, Glover returns in search for an historic hat-trick, this time alongside Polly Swann.
We should also give a special mention to Mohamed Sbihi, who won gold in the men’s four in 2016 and now returns for his third Olympic Games, this time competing in the men’s eight.
Helen Glover (right) won back-to-back gold medals with her partner Heather Stanning (left)
Giles Scott (men’s finn)
Having missed out on selection in 2012, Giles Scott put in a jaw-dropping performance to take gold in Rio, claiming victory with a day to spare.
Scott was subsequently awarded an MBE for his services and has since claimed his third European title in 2019 and qualified for Tokyo.
Expect yet more fireworks from the 34-year-old this summer.
Giles Scott is expected to put in another thrilling display as he defends his sailing crown
Hannah Mills (women’s 470)
Hannah Mills is going for her third Olympic medal this summer, and would become the most successful female Olympic sailor of all time with another gold.
Partnered with the now-retired Saskia Clark, Mills took silver in 2012, before claiming gold four years later in Rio.
Mills will now sail alongside Eilidh McIntyre, who makes her Olympic debut. The pair have already proved a successful duo, however, having won silver at the 470 World Championships in 2017.
Adam Peaty (men’s 100m breaststroke)
Simply put, it would be an absolute shock if Adam Peaty doesn’t win another gold medal in Tokyo.
The 26-year-old enjoyed an historic Games in Rio, breaking the 100m breaststroke world record not once, but twice en route to winning gold to become Team GB’s first male gold medalist in the pool for 28 years.
Peaty has been equally as emphatic since, winning the World Championships in 2017 and 2019, setting a new world record of 56.88seconds and now holding each of the top 20 quickest times in history.
Team GB’s Adam Peaty has each of the top 20 fastest 100m breaststroke swims in history
Jade Jones (women’s -57kg)
Jade Jones has the chance to make history in Tokyo, and it would certainly be brave to bet against her doing so.
The 28-year-old has won back-to-back Olympic golds, first in London when she was just 19 and second at the 2016 Rio Games.
The Welsh fighter has also since won the 2019 World Championships and claimed a third European title in 2021.
Should she win once more in Tokyo, Jones would become the first-ever taekwondo athlete to claim a hat-trick of Olympic golds.
Jade Jones is going for her third consecutive Olympic gold medal in Tokyo this summer
Andy Murray (men’s singles)
Andy Murray is undoubtedly on of Britain’s best-ever athletes. Not only because he’s a three-time Grand Slam winner, but because he has two Olympic Gold medals to his name.
Murray first won Olympics gold back in 2012, where he emphatically beat Roger Federer to claim his first ‘major’ title, in a match that came on the same court and against the same opponent as his Wimbledon final defeat just weeks prior.
The Scot then doubled-down on his achievements in 2016, where he beat Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro in an emotional four-set battle.
After overcoming two major hip surgeries and an abundance of niggling injuries, Murray made it to round three at Wimbledon this year, but he’ll be looking to go further once more in Tokyo.
Andy Murray is aiming to win his third consecutive Wimbledon singles title in Tokyo