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Page last updated at 10:09 GMT, Monday, 14 March 2011

Britain on track for record medal haul at London 2012

Liz Nicholl

UK Sport targets top four in Olympics table

UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl said Britain is on course to secure a record medal haul at the 2012 Olympics.

"We're definitely on track. We're very confident that our targets for 2012 are still very realistic," Nicholl said.

GB athletes in 19 sports have been set a target of 30 to 61 World Championship medals this year, while the top four in the medal table is the goal for London.

Nicholl added: "You don't put £100m of public funding into success without striving for the ultimate performance."

No specific targets have been set for the London Olympics, but UK sport, the elite sports agency, is determined to better the 47 medals won at the Beijing Olympics three years ago.

Team GB won 19 golds to finish fourth in the 2008 Olympic medal table - their best performance since the London Games of 1908 - and GB's Paralympians, who won 42 golds in China, were second in the medal table.

And with 17 months to go before Britain hosts the Games, the performances in 2011 are seen as a crucial marker for the standard of performances that can be expected in the summer of next year.

Gymnastics have really stepped up, boxing too, and now, with the great opportunity for the women boxers, I think we'll see more medals than we had in Beijing

UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl

"Expectations are enormous, but aspirations are enormous," Nicholl told BBC Breakfast. "We were tremendous in Beijing so it will stretch us.

"But we will have home advantage, more resources than ever before so there's a real opportunity for the sports and they are ambitious."

In the year before Beijing, the equivalent competitions generated 42 medals for GB's Olympians and 37 for Paralympians, although direct comparisons are tricky because of changes to the Paralympic World Championships schedules.

With 19 Olympic sports and nine Paralympic sports with World Championships this year, as well as European Championships or equivalent international competitions, the pressure is on Britain's sporting hopefuls.

"British athletes are among the best funded and supported in the world, with record levels of investment through to London 2012," said Nicholl, who revealed a target of between 34-52 World Championship medals for the Paralympians in 2011.

"So it is encouraging that, with 500 days to go to the home Olympic and Paralympic Games in London, sports continue to show ambition and confidence in what can be collectively achieved.

"We know that improving on the performances in Beijing is a tough ask and won't be easy. Medals are not the only means by which performance should be judged and progress assessed.

Team GB return from Beijing
Will Team GB better their 19 golds won in Beijing in 2008?

"None the less they are the bottom line in high performance sport, and the total of the medal targets we have agreed with sports provide us with positive evidence that the momentum we have seen since Beijing continues as we head towards one of the biggest moments for British sport in all our lifetimes."

With UK Sport working closely across all 47 Olympic and Paralympic sports and monitoring their progress three times a year through their Mission 2012 programme, Nicholl was encouraged by improvements across a variety of sports.

"Gymnastics have really stepped up, boxing too, and now, with the great opportunity for the women boxers, I think we'll see more medals than we had in Beijing," Nicholl said.

"Taekwondo last year managed more medals at world level than ever before, so there are a number of sports that are showing they're ready.

"In hockey, there's a growing confidence that both men's and women's squads could medal at the Games, and they were nowhere near feeling that leading up to Beijing. In Beijing, a lot of sports were saying, well why not us?"

Minister for Sport and the Olympics Hugh Robertson said: "The 2011 medal target is higher than the equivalent before the Beijing Games and is an important marker for London 2012.

"With the funding for our top athletes confirmed after the Comprehensive Spending Review, Olympic and Paralympic sport is in good shape.

"So it is right that the targets for both the sport national governing bodies and the athletes are challenging 16 months out from a home Olympics."



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