In the pairs, each rower pulls one oar, one on either side of the boat. The oars are also slightly larger than those used in sculling. Get the champagne ready for this one because, barring injury or food poisoning, Britain’s Helen Glover and Heather Stanning are nailed on to strike gold. It was in this event that they won Team GB’s first gold medal of the 2012 Games, which was also Britain’s first-ever Olympic gold in women’s rowing. The semi-finals take place today, with the final scheduled for Friday.
The USA may come to Rio with the strongest team in the pool, but one star from 2012 won’t be making a return. Rebecca Soni, who broke the 200m breaststroke world record on her way to winning gold, has since retired, leaving the door open for a new generation. The semi-finals today might just include Chloe Tutton, a 19-year-old from the Rhondda, who broke the British record in April and improved her personal best by a massive three seconds. James Gill
We’ve won gold at every Olympics since 2000 in this event and I’m confident the British boys will bring it home again. They’re fitter, stronger and faster than the crew I was a member of when we won it in 2004, so they just need to ensure they produce the goods on the day. Watch out for British rower Moe Sbihi. A Muslim educated at a comprehensive school, he’s not your typical rower, and at 6ft 6in he’s an awesome physical specimen.
Zoe Smith, Britain’s 2012 star, misses out through injury, but there’s a new name to reckon with: Yorkshire’s 17-year-old Rebekah Tiler. Sponsored by her local butcher after UK Sport cut her funding, Tiler competes in the 69kg category — a figure based on her weight, not her strength. Her best lift, she says, was her 102kg snatch at the British Championships in June — from floor to above her head in one amazing burst of power. James Gill
The all-around competition requires male gymnasts to master floor, pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel and horizontal bars. Max Whitlock, silver medallist at the 2014 World Championships, is Britain’s hope, but the current best in the world is the man who beat him, Japan’s Kohei Uchimura.He has been totally dominant for almost eight years, and it would be a very big surprise if he didn’t successfully defend his Olympic title.
I’ve always loved seeing nations who have never previously done much win their first medal. It happened with a handful of countries at London 2012, and this year I’ll be looking out for Fiji, who have never won an Olympic medal but go into the rugby sevens ranked number one in the world. Can you imagine the impact it would have if they even made it on to the podium? Such moments can change lives – but first, they’ve got to make it through their preliminary match against the USA (at 5:30pm) to book a place in this evening’s quarter-finals.
At London 2012, Chris Boardman’s technical nous helped to give GB’s cycling stars the edge. His “Secret Squirrel Club”, named after a cartoon spy, strove to improve every aspect of bike and equipment design, and became the ultimate example of British Cycling’s policy of marginal gains. Now Cambridge professor Tony Purnell, a former Formula One team principal, is taking the team to the next level. A new manager needs a new codename. Gone are our furry friends: now it’s simply “Room X”.