67 Medals. 27 Gold. 23 Silver. 17 Bronze. What an incredible 16 days Rio 2016 was for Team GB. Following the Closing Ceremony to conclude the 31st Olympiad and the official handover of the baton to 2020 hosts Tokyo, we caught up with BBC pundit and Olympic speaker Mark Foster to get his take on Team GB’s performance and the Games as a whole.
Like the vast majority of us, Mark was hugely impressed with Team GB’s medal haul and the performances of our athletes across all events.
“The performance from Team GB was amazing. What they did was above expectations, and that all comes down to having the talent, coaches, support network and ultimately everyone working together as a team.
“We obviously couldn’t do it without the funding, which has made a huge difference over the last 20 years, but good performance only happens with the right work ethic and teamwork,” Mark told us.
Appearing alongside Rebecca Adlington as a pundit for the swimming events held in The Olympic Aquatics Stadium, Mark was quick to highlight the performance of Great Britain’s swimmers.
“Looking at swimming as a whole, I was blown away. You can go into an Olympic Games with swimmers ranking well but because the Olympics is every four years and it’s a pressure box, people have a tendency to underperform.
“We needed our team to step up and do their best times, which is exactly what they did and you can’t ask any more than that.”
Step up they did, with Team GB swimmers taking home six medals in total, with one gold and five silvers. The real standout performer was Adam Peaty, the 21-year-old who smashed his own world record not once but twice on his way to the gold medal in the men’s 100m breaststroke.
A short distance swimmer in his prime too, Mark was full admiration for the young swimmer’s achievements in his first Olympic Games.
“Peaty was a standout performer and I didn’t see anyone who dominated the field so much. He won by a second and a half, which in a race of just over a minute is a huge margin.
“He was completely and utterly dominant, and I’ve said it before but he only needs to maintain what he is doing over the next 8 years and he will win two more Olympic gold medals. He’s so far ahead of everybody else, and he’s not even reached his limit yet.”
On the back of what some said was a disappointing performance in the pool in London four years ago, Mark was a little more optimistic, choosing to look at the bigger picture and how it helped this Olympic team progress.
“Yes some people said London was disappointing, and it was so far as medals, but we had 24 finalists and won one silver and two bronzes, so we didn’t quick convert them,” Mark said.
“This time we came away with six medals and had seven 4th place finishes, so potentially it could have been more.
“We have made huge shifts forward, first of all in talent but now we also have world class swimmers paired with world class coaches, with the two working together to result in world class performances.”
Mark went on to add how a strong support structure has been developed since the London Games which ‘has created the right environment for people to perform.’
He added: “Chris Spice and Bill Furniss have looked at what the coaches and athletes need and have made it available. People are allowed to express themselves, on a world stage, and it’s a case of it all working in unison.”
Prior to the Games there was much debate about Rio as the host city with protests from locals over the cost of the event and the threat of the Zika virus dominating the headlines. After being out there and having the opportunity to mingle with the locals, we quizzed Mark on his thoughts on Rio and Brazil as the host nation.
“I thought as hosts they were great, you could sense the energy of the city and the passion of the people. The facilities were good but it was just a shame that a lot of the venues weren’t particularly busy.
“The pool was probably the busiest of the lot, but that helps when you have the likes of Michael Phelps swimming. In all, the event was a good event and they can be very proud of what they did.”
With so many fantastic moments over the course of the 16 days, we wanted to know which stood out for Mark.
“There were loads of favourite moments for me that it’s difficult to pick just one. My job becomes so much easier when the swimmers do well, so that was obviously a highlight. Seeing Michael Phelps again and for the last time at the Olympics to end his incredible story and then the women’s hockey gold were also brilliant, memorable moments.
“It was just exciting how positive it was for the GB team as whole. The winning didn’t stop and it was just medal after medal.”
The Olympics now roll on to Tokyo in four years’ time, with Mark believing the positive atmosphere around Team GB will show no signs of letting up.
“Those missing out this time will want a piece of the action when Tokyo comes around. I’m hoping we’ll see more medals from the pool and the great thing is that our team this time are young so with a good four-year cycle behind them, and if they stay fit and healthy, they will get faster and improve further.
“People getting 4th this time around could get 3rd or 2nd as a lot of people ahead of them are retiring. Yes, there will be others come through the ranks, but success breeds success, so the future looks great for Team GB.”