Sport

Searching for our stars

Australian BMX rider Caroline Buchanan
Australian BMX rider Caroline Buchanan Chris Hyde - Getty Images

COMPLETE this sequence: 58, 49, 46.

There is actually no correct answer. The numbers represent the total medals won by Australian athletes in the past three Olympic Games - Sydney, Athens and Beijing.

What seems certain is that the haul from London will fall again.

The expectation from London is for 12 gold, with Great Britain tipped to be the big mover on the back of a huge investment in coaches, infrastructure and athletes.

In total medals, the top nation is expected to be the US, with 103, followed by China with 94, Russia on 67 and the UK 62. Australia is tipped to bring home 42 medals.

With the opening ceremony less than 24 hours away, we look at some of Australia's best prospects for London. Today we start with those rated from 11-20, and tomorrow we will unveil the top 10.

11. Sailing, men's 49er class - Iain Jensen and Nathan Outteridge: Jensen started sailing off the NSW Central Coast at age five but it was not until he was 20 that he represented Australia for the first time, winning the 420 Youth World Championships. A year later he teamed up with Outteridge, who had partnered Ben Austin to an unlucky fifth in Beijing. Jensen and Outteridge clicked right from the start, winning the 49er world championship in Italy at just their second regatta together. They repeated the dose last year and also won the Olympic Test event. They are hot favourites in London.

12. Swimming, women's 4x200m freestyle relay team - Angie Bainbridge, Bronte Barrett, Brittany Elmslie, Jade Neilsen, Kylie Palmer and Melanie Schlanger: Of the six swimmers who have qualified to be part of this relay team, it is fair to say none of them are household names in the sport. But despite not having a standout, the girls collectively are rated second favourites to take gold behind the US.

13. Swimming, men's 100m freestyle - James Roberts: They not only share first names, they also share birthdays. And James Roberts and James Magnussen should share the dais in the men's blue riband sprint event. While Magnussen has grabbed all the headlines, Roberts could well be the hardest for "The Missile" to beat. The 21-year-old finished second to Magnussen in the 100m freestyle at the 2012 trials with the second-best time of the year.

14. BMX, women's individual - Caroline Buchanan: A self-confessed adrenaline junkie, Buchanan was a grade-one black belt at the age of nine before she decided to focus on cycling. At 17, she was too young to be considered for selection in Beijing. The eight-time national champion has since built up an imposing record, however, with two world championships under her belt. She showed she was in great form with victory in the time trial at the world championships in Birmingham in May.

15. Athletics, men's long jump - Mitchell Watt: A gifted athlete, Watt gave long jumping away for five years as a teenager to try his hand at other sports. Three of his 2005 Queensland Schoolboy rugby teammates - Will Genia, Quade Cooper and David Pocock - have all become world-class players. Watt returned to the long jump in 2008 and with just one year's training he won bronze at the 2009 world championships in Berlin. He produced a leap of 8.37m, which would probably be good enough to win gold in London.

16. Rowing, men's lightweight coxless fours - Sam Beltz, Anthony Edwards, Ben Cureton and Todd Skipworth: When Edwards competes in London, it will be at his fifth Olympic Games. He won silver in Sydney and Athens, but joined his present crew only just before last year's world championships, where they blitzed their rivals. At the 2012 nationals, Edwards and Beltz won the men's pair, beating the world's best time for the class, before racing with Cureton and Skipworth in the four, where they broke the world record. It did not count, however, because it was an open weight event.

17. Rowing, women's double scull - Kim Crow and Brooke Pratley: Crow finished second to Jana Pittman in the 400m hurdles at the national championships in 2004 before switching to rowing. Incredibly, Crow will contest both the single and double sculls in London. After contesting the single as a back-up after an injury to Pratley, she finds herself in both. The pair won silver at the last World Cup regatta in Germany.

18. Water polo, women's team event: The Aussie Stingers have built an impressive record in the sport over the past 12 years. They won gold in Sydney, were beaten in the bronze-medal match in Athens and won bronze in Beijing. Led by skipper Kate Gynther, the girls have had a great start to 2012, winning all tournaments and international series except the World League Super finals, where they lost to the US in the decider.

19. Women's triathlon - Erin Densham, Emma Moffatt and Emma Jackson: Australia won gold in Beijing through Emma Snowsill, but she was controversially left out of the team for London. All three girls are capable of winning on their day, but Densham has been in great form this year. She won events in Mooloolaba and Sydney and then took out the ITU sprint event in Germany last weekend. Moffatt will be keen to improve on her bronze medal from Beijing.

20. BMX, men's individual - Sam Willoughby: After he started racing BMX bikes in Adelaide at the age of six, Willoughby went on to become the best junior rider in the world. He won his first junior world title in China in 2008 at age 17, and defended his title in Australia he following year. He has made the transition to the senior ranks and cemented himself as a genuine Olympic medal chance by winning the 2012 World Championships in Birmingham.

Topics:  london olympics


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