It’s been a long four years, but at last the 2016 Summer Olympics are finally underway. With close to 11, 000 athletes preparing to compete over the next fortnight, the Summer Olympic Games represent the peak of many athletic disciplines. For football fans it’s something to ease the agony of the summer break, for patriots it’s an opportunity to scream in front of the TV as GB head towards another medal. Meanwhile for fans of combat sports, it’s the pinnacle of competition for elite Taekwondo players and Judokas alike; whilst professional boxers were granted an invitation to fight at the Olympics for the first time this year.
Ones to watch: Lutalo Muhammad (London, England), Jade Jones (Bodelwyddan, Wales). Bianca Walden (Liverpool, England).
Taekwondo in Brazil is expected to be a source of medals for Team GB, with medal candidates across both the Men’s and Women’s events. Welsh superstar Jade Jones will be defending the gold she won in London in the 57kg category, whilst over in the Men’s 80kg, Lutalo Muhammad will be looking to climb higher onto the podium by improving on his 2012 bronze.
The Olympic Games always seems to throw up a ‘stranger than fiction’ type story, and the success of Chinese player, Jingyu Wu is definitely that for Taekwondo. Currently the dominant force in the Women’s game, Jingyu Wu actually played a role in the 2004 Chinese film ‘Taekwondo’, the story of a young girl from provincial China who would become a world champion in the sport; four years before she would go on to win her first gold in Beijing. Fast forward to 2016 and Wu is aiming to become the first triple crown Olympic champion in the history of Taekwondo.
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Ones to watch: Paddy Barnes (Belfast, N. Ireland), Katie Taylor (Bray, Ireland), Nicola Adams (Leeds England)
It’s a particularly interesting Summer Olympic Games for the world of boxing, as professional boxers have been invited to compete for the very first time. This change was met with disapproval by the majority of the boxing community, raising concerns about the safety of allowing an inexperienced amateur boxer to be matched up with the likes of Manny Pacquiao. It’s one of many changes to the event, which will also see the boxers not wear head guards for the first time; as well as adopting the ‘10-point-must’ point scoring system from the professional scene.
The ‘arms-wide-open’ approach didn’t seem to entice interest from much of the scene, however, as only three professional boxers accepted the invitation, with the most notable being Thailand’s Amnat Ruenroeng, who will be competing in the Men’s Light (60KG) event.
Nicola Adams, one of the heroes of London 2012, will look to defend her gold medal in the women’s 51KG flyweight class. She’s since picked up a world title in the same category, and is a firm favourite to retain in Rio, although Adams is expecting to face stiff competition from Valencia of Colombia, or France’s Ourahmoune. The final will take place on the 20th August, so make sure you’re warmed up for UFC 202 by cheering on a GB superstar.
Paddy Barnes will be looking to rid himself of the unfortunate nickname ‘Paddy Bronze’, as his previous Olympic efforts left him with two third place finishes – a gold medal in the Men’s Light Flyweight event will see Belfast’s own anointed with a new golden monicker.
Elsewhere, in the Women’s Lightweight event, Katie Taylor will be fighting to defend her crown after taking home the gold in London. Taylor will have a boisterous Irish following in Rio, and has been a dominant force in the category since picking up her first World Amateur Championship victory in 2006.
We’re already well underway in the Judo, and so far much of it has gone to form. Majlinda Kelmendi lived up to the hype to bring home Kosovo’s first ever Olympic medal of any colour with her gold medal position in the Women’s 51kg category. Meanwhile Brazil enjoyed witnessing the rise of a new hero in Rafaela Silva, who secured 1st in the 57kg class.
Judo always seems to become a favourite in the eyes of the british public, and in Sally Conway we’ve already taken home an arguably unexpected medal, with Natalie Powell still to come in the 78kg class, GB are on course to completely blow expectations out of the water, especially with strong GB contender, Gemma Gibbons absent from the 2016 Games.
Ones to watch: Sally Conway (Bristol, England – Won Bronze), Natalie Powell (Merthyr Tydfil, Wales)
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