So much uncertainty has surrounded the Tokyo Olympics.
Statements from the hosts in early 2020 were bullish, claiming the games would go ahead as scheduled despite coronavirus. Those plans were forced to change once the scale of the pandemic became clear.
Fast forward to March 2021 and the games are planned to place on the 25th of the month, but “without overseas spectators”.
Amidst all this uncertainty, one thing has remained absolute for team GB’s women. So long as it’s safe to do so, they will defend their 2016 at the Olympics. No ifs, no buts.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise for anyone. Sports have continued across the globe for much of the pandemic, albeit without fans and with significant safety measures in place.
Team GB’s women preparations for defending their gold medal have been multi-faceted.
New players have been welcomed into the fold as part of the GB Elite Development Programme, with Scotland’s Emily Dark invited to train with the team in November 2020.
Established stars have moved their club commitments away from the UK, with Hannah Martin swapping Surbiton for Dutch Hoofdklasse side THC Hurley.
The coaching has also been prepped and pepped up for the games by additions to the staff, with the signing of New Zealander Katie Glynn a significant coup for GB’s women.
How are these preparations affecting team GB’s chances of winning gold at Tokyo? It’s worth looking at some of the usual barometers for measuring this, namely, commentators, online casinos, and the players themselves.
Writer Tom Harle highlights one player as being well-prepared to help the team defend their medal. He claimed Tess Howard “will be a lynchpin of a Great Britain side faced with the task of defending their Olympic title without the key figures who led them to glory in 2016”.
Online casinos are trickier to gauge at this moment in time.
While they use the quality of the team’s preparations (along with a number of factors) to determine the chances of GB’s women winning another gold, they seem reluctant to publish their thinking right now.
Indeed, scrolling through the best sites at an aggregator like OnlineCasinos.co.uk reveals that the top casinos are yet to offer any odds on the chances of GB’s women having another successful Olympics.
That’s not to say these sites don’t have a view on the likelihood of another gold medal. It simply means that it might not be until the games begin that we can review their data and see if they think the team’s preparation has been good enough.
Midfielder Susannah Townsend has an interesting take on the team’s preparations. She explains there’s been a real focus on preparing mentally, with a weekly meeting called Keeping Connected used as a support channel for the players.
Townsend explains “I think everyone looked forward to them [the Keeping Connected sessions], being able to catch up and asking ‘how are you?’ which people in the world don’t ask enough anyway. It also allowed us to show our vulnerabilities”.
This show of vulnerability could be crucial to the team’s preparations. It means the players and coaching staff can begin the games knowing how to deal with mental adversity.
Will this be enough to prepare them for the rigours of defending their gold medal in Tokyo? Only time will tell but it certainly seems like GB’s women are in a great place right now.