THE MIXED ZONE OLYMPIC PREDICTION CHALLENGE

Who will be Team GB’s golden girls of Rio 2016?

With less than a month to go before the start of the Olympic Games, The Mixed Zone is continuing the countdown with our Olympic Prediction Challenge to name the British sportswomen who will be leaping on to the podium in Rio.

We have invited a team of experts, including athletes heading for Brazil, former Olympians, sports journalists and contributors to The Mixed Zone. They were asked to nominate three athletes in each of three categories: Nailed on Gold; In the Mix and From Left Field.

We have emphasised that it is only for fun. But where sport is concerned fun quickly becomes competitive. So we are going to produce a final league table with three points awarded for a gold, two for silver and one for bronze, with a maximum of 27 points.

We have further stipulated that there must be no cheating, so no huge names or dead certs in the left-field category to boost points tallies.

Additionally, we have asked our panellists to offer reasons and support for their top picks. More panellists will be added as we get closer to the Opening Ceremony on August 5, so keep checking for further entries.

Readers and friends of The Mixed Zone are also invited to get involved and send in their predictions, either via the comments area at the bottom of this article.

The legal bit: there are no prizes, it is just for fun.

To kick us off, Olympic badminton silver medallist Gail Emms names her nine golden girls and explains why she is going to get maximum points in our predictions table on the back of their efforts.

THE PREDICTIONS

GAIL EMMSRACHEL ATHERTONGOLDIE SAYERSSUSAN EGELSTAFFHANNAH MACLEODSUE MOTTSARAH SHEPHERDJANINE SELFRACHEL GRIFFITHSJESSICA WHITTINGTONELEANORE KELLYAMY LOFTHOUSELIZ BYRNES

GAIL EMMS
OLYMPIC BADMINTON PLAYER

NAILED ON GOLD: Charlotte Dujardin (Dressage); Nicola Adams (Boxing); Heather Stanning & Helen Glover (Rowing)

Charlotte DUJARDIN riding Valegro GBR

I know nothing about horses or equestrianism, but I do know that Charlotte is amazing. I have read about the connection she has with her horse and I will watch her, cheer her and the horse on, not knowing what the hell is going on, but knowing that gold is going to happen!

There are contenders and champions in boxing and Nicola is the real deal. She may be a lot older than her competitors, but she’s definitely wiser and that experience will shine through.

It has to be Heather Stanning and Helen Glover: Other rowers, just don’t bother turning up. Or have your own race to see who gets silver and bronze.

IN THE MIX: Laura Trott (Omnium); Jess Ennis- Hill (Heptathlon); Lizzie Armistead (Cycling).

Picture by Alex Whitehead/ SWpix.com
Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

I love Laura. She’s an incredible talent and has the potential to be GB’s most decorated Olympic female athlete, which I think she will do easily this year. Turns on the class when she has to and Rio will be golden just like London.

Jess just gets on with it. There are no fanfares, no fireworks, no grand press conferences, she just lets her performances on the track do the talking. If she can stay injury free, she will win a medal in Rio. Fingers crossed it will be gold again.

It’s been a great year and great season for Lizzie so far. She’s been in the mix for a while and she can seize her opportunity now the time is right. I’ve got a good feeling about Lizzie’s chances in Rio.

FROM LEFT FIELD: Fran Halsall (Swimming); Saska Clark & Hannah Mills (Sailing 470), Bianca Walkden (Taekwondo).

Bianca Walkden

Fran is going to kick ass this summer! She has been unlucky not to have won an Olympic medal already, and with a more relaxed and mature attitude, this could be the key to the success in the pool in August.

GB are good at sailing. As we are sitting down. And Saska and Hannah are very good at sailing and sitting down. One of the Olympic sports that baffles me on how it works, but hey ho.

Bianca is the reigning European and World champion and unbeaten in 2016. Opponents will be scared. I am scared to be honest with a kick like hers.

RACHEL ATHERTON
DOWNHILL MOUNTAIN-BIKING

NAILED ON GOLD: Charlotte Dujardin (Dressage); Jess Ennis-Hill (Heptathlon); Heather Stanning & Helen Glover (Rowing).

I’m backing Charlotte, who was my successor as BT Sports Action Woman of the Year. She gets my top vote because not only is she a brilliant Sportswoman but I really enjoyed chatting to her!

IN THE MIX: Bianca Walkden (Taekwando); Laura Trott (Cycling); Lizzie Armistead (Cycling)

I’m backing Laura on the track and Lizzie on the road because – of course! – I’m going to be glued to the cycling events!

FROM LEFT FIELD: Becky Downie (Gymnastics); Rebecca Tyler Weightlifting); Jo Pavey (Athletics)

I’ll be backing Jo Pavey because she shows so much grit and resilience. She refuses to be defined by being a mum, or being in her forties; she just gets back out there and wins! Even this week, getting over a chest infection, she’s still fighting for her Olympic place. Ten laps into this week’s race she was in 10th place; imagine the steel it took to work her way back up to fifth, 40 seconds inside the Olympic qualifying standard.

GOLDIE SAYERS
OLYMPIC JAVELIN THROWER

Jessica Ennis-Hill. Photo by Jan Kruger/British Athletics via Getty Images
Photo by Jan Kruger/British Athletics via Getty Images

NAILED ON GOLD: I don’t think there is such a thing in sport but going on class, experience and current form I would say Jess Ennis-Hill (Heptathlon); Helen Glover & Heather Stanning (Rowing); Laura Trott (Cycling).

IN THE MIX: Laura Muir (Athletics, 1500m); Rowing Eight; Nicola Adams (Boxing)

FROM LEFT FIELD: 4x100m relay; Tonia Couch and partner (Diving); Fran Halsall (Swimming).

Laura Muir has run some consistently excellent races this season. She’s one of the toughest athletes out there and I feel she has more to give in Rio after an impressive fifth place at the World Championships last year in the 1500 metres. I believe she knows what it takes to get on the podium.

SUSAN EGELSTAFF
OLYMPIC BADMINTON PLAYER

NAILED ON GOLD: Heather Stanning & Helen Glover (Rowing); Laura Trott (Cycling); Charlotte Dujardin (Dressage).

I’m loath to say that anyone’s nailed-on for Olympic gold, but Heather Stanning and Helen Glover are as close to that as can possibly be. That they are unbeaten since 2011 is remarkable, and they show no signs of slowing down. If they do not retain their Olympic title, it will be a real shock.

IN THE MIX: Laura Muir (Athletics – 1500m); Katerina Johnson Thomson & Jess Ennis-Hill (Heptathlon); Nicola Adams (Boxing).

Four years ago, Laura Muir finished last in the final of the 1500 metres at the British Olympic trials, but her remarkable rise through the ranks indicates that she could be one to watch in Rio. She finished in fifth place at last year’s World Championships, but her form this year suggests that she could be ready to take the next step.

FROM LEFT FIELD: 4x400m relay (Athletics); Sally Conway (Judo); Fiona Pennie (Canoeing).

I’m backing Sally Conway because she has been a consistent member of the world’s top ten for the past few years, and has victories over almost all of the world’s top players. She is in good form having won a Grand Prix earlier this season, and if she gets a good draw could come through.

HANNAH MacLEOD
OLYMPIC HOCKEY PLAYER

NAILED ON GOLD: Heather Stanning & Helen Glover (Rowing).

IN THE MIX: Rowing Eight

FROM LEFT FIELD: Gabby Adcock (and Chris Adcock – Badminton mixed doubles).

I’m backing the women’s eight in the rowing because I love seeing how they have grown as a team and worked unbelievably hard under difficult circumstances. These women are focused, fierce and a true force to be reckoned with.

SUE MOTT
THE EDITOR, THE MIXED ZONE

Women's Hockey Champtions Trophy - Day 2 - GB vs Holland - Crista CullenNAILED ON GOLD: Jess Ennis-Hill (Heptathlon); Heather Stanning & Helen Glover (Rowing); Charlotte Dujardin (Dressage).

IN THE MIX: GB Hockey; Jade Jones; Sarah Barrow (Diving)

FROM LEFT FIELD: Charley Hull (Golf); Rugby Sevens; Amber Hill (Shooting).

I’m backing Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro because they’re perfection on four dancing legs.

SARAH SHEPHARD
FEATURES EDITOR, SPORT MAGAZINE

NAILED ON GOLD: Helen Glover & Heather Stanning (Rowing); Jessica Ennis Hill (Heptathlon); Laura Trott (Omnium).
I’m backing Glover and Stanning because they have been the most dominant pair in the world since 2011. No matter how much everyone else improves, they always seem to be a step – or stroke – ahead.

Nicola Adams of Great Britain celebrates her gold medal victory over Cancan Ren of China in the women's boxing Flyweight final of the 2012 London Olympic Games at the ExCel Arena August 9, 2012 in London. Adams won the first ever women's Olympic flyweight final with a 16-7 win over China's world champion Ren Cancan to claim the hosts' first boxing gold. AFP PHOTO / Jack GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/GettyImages)
Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP/GettyImages

IN THE MIX: Nicola Adams (Boxing); Lizzie Armitstead (Cycling Road Race); Bianca Walkden (Taekwondo).

I’m backing Nicola Adams because she floats like a butterfly and … well, you know the rest.

FROM LEFT FIELD: Amber Hill (Shooting); Siobhan-Marie O’Connor (Swimming); Becky Downie (Gymnastics – uneven bars).

I’m backing Amber Hill because anyone who can combine qualifying as a beautician with being one of the best young sharp shooters in the world has what it takes to become GB’s first woman to win shooting gold.

JANINE SELF
SPORTS JOURNALIST

RICHMOND, VA - SEPTEMBER 26: Elizabeth Armitstead of Great Britain reacts to winning the Elite Women's Road Race on day seven of the UCI Road World Championships on September 26, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

NAILED ON GOLD: Charlotte Dujardin (Dressage); Nicola Adams (Boxing); Laura Trott (cycling).

IN THE MIX: Jess Ennis- Hill (Heptathlon); Helen Glover & Heather Stanning (Rowing); Lizzie Armitstead (Cycling).

FROM LEFT FIELD: Samantha Murray (Modern Pentathlon;, Amber Hill (Shooting); Bianca Walkden (Taekwondo).

I’m backing Lizzie Armitstead, the first British woman to win a medal four years ago in London with second place in the road race. Can she conquer the gruelling course in Rio? Well, she is older, wiser, a world champion and in the peak of condition, so I would love to see her convert silver to gold.

RACHEL GRIFFITHS
DIGITAL PRODUCER, OLYMPIC CHANNEL

Dina Asher-Smith. Photo by T Marshall - British Athletics/British Athletics via Getty Images
Photo by T Marshall – British Athletics/British Athletics via Getty Images

NAILED ON GOLD: Jessica Ennis-Hill (Heptathlon)

I’m backing Jess because Britain need the boost right now!

IN THE MIX: Claudia Fragapane (Gymnastics).

I’m backing Claudia because I think the Pocket Rocket will prevail.

FROM LEFT FIELD: Dina Asher-Smith (Athletics).

I’m backing Dina because she drew a picture of herself on an Olympic podium when she was eight years old.

JESSICA WHITTINGTON
WEB EDITOR, ATHLETICS WEEKLY

Katarina Johnson-Thompson. Photo by J Kruger - British Athletics/British Athletics via Getty Images
Photo by J Kruger – British Athletics/British Athletics via Getty Images

NAILED ON GOLD: Nicola Adams (Boxing); Heather Stanning & Helen Glover (Rowing); Charlotte Dujardin (Dressage).

IN THE MIX: Jessica Ennis-Hill (Heptathlon); Katarina Johnson-Thompson (Heptathlon); Rugby Sevens.

FROM LEFT FIELD: Dina Asher-Smith (Athletics – 200m); Laura Muir (Athletics – 1500m); Cindy Ofili (Athletics – 100m hurdles).

The heptathlon is set to be one of the highlights of Rio athletics action and with Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson both expected to compete, there’s a real chance of a GB one-two. However, with seven events over two days, it’s a hard one to predict, and Canada’s Brianne Theisen-Eaton currently leads the world rankings. I might have shot myself in the foot by including both Brits in the same category here, but either could take the title and it’s tight at the top!

ELEANORE KELLY
SPORTS WRITER

NAILED ON GOLD: Laura Trott (Cycling).

I am backing Laura because, though she is only 24, she is the most successful cyclist, male or female, in the history of the European Track Championships with 10 titles to her name. She is ranked No1 in the UCI’s world Omnium rankings and recently told Hello magazine that her guilty pleasure is “spaghetti hoops on toast and chocolate mousse”.

IN THE MIX: Gemma Tattersall (Equestrian).

I’m backing the gutsy event rider who celebrated her news of team selection with a glass of bubbly in her parents’ hot tub. She has had a sensational year in international competitions on a number of different horses and currently leads the prestigious Event Rider Master Series.

FROM LEFT FIELD: Gabby Adcock (Badminton).

I’m backing Gabby, who’s paired with husband Chris in the mixed doubles because they have played together from juniors. You would think she knows his game as well as his most annoying habits.

AMY LOFTHOUSE
SPORTS WRITER

NAILED ON GOLD: Nicola Adams (Boxing).

I’m backing the first woman to win an Olympic boxing title because you wouldn’t bet against her keeping her crown in Rio.

IN THE MIX: Dina Asher-Smith (Athletics – 200 metres).

Appearing in her first Olympics, Asher-Smith registered her season’s best at the European Championships. I’m backing her because she’s young and exciting, and that might give her the edge.

FROM LEFT FIELD: Jo Pavey (Athletics – 10,000 metres).

It might be a fairytale too far, but having appeared in every Olympics since 2000, continuing to train and win while raising a family and being a voice for older British athletes, it would take a heart of stone to not want Pavey to secure a first Olympic medal. If a medal could be won on pure dedication then Pavey would be sure of gold.

LIZ BYRNES
SPORTS JOURNALIST

NAILED ON GOLD: Laura Trott (Cycling); Jess Ennis-Hill (Athletics); Nicola Adams (Boxing)

I’m backing Laura Trott because of her form in 2016 and her consistency. She won her first omnium world title since 2012 at the World Track Cycling Championships in London in March and her pedigree suggests she is very well-placed to defend her Olympic title.

IN THE MIX: Lizzie Armitstead (Cycling); Katarina Johnson-Thompson (Heptathlon);
Fran Halsall (Swimming)

I’m backing Lizzie Armitstead to win the road race. She has been in superb form on the road since claiming the world title in Richmond last September and won the Aviva Women’s Tour on home soil in June. Defending Olympic champion Marianne Vos awaits in Rio after returning from a long-term injury.

FROM LEFT FIELD: Siobhan O’Connor (Swimming); Jo Konta (Tennis); Non Stanford (Triathlon)

I’m backing Jo Konta to win in Rio. It is the first Olympics for the world No19 and comes weeks after her early exit from Wimbledon. The might of Serena Williams, to name but one, stands in her way, but expect the unexpected.

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