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International Women's Day: Ten new names set to rip up Tokyo 2020

·5-min read
Ten to watch
Ten to watch

The tables have turned and for the first time ever at Tokyo 2020, women are set to outnumber men on Team GB, writes Tom Harle.

Dina Asher-Smith, Laura Kenny and Jade Jones will be going for gold, with Rio heroes Maddie Hinch and Helen Glover coming back for more.

Beyond the household names, there are a bevy of emerging talents set to shake up the established order on Olympic debut this summer.

To mark International Women’s Day, get to know ten women set to shine in Tokyo.

Keely Hodgkinson, middle-distance running

It’s not just a set of initials Hodgkinson shares with the great Kelly Holmes, with the Wigan teenager earmarked to break the double Olympic champion’s British 800m record.

She ran an incredible 1:59.03 for four laps in Vienna in January, becoming the first Brit to break a world under-20 record since Zola Budd in 1985, and romped to European indoor 800m gold in Torun.

Hodgkinson will need all the tactical nous instilled by coach Jenny Meadows at June’s Trials, where she will oppose Laura Muir, Jemma Reekie and Lynsey Sharp and needs to finish in the top two to guarantee a seat on the plane.

Rebecca Shorten, rowing

Whatever boat returning Olympic champion Glover ends up in, Shorten is likely to join her as one of the strongest pullers in the British women’s sweep squad.

The 27-year-old has scooped back-to-back European silvers in the eight and won the British trials in 2019 and 2020, cementing her status as a crew-maker.

Shorten has been busting out 36km sessions at home in Belfast and will return to the water at next month’s European Championships.

Alice Kinsella, gymnastics

Standing at 5ft 2in, Kinsella might struggle to see over shoulders at the opening ceremony but is set to make a towering contribution in Tokyo.

Pocket rocket Kinsella, 19, specialises in the beam, the most precarious apparatus used by female gymnasts.

The Birmingham native became the first British woman to win a major beam title at the European Championships in 2019 and managed 12th in the all-around on World Championship debut, won by Simone Biles.

Anna Burnet, sailing

Burnet and John Gimson are a dominant force in the Nacra-17 boat class, a vessel specifically designed to be crewed by men and women in Olympic competition.

The 28-year-old, who started sailing on the west coast of Scotland, went more than a year without placing outside the top five at major events and became world champion in 2020.

Having taken quickly to the vagaries of sailing in Tokyo Bay at the 2019 test event, the pair will take some shifting from the podium.

Ellie Kildunne, rugby sevens

Having started out playing rugby league with boys in Leeds, Kildunne is made of stern stuff and the winger has emerged into England’s walking highlight reel.

The Wasps back gets social media popping with her mazy runs in Premier 15s rugby and with sevens funding now guaranteed for Tokyo 2020, her Olympic dreams remain alive.

With the Rugby World Cup postponed until 2022, fellow Red Roses stars like Emily Scarratt might choose to switch their attention to the Games.

Tess Howard, hockey

Howard will be a lynchpin of a Great Britain side faced with the ominous task of defending their Olympic title without the key figures who led them to glory in 2016.

The midfielder has emerged as one of the most exciting talents in world hockey in a cycle defined by mixed results, retirements, injuries and Danny Kerry’s departure as coach.

High on new coach Mark Hager’s to-do list is loosening the shackles in the final third and Cambridge-born Howard’s eye for goal will come in more than handy.

Anna Hopkin, swimming

It’s take your pick time when it comes to promising British swimmers, with Freya Anderson and Abbie Wood set to drive home the positives of a year’s extra preparation.

Adam Peaty’s coach Mel Marshall doesn’t give out praise like confetti and Hopkin is her latest pet project, the sprinter added to her programme last year after breaking records on the college circuit in the USA.

The 24-year-old reached the 50m freestyle final on debut at the 2019 World Championships and has a live chance of winning Britain’s first-ever women's medal in the splash and dash.

Caroline Weir, footballer

A Puskas Award nominee with cultured left foot, Weir is the hipster’s choice for a starring role at the Olympics.

The Scot is a versatile option in a tight, 18-strong squad likely to be laden with Manchester City team-mates, currently chasing Chelsea in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League.

Phil Neville’s departure means the Team GB coaching role is yet to be filled - one thing’s for certain, Weir will be a central figure.

Lizzy Banks, cycling

When Banks got her first-ever coach in 2015, he asked her what she wanted to do in the sport. She said: “I want to be world champion and I want to go to the Olympics.”

As she did at Grand Prix Plouay in 2020, the 30-year-old may well be tasked with leading Lizzie Deignan out to her second Olympic medal and is a growing presence at the front of the peloton.

But Banks proved her personal power with Giro Rosa stage wins in 2019 and 2020. She is well capable of going it alone.

Chelsie Giles, judo

Judo is all about timing and Giles seems to have nailed that, finding the form of her life to take a maiden Grand Slam gold in Tel Aviv in February.

Having learned her craft in the Coventry dojo, she won European Games bronze in 2019 and beat Olympic champion Majlinda Kelmendi on route to a fairytale gold in Israel.

Olympic victory looks a tall order in a weight category with dominant Japanese and French fighters, but Giles has now proven she can beat the best and a medal is far from beyond her.

Sportsbeat 2021