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What does Rio 2016 mean for Tokyo 2020?

Robson Conceicao
Action Images/Peter Cziborra
What does the distribution of medals at Rio 2016 actually tell, ponders Chris Kempson

BOXING at the Rio 2016 was interesting  for many and varied reasons, not all good, I hasten to add; and identified the “old guard”, namely Cuba and the “new guard”, namely Uzbekistan, as the principal gold medal players in the men’s event with three a piece. Perhaps no real surprise there; but to say just how well Uzbekistan is doing these days. They are certainly the ‘new kids’ in the ring!

Other gold medals went to Brazil, the host nation, their first ever gold in the Olympic ring, while Kazakhstan, Russia and France each ‘weighed in’ with one gold.

In the women’s tournament, two of the gold medallists from London 2012, namely our very own flyweight Nicola Adams and American middleweight Claressa Shields retained their respective Olympic crowns, while there was a first gold for France at lightweight, through Estelle Mossely. The achievements once again of Adams and Shields were truly magnificent and who knows what might be in store for them in the years ahead.

Overall, in the men’s event, Uzbekistan took 7 medals, Cuba 6, France, Kazakhstan and Russia with 4 each, Azerbaijan, Team GB and the Unites States with 2 each and sole medals for Brazil (a gold), China, Croatia, Colombia, Germany, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco and Venezuela.

In the women’s tournament, the12 medals were distributed as follows: China 3, France 2 (including their first gold), the following countries each won a single medal: Team GB (gold), USA (gold), Columbia, Finland, Russia, Kazakhstan and the Netherlands

So, what conclusions can we draw from the medal tables and their distribution, given that there were 286 entrants from 76 countries.

First, you do not need to come from necessarily a country with a large population to win gold medals and head the medal tables: Cuba and Uzbekistan are clear examples of this. Cuba has a population of a little over 11 million people, roughly equivalent to the population of the Greater London area and some of its south eastern hinterland. Uzbekistan with a population of over 30 million people can hardly be described in all honesty as a ‘big country’.

Yet these two countries successfully nurture the talent they have and then let them loose on the Olympic and World stages with outstanding successes. Cuba is a truly remarkable example of a country committed to boxing. Uzbekistan, following its own internal traditions, is developing a fine tradition in boxing.

Second, home continental advantage did not really materialise in Rio. Brazil won a gold medal, Colombia got a silver and a bronze, Venezuela a bronze, but this was a very poor return from the South American continent. Argentina seems well and truly to have fallen off the gold standard and it will be a hard road for all those countries aspiring to reach Tokyo in four years’ time.

Indeed Africa, only secured a bronze from Morocco. South Africa no longer appears to be the force it once was, while Central America had to rely upon Mexico for its lone bronze medal. These countries and their respective continents have much to do to get back among the medals and it will be no easy task to do so.

Third, the poor form of the once so dominant United States of America continues, while Team GB was a shadow of its hugely successful ring outfit at London 2012, so more work to be done by both these boxing giants in time for Tokyo in 2020. There would have been disappointment too for Ireland in Rio, no doubt with various reasons attached to it

The Olympic demise of the once all conquering United States remains puzzling and somewhat surprising given their successful background in this sport. For a country of around 325 million people, their medal tally in recent Games has been disappointing and somewhat deplorable, they need to do better, I am not sure however that they will do so in the short term.

Fourth, two other relatively ‘ring newcomers’, namely Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan continue to make their mark in the Olympic ring.

Fifth, somewhat surprisingly perhaps, France carried the torch for western Europe and congratulations to her for doing so. Scandinavian countries are well out of the medal reckoning these days.

Sixth, turning now to Asia – China apart – had a disappointing Games, with only Mongolia picking up a bronze. What is happening to deny the once very successful teams from South Korea, Japan and Thailand? Will Japan be a major force in Tokyo in 2020, one could expect them to be among the medals then, perhaps China too as surely it will not want to be outshone by its neighbour.

Seventh, the once east European powerhouse for medals, here I mean; the likes of Bulgaria, Hungary Poland and Romania, appear to be confined to ring history as well as the once successful Italians and Germans. It seems unlikely that any major resurgence will come forth from these countries in the near future, if indeed ever. They may well have had their day and also their say on the Olympic stage.

The times are changing somewhat, although the Cuban production line is still in fine working order and so successful at that. Russia itself is languishing somewhat, but its former old Soviet Union strongholds such as the independent states now such as Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan continue to flex their ring muscles and are establishing themselves as contenders in their own right; although the Ukraine seems to have gone off the boil at present. It is pleasing to see these countries having success in the Olympic ring and they will be hard to derail now that they are establishing themselves in world class competition, they will be hard to stop in the short term.

Perhaps as far as western Europe is concerned, the tough qualification process is hindering their eventual Olympic results, but overall it is probably more of a case that the ‘new’ contestants are getting better all the time and setting the bar a little bit too high for some of their more established counterparts. It is good for our sport to have change and it will be interesting to see in four years time what the medallists will be like and where they will hail from.

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