There’s a good chance that iconic sports figures like Mo Farah, Jason Kenny and Charlotte Dujardin will continue to impress in their chosen events come the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. However, Specialized bikes stockist Leisure Lakes Bikes has shone the spotlight on a trio of up-and-coming athletes who may steal the headlines and become instant household names across Britain when the next Olympics rolls around in a couple of years’ time…
Home town/city: Wellington, New Zealand, but brought up in Cropston, Leicestershire
Dan McLay first truly caught the eye of those in the cycling world at the 2016 Tour De France. It was at that event that he managed to share the podium with Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel after placing third in the Arpajon-sur-Cere to Montauban stage of the prestigious race. The achievement was made even more remarkable when you factored in that McLay had a lot less lead-out firepower to play with.
Although born in New Zealand, McLay will be part of Team GB if he’s selected for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games due to being brought up in Leicester. He reflected on that performance at the 2016 Tour De France in an interview with Rouleur around a year later by stating: “I think the biggest positive was not so much the third place, it’s just that it looked like I had the capacity to kind of win, if everything worked slightly differently.
“For me, that was more important than the position, really showing the abilities.”
Since that feat though, the cyclist has gone through mixed emotions. However, some of the good times have included when he won the 2017 Tour de l’Eurométropole by narrowly beating Anthony Turgis of France in a fantastic final sprint and his victory in the final day of action at the 2017 Challenge Mallorca race earlier that year.
Even through the highs and lows, McLay has continued to possess an upbeat attitude and remained focused on finding new ways to improve his technique. Towards the end of 2017, for instance, he told Cyclingnews: “It’s taken a while to find my seat. I’ve got a few results here or there, but I haven’t found my rhythm yet, winning or hitting an exact formula for doing so. It’s about finding that consistency, because physically I’ve got the ability to win a lot more than I have been. Hopefully I can make it click. But that’s easy to say and hard to do.”
McLay will certainly have a cause to feel optimistic if he manages to make it to Tokyo 2020. This is because the road race in Tokyo is likely to be flat and suited to sprinters such as the Leicester man. Could it be McLay who leads Team GB to their first medal in that format since Max Sciandri claimed bronze at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, USA?
Home town/city: Southampton, Hampshire
The recent Olympic Games have been nothing short of phenomenal for British Cycling, whether you’ve focused on the action on road circuits or inside velodrome arenas across the world. And, 24-year-old Jon Dibben could well be the next cyclist to write his name in the history books at Tokyo 2020.
In fact, Dibben — who has specialisms as both an all-rounder and a sprinter — was so close to being selected as a member of the team pursuit at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. He hasn’t slowed down since being so close to being presented with this opportunity though.
It was during 2017 that the GB Academy graduate had the honour of becoming a professional cyclist. In that year, Dibben also become a part of Team Sky — the British professional cycling team who have had five Tour de France winners, a Vuelta a España winner and a Giro d’Italia winner among their ranks since 2012.
The Hampshire-born cyclist hasn’t wasted his chance of being a member of Team Sky. In fact, he claimed his first pro win at the 2017 Tour of California having just been five months into his professional career. Speaking to Cycling Weekly straight after his breakthrough victory, Dibben pointed out: “At the start of the year, I didn’t have any specific goals. Just to turn up at races and do my job, hitting performance targets. Along the way I guess I’ve highlighted days like today and thought, ‘OK, that could suit me,’ but to win…
“Beforehand I was speaking to Tao [Geoghegan Hart] and I didn’t really know what to expect. I guess I’d have been happy with a top 20, so to win is pretty damn good!”
Dibben collected a gold medal at the 2016 Track World Championships too, as well as having the honour of being a European omnium bronze medallist. Could an Olympic medal soon become the centerpiece of his prize-winning collection?
Home town/city: Luton, Bedfordshire
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will be historic for the fact that it’ll be the first time that karate has featured within the event’s programme. Men and women will take part in kata (forms) and kumite (sparring) events. Jordan Thomas has a fantastic chance to be the standout star in Japan.
While he’s the son of William Thomas — an icon in karate having been victorious at the 1986 European Championships, before clinching the world title in 1992 — Jordan has done a great job at emerging from his father’s shadow.
For instance, the Luton-born athlete took kumite gold at the 2016 World Championships in a competition in the -67kg division — a victory that was made even more extraordinary in that Jordan was the first Briton to record that feat in 12 years. Jordan’s also both a gold and bronze medallist at the European Championships.
In order to help with his dream of taking home Olympic gold from Tokyo 2020, Jordan has formed a smart partnership with the Great Britain taekwondo team. Talking to the BBC about the move, he points out: “Being in that system takes a lot of stress off me. “I’m glad they’ve actually seen that [Olympic gold potential] in me, because I believe I can get there myself.”
Could this turn into the winning tactic for Jordan to become the first-ever karate champion at the Olympic Games?