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Who are Australia’s best medal hopes at the 2016 Olympic Games?

WE are less than six months out from the biggest sporting event on this earth, the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The Games kick off on Friday August 5 and end on Sunday, August 21, and there is talk that the Aussie’s might just be targeting a top five medal finish, after recent poor performances.

Olympics chief Kitty Chiller said hopes the Rio team can bury the disappointments of the London Olympics, where the 10th place finish in the tally was the worst result it had achieved in 20 years.

“I’m confident that we have the opportunity of getting to our aspirational goal – it’s absolutely not impossible by any stretch of the imagination,’’ Chiller said.

“But our sports need to maintain their focus on the sharp edge of performance – our athletes must be podium ready, not just championships ready.’’

In order to burst back into the top five, Chiller says the nation’s athletes will need to take home at least 14 gold medals, with a 45 medal target not out of reach. That would mean doubling the number of golds in London (just seven) and adding 10 more to the 35 overall medals it took home from the United Kingdom.

And Chiller says it starts in the water, where the swimmers scored just one medal and the rowers none.

“If you look at the history of the Olympics, I don’t think any team has ever doubled its gold medal from one Games to the next but we almost have to forget the past,’’ Chiller said.

“The swim team needs to step up to win five or six golds,” she said.

They would want to perform, too, with the Australian Olympic Committee in the midst of forking out some $34 million to train and send over 460 athletes to Rio – the nation’s biggest Olympic touring party since the Athens Olympics in 2004.

The Australians are $1.66 with Sportsbet.com.au to claim over 10.5 gold medals in Rio, while they are $2.15 to finish under that mark.

So who are the athletes and teams that are going to tip us over the line and give our nation a chance to break into the top five.

We take a look.

Australian men and women basketballers

We all know the Australian women have it over the men when it comes to Olympic basketball, having secured either silver and bronze medals in each of the past five Olympic Games, but the new era will be hoping to go one better.

But it hasn’t been all smooth sailing, with outspoken big Liz Cambage copping flack for attending Splendour in the Grass instead of a training camp last year and then just recently calling out her team mate Alice Kunick on social media for an image of her in ‘black face’ dressed up as Kanye West.

They will have their work cut out against the US, who have won the past five gold medals and are heavy favourites again, but the Opals are $7 to take the gold medal with sportsbet.com.au. By contrast, the Boomers men have never won a medal, but, with the likes of Patty Mills, Andrew Bogut and maybe even boom college star and future NBA draft pick Ben Simmons in uniform, they might fancy their chances.

The gold, at $26, is beyond them, but a top three finish is not.

Sally Pearson

The darling of Australian athletics since Cathy Freeman left the Olympic scene, this will be Pearson’s third Olympics and, at 29, she’ll be hurdling against the best young run jumpers in the world, including a barrage of guns from the USA. She is the defending gold medallist in the 100m event, but you can get the juicy odds of $5 with sportsbet.com.au for her to win gold in Rio. She won the gold in the Commonwealth Games and silver in the World Championships. Should still be at the peak of her powers. She’s coming off a broken wrist – a sickening scene at an event last year – but should be fit and firing come August.

Jessica Fox

Green around the ears and with the world at her feet, 18 year old Jessica Fox almost did the unthinkable in London, winning s silver medal in the women’s K-1 kayak event. She is now the world champion in both that event and the C-1 and is absolutely primed to take out gold at this year’s games. The side is yet to be selected, but she is a walk up starter and may even be Australia’s best medal hope.

Cate Campbell

Gun freestyle swimmer Cate Campbell is the world champion at her specialist craft and she has not lost a race in nearly three years. Won two bronze as a 16 year old in 2008 and then took gold at London, the only swimmer to do so. An absolute gun who is among the fastest women ever to hit the water, Campbell has competition from her younger sister Bronte to remain queen of the water. A little sibling rivalry goes a long way and that should be enough to spur her to gold in Rio.

Cameron McEvoy

Another gun swimmer, McEvoy is number one in the world over 100m and second in the 50m and 200m free. McEvoy emerged as one to watch when he defeated world champion James Magnussen and Olympic gold medallist Nathan Adrian in the 100m freestyle at last year’s Pan Pacific swimming championships and, at 21, won silver at the recent FINA world swimming championships in Kazan, Russia. He is an $8 third favourite with sportsbet.com.au to come home with the gold medal in the men’s 200m freestyle.

Jason Day

The current world number two will carry high hopes into the Olympics. With Adam Scott a doubt, Day holds Australia’s best hopes of a medal in a sport that is making its return to the Olympic forum. And he’s pretty keen to represent the green and gold: “To have an opportunity to represent my country, go down to Rio and try to win a gold medal, it’s a big priority because at the end of my career, I’d love to have a gold medal, or silver or bronze. It would just be great to be an Olympian on the first place.” The last time golfers were a part of the Games was in 1904 in St Louis. Day won the PGA Championship last year to break through for his first major and is in the top five golfers on the planet, making the $5 available with sportsbet.com.au on an Australian male golfer to take gold very juicy indeed.

Australian men’s hockey team

Always among the medals, you can almost guarantee the Kookabura’s will be wearing some form of medal around their necks. sportsbet.com.au has them at $3.50 to take the gold medal, almost six months out from the Olympics and it’s hard to argue with those odds. Led still, but the evergreen Jamie Dwyer, the Aussies will be formidable opponents for the likes of the Dutch and Germany, who are their key challengers for the Aussies, who will be aiming for their seventh straight Olympic Games with a medal.

Anna Meares

At 31, we don’t think we’re going out on a limb her to say this will probably be Meares’ last Olympic Games. And what a deal it would be if she could cap off her remarkable career with a gold medal in Rio. Meares is one of the most well known athletes, having secured a record 11 world championship gold medals as our nation’s most successful female track cyclist. She has two gold medals to her name with a silver and two bronze and is set to take part in the keirin, individual and team sprints, giving her plenty of bites of the cherry. Meares broke her neck in a shocking cycling accident at the world cup in 2008. Travelling at 65 kilometres an hour, Meares broke one of her vertebrae, dislocated her shoulder and ripped ligaments and tendons throughout her body, leaving her with horrible skin grazes. It’s unbelievable that she was able to recover to ride in the Beijing Olympics, just seven months later and a gold medal in Rio would be just another tale to add to her truly remarkable story.