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Isinbayeva gold: the safest bet at the Games?

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Isinbayeva celebrates another world recordThe great thing about sport is that the next great upset is never far away.

Some gold medals at the Games look a lot easier to predict than others, though, and if I had to put my pay cheque on one athlete to win in Beijing I would go for Yelena Isinbayeva, the remarkable Russian pole vaulter who can’t stop breaking records.

Isinbayeva cleared 5.04 metres in Monaco on Tuesday to record her 13th outdoor world record and 23rd overall.

If she is beaten in Beijing it will be astonishing, yet experience shows you can’t rule it out altogether. After all, the greatest pole vaulter of all time, Sergei Bubka won just one Olympic gold medal in Seoul in 1988 (and he very nearly missed out on that one). I also remember Jonathan Edwards having to settle for silver in 1996 after going into the Atlanta Games as the hottest of favourites.

I know of a few other pretty solid favourites, including Croatia’s world champion high jumper Blanka Vlasic and American swimmer Michael Phelps in several events, but who are the lesser known athletes almost certain to take gold? Is there a fencer, a boxer, a cyclist or a weightlifter you’d put your last penny on?

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