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Britain aims to top record medals tally at Rio

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Aug. 12, 2012: Samantha Murray, of Great Britain, celebrates as she crosses the finish line to win the silver medal of the women's modern pentathlon, at the 2012 Summer Olympics, in London

Britain is confident of bettering its record-breaking success at the London Olympics following a commitment by its government to maintain funding levels through to the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to invest 508 million pounds ($797 million) of government and National Lottery into Olympic sports over the next four years, boosting Britain's hopes of building on the 65 medals the country won at its home games.

"It is an exceptional position to be in," said UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl, who works for the body that distributes cash to Olympic sports. "For most countries who have had an uplift in funding for a home games, that's not been sustained.

"To have that confirmation now, six months before the funding ends, we are in a good place to keep up the momentum . As for winning more medals (in Rio), we think it's entirely possible."

Roared on by passionate home crowds, Britain won 29 golds to finish third in the overall medals table at the London Games -- its best performance at an Olympics in the modern era. That bumped Russia into fourth place, with only United States and China finishing higher.

But there are fears that the post-Olympic feelgood factor will soon fizzle out, leaving a lost legacy.

"It's about how bad do we want it and putting in the work," said Peter Keen, the performance advisor to UK Sport. "I hope people have got longer memories and remember just how good it was, and how much we valued it. It's absolutely game on.

"The planning work for Rio is vastly better than it was six years ago -- unrecognizably better -- not just in the words written but the quality of the thinking. We are actually starting to get it. We aren't the finished article."

Britain won its medals across 17 sports, with nine disciplines falling short of their targets. They are now unlikely to receive funding for the Rio Games because of UK Sport's "no compromise" policy.

"We will not be able to fund each and every sport that we funded this time round," Nicholl said. "Our aim to make sure that when we make our Rio investments, we will invest in every sport that has medal potential.

"For handball and other sports that have been given host-nation places here, they have to demonstrate to us that they can qualify by right for the Olympic Games. If they can't be there, then they can't be supported to achieve a medal. That's what our no-compromise approach is all about, that's the approach that works. We will not waver."

The decision about how much funding will be allocated to each Olympic sport will be made on Dec. 12.

The successful sports -- rowing, cycling and sailing -- should again receive about 27 million pounds ($42 million) each over the next Olympic cycle, but swimming is one of the high-profile sports that could see investment slashed. Britain won only three medals in the pool, when its target was in between five and seven.

 That leaves the difficult scenario of how to improve the medal chances of a sport that is about to receive a cut in government funding.

"Every sport has to take responsibility itself for driving its own development to a point at which we can identify that it has future medal potential and that we will be investing," Nicholl said.

Rower Katherine Grainger, who won gold in the women's double sculls with Anna Watkins, is one of Britain's 120 medalists from the London Games who will visit schools and local sports clubs over the next few months to share her Olympic journeys in a bid to inspire the next generation of Olympians.

"The inspiration and motivation that young people get from showing our medals and talking about our Olympic experiences is the kind of stuff that money can't buy," Grainger said. "We will see things changing because of it. We should keep celebrating it."