With the Rio 2016 Games fast approaching, Athletics Weekly looks back over previous editions and presents the most fearsome British track and field squad of all time

What if you could pick any British athletes from 1896 to 2016 to feature in an Olympic dream team?

Some events are relatively easy, but others, such as the men’s middle-distances, are nearly impossible, such is the wealth of choices from more than a century of top-class competition.

With the Rio 2016 Games fast approaching, we take a look back over previous editions and present the most fearsome British track and field squad of all time. The below is a condensed version of an in-depth eight-page Olympic nostalgia feature, which was published in the June 2 edition of AW magazine and includes explanations for selections. You can order the June 2 magazine here or read it digitally here.

MEN

100 metres/4×100 metres

1992 champion: Linford Christie
1980 champion: Allan Wells
1924 champion: Harold Abrahams

The 1960 Olympic bronze medallist Peter Radford is reserve. The relay squad is completed by the 200m men (below) and Olympic winners Jason Gardener, Marlon Devonish and Mark Lewis-Francis.

200 metres

2000 runner-up: Darren Campbell
Double world runner-up: John Regis
1980 Olympic runner-up: Allan Wells

The reserve is 1928 silver medallist Walter Rangeley.

400 metres/4×400 metres

1924 champion: Eric Liddell
1996 runner-up: Roger Black
1936 runner-up: Godfrey Brown

The reserve is unopposed 1908 champion Wyndham Halswelle. The 4x400m team is boosted by 400m hurdler Kriss Akabusi and his fellow world champions Regis and Derek Redmond. Current relay star Martyn Rooney should also be included.

800 metres

1984/1988 runner-up: Sebastian Coe
1980 champion: Steve Ovett
1920/1924 champion: Douglas Lowe

This is where the wealth of choice makes it nearly impossible as Britain has won six golds at this event. The first man inside 1:50, Thomas Hampson, gets only a reserve spot ahead of 1900 champion Alfred Tysoe and 1956 silver medallist Derek Johnson.

1500 metres

1980/1984 champion: Sebastian Coe
1984 runner-up: Steve Cram
1920 champion: Albert Hill

This event has probably the biggest number of contenders. Ovett was a brilliant competitor – arguably Britain’s best at the distance – but had a best of only third from his three campaigns and takes reserve spot narrowly from 1988 silver medallist Peter Elliott, 1912 champion Arnold Jackson and sub-four minute miler Roger Bannister.

5000 metres

2012 champion: Mo Farah
1972 bronze medallist: Ian Stewart
1956 runner-up: Gordon Pirie

The reserve spot is less obvious with world record-holder Dave Moorcroft just edging 1956 medallist Derek Ibbotson.

mo_farah_5000

10,000 metres

2012 champion: Mo Farah
1976 bronze medallist: Brendan Foster
1984 runner-up: Mike McLeod

The reserve berth goes to 1920 bronze medallist James Wilson over former UK record-holder Eamonn Martin, who was unable to convert his stunning 1988 Oslo form to Seoul.

Marathon

1964 runner-up: Basil Heatley
1984 bronze medallist: Charlie Spedding
1948 runner-up: Tom Richards

The reserve spot goes to silver medallist Sam Ferris ahead of 1936 runner-up Ernie Harper, who just has the edge over two celebrated world record-holders, Jim Peters and Steve Jones, who had no Olympic marathon credentials.

3000 metres steeplechase

1956 champion: Chris Brasher
1988 bronze medallist: Mark Rowland
1964 runner-up: Maurice Herriott

The reserve spot goes to 1920 champion Percy Hodge over 1908 champion Arthur Russell.

110 metres hurdles

1936 runner-up: Don Finlay
1988 runner-up Colin Jackson
World runner-up: Tony Jarrett

The reserve spot goes to former European and Commonwealth champion and world medallist Andy Turner over 2012 fourth-placer Lawrence Clarke.

400 metres hurdles

1928 champion: Lord Burghley
1968 champion: David Hemery
1992 bronze medallist: Kriss Akabusi

After David Hemery and Lord Burghley, Kriss Akabusi gets the third spot due to the greater opposition encountered in his 47.82 run than reserve John Cooper’s 50.1 in his silver medal winning run of 1964 and John Sherwood’s bronze in 1968.

High jump

1988 bronze medallist: Steve Smith
2008 runner-up: Germaine Mason
2012 bronze medallist: Robbie Grabarz

Dalton Grant, who was seventh in 1988, jumped 2.36m in a world final and didn’t even win a medal, gets the reserve spot.

Pole vault

2012 fifth-placer: Steve Lewis
1976/1980 finalist: Brian Hooper
1968 finalist: Mike Bull

The reserve is Jeff Gutteridge, who was also 11th in a boycott-affected Los Angeles in 1984.

Long jump

2012 champion: Greg Rutherford
1964 champion: Lynn Davies
2004 fifth-placer: Chris Tomlinson

1972 seventh-placer Alan Lerwill is the reserve.

Triple jump

2000 champion: Jonathan Edwards
2008 runner-up: Phillips Idowu
1984 bronze medallist: Keith Connor

1964 fourth-placer Fred Alsop is obvious as the reserve.

jonathan edwards

Shot put

1980 fifth-placer: Geoff Capes
1960 fifth-placer: Mike Lindsay
1960 seventh-placer Martyn Lucking

Reserve spot goes to 1952 sixth-placer John Savidge.

Discus

1956 fourth-placer: Mark Pharaoh
2012 finalist: Lawrence Okoye
1896 fourth placer: George Robertson

Bob Weir, 10th in 1984, is reserve.

Hammer

1924 bronze medallist: Malcolm Nokes
1976 seventh-placer: Chris Black
2015 world finalist: Nick Miller

The reserve, as in the discus, would be Bob Weir.

Javelin

1996/2000 runner-up: Steve Backley
1984 runner-up: David Ottley
World bronze medallist: Mick Hill

Roald Bradstock, seventh in 1984, is the reserve.

20km walk

1964 champion: Ken Matthews
1960 bronze medallist: Stan Vickers
1972 sixth-placer: Paul Nihill

The reserve is Ian McCombie, who was 13th in a top-class race in 1988.

50km walk

1932 champion: Tommy Green
1936 champion: Harold Whitlock
1960 champion: Don Thompson

The reserve is also obvious with 1964 runner-up Nihill standing out.

Decathlon

1984/1988 champion: Daley Thompson
Double world medallist: Dean Macey
1952 finalist: Geoff Elliott

The man regarded as Britain’s first world-class decathlete, Peter Gabbett, is reserve and, although he failed to start the 1968 Olympics and dropped out of the 1972 event, he ran a stunning 46.10 in the 400m in the latter.

WOMEN

100 metres/4×100 metres

1960 runner-up: Dorothy Hyman
1948 runner-up: Dorothy Manley
British record-holder: Dina Asher-Smith

1976 seventh-placer Andrea Lynch is the reserve. The relay team comes only from the 100m and 200m events and reserves.

dina_asher_smith

200 metres

1960 bronze medallist: Dorothy Hyman
1984 fourth-placer: Kathy Cook
1948 runner-up: Audrey Robinson

The reserve is Bev Goddard, who was one of three British finalists in 1980.

400 metres/4×400 metres

2008 champion: Christine Ohuruogu
1968 runner-up: Lillian Board
1984 bronze medallist: Kathy Cook

The 2000 Olympic bronze medallist, Katharine Merry, gets the reserve spot ahead of 1964 runner-up Ann Packer, who can focus more on the 800m. The relay team is boosted by the reserves and 400m hurdlers.

800 metres

2004 champion: Kelly Holmes
1964 champion: Ann Packer
1968 fourth-placer: Sheila Taylor

Lorraine Baker, fifth in 1984, is reserve.

1500 metres

2004 champion: Kelly Holmes
1988 fourth placer: Chris Cahill
2008 fourth placer: Lisa Dobriskey

World medallist and Beijing fourth-placer Lisa Dobriskey takes the final spot narrowly ahead of reserve Sheila Carey, who was fifth in 1972.

3000/5000 metres

2004 5000m fifth-placer: Jo Pavey
1984 3000m runner-up: Wendy Sly
1988 3000m medallist: Yvonne Murray

The 3000m was held three times, while the 5000m replaced it in 1996. Paula Radcliffe, who was fifth in the first Olympic 5000m and holds the British 3000m and 5000m records, is reserve but would focus on the 10,000m and marathon.

10,000 metres

1988 runner-up: Liz McColgan
2000 fourth-placer: Paula Radcliffe
2014 European champion: Jo Pavey

liz mccolgan

Marathon

2005 world champion: Paula Radcliffe
1984 sixth placer: Priscilla Welch
2008 sixth placer: Mara Yamauchi

The reserve is London Marathon winner Liz McColgan, who was 16th in 1996 but capable of winning a medal.

3000m steeplechase

World finalist: Barbara Parker
Ex-UK record-holder: Helen Clitheroe
World finalist: Eilish McColgan

This event has been held only twice and therefore there have been few genuine contenders for a British team spot. The reserve is European fourth-placer Hatti Dean.

100m hurdles

1948 runner-up: Maureen Gardner
1984 runner-up: Shirley Strong
1960 runner-up: Carole Quinton

The reserve is European champion Tiffany Porter, although the best British Olympic hurdles performance was arguably by Jessica Ennis in the London heptathlon hurdles, where her stunning 12.54 ensured her multi-event gold medal.

400m hurdles

1992 champion: Sally Gunnell
2008 bronze medallist: Natasha Danvers
2013 world finalist: Perri Shakes-Drayton

European champion Eilidh Child, who was a semi-finalist in 2012, is reserve.

High jump

1956 runner-up: Thelma Hopkins
1952 runner-up: Sheila Lerwill
1936/1948 runner-up: Dorothy Odam (Tyler)

The reserve is 1960 joint silver medallist Dorothy Shirley, who gained Britain’s fifth medal in five successive Games. If the timetable allowed, heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson would also have to be considered.

Pole vault

2012 sixth-placer: Holly Bleasdale (now Bradshaw)
2009 world finalist: Kate Dennison
1999 world finalist: Janine Whitlock

The reserve spot, subject to qualifying, goes to 2014 Commonwealth runner-up Sally Peake.

Long jump

1964 champion: Mary Rand
1968 runner-up: Sheila Sherwood
1984 bronze medallist: Susan Hearnshaw

The reserve is Shara Proctor, who was ninth in 2012 but gained silver in last year’s World Championships. However, it’s worth noting that world junior champion Fiona May, who was sixth for Britain in 1988, would be a definite if you could take into account her two silvers after she switched to Italy.

Triple jump

1996 fourth-placer: Ashia Hansen
2012 fifth-placer: Yamile Aldama
1995 world finalist: Michelle Griffith

The reserve, subject to qualifying, is current Commonwealth silver medallist Laura Samuel.

Shot put

1984 fourth-placer: Judy Oakes
1984 sixth-placer: Venissa Head
1948 eighth-placer: Bevis Read

Bevis Read, eighth in the first shot final, gets the third spot ahead of former UK record-holder Mary Peters, who was close to making the final in 1964.

Discus

1984 fifth-placer: Meg Ritchie
1984 seventh-placer: Venissa Head
1972 finalist: Rosemary Payne

Rosemary Payne, still competing as Rosemary Chrimes as a W80 in 2014, was a finalist in 1972 and gets the final spot over Jade Lally, who now ranks second all-time, and will hopefully get an Olympic debut in Rio.

Hammer

2000 finalist: Lorraine Shaw
2012 finalist: Sophie Hitchon
2008 team member: Zoe Derham

Britain’s current ungenerous selectors would not pick a third athlete. However, we go for Zoe Derham, who made the 2008 team and was 35th in qualifying. If she could make the qualifying standard then Sarah Holt, who ranks No.2 all-time in Britain, would get the third spot.

Javelin

1984 champion: Tessa Sanderson
1988 runner-up: Fatima Whitbread
2008 fourth-placer: Goldie Sayers

Susan Platt, who was seventh in Rome, is reserve.

Heptathlon (including pentathlon) 

2000 champion: Denise Lewis
1972 champion: Mary Peters
2012 champion: Jess Ennis-Hill

Tokyo runner-up Mary Rand is reserve ahead of 2004 medallist Kelly Sotherton.

20km walk

2010 Commonwealth winner: Jo Jackson
1998 Commonwealth medallist: Lisa Kehler
1992/1996 competitor: Vicky Lupton

Lisa Langford, 35th in the shorter walk in 1992, is reserve.

» This is a condensed version of an in-depth eight-page Olympic nostalgia feature, which was included in the June 2 edition of AW and includes explanations for selections. You can order the June 2 magazine here or read it digitally here

» Do you agree with our choices? What is your all-time Olympic dream team? Share your views with us on Twitter @AthleticsWeekly and Facebook