SHEFFIELD’S athletics golden girl Jess Ennis could lead Team GB to a dazzling 27 gold medal wins at the Olympic Games - by far its largest haul in a century - according to a study carried out in her home city.
Professor Simon Shibli, from Sheffield Hallam University, predicts the gold medal tally would likely earn Great Britain third place in the London 2012 medal table, above Russia.
But he also forecasts Britain will end up with the most last places, too.
The Hallam University study bases its projections on Team GB’s past performance, and makes adjustments for Britain’s home advantage at London 2012.
The 27 golds figure - and a prediction of 56 medals in total - is 11 Olympic titles more than forecast by any other analyst.
But Prof Shibli said he is ‘comfortable’ with his gold medal projection - and believes Britain may win more than 56 medals in total.
He said: “Just from me looking at it, 56 in total is a bit on the shy side.”
Luciano Barra, a former Italian Olympic Committee member, projected just 12 gold medals for the British - a haul he has since revised to 16 on the back of British success at the World Track Cycling in Melbourne.
And Team GB was placed fourth at Beijing 2008, winning 19 gold medals.
That figure was an increase of 10 on the team’s performance in Athens four years earlier, and has been beaten only once, at the 1908 Olympics, where hosts Britain won 56 Olympic titles.
But Prof Shibli said: “Our model takes a ‘whole system’ approach rather than sport-by-sport.
“There are different techniques in use by various forecasters and part of the ‘competition’ is to see who can produce the most accurate forecasts.”
He said his forecast was partly based on the advantage provided by host-nation status.
“There is this separate benefit of being the host nation,” he said.
“We are able to contest more sports, more disciplines, more events and more medals than we would previously.
“Now that doesn’t guarantee medal-winning success - the host nation also ends up with the most last places.
“But Britain’s pre-qualified athletes have not had to play their hand yet in the way others have, and they have an element of surprise.”