But for some athletes making the podium is far from their minds. Instead, just representing their country at the greatest sports show on earth is all the matters.
Mount Kelly College swimmer Daniah Hagul falls into this category.
The 17-year-old will represent Libya in the women’s 100m breaststroke competition on Sunday.
That is the event where fellow Devon-based teenager Ruta Meilutyte is reigning champion.
It would be a massive shock if Plymouth Leander’s world record holder Meilutyte did not make the following day’s final and the podium, but Hagul’s ambition will be to not finish last and inspire girls back in troubled Libya, where few females would be seen out in public in a swimming costume.
Hagul is the slowest of the entries in her event with a qualifying time of 1:28.59. She will swim in the first heat with just three other competitors, Nigeria’s Rechael Tonjor and Turkmenistan’s Darya Semyonova.
Hagul said before heading out to the Games in Rio: “A significant number of boys but hardly any other girls swim (in Libya), so I hope that they watch me and are inspired to do the same.
“It’s such an honour and a privilege (to go to the Games) and I can’t wait to do my country proud.”
Hagul will be the first female swimmer to represent Libya in a decade.
She was brought up in Malta, where she began swimming competitively at 12 years-old.
Moving to Mount Kelly has enabled Hagul to work with former Olympian and top coach Robin Brew.
“Robin is a great coach and mentor,” she said.
Hagul has had to pay her own way to Rio, amazingly raising the money through crowd-funding.
The teenager is joined in the Libya swimming team by former Plymouth College pupil Ahmed Attellesey, who will compete in the men’s 50m freestyle event, alongside his former school team-mate Ben Proud.
Meilutyte (pictured) will have lane four, with Australian star Georgia Bohl outside her.
The final heat will see America’s Lilly King, Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson and Sweden’s Jennie Johansson swim.