Caught your breath yet? Good, then I’ll begin. Saturday, 4 August 2012. If there’s been a better day in the history of British sport, then those that were there to see it were seriously lucky.
The schedulers for the track and field programme of the Olympics knew what they were doing. Arranging for Mo Farah to run in the 10,000m final, mere minutes after Jessica Ennis finished in the heptathlon was a calculated risk. Bank on Ennis to win gold at her maiden Olympic Games, and use the fan enthusiasm that would surely follow to act as an aid to Farah.
A simple plan. It almost came to fruition. However, what no-one had expected was that this potential gilded spell wouldn’t bring two gold medals, but three. In between the twin roars that greeted the victories for Ennis and Farah, Team GB had a pleasant surprise as Greg Rutherford produced a splendid piece of sporting opportunism to win the long jump. It marked the first time in Olympic history that Great Britain has secured three golds in a single athletics session, a feat which pays tribute to Charles van Commenee’s tough selection and approach processes.
It was the pay-off to a most remarkable day for those supporting the host nation. The rowing ended with Britain as the regatta’s most successful nation, securing two more golds in the women’s lightweight double sculls and the men’s coxless four. There was also an emotional silver in the men’s lightweight double sculls for Zach Purchase and Mark Hunter, gold medallists at Beijing, who had to be helped from their boat by an attendant Sir Steve Redgrave.
The brilliance continued in the velodrome, where British dominance resulted in triumph for the women’s team pursuit. To think that the combined ages of Laura Trott, Dani King and Joanna Rowsell is only 54. They shouldn’t peak until the Rio Olympics in 2016, but they broke the world record three times, smashing the opposition to pieces.
Even the tennis brought parochial cheer. Many – me included – think that tennis has no place at the Games, but no-one at Wimbledon seemed to mind, as Andy Murray and Laura Robson won their quarter-final and semi-final to guarantee themselves a minimum of a silver medal in the mixed doubles.
There was also an incredible climax to the women’s triathlon, which resembled the kind of finish one would expect to see in the 100 metres; Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig pipping Sweden’s Lisa Norden on the line by three-hundreths of a second, after British medal hope Helen Jenkins faded over the last two kilometers of the run. And Michael Phelps entered the pool for the final time, leaving it in familiar fashion, with a gold medal – that’s 18 for those who are keeping count.
But it was a day for Britain. A day to cherish and revel in. 24 hours that will be recounted for generations. Whatever positive emotions you felt as a result of British success, remember it, hold onto it. We’ll never see a day as glorious as this one again.
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