“Faster, Higher, Stronger” is the promise of every Olympic Games and London certainly hasn’t disappointed. Athletes from all over the world have trained and dedicated their lives to triumph with medals and records but more importantly for the honour to represent their nations in the greatest sporting spectacle imaginable.
Super Saturday was always going to be difficult to follow; suddenly it seemed we wouldn’t accept anything but gold from Team GB. This may have been a bit optimistic but fortunately, day 10 saw more victory in the velodrome as Jason Kenny outclassed his opponent and eased his way to gold in the Men’s sprint. Frenchman and silver medalist, Grégory Baugé, declared ‘I don’t think Kenny is stronger than me’ in the press conference after the race – their places on the podium may suggest otherwise. Great Britain’s equestrian team also triumphed to gold to continue GB’s medal mania with Scott Brash, Peter Charles, Ben Maher and Nick Skelton winning the jump off against the Netherlands and captured pole position for the first time in 60 years – the records just won’t stop coming! Tears of joy ensued for Great Britain’s most successful female gymnast of all time, Beth Tweddle, who finally found herself on the podium in third place – the only achievement missing from her distinguished career.
Day 11 looked rather similar to day 10 where the majority of our gold medal successes came from our equestrian superstars and yes, once again from our champion cyclists. Great Britain won a 20th gold medal of London 2012 inside the dressage arena, surpassing the successes of Beijing 2008 for the nations best tally in over a century. Laura Bechtolsheimer, Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin beat Germany to clench Britain’s first ever team dressage gold and seal their place in the history books.
Glory did not stop there for the day as 20 year old Laura Trott went head to head with USA’s Sarah Hammer, four-time world champion and two-time Olympic silver medalist, in the 6-part cycling Omnium. The competition spanned over two days and is regarded as cycling’s answer to the heptathlon testing sprint ability, endurance and tactics. The podium positions were all determined by the final 500m time trial where Trott really proved her dominance and brilliance to finish first and claim her second gold medal of the games. Sir Chris Hoy also took to the track for the second time in these Olympics in the men’s Keirin. Could Britain’s Olympic hero clinch gold just once more? No doubt about it. The King of the Keirin overtook Sir Steve Redgrave’s gold medal tally to become the most successful British Olympian ever with six gold medals. Victoria Pendleton, Britain’s most successful female track cyclist, also took to the velodrome for what has promised to be the very last time in her career. Pendleton, the women’s sprint world and Olympic champion was, of course, going to face her nemesis, Australian Anna Meares, for one last hurrah. The women’s sprint is simple: best of three, first one over the line. In a dramatic first race Pendleton fractionally beat Meares to line and as the velodrome erupted with British euphoria it was decided that Pendleton had illegally left her sprint lane and for the second time in these Olympics had been relegated to second place. Shaken and nervous, the two once again took to the track for what became Victoria Pendleton’s last professional race. So it may not have been the golden dream to end an incredible career, this British athlete has certainly lived up to London’s Olympic slogan – ‘Inspire a generation’.
The Olympic Games is obviously a stage for some of the world’s most famous elite athletes but it is also a platform for some sports personalities to become stars. The Brownlee brothers were Great Britain’s unsung heroes; fairly unknown, Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee celebrated a gold and bronze in the men’s triathlon. These young brothers suddenly found themselves stealing the hearts of the entire nation.
Despite London 2012 providing non stop excitement and joy for all nations, day 12, sadly, proved rather bleak for Team GB fans as it was branded “woeful Wednesday” having failed to win any British gold medals. The achievements of Team GB over the Olympic fortnight had obviously driven the nation medal mad and our expectations were perhaps a little too high. Wednesday was, however, far from being boring. Women’s hockey saw Team GB face off against Argentina, both teams trying to secure their place in the Olympic final. The game unfortunately ended in despair for the home nation who were beaten 2-1 but all was not lost as they achieved bronze in Friday’s match for the first time in 20 years.
The Olympic games began with the spirit that any amateur has the opportunity to compete and represent their country: “the important thing is not to win, but to take part”. Sarah Attar, 19, made an Olympic track debut for Saudi Arabian women and despite finishing last; the principle was far greater than any athletic achievement. Attar’s performance earned a standing ovation from the crowd as the world stood still to remember how this sporting event really can change lives.
The records didn’t stop on day 13 and the glory certainly continued as GB’s Nicola Adams took to the ring to defeat China’s Ren Cancan and win the first Olympic gold ever awarded in women’s boxing. The excitement at ExCel continued as Great Britain’s Jade Jones competed and fought her way to gold in the women’s 57kg taekwondo final, the first ever Brit to do so. Day 12 may have been quiet in the equestrian arena but day 13 certainly wasn’t as Charlotte Dujardin, Laura Bechtolsheimer and Carl Hester all went for gold in the individual dressage event. It was Dujardin who championed to victory with a routine filled with patriotism as music from ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ and ‘The Great Escape’ accompanied by the chimes of Big Ben drove the duo to gold. Bechtolsheimer finished in bronze position to end a fantastic Olympics for Great Britain’s equestrian team.
The return of Usain Bolt and his Jamaican rival and compadré, Yohan Blake, was the main highlight of day 13. It seemed everyone in the world took to their seats to watch what seemed an all Jamaican competition. Could Bolt be the first man to achieve the ‘double double’ by winning the 100m and 200m titles at consecutive Olympics? The Jamaican styled frenzy that ensued would suggest so. It does not matter where you come from, I think every person in the world was hoping this giant character would do it and it seemed a disappointing result was never a possibility in his mind. Jamaican glory continued in the final event of the athletics on day 15 as they dominated the 4×100 with messy changeovers and supreme speed, breaking the world record and truly make these Olympics memorable.
As the Olympics came to its final stages, I imagine everyone was left in despair as they began to wonder how an earth they were going to fill their days once it’s all over? Fortunately, there were still three more days and many more medals to be won. Day 14 kicked off with more wins in Weymouth as Team GB’s men, Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell, and Team GB’s women, Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark, all achieved silver medals in the 470 classes. Diver Tom Daley returned for the men’s 10m platform after a disappointing opening to his Olympic campaign but got off to a nervous start in the preliminary round qualifying 15th out of a possible 18 places. His teammate and synchronised diving partner, Peter Waterfield, sadly failed to qualify to Saturday’s semi-finals. Thankfully, Daley found his form on day 15, as his performance seemed to be improving with every dive; he progressed confidently into the finals later on that evening. Daley’s medal dreams meant he needed to be on the top of his game and stay there for every round. Crowds and support were fantastic, if not a little too energized as Daley was granted a re-dive due to the hundreds of flashing cameras all trying to capture one of Britain’s superstars in action. The young 18 year old did himself and his nation very proud as he finally clinched a bronze and his first Olympic medal.
Great Britain has asserted its dominance in several sports this Olympics and I’m sure the velodrome and Eton Dorney will be remembered as GB’s most successful arenas. However, Anthony Joshua, in Team GB’s final gold medal, made it three boxing golds for Britain with a dramatic win over Roberto Cammarelle in Sunday’s super-heavyweight final. Nicola Adams and bantamweight Luke Campbell also won gold, whilst welterweight Fred Evans won silver and middleweight Anthony Ogogo bagged a bronze. Overall, a brilliant achievement in the ring.
The London 2012 Olympics have been simply incredible and truly inspiring to all and the only thing that would make it just perfect would be Mo Farah getting gold in the 5000m just one week after his fantastic 10,000m. But that’s the story of these Olympics – perfection. It seemed Mo was never going to let it be lost; he gave his everything and led for the entire last lap, and when his competitors tried to overtake, Farah just went faster and faster. Team GB’s final medal of the Olympics was silver and came from Lancashire’s Samantha Murray in the modern pentathlon as the final event of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Regrettably, that marks the end of a fortnight filled with remarkable sporting prowess and a true spectacle of the world’s super humans. The US finished top of the table, finally taking China’s crown but Team GB have outdone themselves finishing with 29 golds and a total of 65 medals. Great Britain has proven to be perfect host with incredible facilities, phenomenal volunteers, armed forces, organisers, media and most surprisingly weather. Good Luck to Rio for 2016 – big boots to fill!