The end is nigh. Hard as it may be to grasp, we’re approaching the final moments of London 2012 – and GB athletes seem determined to go out with a flourish. Five more medals, three of them gold, were added to the home nation’s enviable stack in style on the penultimate day of the Games.
Most of the nation had barely changed out of their pyjamas before Ed McKeever opened the day’s medal account with gold in the men’s 200m kayak. Despite being one of the shortest canoeists in the race, McKeever left his opponents trailing in his wake as he powered over the line in just 36.246 seconds to claim the medal. Known as the Ice Man because of his nerves of steel and as the Usain Bolt of the water for obvious reasons, McKeever spoke of his delight at winning gold. “It’s brilliant” he said shortly after the race. “This morning I woke up at five o’clock like a kid at Christmas waiting to open his presents. And I am going to get those presents in a moment.”
Liam Heath and Jon Schofield couldn’t quite match their fellow canoeist’s achievement, but still managed to creep onto the podium for the bronze. The European champions put in a strong performance in the Men’s Kayak K2 200m but were just beaten into second place by Belarus in the final seconds of the race.
…Campbell showed his class with an assured final round…
That was the last Eton Dorney had to offer in the way of medals, but the Olympic Stadium proved lucrative once again as Mo Farah took to the track for his second Olympic final. There was almost a sense of inevitability as he sped into the final stretch of the 5000m in the lead and crossed as an Olympic Champion for the second time in a week. Out came the track-kissing and the trademark Mobot gesture, and up went the volume of the crowd’s delirious roars.
But the British fans aren’t the only ones to have been won over by Farah’s courageous performances and unique celebrations. Sprint legend, Usain Bolt, finished his team’s record-breaking gold-winning time in the Men’s 4 x 100m with his own rendition of the Mobot. The pair then united on the podium later on in the evening to trade celebrations, with Farah imitating the Jamaican’s infamous lightning bolt celebration.
Not to be outdone, Britain’s boxers continued to exceed all expectations in the ring as Luke Campbell took on Ireland’s John Joe Nevin in the battle for bantamweight gold. Campbell looked confident in the first round, outperforming his rival in the eyes of the judges to take it 5-3. Undeterred, the Irishman claimed a close second round to set up a tense final showdown. Despite the pressure, Campbell showed his class with an assured final round, even managing to knock Nevin down to all but assure victory. His face was a picture of emotion as the result was announced. It finished 14-11 to Campbell, making him Olympic champion and winning GB a second boxing gold to go with the medal won by Nicola Adams earlier in the week.
…making the entire process look embarrassingly easy.
If Campbell had felt pressure in the ExCeL arena, it came nowhere near to the expectation and phenomenal public interest focussed on diver Tom Daley as he lined up for his own final in the Aquatics Centre. Few GB Olympians have attracted the same levels of voracious medal attention as Daley, who featured most recently in a BBC documentary where he spoke about the difficulties of dealing with his father’s death in 2011.
Alarm bells had clanged emphatically when Daley barely scraped into the semi-finals in the preliminary round of the 10m Platform event. The pressure of performing in front of a home crowd was too much for him, critics said, and would scupper his chances of finishing in the top three. He upped his game for the semi-finals, where he finished fourth behind Chinese titans Qiu Boe and Lin Yue and American diving star David Boudia.
And so to the final. The standard, as the commentators continued to stress, was staggeringly high. Diver after diver slid into the water with superhuman elegance, making the entire process look embarrassingly easy. Yet amidst such ferocious international competition, Daley appeared entirely composed and pulled off a series of exquisitely well-executed dives, with five of six earning a score over 90 from the judges.
…the medal table almost assured and universal delight at Daley’s success guaranteed…
Daley had selected one of his easier dives as his sixth and stepped onto the platform in the knowledge that a clean, solid dive would almost certainly earn him an Olympic medal. It needed to be magnificent – and it was. Registering 90.75, it was a fantastic dive which all but guaranteed him a place on the podium. Daley’s final score wasn’t quite enough to get him into the top two: the gold went to the USA’s David Boudia while Chinese superstar, Qiu Bo, appeared utterly distraught at having to settle for silver. But nothing could stop Daley from celebrating his win hysterically, as he was hurled into the pool by delighted teammates and splashed the water in sheer delight at what was almost certainly the performance of his life.
Another day, then, when everything quite simply clicked into place for Team GB. With third place in the medal table almost assured and universal delight at Daley’s success guaranteed, it had been one of the most electrifying days of the Games. And that’s saying something.