And so it began. The Team GB Medal story finally lurched into motion after a day of dashed hopes, with the female athletes taking centre stage to secure the honours for their country. Contending with torrential rain, multiple crashes and a gruelling cycle path, road cyclist, Lizzie Armitstead, put in a courageous performance to secure silver in the women’s road race; ending agonisingly close to a gold medal but still putting an end to Team GB’s medal duck. Writing on Twitter afterwards, she paid tribute to everyone who had come to support her in the terrible weather: “The best day of my life! Thank you to the thousands of people cheering who literally got me to the finish line, I’m incredibly proud of GB!” Fellow cyclists including Sir Chris Hoy, Jess Varnish and Jo Rowsell were also quick to pay tribute to her remarkable achievement.
Back in the Olympic Park, the second medal came courtesy of another Team GB lady, Olympic Gold Medallist, Rebecca Adlington. After scraping her way into the finals of the Women’s 400m Freestyle in the slowest qualifying time, hopes for a first 2012 swimming medal were muted. Yet against the odds, Adlington put in a gutsy performance to secure a well-deserved bronze medal amidst the roars of a predominantly home crowd. She’ll hope to ride the wave of admiration as she competes for another medal in the 800m later on in the Games.
Elsewhere, it was an encouraging start from Britain’s rowers: one of the country’s most anticipated medal hopes, in today’s heats. Sophie Hosking and Kat Copeland looked in imperious form as they won their heat in the women’s lightweight double sculls boat. Their male equivalents looked just as dominant, defeating New Zealand to storm through into their semi-final as well.
…GB Tennis star, Andy Murray, looked to have recovered from the disappointment of Wimbledon…
A host of victories in qualifying rounds across Team GB’s squads boded well for the next two weeks of sport. Beach Volleyball finally graced our screens, Zara Dampney and Shauna Mullin thrashing out an entertaining 2-1 victory over the Canadians.
Welsh boxer Freddie Evans smashed his way to victory against Algeria’s Ilyas Abbadi to progress to the next round, while GB Tennis star, Andy Murray, looked to have recovered from the disappointment of Wimbledon as he cruised through to the next round in straight sets.
It was a positive day for teams as well, with both the men’s and women’s gymnastics teams securing spots in the final, Olympic medallist, Louis Smith, and three time world champion, Beth Tweddle, proving particularly impressive. The women’s hockey opened their Olympic campaign convincingly with a 4-0 win over Japan, although they picked up a couple of worrying injuries in the process.
…he qualified for the Games on a wildcard and lined up against strong international figures…
The triumph of medals and qualification were tinged with sad news, however, when Paula Radcliffe revealed that she would be forced to pull out of the Games through injury. The marathon runner has been plagued with misfortune in her Olympic career, withdrawing from the Athens Games after 36 miles and finishing 23rd in Beijing on account of cramps. Nevertheless, this latest Olympic heartbreak does nothing to detract from an athletics career of remarkable longevity and undeniable courage.
But amidst all the drama of some of the Games’ most high profile stars, one particularly heart-warming moment stood out. Remember Eric the Eel back in Beijing? Meet Niger rower, Hammadou Djibo Issaka, his London equivalent. After taking up rowing just three months ago, he qualified for the Games on a wildcard and lined up against strong international figures on the start line. No surprises when he was left trailing almost immediately, but he got the most raucous cheers of the race as he ploughed on resolutely to come in over a minute and a half behind the winner.
He may not be going for a medal, but he’s certainly won over the affection of the nation. And frankly, that might just be more of a feat.