The Brits, it seems, just can’t stop winning medals. In fact, this refusal to share the glory around is becoming distinctly un-British. GB’s flagship sports like rowing and cycling took something of a back seat yesterday, allowing athletes from less-recognised Olympian sports their chance at medal glory.
With the battle for medals on the water at Eton Dorney now over, the waves of Weymouth provided the next hunting ground for Team GB. No one was more determined to sail through to a gold medal than three-time Olympic champion, Ben Ainslie. The Beijing gold medallist had admitted his fury earlier in the week at what he saw as “teaming up” between rivals Hogh-Christense and Postma to thwart his own hopes of gold. Whatever conspiracy they may or may not have been plotting, it failed categorically.
Despite trailing his rival, Danish Jonas Hogh-Christensen, throughout the races, Ainslie took the plunge with the medal race. He risked first place by choosing a different route through the course to the finishing line and saw his audacity rewarded with gold as he crossed the line victorious. His remarkable fourth medal cements his position as one of Great Britain’s most successful Olympians ever and strengthens his claim to being one of the country’s most talented sailors in history.
…Federer seemingly powerless to come up with an answer to Murray’s ferocious play.
Sadly, his fellow sailors and close friends, Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, couldn’t quite replicate Ainslie’s success in the Star medal race. The pair had to settle for silver after being pipped to first place by Swedish duo Fredrik Loof and Max Salminen, losing their Olympic crown won in Beijing in the process.
It was onto Wimbledon for the next piece of history, as Wimbledon finalist Andy Murray faced the mighty Roger Federer in the men’s single final. Exactly four weeks to the day since the Scot lost out on the title in SW19, he was back to seek revenge and Olympic glory. What ensued was one of his best performances of his entire career, with Federer seemingly powerless to come up with an answer to Murray’s ferocious play. The Wimbledon champion was beaten resoundingly in straight sets, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4, as Murray thumped his way to gold with a searing ace on match point.
But Murray’s work wasn’t done for the day. After getting through to the final of the mixed doubles with a tremendous performance alongside partner Laura Robson, he faced the top seeds Victoria Azarenka and Max Mirnyi in the final. The British duo looked in fine form as they broke the service of their opponents from Belarus twice and claimed the first set 6-2. But this was no walkover, and the favourites came back strongly to claim the second set and push the match to a deciding set.
…the gold cruelly snatched due to Berki’s execution score being marginally higher.
It went to a tantalising tiebreak to decide who would take home the Olympic gold, and on this occasion it was the British who found themselves outclassed and outdone. Despite coming painfully close to claiming the match, they found themselves narrowly beaten 10-8 and forced to settle for silver. Nevertheless, it represented a career highlight for 18 year old Laura Robson, who became the third youngest female Olympic medallist in tennis history.
Finally, it was the gymnasts’ turn to shine, as Max Whitlock and Louis Smith headed into the men’s pommel horse final to battle it out for medals. Despite qualifying in last place, Whitlock pulled out an assured and mature performance, guaranteeing himself an utterly unexpected bronze medal before his higher profile teammate had even set foot on stage.
All eyes then turned to Smith, whose youth, good looks and impeccable recent record have made him one of London 2012’s poster boys. The Beijing bronze medallist was put under immense pressure by the exceptional performance of world champion Krisztian Berki. The Hungarian scored a phenomenal 16.066 with his impressive routine, setting the standard dizzyingly high for the British gymnast. Smith pulled off the best performance of his life, inducing the judges to give him exactly the same score as the Hungarian, but had the gold cruelly snatched due to Berki’s execution score being marginally higher. The disappointment was clear to see, but Smith was adamant that he would return in Rio stronger and more determined than ever to chase that elusive gold.
…six gold medals clear of fourth-placed Korea in the medal tables.
Another impressive day for Team GB then, pushing them six gold medals clear of fourth-placed Korea in the medal tables. With each day that passes, a third place finish seems to become more of a possibility and less of a vague aspiration. London 2012, it seems, might just end up producing the glorious home performance we’d all been hoping for.