Ask anyone on the street back in June what they thought of two GB golds and a bronze in one day and you’d probably have got a pleasantly enthusiastic response. But you see, the British public just got more demanding. After the booming medal rush of the weekend, it was a rather more sedate day for British athletes, but all important for keeping us at the top of the medal table.
A home Games is one the most nerve wracking and glory-laden of a young athlete’s career, but for older competitors it’s also a poignant chance to represent Great Britain – perhaps for the final time. Such a thought may well have been running through gymnast Beth Tweddle’s mind as she lined up for the uneven bars final in the last Olympic Games of her career. After qualifying in the top position, there were high hopes that Tweddle would secure a medal of some description, having lost out in fourth place back in Beijing.
There were also high hopes for middleweight Savannah Marshall…
If Tweddle felt the pressure though, she didn’t let on as she purred through her technically slick and visually stunning routine. Despite being the eldest competitor by some margin at the age of 27, she whirred through complex moves confidently. It was a superb performance, but a slight imbalance as she landed on the mat at the end of the routine forced her to step back and readjust – a costly mistake. Nevertheless, she had won the judges over with her performance and finished in third position, the crowd roaring with appreciation as she mounted the podium to claim her first and last Olympic medal.
It was a day of firsts for the boxing as well, as Savannah Marshall and Nicola Adams stepped into the ring for their first ever Olympic fights. 2012 is the first year to allow female boxers to compete in the Olympics in lightweight, flyweight and middleweight categories. Nicola Adams relished the opportunity and smashed Bulgaria’s Stoyka Petrova in the quarterfinals to bag herself a guaranteed bronze Olympic medal. There were also high hopes for middleweight Savannah Marshall, who faced Kazakhstan’s Marina Volnova in her quarterfinal after getting through the first round automatically. After winning gold in the world finals this year, Marshall was a strong favourite for a medal in the inaugural women’s competition.
…the Netherlands managed to pick up eight penalty points.
But it wasn’t to be. Volnova fought tooth and nail, compensating for being the smaller boxer by spoiling Marshall’s efforts to land punches. Marshall proved unable to rescue the fight in the fourth round and was knocked out in a shock 16-12 defeat. Nevertheless, at just 21 years old, she remains one of our strongest fighters and will be one to follow as enthusiasm for women’s boxing continues to snowball.
Britain’s equestrian team were also under the spotlight, looking to build on the success of GB’s early Team Eventing silver. This time, it was the turn of the Jumping team to fight for a medal in the form of Scott Brash, Nick Skelton, Peter Charles and Ben Maher, several of whom were coming back to competing after recovering from serious injury in previous competitions.
All four riders held their nerve superbly in the face of an impressive performance from the Netherlands, forcing the Dutch to a nail-biting jump-off for the top medal after the two sides were tied on eight penalty points following the main competition. Nick Skelton and Ben Maher went clear over all eight jumps, while the Netherlands managed to pick up eight penalty points. Scott Brash and Dutchman Marc Houtzager both knocked over one fence, leaving it up to Peter Charles to secure gold with a clear ride. Undeterred by the pressure, Charles duly obliged and in doing so clinched Britain’s first gold show jumping Olympic medal in sixty years.
…it turned out to be a momentous day for 20 year old Bleasdale regardless…
It wasn’t quite such a dream day in the Olympic Stadium, where Holly Bleasdale and Dai Greene failed to keep up the momentum that had got them through to the finals of the long jump and 400m hurdles. But it turned out to be a momentous day for 20 year old Bleasdale regardless, as her boyfriend took the opportunity to propose to her after the event – and his offer was duly accepted.
On a final note, the whole nation breathed a sigh of relief after news broke that rebellious triple jumper Phillips Idowu had finally arrived at the Olympic village. Coaches and public alike had been baffled as to Idowu’s whereabouts, after he didn’t accompany his fellow athletes on their pre-Olympics training camp in Portugal. But the fiery athlete has, by all accounts, checked into the village and is set to begin his fight to better his Beijing silver. After the media attention and national concern at his lengthy disappearance, let’s hope he can live up to the hype and get that longed-for gold.