So it began. All of a sudden the hoped-for gold rush, the torrent of home glory, the beginning of Team GB’s 2012 success was here. And as we’ve come to expect, the first gold medals in British colours were won on wheels and on water. Olympic controversy had threatened to overtake GB success for newspaper inches in recent days, with the disqualification of badminton players for throwing matches grabbing the headlines. Nevertheless, day six of the Olympics, as far as the British public was concerned, was all about medal.
It was Eton Dorney that provided the arena for Team GB’s first triumph. Roaring crowds lined the banks in anticipation as rowing stars Helen Glover and Heather Stanning prepared to make their bid to enter the history books in the women’s pair. Theirs has been a remarkable story since joining forces just two years ago, chronicling a meteoric rise from novices to Olympic athletes. Part-time PE teacher Glover – who seems to have played almost every sport under the sun to at least county level – only began rowing four years ago. Stanning meanwhile, an Army Captain due to head to Afghanistan on duty in September, picked up oars for the first time in 2006. After winning gold at all three of this year’s World Cups and cruising into the final in record time, the pair were strong favourites for medal success. They didn’t disappoint. The British utterly dominated the race from the start, leaving their fellow rowers behind and sweeping into an unshakeable lead early on in the race.
It was an impressive result, but not the gold they were yearning for.
They crossed the line 2.73 seconds ahead of second-placed Australia, to the roars of spectators lining the water side. As they collapsed into emotional celebration following the race, commentators were quick to point out that not only had they won Olympic gold, they had won the first ever British Olympic gold in women’s rowing.
But the water had more to offer with the arrival of the GB Men’s eight boat, also strong contenders for a top three position. Among their number was Greg Searle, who was staging a remarkable comeback after winning silver twenty years ago in Barcelona and bronze in the Atlanta 1996 games. They faced dangerous competition in their bid for medals and their hopes of bettering the silver won in Beijing four years ago. A courageous effort from the start saw them near the line within the first three, but with nothing left to give they were beaten to the finish line by the Germans and the Canadians and could only claim the bronze. It was an impressive result, but not the gold they were yearning for.
…the Brit completed the course and won the gold medal by 42 seconds.
All eyes then turned to the cycling, where it was hoped the British cyclists would make up for the crushing disappointment of Monday’s men’s road race failure. To her disappointment, Lizzie Armitstead couldn’t double her medal haul in the women’s time trial and finished tenth in the event, with team mate Emma Pooley ending sixth.
But just as the GB Women had made up for their male counterparts failing to medal last week, so Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome triumphed today. Froome, one of GB cycling’s rising stars, put in a solid performance to end with bronze just behind world champion Tony Martin of Germany. But the eyes of the world were firmly on Tour de France champion, Bradley Wiggins, and he relished the attention. Looking comfortable and barely out of breath, the Brit completed the course and won the gold medal by 42 seconds. As he mounted the podium for his seventh Olympic medal, he overtook the mighty Sir Steve Redgrave to become Britain’s most successful Olympian of all time.
For now, the GB medal rush shows no signs of stopping…
Going into the evening, talk of medals was more muted, but Scottish swimmer Michael Jamieson pulled off the swim of his life to snatch his country’s final medal of the day, silver in the Men’s 200m Breaststroke. It rounded off what had been a magnificent day for Team GB, hauling them up the medal tables.
Of course, there’s still the likes of rowing hopes Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins, cycling Hercules, Sir Chris Hoy, and tennis star, Andy Murray to come. For now, the GB medal rush shows no signs of stopping – and British Olympic fever shows no signs of fading.