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Super Saturday lives up to expectations with historic success
Blayne Pereira re-lives the extraordinary day of triumphs for British competitors and says London has now moved on from the riots which tarnished the city 12 months ago...
Saturday 4th August, 2012, will not only go down in British sporting history, but British history overall. The most successful day at an Olympic Games since 1908 saw Team GB win a stunning six gold medals and one silver, but that was only half the story. It was how the medals were won and the people who won them that really captured the attention of a nation gripped by Olympic fever. It was billed by the organizers as ‘Super Saturday’, the day when some of the faces of the Olympic Games would #takethestage - as was advertised in 2012-style marketing from the official team kit manufacturer - and the team both delivered and exceeded all expectations.
Saturday’s gold rush started on the lake where Britain once again showed the rest of the world how to row a boat with victory in the men’s coxless four (Alex Gregory, Tom James, Pete Reed and Andrew Triggs-Hodge) and then the women’s lightweight double sculls (Katherine Copeland and Sophie Hosking) with Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase agonizingly losing out to Denmark in the lightweight double sculls.
The early action inside the Olympic Stadium saw 80,000 spectators watching as Jessica Ennis put herself in pole position to clinch the Olympic title in the heptathlon as she further increased her overnight lead with a superb long jump, just three centimetres off her personal best, before registering a 47.49m javelin throw – further than she has ever thrown competitively. The likes of Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake made their 2012 entrance, fresh off their training camp at the University of Birmingham, along with rising British star Adam Gemili and former drug cheat Dwain Chambers in the 100m; as did double amputee 400 metre runner Oscar Pistorius, dubbed ‘Blade-Runner’, who made history by not only competing in the Olympic Games but qualifying for the semi-finals. Pistorius aside, the morning belonged to Ennis inside the stadium, but it seems very fitting that the international stars of the Olympic Games, as well as Gemili, had their time on Super Saturday.
Into the afternoon we went, expectant of more medals, and Danielle King, Joanna Rowsell and Laura Trott duly delivered as the women’s team pursuit took the spoils in the Velodrome with another world record in another venue which Britain has claimed over the last couple of Olympics. The track cycling team, just like the rowers, have won more medals than any other nation at this Games, and the disappointments of Mark Cavendish on the opening day and the Team Sprint disqualification of a tearful Victoria Pendleton and Jessica Varnish have happily been forgotten, with Pendleton having since taken gold in the Keirin.
Super Saturday continued to deliver as the greatest Olympian ever took to the stage for the final time in the Aquatics Centre as Michael Phelps won his 18th gold medal and 22nd overall in the men’s 4x100m medley. Serena Williams also completed her career singles and doubles slam by winning the women’s tennis title in Wimbledon while Andy Murray guaranteed himself another silver medal as he reached the doubles final with Laura Robson. There was a photo-finish at the end of the gruelling women’s triathlon while Guatemala claimed the first ever Olympic medal courtesy of Erick Barrondo’s silver in the 20km walk.
However, the real fireworks were saved for the evening session in the Olympic Stadium on only its second full day of competition. Within the space of just one hour, Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah rewrote the British history books. Ennis won the final 800m heat and the Golden Girl of British athletics brilliantly delivered under the most intense and expectant home crowd pressure, following in the footsteps of Denise Lewis from Sydney. Just seconds later, Rutherford was officially crowned long jump champion as his fourth round jump of 8.31m would prove to be the winning mark as rival after rival failed to surpass it, including compatriot Chris Tomlinson who eventually finished sixth having led in the early stages. Farah took to the track moments later, amidst a cacophony of cheers, and would cross the finish line a little less than half an hour later to an even greater, more rapturous, noise made by the partisan crowd as the historic triple triumph in a single night snowballed into delirium. The women’s 100m, won by Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce almost seemed rather anti-climactic after all the British success!
The triumphs, as I mentioned earlier, transcend sport. Saturday night proved a triumph for multicultural Britain, one year to the weekend in which the riots ripped and blazed their way through North London and beyond, just minutes away from the Olympic Park. Dubbed “Broken Britain” by many, Saturday night proved that Britain has well and truly bounced back, just as it did after 7/7 (which happened the day after we were awarded the Olympic Games). Golden girl Ennis has Jamaican roots courtesy of her father but it is Farah who has epitomized this multicultural society in which we live in the most multicultural city in the world. Born in war-torn Somalia, he moved to Britain via Djibouti aged eight and has received abuse throughout his life, but his effervescence and commitment to excellence have seen him thrive in all walks of life. Those who consider Farah an outsider are still out there but for the majority of the nation, he will simply be the first ever BRITISH 10,000m Olympic champion. The phrase ‘Plastic Brit’ simply does not apply to Farah: he is someone who has grown up in Britain and feels the emotion of the British crowd.
The East End of London, formerly a forgotten wasteland just minutes away from the thriving economic powerhouse of the City of London, has been transformed into the heart of world sport but most importantly, it is showcasing how British champions come from all walks of life, in a variety of different events, with a multiculturalism embraced by the general public. The riots are long gone - Britain is hosting a simply incredible Olympic Games.