After Ryan Giggs reached the ripe old age of 40, Alex Kronenberg looks at sports's more experienced heroes.Written by Tom Kelly on 6th December 2013
(Vote) Who has been the stand-out performer for Team GB?
After a truly amazing Olympics here is your chance to vote for the person who you believe was the true star of the Games for Britain...
After a truly amazing Olympics for Team GB, who came third in the medals table, here is your chance to vote for the person who you believe was the true star of the Games for Britain. If you feel somebody else deserves to win the poll then let us know in the comments section at the bottom.
Nicola Adams - Josh Hunt
Though many athletes could lay claim to being the stand out performer of London 2012, Nicola Adams trumps them all. Adams came into the Olympics ranked number two in her flyweight division, but was untouchable even by world number one Ren Cancan en route to becoming the first ever women’s boxing Olympic gold medallist. Through only three bouts, Adams outscored her opponents by 23 points, including a staggering 16-7 demolition of Ren in the gold medal match. Adams’ movement and hand speed made the Chinese three-times World Champion look worse than amateurish; she was barely able to land a punch as Adams dominated the contest with punishing left-right-left combos out of the Southpaw stance.
Adams’ performance is all the more remarkable given that she was comprehensively out-boxed 14-10 in the World Championships only three months ago. Only by judging a performer against their competition can you adequately assess how exceptional they have been. No other British athlete set themselves apart from the competition by as wide a margin as Adams. That is why she, and only she, was Britain’s stand out performer of the 31st Olympics.
Ben Ainslie - Sam Price
After six races and six consecutive finishes behind Danish rival Jonas Hogh-Christensen in the Finn class, British sailor Ben Ainslie’s chances of winning a fourth consecutive gold medal appeared to be slipping away. However, an incident in race eight, when Hogh-Christensen along with Dutch rival Pieter-Jan Postma accused Ainslie of hitting a mark, changed everything.
Having been forced to take a penalty turn, Ainslie made up 70 metres on the final downwind stretch to overtake Christensen and returned from his boat spitting fire. In one of the most memorable interviews of the entire Olympic Games, Ainslie, adamant that he hadn’t hit the mark, said of Christensen: ‘He made a big mistake, because I’m angry, and he didn’t want to make me angry.’
It indeed proved costly for the Dane, as Ainslie roared back to win race 10 and again finished ahead of his foe in the deciding medal race to become the most successful sailor in Olympic history. Ainslie’s skill, appetite and unparalleled competitive streak make him a legend in his sport, while he fully embodied the Team GB ethos to earn the accolade of carrying the Union Jack in the closing ceremony which could be the perfect curtain call to a glittering Olympic career.
Jessica Ennis - Josh Reynolds
It would be easy to make Jessica Ennis’ case for being dubbed Team GB’s most outstanding performer of London 2012 by merely referring to the statistics which illustrate the quality of her gold medal winning display in the women’s heptathlon. Spurred on by 80,000 adoring supporters in the Olympic Stadium, Ennis recorded personal bests in three of the heptathlon’s seven component events, dominating from the moment the starting pistol for the 100m hurdles was fired.
However, a simple account of how proceedings unravelled does not come close to capturing the magnitude of the Sheffield-born star’s achievements. Having been the poster girl for Team GB it was expected, rather than hoped, by the British public that the 26-year-old would claim the gold. It was this immense pressure, and the fact that she showed no signs that it was affecting her, that made Ennis’ success all the more remarkable. Seeing someone so down to earth and inherently likeable thrive despite such a heavy burden of expectation was especially refreshing given that she did it all with a seemingly effortless grace and a smile that shone as brightly as the medal that she so thoroughly deserved to win. A golden girl in every sense, it is hard to conceive of a better role model than our Jess to inspire a generation. So, when it comes to voting in this poll, surely the only way is Ennis!
Tom Daley - Luke Callis
Tom Daley is a teenager who must have felt as though he carried the weight of the world. A poster boy of London 2012 and perceived by many as a major medal hope, we can only guess at the pressure thrust upon such young shoulders. Daley’s build up to the Games was far from smooth, not least of which was due to the loss of his father just a year ago. Yet Daley rallied, using his father’s memory as inspiration to drive him on. He showed a distinctly human side after a nervy first round performance saw him scrape into the semi-finals, but he then showed maturity far beyond his years to dive solidly into the finals.
However, the drama was not over as Daley became a victim of his own fame - with flash photography ruining his first dive - but this would not deter him. He performed to near perfection claiming bronze in one of the most competitive finals of the whole Games. The celebrations will live long in the memory - his team mates celebrating his bronze medal as though it were worth more than gold - and never has a medal been more deserved. Tom Daley is no longer a teenager, but a young man who has done his country and his father proud.
Mo Farah - Ross Highfield
In 1992, as civil war tore through Somalia, civilians from semi-autonomous Somaliland found themselves under threat. Mo Farah, aged nine, fled to London with his father as his siblings and mother stayed behind, seeking refuge in Djibouti before returning home.
20 years on, Farah is only the seventh runner in history to win the 5km and 10km Olympic double, a feat beyond greats like Haile Gebrselassie. He won half of Britain’s athletics golds and completed the hat-trick on the greatest day in British athletics history.
Farah’s beginnings are well-documented – his brother in Somaliland walked four miles to the nearest village with electricity to watch him, a far cry from the world of elite sport. But as Farah said after the 5km, his success showed what can be achieved with hard work and determination. After all, he qualified 15th quickest for the 5km final and had only the seventh quickest PB in the field.
In the 10km race, Ethopian, Eritrean and Kenyan runners working in teams tried to disturb his pace, sending decoy runners, hoping he would follow. He refused, knowing the race could be won his way. In the 5km, a slow first 3km seemingly opened the door to 1500m specialists like Abdalaati Iguider, but in this race, too, Farah had all the answers. It was an extraordinary feat by an extraordinary man.
For many, Usain Bolt is the superstar face of global athletics, but it was significant that as Bolt crossed the line to smash the 4x100m relay world record, it was not his own iconic pose he adopted. His arms arched overhead, Bolt emulated Farah’s famous ‘Mobot’. They were his Games.
Sir Chris Hoy - Felix Keith
Sir Chris Hoy came into London 2012 as the most recognisable face of the excellent GB cycling team. He was chosen to carry the flag in the opening ceremony and was expected to continue where he left off in Beijing where he won an unprecedented three Olympic gold medals.
At 36 and in his last Games there was a certain amount of pressure to achieve; but achieve he most certainly did. Cycling the anchor leg of the team sprint with compatriots Jason Kenny and Philip Hindes, they smashed their own world record amidst an overwhelming atmosphere in the velodrome. This drew him level with Sir Steve Redgrave as the most successful British Olympian, but the best was yet to come.
Hoy was denied the opportunity to defend his Olympic individual sprint title by a change in the rules which meant only one competitor per nation per event; Team GB chose Kenny meaning Hoy’s last opportunity was in the Keirin, where he won in the most dramatic of finishes imaginable. The 36-year-old out-sprinted the field to take gold once more for Team GB. He leaves London 2012 the most successful British Olympian ever: with six golds and one silver medal.
Andy Murray - Frankie Conway
Spirit, tenacity and bravery are three words that are synonymous with the British number one tennis player, Andy Murray, who once again demonstrated those qualities in spades during his heroic Olympic showing. Having suffered a crushing loss to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final a month earlier, Murray responded from this disappointment in emphatic fashion. His performance in the men's singles was efficient, precise and at times exhilarating. The man from Dunblane produced two of the finest matches of his career when dispatching Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals before thrashing Federer 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 in the final. Not only did Murray triumph over the two best players in the game, but he also laid his demons to rest in the process, having lost to Djokovic in the Australian Open semi-finals and Federer in the Wimbledon final - both this year.
Murray displayed further mental fortitude when teaming up with Laura Robson to collect a silver medal in the mixed doubles. Murray's two medals carry huge significance. They are the very symbols of his desire and resolve. His singles gold undoubtedly represents his biggest ever career win and one which may serve as a springboard for future Grand Slam successes.
Bradley Wiggins - James Dolton
Wiggins came into town with what warring hacks labelled the best and worst preparation: sure, he’d just won the Tour de France to prove his sparkling form and place as the best cyclist in the world, but he’d just won the Tour de France and was bloody exhausted. The poor man had a pittance of two days time off before linking up with the rest of his team.
Mark Cavendish was then disappointed in the road race by a field totally unwilling to help him, despite Wiggins riding himself into the ground at the front of the peloton, leaving many to fear that he had exhausted himself before his favoured event, the time trial. How wrong they were.
In an imperious ride he stormed round the course a minute faster than all of the competition, roared on by vast crowds. Then, in a touch of class, he refused to celebrate until his well-beaten rival Cancellara came home. His was the second gold medal Team GB won (beaten by Katherine Granger and Anna Watkins in the women's Double Sculls that morning) but it was the one which kicked the nation into a new gear of Olympics excitement: the hundreds of thousands of people who lined the streets of West London were proof of this. The undoubtedly soon to be dubbed Sir Bradley Wiggins lounged on his golden throne at the finish line with the air that he was aware his legacy is now untouchable.