London 2012, Summer Olympic Games – Breathe, Believe and Battle
The above is the English dictionary’s definition of an Olympian, one who is classed as such is more than just an athlete. Those who competed at London 2012 proved that it takes more than just strength and cardiovascular conditioning to stake claim to such a title. In the lead up to the games it was evident that the British public needed a morale boost, something to grasp on to and it was that something that London 2012 provided. Forget ticketing issues and pre-games security blunders, a concoction of amazing competitors, happy-go-lucky volunteers, passionate fans and an atmosphere that was simply intangible made London 2012 an Olympics that will live long in the memory.
Britain was bursting with both anxiety and anticipation on the opening day of London 2012, questions regarding how we would do and what could go wrong hung in the air. However after a slow start things soon started to heat up as Team GB’s women took center stage. Women would play a crucial role in the success of London 2012 with a special star leading the charge, she has become the nations new darling and its not hard to see why. Jessica Ennis (@J_Ennis) won gold in the women’s heptathlon but that is only half the story as her victory was all about the execution. Not only did she win it in a dominant fashion, blowing away her competition in the process, but the most beautiful thing of all is that she won it with both style and grace. She shed tears of joy when collecting her gold medal, her nation was proud and the 80,000 in the Olympic stadium were going to make sure she knew how much her victory was appreciated. Ennis was not the only female staking claim to glory on the track, Christine Ohuruogu (@chrissyohuruogo) stormed to silver with a sterling effort in the 400 meters. The women’s success on the track may have been limited but winning medals in the worlds most competitive environment is an achievement in itself. Success was also limited in the pool but things had changed a great deal for Beijing 2008′s golden girl Rebbeca Adlington (@BeckAdlington). Not only was she four years older, her field had become one of the most fierce throughout the entire games. The public seemed to expect gold but that was an unrealistic expectation, especially with hotly tipped youngster Ruta Meilutyte (@MeilutyeRuta) in the mix. In the end the English schooled and Plymouth trained Meilutye romped home for gold and Adlington had to settle for bronze in both the 400 meter and 800 meter freestyle events. She hit back at her critics during the post event interview, admitting that at her age “each race is tougher than the last”. Adlington should take tremendous pride in her efforts and if retirement beckons she can rejoice in her record breaking Olympic exploits. Another female with the spotlight shone firmly on her at London 2012 was Victoria Pendleton (@v_pendleton), the velodrome was her domain, on some levels not to different from the athletics track. Her last games was always going to be an emotional affair but nobody could have predicted the drama that would ensue. During the women’s team sprint Pendleton and her partner Jessica Varnish (@JessVarnish) were disqualified in controversial fashion, Pendleton overlapped Varnish’s wheel too early by a matter of centimeters. The decision was much deliberated and angered the crowd, it meant that Varnish’s Olympic games were over. After several emotional apologies to her young team mate Pendleton proved that she now had more reasons to claim gold. When the women’s keirin came around things would get back on track, gold was on the menu this time
around and she dually delivered. It was an impressive performance that led to more tears from the undisputed queen of the velodrome. A final gold would elude her as she claimed silver in the final of the women’s sprint, I suspect the loss to her rival and friend Anna Meares (@AnnaMeares) hurt but the relief of knowing it was all over was evident to see. For Pendleton her journey was over, a stellar cycling career capped with a couple of medals at her home Olympics was a momentous achievement. I’m sure her tears at the medal ceremony were replicated by her ever growing army of loyal supporters. However the women’s success in the velodrome did not end there as Laura Trott (@LauraTrott31) emerged from Pendleton’s shadow and showed that in the world of sport age is just a number.
Twenty year old Trott, a virtual unknown before the games who had been earmarked for the future by those in the cycling world. It’s safe to say that come game time Trott was reading from a completely different script, to her the games were to be more than just a learning experience. She made sure the world knew that it was her time, alongside Dani King (@DaniKing1) and Joanna Roswell (@JoannaRoswell) Trott claimed gold in the women’s team pursuit. The limelight would fall on Trott again a few days later but this time she was standing alone. In the omnium, a new event at this years games with confusing rules to boot, Trott claimed her second gold in as many events in a dramatic 500 meter time trial victory over American Sarah Hammer (@SarahHammer). Pendleton may have left in a blaze of glory but the new generation had arrived in similar fashion. It wasn’t just indoors where Team GB’s presence was being felt, out on the open water one of the more emotional victories took place. Katherine Grainger, a three time silver medalist, was participating in her final Olympics and her last oppurtunity to claim gold. Seeing someone who carries such passion for her sport is truly inspiring and at thirty six she did more that just hang in there with those who were ten years her junior. Her gold medal victory with her partner Anna Watkins (@watkinsteamgb) showed the world that for some the Olympic journey is much more than just four years of training. It can be argued that no one deserved the ultimate Olympic accolade more than Grainger. There would be more medals for Team GB’s women at Eton Dorney as Katherine Copeland (@kate_copeland) and Sophie Hosking (@SophieHoskingGB) won gold in the women’s lightweight sculls whilst Heather Stanning and Helen Glover won gold in the women’s pair. Not to be outdone the women based on the open sea contributed to the tally with some medals of their own as sailing pair Hannah Mills (@470Girls) and Saskia Clark (@470Girls) claimed silver in the 470 class. Team GB’s women certainly gave true meaning to the term “blue gold” during London 2012 and kept up Great Britain’s tremendous tradition in water based events.
The horse riders at Greenwich Park also got in on the act as Team GB claimed silver in the team eventing, team show-jumping and team dressage whilst Charlotte Dujardin (@CSJDujardin) and Laura Bechtolsheimer brought home the gold in their respective individual dressage events. On the tennis court Laura Robson (@laurarobson5), a surefire medalist at future games claimed silver in the mixed doubles, kicking off what might turn out to be an Olympic legacy. Out on the open road Lizzie Armitstead (@L_ArmiTstead) won silver for the women’s cycling road race with a truly gutsy performance. Speaking of gutsy performances, Beth Tweddle (@bethtweddlenews) finally claimed the Olympic medal that had eluded her for so long. Much like Grainger this was Tweddle’s final shot at glory which she grabbed with open arms, beating out gymnasts years younger. In the days prior to her event she had become a victim of vile abuse from “trolls” on Twitter, such obscenities fuelled her passion thus making her performance even more spectacular. In what turned out to be one of the more brutal events of London 2012, supported every step of the way by Her Royal Highness Kate Middleton, Team GB’s hockey team upset the odds to claim bronze. Even with a mounting injury list and a morale crushing semi-final defeat in their thoughts it was great to see their gritty determination lead them to a joyous victory. In the process they made sure they didn’t leave the games empty handed as they captured Great Britain’s first medal in hockey for twenty years.
There are four women who pushed the limits of physical endurance to a new level at this years games. Samantha Murray (@_samanthamurray) made sure that Team GB ended the games in style by winning silver in the grueling modern heptathlon, as many women collapsed as they came over the finish line, Murray stood proud. She even threw in a dance to go with her mile wide smile and her new shiny silver medal. Following Karina Bryant’s (@karinabryantgb) bronze medal victory in judo, Gemma Gibbons (@gemma_gibbons) stepped up to the plate and instantly became a crowd favourite. She was considered a solid hope for a judo medal at the games with many expecting her to claim bronze. She ended up going one further in emotional fashion. After she slammed her opponent Audrey Tcheumeo to the mat for victory she looked up to the heavens with tears in her eyes mouthing the words “I love you mum”, a truly special moment from a courageous competitor. The silver medal was a deserved reward for Gibbon’s and as she stood on the podium, broken thumb and all, she received a huge ovation from the sell out crowd. Little was known about Gibbons prior to London 2012 but we now know the story that accompanies her heroic efforts. Her father walked out before she was born and her mother sadly passed away from leukemia when she was just seventeen, she took on a part time job in order make ends meet whilst continuing both her education and her judo training when and where she could. Against all the odds she kept going and if any kids out there want to find a new role model out of these games you can’t go far wrong than the emotion evoking and inspirational young judoka from Charlton. Another athlete who pushed herself to the limit was Fleet’s Jade Jones (@jadejoneskd), anyone who saw the Taekwondo events at London 2012 probably got more than they bargained for as it turned into one the games most exciting competitions. At just 5’10″ and 130lbs she fought four fights on August 9th in the -57kg weight class, with each one tougher than the last. In one of the the games big shocks she defeated world number one Li-Cheng Tseng in the semi-finals before claiming gold in a closely contested final with Hou Yuzhuo. The butchers daughter won
Britain’s first ever gold medal in Taekwondo and the newly nicknamed “Headhunter” is clearly heading for stardom. Last but by no means least there is Nicola Adams (@NicolaAdams2012), arguably the new face of women’s boxing. Not only did she put herself on the map at London 2012 she made women’s boxing one of the hottest tickets at this summers Olympics. Her victory over world number one Ren Cancan to secure gold sent the crowd wild and in the process she made a moment that will stand the test of time in boxing history. Adams made Britain the frontrunners in the newly formed Olympic event by setting a president that can never be erased. The pride she took in her victory, pointing to the crest on her chest, sent a message to the doubters of the term “Team GB”, much like the nation they were unified and a force to be reckoned with.
Team GB’s women shook the foundations of the games via an array of upsets and emotionally charged performances, showing no respect for the supposed world rankings in the process. They won 23 medals in total, but what should be remembered is how they all claimed such accolades and how a younger generation finally has a group of females who can genuinely fulfill the title of role model.