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The golden moments of the Games

SUPERIORITY: Rudisha

WITH A total of 302 gold medals handed out at the London 2012 Olympic Games, it is a hard task to pinpoint the highlights of the 30th Olympiad.

From sprinter Usain Bolt enhancing his legendary status to Mo Farah’s 5,000m and 10,000m double gold medal-winning exploits, there were multiple instances of sporting brilliance that took place over the past two-and-a-half weeks.

From a British perspective, Team GB captured an impressive total of 29 gold medals with super-heavyweight boxer Anthony Joshua sealing the final one at the ExCel Arena on August 12 with a narrow count back win over former champion Roberto Cammarelle of Italy.

Having kept an eye on the 22-year-old from Finchley since claiming a surprise silver medal at the 2011 World Championships in September and therefore booking his place at London 2012, seeing Joshua collect his gold on the medal rostrum was definitely a personal highlight.

Not because it demonstrated my sport talent spotting credentials, but it underlined how strong the amateur boxing system in Britain is now. Eight years ago in Athens, only a 17-year-old Amir Khan, who was our sole representative, claimed a medal. At London 2012 however, Team GB took a squad of 10 boxers, five of whom won medals, which was more than any other nation.


THREE OF A KIND: Former super-heavyweight gold medallists Audley Harrison (left) and Lennox Lewis (right) with 2012 Olympic champion Joshua

A relative novice to the sport, Joshua has only fought 43 times as an amateur and was involved in some datable decisions, especially against Cuba’s Erislandy Savon in his opening bout. But the raw power Joshua possesses was evident when he floored the 6’, 7” Zhang Zhilei of China in the quarter-final stage.

Whether or not Joshua decides to turn professional remains to be seen but his accomplishments at the London Docklands have opened many doors for a prosperous career.

For the first time at any Olympic Games, women’s boxing was introduced at London 2012 and it was Leeds’ Nicola Adams who romped her way to victory by becoming the first ever female boxer to win gold at the Games. And it was not just the fact that Adams won her bouts, it was how she did it.

The 29-year-old completely dominated five-time world champion Mary Kom in the semi-finals, defeating the Indian 11-6 and replicated the performance in the final against China’s three-time world champion Ren Cancan, winning 16-7. It showed that Britain’s women, just like the men, are capable of bettering the world’s best in the ring.
While the boxing action was highly engrossing, all eyes were focused on the Olympic Stadium once the athletics was underway on August 3.

Team GB took four golds in track and field with Mo Farah astonishingly completing a 5,000m and 10,000m double to become Britain’s greatest ever long distance runner, while Jamaica’s Usain Bolt cemented his legacy as an all-time great by once again crossing the finish line first in three events.

But having broken his own world record in such domineering fashion, 800m gold medallist David Rudisha is my most esteemed moment inside the Olympic Stadium.

The 23-year-old Kenyan led from start to finish and completed the first lap in a blistering 49.28 seconds. Accelerating even further with 300m to go, Rudisha continued to move away from the rest of the field and clocked a world record time of one minute 40.91 seconds.

Such was his superiority; Rudisha dragged almost all of the finalists to national records and personal bests. Although the Jamaican men’s 4x100m relay broke the world record on the final day of the athletics, as did the USA women’s 4x100m quartet on August 11, the individual splendour from Rudisha’s run eclipses those achievements.

Those who follow track and field regularly know that Rudisha is amongst the greatest middle distance runners in history and his performance on August 9 proved it.

Rudisha was an odds-on favourite to win but there were many shock gold medallists in athletics that were thrilling to watch.

The aforementioned Farah twice produced monumental runs to take gold at London 2012.

Roared on by a vociferous home crowd, Farah produced blistering last laps of 52.94 and 53.48 seconds in the 5,000m and 10,000m finals which meant that the Somalia-born 29-year-old secured his position on top of the podium and a knighthood must now surely be on its way.

Speaking of knighthoods, Dame Jessica Ennis has an elegant ring to it. The 26-year-old one-woman athletics team set personal bests in the 200m, javelin and a national record of 12.54 seconds in the 100m hurdles on her way to gold in a new British heptathlon record of 6,955 points.


NATIONAL RECORD: Ennis in the hurdles

There was immense pressure resting on the shoulders of the diminutive multi-eventer from Sheffield, but Ennis fired on all cylinders when it mattered most and took gold in style by winning the final event, the 800m.

As well as Greg Rutheford’s long jump gold and Farah’s 5,000m triumph, Ennis had clinched gold on August 4; a day that will forever be known as Super Saturday.

Elsewhere in the heptathlon, Team GB teenager Katarina Thompson-Johnson bettered her own UK junior record with a points tally of 6,267, setting four personal bests in the process. Ennis is rightfully the face of British athletics but could pass the torch to the 19-year-old Thompson-Johnson from Liverpool in the not too distant future.

Being the blue riband event of the Games, of course the men’s 100m and the victor of that race, Bolt, was going to be included in this article.


STRIKE A POSE: Farah and Bolt

Losing to his team-mate and friend Yohan Blake at the Jamaican Olympic trials in both the 100m and 200m in July made the 100m final on August 5 that bit more exciting, because it was not a forgone conclusion as to who would win.

Nevertheless it was Bolt who triumphed in those races, finishing first in times of 9.63 and 19.32 seconds. The 25-year-old was also part of the Jamaica 4x100m relay squad that broke their own world record as they clocked 36.84 seconds.

Repeating his triple Olympic gold medal triumph of Beijing arguably means that Bolt is the greatest sprinter who has ever graced the track.

Having won the men’s 4x400m relay 16 times, USA was expected to comfortably win gold. But four athletes from Bahamas did not read the script and went for the jugular after no American managed to reach the individual 400m final.

Although the bravery displayed by USA’s Manteo Mitchell - who broke his leg at the 200m mark during the heats of the 4x400m but still completed the race without trailing his opponents - went above and beyond the call of duty, it was all in vain as his compatriots lost on August 10.

The quartet of Chris Brown, Demetrius Pinder, Michael Mathieu and Ramon Miller, who overhauled Angelo Taylor on the final leg, set a new national record of two minutes, 56.72 seconds.

Caribbean one lap specialists – Grenada’s Kirani James, Luguelin Santos of Dominican Republic and Trinidad and Tobago’s Lalonde Gordon – occupied positions on the podium in that order and Bahamas’ gold confirmed that not just Jamaica ran proceedings in track and field.

The North Greenwich Arena was the venue that hosted the basketball and prior to the first tip-off taking place, it was a foregone conclusion that both USA’s men’s and women’s teams would pulverise their opponents into submission. And a record 156-73 demolishing of Nigeria in Group A by the men confirmed this assumption.

But whereas the American women resoundingly beat Spain 86-50 in the final, the men stuttered to a 107-100 win against the Spanish. The millionaires of the NBA faltered and floundered against Spain who possess many NBA luminaries of their own.

Admittedly, the USA were unimpressive on August 12 but just to witness the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James producing athletic feats of the highest order was a joyous experience.

Olympic gold is not the pinnacle of basketball but the Dream Team will not be playing in the UK again anytime so it was a privilege to see basketball of that calibre.

There were several moments of utter disbelief at what was being seen which deserve honourable mentions. American swimmer Michael Phelps gets a shout out for becoming the most decorated Olympian in history by taking his Olympic medal tally to 22, 18 of which were gold.

Phelps’ 16-year-old compatriot Gabby Douglas, who won two gold medals in the gymnastics, captivated audiences and is rightfully now a star back home.

And while we are on the topic of gymnastics, Louis Smith confirmed his position as Britain’s best competitor of the modern era by captaining the men’s team to a bronze medal and then with an individual silver in the pommel horse. Prior to Smith competing for Great Britain, only Beth Tweddle had the skill to perform on the world stage but Team GB are now spoilt for choice in terms of talent.

Picking the best moments from the Olympics was not an easy task but one certainty is that London 2012 as a whole was a resounding success.

Hopefully youngsters will be inspired to continue from where these Olympians left off and that a legacy will be forged in the years to come.

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