Historic night of athletics at the London 2012 Games sees Britain win three gold medals
Saturday August 4, 2012 will go down in the history books as ‘Super Saturday’.
Taking full advantage of the capacity home crowd support, Jess Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah ensured a truly magical night for British athletics, winning three golds within the space of 40 minutes.
Thriving on the electric atmosphere in the stadium created by Ennis’ British record, Rutherford more than rose to the occasion and added to Britain’s gold rush by securing the long jump title with 8.31m. After taking the lead in round two with 8.21m, the Milton Keynes athlete was never headed and used the roars of the crowd to catapult himself to his winning distance in round four.
Australia’s Mitchell Watt replicated his silver medal position from last year’s World’s with 8.16m, while triple jump favourite Will Claye of the USA was third with 8.12m. Britain’s Chris Tomlinson performed well for sixth place with 8.07m from round four.
Just when athletics enthusiasts thought things could not get any better, Farah lived up to his expectations as one of the world’s best distance runners, becoming the first British man in history to win the Olympic 10,000m title.
After a relatively slow first 5000m of 14:05.79, there were twelve athletes still bunched tightly together with two laps to go. However, Farah was in total control and the win never looked in any real doubt.
With the crowd going wild as the pace gradually sped up, Farah bided his time until he hit the bell when he began to pull clear. Unlike in Daegu last year, the world 5000 champion left something in reserve for the home straight and kicked away to win in 27:30.42 from training partner Galen Rupp, taking silver for the USA in 27:30.90.
Ethiopian Tariku Bekele took the bronze in 27:31.43, finishing a second ahead of his more esteemed brother, Kenenisa Bekele, the 2008 champion.
It was the first time that only one African athlete has made the podium in this event since the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, when Mike McLeod claimed silver for Britain behind Italian Alberto Cova.
The final event of the evening, the women’s 100m, provided the level of excitement that was fitting to complete such an exhilarating few hours of athletics. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica successfully defended her Olympic title in a fast 10.75 to take victory from American Carmelita Jeter (10.78) and team-mate Veronica Campbell-Brown (10.81).
Taking advantage of the fast track, the first six athletes all broke eleven seconds. Earlier on in the evening Britain’s Abi Oyepitan exited in the semi final after finishing eighth in 11.36.
Away from British interest, the women’s discus competition was a top-class affair, with Croatia’s European champion Sandra Perkovic winning with a national record of 69.11m ahead of Russia’s Darya Pishchalnikova (67.56m) and China’s world champion Li Yanfeng (67.22m).
In the men’s 20km walk, China’s Chen Ding won in an Olympic record of 1:18:46 from Guatemala’s Erick Barrondo (1:18:57) and team-mate Wang Zhen (1:19:25). It was an historic race as China had never before won an Olympic race walking medal. Chen also became the youngest ever Olympic race walking champion, one day before his 20th birthday. Barrondo, meanwhile, won Guatemala’s first Olympic medal of any colour and in any sport.
There was drama all the way for the Brits in the semi finals of the men’s 400m hurdles. World Champion Dai Greene only scraped through to the final as the second fastest loser, having finished only fourth in the opening semi-final, albeit in 48.19.
Although ultimately the time was fast enough to see him progress, it would not really have been the send-off that the British team captain would have wanted ahead of his bid to add the Olympic title to his world and European crowns. He looks set to have a tough battle on his hands in the final, as 34-year-old Felix Sanchez won Greene’s semi-final in a world-leading 47.76 – his fastest time since winning Olympic gold in 2004.
World leader Javier Culson won the second race in 47.93. It was heartbreak for the other British representatives, with European under-23 champion Jack Green clattering the third hurdle and failing to finish and Rhys Williams coming home fourth in the third semi-final in 49.63.
One athlete you can always rely on for the big occasion though, is Christine Ohuruogu. The 2008 Olympic 400m champion did not disappoint, finishing second to American Sanya Richards-Ross in semi-final one in a season’s best of 50.22.
Ohuruogu looked to have more in the bag too and appeared totally focussed on the job in hand. As is her customary trademark, she showed great strength in the latter stages to book her place in the final and go one step closer to retaining her title.
In what is shaping up to be an exciting final, world champion Amantle Montsho of Botswana won the second semi-final in 50.15 and Russia’s world leader Antonina Krivoskapka took the third semi-final in 49.81. Shana Cox and Lee McConnell found the going tough, both finishing seventh in 52.58 and 52.24 in their respective semi-finals.