London 2012 Paralympics: My Top 10 Moments of The Games

1. Sarah Storey winning Team GB’s first gold of The Games:

Sarah Storey Paralympics

I can’t think of a person more deserving of four different stamps…well.. maybe David Weir…

You might ask why I have chosen to pick out just one of her astonishing haul of four gold medals but the first one for the host nation is always a bit special isn’t it! Super Sarah led the charge and broke records a plenty on course to cementing her place as one of GB’s greatest ever Paralympic athletes, if not the greatest.

2. Ellie Simmonds first gold of The Games:

Ellie Simmonds’ astonishing first gold medal victory of the Games wasn’t in her strongest event and wasn’t necessarily one she was expected to dominate but that she did. This triumph was akin to Jess Ennis’ win in the heptathlon in the Olympic Games as it relieved an enormous weight of pressure and expectation as Ellie Swim-monds went in as ‘The Face of the Games. She then went onto follow this success up with another gold and a silver and bronze to boot. Not a bad few days.

3. David Wetherill’s wonder shot:

It speaks for itself…

4. : The high-jump:

High-Jump London 2012 Paralympics

The high jump made for an incredible spectacle

I know every event was amazing in it’s own way but this was just ridiculous. The athletes competing were truly gobsmacking, how on earth a one-legged man can leap as high as these guys were is simply beyond me. I loved watching it though!

5. Mickey Bushell’s T53 100m win:

Mickey Bushell’s moment of glory was one of the more memorable of the Games from a Paralympics GB perspective. He was already a silver medalist in the World Championships and last time out at the Paralympics in Beijing and now he has finally become a gold medallist at the Games. The emotion displayed by him as he crossed the finish line was a pleasure to behold.

6. Hannah Cockroft romping to double sprint victory:

Our very own female and wheelchair riding Usain Bolt. She didn’t just win two sprint golds, she won them by a country-mile. She was supreme.

7. Jason Smyth’s 100m final win and new WR:

Smyth suffers from a 10% loss of sight and though that might not sound like the greatest impairment of the many we have seen at the Games, he was still competing in a field of similarly disabled athletes and he blew them all away. I haven’t checked to see whether he is or not but I suspect that he might not only be the fastest ever Paralympian but that he also might well be the quickest Irish sprinter ever, able bodied or disabled. If he isn’t the fastest ever Irishman then he must be bloody close!

8. David Millar’s Golden Fortnight:

Four events, four gold medals. What a hero! Not only did he win four golds but they were in entirely different disciplines; the 800m, the 1500m, the 5,000m and the marathon. The mind boggles!

9. Juan Jose Mendez, my favourite Paralympian:

Mendez Paralympics

The picture speaks for itself…

This guy is unreal. He may not have won a medal or even have got that close to winning one, but this veteran of the Spanish track cycling team truly amazed me. In spite of the Velodrome’s steep angled banking he manages to hurtle round the track in spite of missing an arm and leg both on the same side of the body. I quite simply don’t know how he stays on or how he moves the bike!

10. Alex Zannardi’s road to recovery:

45 year old former F1 driver Alex Zannardi brought an incredible story to a glorious conclusion at the Paralympic Games this week. Fifteen years on from his horror career-ending crash which left him having both of his legs amputated, he returned to the forefront of the sporting world in phenomenal fashion by becoming a double-gold medal winning hand-cyclist.

The man is an inspiration but in fairness that is true of every single Paralympian I have witnessed over the past couple of weeks, but sadly it is now all over!

Gold Gold Gold Gold Gold Gold

Is it just me that has Spandau Ballet ringing through my head?

What a night it has been for British athletics and what a day it has been for British sport. Two golds on the track, one in the field and three earlier in the day shared between the river at Eton and the Velodrome at the Olympic Park. Has British sport ever seen anything like it?

I can’t quite believe we won 6 of these in a day!

Well, I certainly can’t remember a night like it and I’m pretty sure that I will never see a more superior day of British sporting excellence for the rest of my existence, nor would I really hope to as I don’t think I could bear it!

So, where to start?

Well, first of all, huge congratulations to Jess Ennis, Greg Rutherford, Mo Farah, Laura Trott, Joanna Roswell, Dani King, Sophie Hosking, Katherine Copeland, Pete Reed, Andy Triggs Hodge, Tom James and Alex Gregory. You are all brilliant and we as mere spectators of your brilliance are all indebted to you for eternity for the magnificent day of entertainment with with you have provided us!

Now, breaking it down, here is the run through of my experience of Team GB’s ‘Golden Saturday’ at the Games….

10:00 A.M: Position on the sofa assumed for a long day ahead…

10:30 A.M: Jess Ennis nails the long jump and thrusts herself well and truly into the driving seat in the heptathlon…

11:30 A.M: GB WIN GOLD IN THE MEN’S FOUR! GOLD MEDAL NUMBER ONE ON ‘GOLDEN SATURDAY’ FOR TEAM GB!!!

London 2012 Rowing Gold

Gold number one…

12:00 P.M: GB WIN ANOTHER GOLD AT ETON! KATH COPELAND AND SOPHIE HOSKINGS TRIUMPH IN THE LIGHTWEIGHT WOMEN’S DOUBLE TAKING TEAM GB’s GOLD MEDAL TALLY TO TWO ON ‘GOLDEN SATURDAY’!!!

Gold number two…

12:30 P.M: Team GB get a silver medal in the men’s double lightweight sculls courtesy of reigning Olympic champions Zak Purchase and Mark Hunter. The pair were desolate in the wake of their ‘failure’ to get the gold but they performed manfully and shouldn’t feel ashamed at all…

1:00 P.M: Usain Bolt begins his Olympic campaign and though this would usually have thrilled the nation, his sluggish heat win paled in comparison to the level of excitement developing for Team GB on ‘Golden Saturday’. Adam Gemili also began his 100m campaign and he looked very good in his run to a second placed heat finish to winner Asafa Powell. Gemili won’t medal but he could make the final if he can find a PB on Sunday…

1:20 P.M: Dwain Chambers also qualifies for the next round of the 100m by winning his heat in an impressive time of 10.02 seconds. It was always going to be interesting to see how well he would be received by the crowd and though I have no affection for him whatsoever I am still pleased to report that he got a very warm reception as it would have been pretty awkward had he not…

1:30 P.M: My girlfriend left my house. Usually I wouldn’t report this as a significant event but the fact that she was then on her way to the Olympic Stadium as she had tickets for the phenomenal night ahead makes it rather more relavant… Lucky git…

2:00 P.M: Jess Ennis nails the javelin also which is often her achilles heel, throwing a lifetime best distance of 47.59 metres! This was the moment where I and the whole nation finally accepted that our ‘face of the Games’ would indeed win the gold medal she so deserved…

2:30 P.M-5 P.M: Many hours spent sulking because I wish I had a ticket for the Olympic Stadium…

5:00 P.M: I went for a jog and was of course pretending that I was Mo Farah. I convinced myself for a few seconds that I was actually a little too fast to be Mo before then realising that in reality I am actually horribly unfit…

5:30 P.M: Andy Murray and Laura Robson triumphed in the semi-finals of the mixed doubles in the tennis competition guaranteeing themselves a medal winning finish. Olympic tennis usually fails to capture my imagination but today changed everything for me. The nerve and resilience shown by our pair in their back-to-back Saturday afternoon wins over Australia and Germany was captivating and they fully deserve at very least a silver medal, which is now the minimum possible reward for their efforts. Andy Murray now has a shot at two gold medals on Sunday…

6:15 P.M: GOLD FOR GB IN THE WOMEN’S TEAM PURSUIT AT THE VELODROME! TEAM GB’S THIRD MEDAL OF GOLDEN SATURDAY! TAKE A BOW LAURA TROTT, DANI KING AND JOANNA ROSWELL!!!

Gold number three…

7:00 P.M: GB’s athletic’s team captain Dai Greene took to the track for his 400m hurdles semi-final and the world champion had a shocker! A 4th placed finish saw him scrape into the final by the skin of his teeth and in hindsight maybe this was the price all us Brits had to pay for the success lying in wait on ‘Golden Saturday’…

8:20 P.M: Greg Rutherford landed a major blow in the long jump final with a leading jump of 8.21 metres and the vaguest possibility of three Olympic golds in one night for Team GB’s athletics team dared to creep it’s way into the nation’s minds…

8:40 P.M: Michael Phelps won gold as part of the USA’s relay team in the 4x100m medley final in what was his last ever competitive race but I didn’t care because GB were on course to win 3 golds in a night! OK, I did care really… What a man. What an Olympian. 22 Olympic medals and 18 of them Gold. Is he the greatest sportsman of all time?

8:55 P.M: Time for Jess to finish off a job bloody well done… The nation awaits…

9:00 P.M: Jess only went and bloody well won her 800 didn’t she! It would have been so easy for her to just pace her way to a comfortable finish high up the field but the determination she showed to win her race was phenomenal. GOLD MEDAL NUMBER FOUR FOR TEAM GB ON GOLDEN SATURDAY!!!

Jess Ennis London 2012

Gold number four…

9:05 P.M : Rutherford extended his lead in the long jump with a terrific leap of 8.31 metres, a second gold in a matter of minutes became an even greater possibility for Team GB

9:20 P.M: Mo Farah begins the 10,000m and the Olympic Stadium erupted as the realisation of three potential athletics golds in one night started to really dawn on the nation…

9:25 P.M: Greg Rutherford stuffed up his ‘jump of honour’ but who gives a toss?! GOLD FOR TEAM GB IN THE LONG JUMP, 2 ATHLETICS GOLDS AND FIVE TEAM GB GOLDS ON GOLDEN SATURDAY!!!!

Greg Rutherford London 2012

Gold number five…

9:45 P.M: MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! FARAH WINS GOLD IN THE 10,000 m AND TEAM GB GET THEIR SIXTH GOLD MEDAL OF GOLDEN SATURDAY!!!!!!!

Mo Farah London 2012

…and Mo makes it six!

9:50 P.M: Jamaica get their gold in the women’s showpiece athletics event with Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce defending her Olympic title in 10.75 seconds. Usually the 100m finals are the more memorable moments of the Olympics but Fraser-Pryce’s terrific defence of her title was a little lost amidst the British Euphoria at the Olympic Stadium…

10:15 P.M: Team GB’s male footballers crashed out to South Korea in the quarter finals in a penalty shootout. Usually I would have cared but not tonight. Very little could have happened to dampen my mood and I’m sure that was the case for the vast majority of British sports fans!

 

Saturday the 4th of August will undoubtedly go down in history as one of it not THE greatest day of all time for British sport. 6 Olympic golds and a few more medals to boot. If you didn’t shed a tear at some point today then you might as well leave Britain and never come back…

 

London 2012: My Top 10 Moments Of The Opening Week

France Win 4x100m Freestyle Gold:

France Swimming London 2012

The French quartet shocked everybody in the relay as they defeated the USA and Australia

In what was billed the battle of the USA and outsiders Australia, the tables of swimming superiority were momentarily turned and the French took a remarkable victory. Everybody loves an underdog even if it is the French…

Grainger’s Gold At Last:

Grainger Watkins London 2012

Ably supported by team mate Anna Watkins, Kath Grainger finally got her hands on a gold medal

When she managed ‘only’ a silver in Beijing it looked as though Kath Grainger might never achieve a gold medal at an Olympic Games and as she put it before breaking down into a flood of tears she looked to destined to be “always the bridesmaid and never the bride.”

However, Friday morning’s terrific performance alongside the magnificent Anna Watkins saw her finally achieve the gold she so deserved and how she managed to hold herself together so well I’ll never know. Well done Kath, you are the bride after all!

Sir Chris Makes It 5:

Amidst the drama and disappointment of Jess Varnish and Victoria Pendleton’s disqualification on the first evening of Velodrome action, Sir Chris Hoy and his trusty team sprint team mates Jason Kenny and Phillip Hindes triumphed in their final breaking the World Record along the way.

Hoy fifth gold

Sir Chris brought home GB’s WR breaking team pursuit effort

This success was Chris Hoy’s fifth Olympic gold medal and the scenes it prompted inside the Velodrome were about as euphoric as the games has served up so far.

King-Size Judo Battle:

If you haven’t seen this already then please just take a look at this link and enjoy…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/olympics/19109181

Still Life In The ‘Old’ Dog:

On the opening night of the games Michael Phelps managed only a fourth placed finish in his first final and this result was made all the more startling by the fact that it was his fellow US star Ryan Lochte who bagged the gold medal. This triumph for Lochte led to him being asked in a post-race interview if 2012 was his time and his games and he answered “Well… Yeah… I guess so…”

Phelps Greatest Ever Olympian

Phelps had a sluggish start to his last Games but he has since stormed back to multiple gold medal winning success

However, the greatest Olympian of all time has had something to say about that and he has out-‘golded’ him so far this games and in doing so has kindly reminded Lochte (who for the record I cannot stand…) that for this week at least he still has some serious competition.

Gold-Silver Finish For Britain’s Men In The C2 Slalom:

Team GB flourished in the two-man canoeing discipline

Going into the finals of the C2 hopes were hight that one of the two British pairings might manage to get in the mix for a medal winning finish but a GB 1-2 was never really though to be on the radar.

It was a staggering performance from both pairs and the two medals captured for Team GB contributed to a mad five minutes in which Peter Wilson also showed phenomenal nerve to grab a shooting gold to make it three medals in five minutes for us Brits.

British Men’s Gymnastic Get Team Bronze:

Team GB came within a judge’s review of a silver medal in the team competition

Having gone into the team event in the gymnastics with hopes higher than ever before and aiming for a top five finish, our men’s squad excelled beyond belief and ended up getting themselves an awe-inspiring Bronze medal.

The Olympic Games are all about triumph in the face of adversity and performing to the very limit of your abilities and this success was the very epitome of such sentiment. I never though it would have been the case but their battle for a medal was probably my highlight of the first week of Olympic action and they came agonisingly close to bettering their final position with only a judge’s review denying them the silver medal.

South Africa Get Gold In The Lightweight Four:

South Africa’s first ever rowing old may have come at GB’s expense but it still made for fantastic viewing

Before this historic race South Africa had never before won a rowing gold but their staggering late burst in the lightweight fours earned them an awesome victory at the expense of the GB crew who were narrowly squeezed out into the silver medal position in the final few metres.

The South Africans were never meant to win this race but they did and they more than deserved to on the day even though it was heartbreaking to see our boys lose out so narrowly in a race they were very confident of winning beforehand.

Wiggo Rides His Way Into The History Books:

Having fought manfully for Mark Cavendish’s failed crack at winning gold in the men’s road race, Bradley Wiggins had to lift himself for Wednesday’s time trial and he did just that.

Wiggo Gold

Britain’s greatest ever Olympian?

His staggering victory by over forty seconds saw him win his fourth Olympic gold and his seventh Olympic medal in total and these achievements coupled with his historic triumph in the the Tour De France have put him right up there in contention to be thought of as Britain’s greatest ever sportsman. Arise Sir Brad….

Jess Ennis Blowing Away The Field In The 100m Hurdles:

At the time of writing this piece Jess Ennis has now built on her brilliant start to the heptathlon and has just one event remaining in her quest for an Olympic gold and looks set to close the deal with a fair amount of ease in tonight’s 800m.

Ennis Heptathlon Gold

Ennis’ awesome opening run in the hurdles catapulted her into the record books and straight o the top of the heptathlon standings

But in terms of the first week of the games she had only completed four of her seven events and the first of these, the 100m hurdles, saw her start her campaign in phenomenal fashion allaying any fears about her being overcome by the huge pressure of being the ‘face of the games’.

Her time of 12.54 seconds would have seen her in a photo finish for Olympic gold in the women’s 100m hurdles as an individual discipline in Beijing in 2008 and it was also the fastest hurdles time ever run by a British woman. This was an incredible start to her Games and it set the tone beautifully for the rest of her competition.

Bittersweet Weekend on the Road Continues Cycling Fever across GB

Following Danny Boyle’s brilliantly bonkers Opening Ceremony on Friday night, hopes were high across Britain that one of our glory boys of recent times would cash-in on the wave of euphoria and kick-start our Olympic campaign with a gold medal. Sadly though, Saturday’s Men’s Cycling Road Race failed to deliver the result we were all hoping for when our great hope Mark Cavendish failed to ever seriously threaten a podium finish.

However, from the ashes of Cav’s failed attempt to get Team GB off the mark rose Lizzie Armitstead’s quite magnificent ride to a silver medal finish in the Women’s Road Race and this first medal of the Games was arguably made all the sweeter by the disappointment that Cavendish, his team mates and the entire sporting fan-base of Great Britain had suffered on the opening day.

Armitstead Silver Medal

The whole of GB was holding out for a Cavendish victory in the Men’s Road Race but instead we were able to celebrate a silver in the Women’s race for Lizzie Armitstead

I was one of many who was fortunate enough to see first hand the efforts both of the men and of the women in the road races and having never been a real fan of cycling before recent British successes (call me a glory supporter if you will…) I must admit that I am well on the path to conversion.

Don’t get me wrong, you are unlikely to find me gripped to my television screen watching road cycling events all year round but the monumental achievements of the likes of Mark Cavendish, Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Lizzie Armitstead on the road over the past couple of years have certainly gone a long way towards inspiring a passion within me for the sport as a whole.

In order to break the back of learning both to watch and to enjoy road cycling I have found it helpful to compare it to test cricket which is a sporting discipline I have always had an enormous affection for.

Sure, some stages of test cricket can be an absolute bore as can some stages of the Tour De France but the beauty of both comes in the moments of sheer excitement that emerge from these lengthy spells of monotony and tedium.

Just as Cavendish’s disappointment made Armitstead’s success so thrilling, the dull and at times dismal periods of test cricket and road cycling make the great spells of play all the more memorable.

I can accept that road cycling will never be on a par with something like the 100m sprint at the Olympics in terms of sheer and complete excitement but where it does excel is in it’s ability to drag viewers through the seemingly more boring moments with captivating tactical battles which can only be fully appreciated as a result of an increased understanding.

Until recently I have never tried to properly understand the real gritty and at times enthralling tactical side to top-level cycling and though I am a million miles away from being an expert on the subject now, my knowledge has certainly improved and I can say with undoubted integrity that I am much more appreciative of the skill of road cycling for having spent some time taking an active interest in it.

It is also immensely helpful to me as a spectator of road cycling that I have now had the opportunity to see before my very eyes the world’s finest road cyclists’s taking on roads and landscapes with which I am well acquainted. Even if the route had taken in merely 250 km of straightforwards roads in my local area I would have gained a greater appreciation for their talents for having a more enhanced knowledge of the route, but for the male competitors in particular to have had to conquered Box Hill nine times in a row in the middle of their race is truly phenomenal and it has earned all my respect.

I myself am sporty and would consider myself to be reasonably fit but I would happily wager that I couldn’t manage one round of Box Hill in isolation without doing myself a serious mischief along the way. So, for them to have completed nine straight circuits of the area as just the focal point of their gruelling ride is totally astounding as it is a tricky enough ascent when walking on foot let alone when trying to force an unwilling bike up there.

As for the women’s race, they may only have had to conquer Box Hill twice in a shortened version of the men’s route but I have a very sizeable amount of respect for their efforts too in what was still an enormously demanding race which was also played out in some of Britain’s very filthiest summertime weather, unlike the men’s race which was awash with sunshine.

As I mentioned I was road side to see Armitstead and co whizz down Hampton Court Way on their route back towards The Mall and as I stood observing the latter stages of the race the conditions ranged from bellowing thunder, to huge bolts of lightning and then most joyously of all to a storm of hailstones.

That spell of vile weather was enough to make me feel terribly sorry for myself for just having to stand there getting soaked and stung by the hail let alone cycle into it at 50 kph for hours on end. Therefore I have nothing but the highest of praise and admiration for Lizzie Armitstead as she rustled up a whole lifetime’s worth of my capacity for bravery and resolve in just one day of phenomenal effort on the roads of London and Surrey.

Though Team GB’s plans may have gone a little awry in the men’s race, the women’s plans were implemented and executed superbly off the back of the knowledge provided by the previous day’s efforts and Lizzie Armitstead demonstrated tremendous skill, power and determination to force home a splendid finish and to grab a hold of Team GB’s first medal of our third Olympic Games.

Armitstead’s awesome show on the roads will undoubtedly see her go down in pub quiz folklore for the rest of her existence and beyond and the honour of becoming Team GB’s first medalist of our home games must surely be beyond her comprehension.

Hopefully over the next few days Armitstead’s opening medal for Team GB will inspire further success both on the bikes and in the many other varied sporting disciplines in which we are battling for medal success and just as an aside, congratulations to Rebecca Adlington for facing up to the enormous weight of expectation in grabbing a bronze medal in the Women’s 400m Freestyle. It has been a slow start for Team GB but the best is still to come…