What started as a pair of gilded victories greeted by national relief turned into a euphoric flood on day six of the London Games yesterday when Britain took three golds and two silvers and leapt to fifth in the overall medal table.
Cyclist Sir Chris Hoy equalled Sir Steve Redgrave's British record of five gold medals – and he also has one silver, to Redgrave's single bronze. Hoy, 19-year-old Philip Hindes and Jason Kenny stormed to a world record in the men's sprint to claim gold.
Last night, Hoy, welling up, said: "It was overwhelming. I dug deeper than ever before. The crowd have been phenomenal. "I feel immense pride to be able to do this in London, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I can't overstate what it means."
The opening night of battle in "The Pringle", as the Olympic velodrome will forever be known, saw a blistering display of speed from the host nation with three records set by the men's team.
But the day after Teams GB's first golds had been won – by cyclist Bradley Wiggins and rowers Heather Stanning and Helen Glover – was defined by the ability of the Olympics to elevate more obscure sports to treasured moments in the national memory. In an extraordinary hour of afternoon endeavour, Britain's third and fourth gold medals of the Games were secured by Britain's canoeists and a Dorset farmer's son trained to the apogee of clay pigeon shooting by an Arab sheikh.
Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott, Team GB's second string in the C2 men's double canoe, had been delighted to be in the final at all.
But after a stunning run through Lee Valley rapids white water – thrashing the Czech Hochschorner brothers, considered the best canoeists in history – they claimed gold. Britain's first-choice crew, David Florence and Richard Hounslow, took silver. Stott, who broke down in tears as the enormity of the achievement became clear, said: "I would have been happy to get fourth, but to win is just mad. It is brilliant."
If canoeing at 3.35pm on a Thursday was an unusual thing to grip the country's interest, even more unusual was the national captivation as Peter Wilson, a 6ft 6in shooter, led from the front in the final of the double trap.
The 25-year-old had spent last year training in Dubai under the watchful eye of Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Hasher Al Maktoum, a member of the emirate's ruling family and an Olympic champion who offered his services to the young Briton for free. The Olympic debutant traded shot for shot in the final against his Russian pursuer Vasily Mosin, each puff of pink powder as a disc exploded bringing him closer to victory at the Royal Artillery Barracks. Wilson said afterwards: "I'm going to get very, very drunk and probably do something silly."
The golds were promptly followed by a remarkable silver – the first by a resident of London Olympic boroughs – as Charlton's judoka Gemma Gibbons overcame the French world No 1 Audrey Tcheumeo in her semi-final. Gibbons, 25, dedicated that victory to her mother Jeanette, who died from leukaemia in 2004, mouthing: "I love you mum." Her 4pm final, watched by David Cameron and Russian President Vladimir Putin, conducting their diplomatic tussle, was won by American Kayla Harrison. But Gibbons' silver is Britain's first judo medal since the Sydney Olympics 12 years ago.
Team GB's light men's fours had started the domestic medal rush at Eton Dorney with a silver in the most thrilling finish yet in the rowing regatta. Northern Ireland brothers Richard and Peter Chambers, Rob Williams and Chris Bartley took second in the narrowest of finishes, which saw outsiders South Africa snatch victory.
Richard Chambers was quick to recognise second, in such a race, as an ample honour. “Whatever medal we won, it was going to be hard to celebrate,” the Ulsterman explained. “We were in absolute agony. We had to dig in and fight to the death. But we’re ecstatic. It’s definitely a day to celebrate. And massive credit to our competition.”
He told BBC1: "We were just fighting and fighting just to get ourselves back in contention and we did a cracking job. To even get the silver was impressive from where we came from. "
There was bitter disappointment for British cycling's golden girl Victoria Pendleton and her partner Jess Varnish when they were disqualified from the women's sprint event for a fault.
But the strains of "God Save the Queen" being played across three London venues is a welcome soundtrack as Britain's elite athletes begin the track and field competition in the Olympic Stadium today.
Jessica Ennis begins her quest for gold as hot favourite in the heptathlon while Dai Greene, the captain of the Team GB athletics squad, goes in the 400m hurdles. Greene said: "When we see people celebrating with the flag everyone is given a positive buzz and can't help but be inspired."
The succession of podium finishes was accompanied by a resurgence for another Olympic great, Ben Ainslie, who closed the gap on Denmark's Jonas Hogh-Christensen in their heated battle for the Finn-class gold.
Rebecca Adlington will seek to retain her 800m crown tonight after she dominated her semi-final yesterday morning in the Aquatics Centre.
In the boxing ring, Norfolk boxer Anthony Ogogo, 23, staged a major upset by beating the Ukrainian world No 1 Ievgen Khytrov to make the middleweight quarter-finals.
He said: "No one outside Team GB squad and my own friends and family thought I could win that fight but I was confident."
Britain also got off to a strong start in search of a first Olympic dressage medal, with riders occupying the top two spots after Thursday's grand prix at Greenwich Park.
The American swimmer Michael Phelps last night cemented his record as the most decorated Olympian by winning gold in the 200m individual medley – taking his Olympics haul to 16 golds, two silvers and two bronzes.
Banned racers overtaken by sadness
Victoria Pendleton, the most famous woman cyclist in the world and one of Britain's medal hopes, choked back tears after she and Jess Varnish broke the world record in their team sprint – and were promptly disqualified.
Pendleton overtook her teammate too early, outside of the permitted zone.
Pendleton has further races at these Games, but Varnish must wait for four years until Rio de Janeiro. Remarkably, the Chinese team went on to win the final but were then stripped of their gold medal for the same error – meaning that the Germans won by default.
Timeline: Another glorious day for Team GB
12.17 Men's lightweight four rowing team win silver to start the day's medal haul. South Africa take gold in controversial circumstances.
13.15 Andy Murray beats Nicolas Almagro to storm into the tennis men's singles semi-finals, where he will meet Novak Djokovic.
13.30 Ben Ainslie wins the day's first heat in sailing's Finn class category to close the 10-point gap on Denmark's Jonas Hogh-Christensen in the rankings.
14.49 Gemma Gibbons is a surprise winner in the women's judo semi-finals by beating world champion Audrey Tcheuméo with an ippon.
14.56 Anthony Ogogo beats world No 1 middleweight boxer Ievgen Khytrov. Equal on points, the eight judges give him a majority verdict. The Ukrainian team appeal but are turned down.
15.00 Ben Ainslie comes third in the day's second heat. He is nowin second place overall behind Hogh-Christensen.
15.37 Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott take gold in the canoe men's double slalom. Britons Richard Hounslow and David Florence take silver.
15.41 Peter Wilson claims gold in the men's double trap shooting event.
16.11 Gemma Gibbons is beaten in the final by the USA's Kayla Harrison but wins a silver medal.
16.16 Victoria Pendleton and Jessica Varnish break the women's sprint world record in cycling.
17.10 Pendleton and Varnish are disqualified. The final is won by China, who are then relegated to silver, handing Germany gold.
17.51 World record set by GB men's pursuit cyclists in qualifying round.
18.14 World record set by GB men's sprint cycling team on way to final.
18.54 Sir Chris Hoy takes a fifth gold as GB win the men's sprint cycling in a new world-record time.