Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Saturday night fever best ever for British sport

They billed it as “Super Saturday”. In truth they undersold it, underplayed it as “Super Saturday” became one of the most overwhelming days in British sporting history.

There was also the marvel that is Michael Phelps winning his 18th Olympic gold medal, his 22nd in total but you lose count where the Baltimore Bullet is concerned.

In his last event ever in the Games before retirement the 27-year-old was part of the victorious American 4x100m medley relay team in the pool earning him that astonishing 18th gold putting him in 41st place on the all-time Olympic medals table just above Argentina and below Ethiopia!

An extraordinary achievement no doubt, and on any other day the headline act, but not this day.

Not on the day that Team GB won SIX gold medals — the greatest single day tally since the 1908 Olympics.

The rowers started that gold ball rolling at Eton Dorney when Katherine Copeland and Sophie Hosking won the lightweight women's double sculls before Andrew Triggs Hodge, Pete Reed, Tom James and Alex Gregory led from the front to triumph in the coxless four.

This was followed by incredible scenes at the Velodrome where Laura Trott, Joanna Rowsell and Dani King smashed their own world record in the women's team pursuit to strike gold.

Then it was on to the Olympic stadium itself.

All the success that the hosts have enjoyed in recent days has of course been welcomed and greeted with unbridled joy, but Team GB needed to savour glory in track and field, athletics, still regarded as the blue riband sport of this or any other Olympic Games.

Glory? It was more a case of Glory, Glory, Glory Hallelujah as 80,000 delirious spectators couldn't believe their eyes as they witnessed not one, not two, but THREE gold medals in the space of 45 magical minutes on Saturday night.

This wasn't “Super Saturday”. This was sensational, scintillating, spectacular. This was the most special Saturday with heptathlete Jessica Ennis, long jumper Greg Rutherford and 10,000metre runner Mo Farah making you feel that just about anything was possible in sport.

The noise levels were beyond belief. Who knew the Brits could be so loud?

On Saturday morning and afternoon Jessica had been inspired by the support in events number five (long jump) and six (javelin) which had followed the 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put and 200m on Friday, but nothing prepared her for the contagious Saturday night fever.

When she entered the arena with a virtually unassailable lead for the final event, the 800m, had their been a roof on the stadium, I swear it would have been blown off.

The roar that hit the “Poster Girl of London 2012” was off the scale as she sprinted down the straight to win the race, the title and hearts all over the country.

This was the gold all of Britain had wanted. And “our Jess” had delivered in wonderful, emphatic, daring style.

She fell to the ground, then stood to accept a specially prepared Union flag and all the acclaim.

This popular lady, the 26-year-old Sheffield star, had shone in the biggest competition of all.

That would have been enough, but there was more to come. We were going to be spoiled.

As Ennis sauntered around on her victory lap, Rutherford was taking control of the long jump event.

Rutherford, a 25-year-old from Milton Keynes, who had a six month trial with Aston Villa as a teenager, is well known on the athletics circuit, but before Saturday he was not well known anywhere else.

Recently after a succession of injuries that hampered his progress, he remodelled his technique on four time Olympic long jump champion Carl Lewis. It worked as he produced a brilliant jump of 8.31 metres which would be enough for victory.

What was an unexpected and thrilling success was not confirmed though until the 10,000m final had got under way.

Once the result was clear another explosion of noise battered the ear-drums to hail the Olympic triumph of ginger haired Rutherford, the first for a British long jumper since Welshman Lynn “The Leap” Davies in 1964.

That would have been enough, but there was still more to come with Mo in the 10,000. After the excitement and exhilaration of Ennis and Rutherford, it was time to focus on Farah.

A slow and tactical race came down to the last 600m when the man, born in Somalia who moved to Hounslow when he was eight and is as British as fish and chips, kicked for home with the decibel levels inside rising and rising with every stride.

No British man had ever won the 10,000m Olympic title. No European had won it since 1984 due to recent African domination. No way was Farah going to lose this, not in this atmosphere which sent shivers not just down the spine but through your whole body.

With his 29-year-old legs pumping and his head filled with the cheers of a nation, he crossed the line just ahead of American training partner Galen Rupp to the relief and joy of the breathless thousands in the stands and his wife Tania, pregnant with twin girls, and seven year-old stepdaughter Rihanna, who squeezed him tighter than she had ever done before.

If ever a man merited a lap of honour, it was Mo. The people stood to hail a hero.

That would have been enough, but, yes, there was even more.

After 10pm Jessica bounced up to the podium with her endearing, almost bashful, smile to get that gold around her neck. Tears followed during the anthem. Then came waves to the adoring crowd.

It was the perfect end to a perfect night.

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