Adlington family set off to watch their daughter aim for second gold

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Steve and Kay Adlington will embark tomorrow on a long-planned journey from Mansfield to China to watch their daughter Rebecca compete in her first Olympics in her best swimming event, the 800m freestyle, which starts on Thursday.

They first tried to buy seats months ago, but that ended in a loss of £1,100 to a scam internet company. And when they told Becky a few days ago that their legitimate replacement tickets were up in the Gods, the straight-talking teenager feared their view might be, in her words, "crap".

Yesterday morning, she exploded that notion as surely as the Chinese let off a few fireworks last Friday. By winning a thrilling 400m freestyle final here, she became the first British woman to win an Olympic swimming gold medal for 48 years.

As Steve, 50, and Kay, 48, take their Water Cube pews on Thursday, they will doubtless be thinking that no view of their Olympic champion daughter in action will be anything less than wonderful ever again.

"It's absolutely amazing. I can't actually believe it," said Adlington, after a victory snatched from America's Katie Hoff with a last-gasp touch to the wall. The margin was a trifling 0.07 seconds. When the BBC used their poolside monitor to show Adlington the final yards of the race immediately afterwards, she exclaimed to them: "See, I didn't win."

"Then they showed me the underwater shot and you can see that my hand just got there," she said. The glory was made sweeter still for Team GB because Britain's Jo Jackson, 21, took the bronze medal.

The magnitude of the achievement was matched only by the excitement it caused at the prospect of a genuine surge into contention by a generation of young British swimmers. Adlington is one of a posse of young British women rising to prominence. Fran Halsall, Jemma Lowe, Hannah Miley and Jackson are among the others.

Adlington, coached in Nottingham by Bill Furniss, has shown promise for years, exemplified by a European 800m silver medal in 2006. But she suffered a severe bout of glandular fever not long afterwards, and while her recovery has been superb, and her Olympic trial times excellent, this was her first test on the most important stage of all.

Flying colours? Oh yes. No Briton had won any Olympic gold in the pool since Adrian Moorhouse in 1988. No British woman had won a medal of any colour since 1984, which was also the last time two Britons shared a podium, Sarah Hardcastle and June Croft taking silver and bronze in the 400m free. Only a handful have even reached an Olympic final since.

Adlington, the fastest woman in the world over 800m in 2008, is now a firm favourite for that event. A win would catapult her into entirely uncharted waters. No British woman has won two Games swimming gold medals, ever.

Adlington and Jackson will both also swim in the 4x200m freestyle relay, which starts tomorrow, and the former sees no reason why she cannot depart the Orient with three medals of one colour or other. "I hope I can do well again in the 800m, and it's looking great for the relay team," she said. "I can't wait to get back in the pool."

There was self-criticism too, for not clocking a faster time. But that was something that Moorhouse, her predecessor in winning gold for GB, saw only as a positive trait. "That's a great mark of somebody who's going to go places," said the former breaststroker, a pundit here. "She really wants to improve, improve, improve."

Those finishing in Adlington's wake included the world record holder, Italy's Federica Pellegrini (in fifth), and the 2004 champion from Athens, France's Laure Manaudou, who came last.

A compelling battle of ebb and flow intensified at the 300m mark. At that stage Adlington was fourth and Jackson fifth, with Hoff leading, France's Coralie Balmy second and Pellegrini third.

But in the final 50m Adlington tore into Hoff's margin and then clipped ahead in the most vital fraction of a second.

"I saw Katie [Hoff] at 250m and saw her move off and I thought *Oh gosh, she's gone*," Adlington said. "But I told myself to stick with it. I was so tired but I came off the last turn and thought *Just go for it, you've got nothing to lose, just put your head down and go*. And I just went for it."

Among the first people she tried to contact were her boyfriend, Andrew Mayor, a 22-year-old butterfly swimmer from Scotland, and before that her parents, at home in England with her two older sisters, Chloe, 24, and Laura, 21. "As soon as I rang home, everyone was screaming and shouting.

"Then I got back to the Olympic village the team had stuck on the door 'Congratulations Becky'. Jo and I walked into the team meeting and everyone stood up and gave us a massive round of applause.

"It's just so nice from somebody like Mark Foster, who has been to five Olympic Games and I look up to, and for him to be doing that for me is just unbelievable. It's every sportsman's dream."

"I don't want to take my medal off. I walked into the dinner hall with it on and was just sat reading the internet with it on around my neck. It's the best day in my life so far."

Only after the Games end will she look to celebrate, perhaps by upgrading her Vauxhall Corsa to an Audi A3, "even if Jeremy Clarkson has slagged them off as Chavvy". Before that her parents have promised to indulge one of her other passions, buying posh shoes, probably a pair of Jimmy Choo's.

She needs nothing to put a spring in her step, though, and nor did British swimming last night. The feelgood factor extended to all five swimmers in action in heats. Caitlin McClatchey and Jackson (both in the 200m freestyle), Michael Rock (200m butterfly), Miley (200m individual medley) and Keri-Anne Payne (ditto) all reach later stages in those disciplines, scheduled for this morning, Beijing time.

i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower