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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas