Jessica Ennis collected gold last night with a record-breaking win in the heptathlon. She was just one of a slew of champions on one of the greatest days in British athletics history. Her success came at the end of a remarkable week for Team GB.
Mere minutes after her triumph, the long jumper Greg Rutherford joined Britain's burgeoning cast of Olympic title holders with a 8.31m jump to take gold. Within the hour, Mo Farah won gold with a last-lap sprint to take the 10,000m crown, in what the stadium's compere was already describing as the "greatest hour in British athletic history".
Speaking minutes after her win, Ennis said: "I honestly can't believe it. I'm so happy. I'm so thankful that everybody has helped me all this way." Later on, the woman who was dubbed the Golden Girl in the build-up to the Games, reflected: "I came here under a lot of pressure and I think everyone expected me to win the gold medal before I'd even stepped on the track, so to go and win it is a dream come true."
The athletics triumphs came near the end of a day of wins for Team GB as our rowers and cyclists went into overdrive at Eton Dorney and at the velodrome in east London, netting three gold medals and one silver before the nation's attention swung to the Olympic stadium to see whether Ennis could seal victory in the heptathlon.
Britain jumped to third in the medal table, with 14 gold, seven silver and eight bronze medals.
Britain's rowers enjoyed success on the final day of the Olympic regatta, winning two gold and a silver medal in a dramatic finish. Victories for the men's coxless four and women's double sculls were followed by a gripping race in the men's double sculls which saw the Danish pip the British pair at the finish line. Britain's final rowing medals haul – four golds, two silvers and three bronzes – smashed its previous best haul of six in Beijing.
At the velodrome, the all-conquering GB team continued to reap rewards on the track as the women's pursuit team took the cycling team's fourth gold, outpacing the US and smashing the world record twice.
Victories at Eton Dorney yesterday morning saw Britain rise to third in the medal table, leaving only the sporting behemoths of China and the US ahead. The sprint hopeful Jason Kenny signalled further British cycling supremacy when he broke the Olympic record in qualifying for the mens' match sprint final.
Yesterday's crop of six gold medals and one silver bought Britain's tally to 28. Britain's most improved runner, Mo Farah, was chasing glory in the 10,000m – his wife, Tania, heavily pregnant with twins, defied doctors' advice to be there. Even before Farah completed his dramatic win, Team GB was within shouting distance of its biggest one-day medal haul.
Millions of people crowded around television sets and radios, united by their fervour and unalloyed pride. A mere 12 months separate the scenes of jubilation and the shocking images of rioting and burning that flashed across the nation's TV screens, yet it was hard even to remember the fear and fury that scarred the nation.
Yesterday was about sporting excellence and realised dreams. Ennis capped her win with a fairytale finish to the final 800m event: she ran so fast that she smashed her own British record. An 80,000 crowd at the Olympic stadium roared as she crossed the line in first place. When her podium moment came, her name could not be heard over the cacophony.
Andy Murray ensured he was in contention for two gold medals in the tennis yesterday, after reaching the mixed doubles final with Laura Robson. But not everyone had the same British luck behind them. Dai Greene, 400m hurdling world champion and captain of Team GB athletics, failed to qualify in his heat, scraping into the final as one of the two fastest not to qualify. Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase were also left bitterly disappointed after a dramatic effort by their Danish rivals in the final metres of the double scull left them with silver medals.
Young British hopeful Adam Gemili made it into today's 100m semi-final, completing his heat in 10.11 seconds. Dwain Chambers also made it through in 10.02 seconds.
Ennis's phenomenal performance over the past two days has boosted the money-making potential of an athlete who is already attracting massive sponsorship. An ideal marketing combination of visual appeal, personability and success, she has already become the face of numerous pre-Olympic advertising campaigns and is likely to pull in even more lucrative contracts now. Simon Chadwick, professor of sport business strategy and marketing at Coventry University Business School, said he expected the 26-year-old's earnings to double from around £1m this year to at least £2m in the next 12 months.
Even on a day like yesterday, some rules remained inviolable: the GB men's football team lost last night on penalties. South Korea, instead of Team GB, will go on to a place in the semi-final.
More than anything, yesterday was about a nation united in appreciation of sporting excellence: though the spectators were almost all decked out in red, white and blue, they roared their approval for the fastest amputee the world has ever seen. The South African Oscar Pistorius – whose prosthetic limbs have earnt him the name blade runner – was the first double amputee ever to compete in the Olympic Games.
"This crowd is amazing," he said, after they cheered him along on a heat which was fast enough to qualify him for the 400m semi-final.
Day 8: Gold rush
11.28am Jessica Ennis jumps 6.48m in the long jump to extend her lead in the heptathlon.
11.36am The men's coxless four gets the day off to a golden start at Eton Dorney.
11.57am A shocked Kat Copeland and Sophie Hosking win gold in the lightweight women's double skulls.
12.10pm Drama at the start of the men's lightweight double sculls, as Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase suffer a problem with a seat in their boat. The race is stopped.
12.27pm Hunter and Purchase win silver in the restarted final.
2.08pm Ennis throws a new lifetime best of 47.49m in the javelin.
5.33pm Murray and Robson defeat Germany in the tennis mixed doubles semi-final. They will win at least silver.
6.09pm The women's team pursuit cyclists break the world record to take gold.
8.05pm Aaron Ramsey converts a penalty to level the score 1-1 in the men's football quarter final against Korea. The scoreline remains at the final whistle and the game goes into extra time.
8.18pm Greg Rutherford leaps into first place in the long jump final with an 8.21m jump.
9.01pm Ennis wins her 800m race to take heptathlon gold in a new British record.
9.04pm Rutherford jumps 8.31m.
9.22pm Rutherford is confirmed long jump champion.
9.46pm The Olympic Stadium erupts as Mo Farah wins gold in the 10,000m.