James Lawton: Trio leave crowd stunned by enormity of it all - Comment - Olympics - The Independent

James Lawton: Trio leave crowd stunned by enormity of it all

We will forever remember this incredible night of track and field success when the nation's darling entranced us, ably supported by the likely lads

the Olympic Stadium

There was, all the ghosts of British sport will have to forgive us for saying, never a night like this. Never one when the senses pounded with quite so much pride.

In the end you could hardly distinguish the heroes and the heroine.

Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and the least-heralded of last night's Olympic gold-medal winners Greg Rutherford, who so transfixed the nation in less than one fabled hour, will always be linked together now, down the years when old men speak of the night when it seemed that every sporting dream was suddenly plucked down to reside beside the Olympic flame.

If you couldn't separate the men and the woman it was because their deeds were so intertwined at the peak of their hopes and those of the nation.

And in their essence they were almost precisely the same in the weight of their achievement and their passion.

Farah, who came from a benighted part of Africa to make a new life in England, embedded himself in the affection of his adopted land with a run of irresistible courage that won Britain's first Olympic title over the draining distance of 10,000 metres.

Rutherford came from nowhere to win a title adorned by such names as Bob Beamon and Lynn Davies.

Ennis both enchanted and thrilled this stadium not only with her superb fitness and talent but also with the sheer force of her competitive nature.

It was the way she started and the way she finished and when the heptathlon gold medal was finally gathered in there was something almost entirely predictable about the way she ran down her most threatening challenger, Russia's reigning world champion Tatyana Chernova.

She could have picked way her carefully to the moment of her triumph, she could have run a wide arc to the 800 metres finish line which changed her life.

But we have learned quite a bit about Jessica Ennis these last few days and the most impressive is that she owns the heart of a natural born champion. She tore into the lead last night and regained it along the straight as she swept by silver medallist Chernova and the Ukrainian Lyudmyla Yosypenko.

She came into the stadium last night with a sombre face because in her native Yorkshire they take nothing for granted. But then in the end she had a smile that went into every corner of the nation.

Her winning mark of 6955 points brushed against history but when the details are recalled they will scarcely tell of the emotion they created. Nor the will the details of the triumphs of Farah and Rutherford. There will be just that raw and unforgettable sense of athletes who resolved that they would not be beaten.

In the case of Ennis on a second straight day of huge and relentless pressure she was not only challenging for heptathlon gold – the most demanding athletic discipline any woman can face – but was also pushing ever closer to becoming only the fourth successful contender for the mark of 7,000 points.

It had been a tantalising prospect, the touching of gold and a place in the pantheon of her sport, but then nobody had to tell her about the perils of her business.

Earlier in the day Ennis had showed a rare moment of caution when she rose from the take-off board of the long jump erring on the side of caution by at least a foot. Briefly, but agonisingly for her impassioned support, it was though she was suddenly afflicted by the onset of caution.

It was a fear that did not survive her first nerveless work in the javelin that some saw as the weakest point in her armour.The great stadium was hushed, then erupted when she threw 47.49 metres – a personal best. Her coach, Tony Minichiello threw up a formal salute.

He was acknowledging that the young girl he had nurtured for a great stage was finding some of that resolution, that self-belief, which will always a define a champion. It was a conclusion enhanced again when after that tentative work at the long jump gave way to something infinitely bolder... a leap of 6.48 metres, which was just 3 cm off still another personal best.

Since she arrived at the stadium on Friday morning, and triggered one of the most emotional reactions from a crowd in the whole sweep of the Olympics, Ennis has been invited to believe that she occupied, for a little while at the least, the dead centre of national aspiration.

It is not the lightest of burdens in any circumstances but right from the start of her challenge she was emphatic that failure would not come out of any meekness of spirit. When the pressure mounted yesterday, there were times when her smile became more than a little taut. Sometimes the cheers seemed to fly, unheard, beyond her ears.

But always there seemed to be an insistent resolve. It was to avoid the more seductive distractions of becoming an Olympics poster girl. It was to produce the performances of her life.

Last night she had, much of the nation prayed, merely to take the world off her shoulders and bend it to her will. When she did it, with more than a little help from her friends Mo and Greg, she was a champion at the heart of these exultant Olympics.

She was, indeed, the pride of a nation.

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