Golden moments: Experts select their lasting memories

Girls on top

Every medal for team GB has been very special but Rebecca Adlington in the pool and Christine Ohuruogu on the track were particularly memorable.

Dame Kelly Holmes, double Olympic gold medal winner

Victory – by a fingertip

Monday mornings are just not meant to be dramatic, yet the first Monday of the Games delivered two defining moments of the Olympic swimming action within 10 incredible minutes.

In the women's 400 metres freestyle final, Rebecca Adlington snatched victory from the American favourite, Katie Hoff, by just 0.07sec – no more than a fingertip's reach as she stretched for the wall.

In the very next race, the men's 4x100m freestyle relay final, Michael Phelps' dream of eight Beijing golds looked to be over. Over, that is, until Jason Lezak sensationally retrieved almost a body length of deficit on France in the last 50m of the race to win on the touch in a world record 3min 8.24sec. Phelps seemed fated from that moment onwards.

Nick Harris, The Independent

Pedal-powered revolution

Those of us who had witnessed the thrilling performances by Britain's cyclists at the world track championships in Manchester in March knew they were capable of something special here – but in sport, you never take anything for granted. Had they peaked too soon? Had other nations been deliberately holding something back?

Any doubts were swept away in 42 glorious seconds at the Laoshan velodrome last Friday. In qualifying for the team sprint – the very first event of the track programme – Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny and Jamie Staff smashed the world record. The broad smile on Hoy's face told you that this was indeed going to be the start of five very special days.

Paul Newman, The Independent

Storming stag

By far and away my favourite moment of the Games was, while on my brother's stag do on Saturday afternoon, watching Usain Bolt storm to a historic victory and world record in the 100m.

Will Greenwood, World Cup-winning ex-England rugby player

Double jeopardy

Roger Federer is the Mr Super Cool of tennis: gracious and charming, and with his emotions nearly always kept in check. When he won the doubles title here, however, the pain of a year in which he has lost his Australian Open and Wimbledon crowns, and his world No 1 ranking – not to mention his dream of an Olympic singles gold medal – spilt out.

Federer could not stop hugging his friend and doubles partner, Stanislas Wawrinka. "It's a joy sharing this victory," he said afterwards. "I can't just hug a stranger when I win singles."

Paul Newman, The Independent

When bolt electrified the whole world

Bolt's dash had been extraordinary enough, but then there was a moment that can define the difference between a great performance and something that will last for ever. Had Bolt blown his place in history with that bout of comic celebration at the line? Ninety-one thousand heads swivelled to look at the big flashing board and and it said, no, he had not. He had smashed the world record and it was as though the electricity might run into every corner of the world. We knew then these Olympics, every heartbeat of them, belonged to Usain Bolt.

James Lawton, The Independent

Second coming

One of my golden moments was when Michael Phelps won his record-smashing 10th gold medal with the 200m butterfly. Except he didn't win it: he came second. The poor guy who got silver, the Hungarian Laszlo Cseh, is one of my unsung heroes from these Games. He actually beat Phelps to the wall but because you have to apply a certain amount of pressure, he was registered second. I can see why we're all obsessed with Phelps – he's a great guy and an incredible athlete – but in my reckoning, the man who gets there first wins. What a great man Laszlo is not to have caused any more fuss.

John Regis, sprinter & Olympic gold medallist

Road into legend

It was a roar that echoed all the way down the Juyongguan Pass in the mountains outside Beijing and into the heart of the city 40 miles away. Nicole Cooke's howl of celebration as she took the gold medal in the women's road race on the second day of the Games proved a rallying cry to the whole British team, who went on to enjoy their best Olympics for 100 years.

For Cooke herself, the moment of victory ended four years of frustration at her failure to win a medal in the 2004 Olympics. She had already proved to those in her own sport that she was the best in the business. Now the rest of the world knew it too.

Paul Newman, The Independent

Father's day

There has been high security at every venue, with thousands of soldiers and policemen on duty, but on the final day of the windsurfer competition at Qingdao it was a delight to witness a significant lapse.

John Ashley had travelled from New Zealand to see his son, Tom, compete in the windsurfer event and was desperate to have a good view for the finale.

His friends from the television channel TVNZ were happy to help. They smuggled him through all the security checks and took him with them out on to the course in their television transmitting boat so that he could be in the heart of the action.

The result: a gold medal – and the proudest father in Qingdao.

Stuart Alexander, The Independent

One last shot

Watching Du Li leave the Beijing Shooting Range a tearful and broken woman, you wanted to wrap your arms round her. For four years, after winning the first gold of the Athens Games, she had been expected to launch the great Chinese gold rush from event No 1: the women's 10m air rifle. She was not just the defending champion but the world No 1 and red-hot favourite.

Watching her weep tears of joy five days later when she struck gold in her secondary event, the three-positions rifle, you wanted to cry with her again. That she somehow managed to put herself back together is one of the great stories of these Games.

Simon Turnbull, The Independent

A lift for the spirit

Crowds in their tens of thousands gathered in public places across Beijing to watch the opening ceremony. I was in the Houhai Lakes area, where traditional hutongs, or alleyways, stand side by side with billionaires' mansions, including that of Wendi Deng and her husband Rupert Murdoch.

The island at the centre of the main lake was used as the launch pad for part of the aerial firework trail from the Bird's Nest to the Forbidden City during the ceremony. The "ooohs" as the sky lit up were huge.

After the ceremony, the Olympic spirit of friendship was in evidence for this Independent writer when there was no taxi to be had for love or money. After more than an hour trying, I flagged down a car – even though it wasn't a taxi. "I take you, China love the Games," said the driver, who took a long detour for a stranger, gratis. Thank you, Richard Zhu, operations manager of the Wangfujing Street branch of McDonald's.

Nick Harris, The Independent

Shock & oar

The highlight of a memorable rowing regatta saw Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter emerge from what Hunter described as a "dark tunnel" at Shunyi to look around and find that they were Britain's first lightweights to strike Olympic gold.

The Britons engraved their names on this medal from their first race of the season. Their fluidity sent them scything through the water and their year-long focus on the double sculls gold brought just deserts and an Olympic record along the way. This was power harnessed into rhythm – truly poetry in motion.

Christopher Dodd, The Independent

It started with a bang

The opening ceremony was phenomenal, best I've ever seen. It was incredible.

Michael Johnson, former 200m world record holder


The thudding right-hand punch which dismantled the super-heavyweight boxing favourite Islam Timurziev not only made the Russian's nose bleed and his eyes water but it established the 6ft 8in Merseysider David Price as British boxing's new towering inferno.

"It was a great feeling, bone on bone," said the 25-year-old captain of a British team, which has had its ups and downs in Beijing but finally, like Price, hit the spot with three medals. It was also a punch that puts a substantial price on Price's head should "Dynamite Dave" decide to cash in his medal for a pro contract, which is likely.

Alan Hubbard, The Independent

A date with destiny

As she has said more than once, Christine Ohuruogu likes a challenge. At the 2006 Commonwealth Games, she hunted down the Olympic champion, Tonique Williams-Darling, to win her first major 400m gold. At the 2007 World Championships, just two weeks after returning from a year's ban for failing to be present on three occasions when random drug-testing teams arrived, a late run took her past Jamaica'sNovlene Williams to earn title No 2.

Coming out of the turn in the Olympic final, the 24-year-old Londoner was back in fifth place as the pre-race favourite, Sanya Richards, ranked world No 1 for the past three years, held a 10-metre lead.

But the American, her branded socks beginning to fall around her ankles, was tying up, and Ohuruogu, gaining while all around her lost, moved past the two Russians either side of her and passed the flagging leader in the final 10 metres, a smile of delight already forming as she crossed the line.

Mike Rowbottom, The Independent

The author PD James, who died on 27 November 2014

Detective novelist who wrote Death comes to Pemberley passed away peacefully at her home, aged 94

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