Olympic Stadium rocks as Jessica Ennis races into lead

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Tom Peck on a gold rush and the athletics' flying start

If there were any questions marks still lingering in the changeable skies over the London Olympics, they were obliterated yesterday.

In a packed Olympic Stadium, the diminutive, unassuming girl so many people are desperate to see become the star of the Games, burst on to the London 2012 scene in a flash of luminescence and a statement of frightening intent.

Whatever scandal there has been about empty seats, it failed to penetrate the brand new £500m stadium. There was not a spare chair to be seen as the track and field competition began yesterday with the women's heptathlon. Lousie Hazell became the first British person to run in it, in the 100m hurdles, but the cheer that greeted the emergence of Jessica Ennis, shortly before 10.30am, dwarfed anything that has reverberated around this corner of east London during the past week.

Ennis didn't appear unnerved or overwhelmed by the home support. Instead she broke the world record. She covered her face in disbelief as the big screen revealed her time, 12.54 seconds, the fastest ever run in the heptathlon.

It would have been enough to win her the gold medal in Beijing in the individual event. It was more than enough, too, to engender a roar from the Union Flag-waving crowd even louder than their first. In the evening she beat her personal best in the 200m, to lead overnight with 4,158 points, her highest after the first day. The girl, like the Olympic cauldron, is on fire.

Every host nation desperately hopes for a gold medal in athletics, the sport that so dominates the games. In Sydney it was 400m runner Cathy Freeman. In Beijing it was the hurdler Liu Xiang; when he pulled up injured before his first heat, many people inside the stadium burst into tears.

Ennis is Great Britain's best shot at gold in the Olympic Stadium this summer, and is the poster girl of the Games. Her toned midriff has been towering several storeys high on billboards on the way to the Olympic Park for some months, and the thousands of visitors who have flown into Heathrow have also seen it staring up from a farmers field in Hounslow with the message "Welcome to our Turf".

She will begin this morning with a sizeable lead, and far ahead of her two most fancied rivals, world champion Tatyana Chernova and defending Olympic champion Natallia Dobrynska. She threw below her best in the shot put, leaving her temporarily in second place, but that and the javelin are not her strongest events.

"It was such an amazing feeling. It kind of gives you goosebumps," Ennis said of her hurdles performance. "I literally cannot believe that. That's crazy. So crazy."

There were further British golds yesterday, in cycling and rowing. Across the Olympic Park at the Velodrome, the British men's pursuit team of Edward Clancy, Geraint Thomas, Steven Burke and Peter Kennaugh obliterated their Australian opposition in the final in another world record time, swept around the circuit by a wall of sound from an audience that included Bradley Wiggins, George Osborne, Tony Blair, Prince Edward, Stella McCartney and the US basketball star Kobe Bryant.

Such was the euphoria of the occasion that when the four received their medals, the crowd broke with common Olympic practice and joined in the national anthem, sending the words of "God Save the Queen" reverberating around the arena.

Victoria Pendleton also made up for her disqualification in the team sprint by winning gold in the keirin, ahead of her rival, Australian Laura Meares, who could only manage fifth. It leaves Team GB with three gold from a possible four so far in the velodrome.

At the Eton Dorney rowing lake, Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins won gold in the double sculls, roared on by the jubilant banked crowd to finish ahead of Australia.

For Grainger, 35, it was her first gold medal after winning silver at the three previous games.

"Worth the wait," she said at the finish. "Steve [Redgrave] promised me they'd be tears of joy this time, which they are. I feel this medal of all of them is the people's medal. I feel so many people have been behind me and supported me and wanted this for me as much as I have."

Round-up: How the action unfolded

* The cheers continued in the velodrome as Victoria Pendleton won an emphatic gold in the women's keirin, and the men's pursuit team took gold in world record time, beating Australia in the final.

* Team GB took a gold medal and two bronzes in the rowing at Eton Dorney, with three-time silver medallist Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins winning the women's double sculls. Will Satch and George Nash, in their first season together in the men's pair, took a bronze medal, as did Alan Campbell in the men's single scull.

* Andy Murray beat Novak Djokovic 7-5, 7-5, guaranteeing himself a silver medal and setting up a dream repeat Wimbledon final with Roger Federer, who beat Juan Martín Del Potro in the longest-ever Olympic tennis match.

* Jessica Ennis made the perfect start to her bid for the heptathlon title, leading the overall field as she looks to win gold today. She ran the 100m hurdles in a record time in the discipline, before finishing ninth in the shot put and joint first in the 200m. Her teammate Katarina Johnson Thompson is 14th.

* Britain's Rebecca Adlington said: "Maybe the pressure got to me" after she was unable to defend her 800m freestyle title, only managing a bronze medal after being blown away by the phenomenal 15-year-old American Katie Ledecky.

* The UK's women's football team bowed out of the competition after a string of excellent performances, losing 2-0 to a superior Canada side in the quarter finals.

* Michael Phelps, the American swimmer who is already the most successful Olympian in history, claimed his 21st medal in style in the 100m butterfly, pipping South African Chad le Clos to the gold.

* Karina Bryant secured Britain's second judo medal in less than 24 hours, claiming a shock bronze in the heavyweight category.

* After a good day in the Finn class sailing, Ben Ainslie can now clinch his fourth gold medal if he finishes ahead of Denmark's Jonas Hogh-Christensen in Sunday's race.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk