Super Saturday anniversary: 46 minutes of delirium
Super Saturday was the pinnacle of the Olympics when Jess, Greg and Mo sealed golden glory in quick succession. One year on, some of the key figures inside the stadium that night relive the passion and emotion with Matt Majendie
Friday 26 July 2013
The athlete: Greg Rutherford
“I’ve watched my final back five or six times now, as in many ways it was just this crazy whirlwind and I’m not sure at the time I had the chance to truly take in what had happened.
The whole day was pretty good. The thing I remember before the competition was just ensuring I did nothing different whatsoever. It may have been the Olympic final but it was the same as any competition so there was no need to change anything.
With the season I’d had, I felt incredibly confident in the lead-up, after all I was the best in the world at that point, I had the best coach in the world and the best therapy.
I remember walking down the tunnel to the stadium and my picture came up on the screen and the crowd roared just as they did for every other athlete in a British vest. They just went crazy and it brought a tear to my eye. At that point, I had to re-focus as, special as it was to be inside the stadium, I was determined about doing what I had to do.
At my first jump the noise was again immense and I ended up running through. I knew a big jump was in me and the second jump was 8.21 metres, which would have actually been enough for me to have won the Olympic title.
I remember at the time that might be good enough to win a medal as 8.20 had won a bronze at the last Olympics in Beijing and 8.24 a silver, so I knew I had the chance of a medal, which helped settle the nerves.
In the fourth round, the big jump came – 8.31 – and I remember thinking ‘that’s better’. That’s when I felt that I was guaranteed a medal, not the gold as I know ultimately that if someone managed to catch it just right they’d get past me.
In my mind, I remember thinking I’d not done a massive jump yet but neither had anyone else, and I had that thought almost permanently that they might do it. So that last round was absolutely hellish for me. By that point, I suddenly realised I was emotionally spent, not taking away from the fact I was in my home country and a few minutes away from potentially being Olympic champion.
As much as I tried to stay focused, I just felt more and more emotionally spent. So, every time a jumper went down the runway, I ticked them off thinking ‘there goes another one’. It was a slow countdown, six, five, four, three, two, one.
At one point, I knew I had at least a bronze, then silver. As Will Claye went for his last jump I felt physically sick but he ran through and that was it, I was Olympic champion.
I still had another jump and, in my heart of hearts, I knew I was never going to jump that far, with a rush of every emotion possible coursing through my body. So I tried to re-focus and end on a massive high.
On the runway I started laughing to myself. Even now I don’t know why. I accepted then I wasn’t going to do anything great but I thought I’d give it a go. Sure enough, I ran through.
I still struggle to put into words the emotion that I felt then and will never feel again, not sporting wise anyway. I genuinely didn’t know what to do with myself as every emotion hit me. I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or run around. In the end, I opted for staying as calm as I possibly could and just smiled a lot.
I’d finally achieved my lifetime goal and it didn’t feel real.”
The starter: Alan Bell
“I get remembered as the guy that false started Usain Bolt at the last World Championships [in 2011] and had him disqualified but I also started Jess in her 800m at the Worlds in 2009 when she won gold and again in London when she obviously won the gold again.
It was a strange day in the sense that I was with a bunch of mates – my fellow officials – who all shared a passion for athletics. It was just an honour to be there. That Saturday just topped the lot in my career. It was almost as if all the efforts of Great Britain came to fruition on that one night in my sport. It all came together for an hour or whatever it was.
Jess had had an up and down career, admittedly more ups than downs, but I remember having a conversation with my team about Jess saying she only had to run backwards in the 800m to win the heptathlon. Well, certainly an average 800 would have done it.
With Mo, I wasn’t sure if the Kenyans and Ethiopians would run a team race to get the gold but I was still confident of Mo winning. I’d dare any non-athletics fan to even know who Greg Rutherford was. For me, that was the biggest sensation of the night. He’d not always been able to live up to his potential but then did it on the biggest stage.
I’ve sat next to Mo at a dinner since the Olympics and I told him ‘Mo, you won that gold because of me’ and he was like ‘why, did I have a false start?’ But I told him it was because I’d shouted at him for 20 minutes.
People think of us as officials but you have to remember we’re massive athletics fans as well. I just let rip, I gave the whole lot. I remember watching Mo in the tunnel. At the end there were high fives and we shook hands – it was just something very special to be a part of.
As Mo came past after the race I said ‘well done’ but I was one of about 200 people that said that at the exact same moment.
I remember the hotel where we were staying was just a short walk from the stadium and it had a pub in the basement. So we got back and had a drink to toast Mo, Jess and Greg. It’s going to be hard to ever better that night.”
The BBC commentator: Steve Cram
“It doesn’t seem like 12 months ago as I’ve seen it so many times and it’s come up in conversation so much that it seems odd the anniversary’s come around already.
Commentating at any athletics event is a bit like a five-ring circus and that was the ultimate five-ring circus in that sense with those three medals in such quick succession.
You get mad nights in athletics. I had one as an athlete in Oslo when I broke the world record for the mile then Said Aouita did it in the 5,000m and Ingrid Kristiansen in the 10,000m. Super Saturday was one of those nights.
As a commentator, you have to focus and be professional. I think for Mo’s 10,000m that night, I managed to stay in my seat. Yet that wasn’t even my favourite Mo gold from that Olympics, that was in the 5,000m a week later. It’s just I was confident he’d win the 10,000m and less so the 5,000m, which is why I was out of my seat at the end of that one.
All the golds were very special that Super Saturday night but, for me, probably Mo edges it. What Greg did was phenomenal and unexpected by a lot of people while Jess won her heptathlon gold in style.
She could have just jogged round for two laps of applause but she went for it and the crowd responded. The crowd found their voice even more come Mo’s race and that’s partly because they had 25 laps to build up to the finale, and Mo didn’t disappoint.”
The volunteer: Mike Cooper
“I’d been a volunteer previously at the Atlanta Olympics. I thought seeing the moment that Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic flame would never be topped. Super Saturday did that.
As Mo ran, it was like a wave effect. In each area of the stands as he passed during the 5,000m, people would get up from their seats and cheer him. I just remember everyone bellowing ‘Mo, Mo, Mo’.
I remember at the time my eye feeling very odd and it was very bloodshot afterwards. So I went to the first-aid post and they told me it was nothing terribly serious, just a bit of a high-blood pressure. After that, I’m not surprised.
I was stationed in the block right by the start of the 800m and it was a lucky day for me to be in a position to see all the events, getting allocated my post when I turned up at around two or three in the afternoon. It just felt like a special day from the very start and you had that sense as you showed people to their seats.
Jessica was just a girl-next-door who performed under such pressure. After her win in particular, I felt it was very difficult to keep control and there were certainly tears in my eyes. It was a very emotional time all round, people just stared at each other in disbelief as events unfolded.”
The coach: Toni Minichiello, with Jess Ennis-hill
“I remember the waiting around before Jess’s 800m. In the past the javelin took place in the afternoon but in London that was in the morning so we had about seven or eight hours of waiting around until the 800m.
We’d made the decision not to go back to the athletes’ village. The thing is, if we’d done that we’d have had lots of people saying ‘Well done’ and ‘Good luck’, and it’s actually a lot noisier there than being in the belly of the stadium.
Back in the apartments, there are a lot of people coming and going but, for much of the time, the stadium was completely empty so Jess was able to get her head down and get some rest. She slept but it was mostly cat-napping.
I think I’d best describe that time as when you’re waiting on a stopover for a flight but, on this occasion, there’s no shops, nothing really to do. I remember we watched a bit of TV together – the Olympics obviously although I can’t remember what exactly. I don’t recall there being a lot of talking.
I took the view that if Jess wanted to chat to me she could, otherwise I would leave her be. Whatever we talked about, it was most likely bollocks, not tactics for the 800m race that was coming up.
Bizarrely I nearly missed her race. When we got to the athletes’ seats there were none left. I was with Derek Suter, Jess’s soft-tissue therapist. In the end we got two seats together right at the front thanks to one of the volunteers.
Before the race, I was still nervous. Jess was obviously in a good position but I knew talking to other coaches about their plans before that it would be a competitive race. So many athletes had opportunities for medals.
She went off really quickly and I remember thinking ‘Don’t blow up’ but she just ran her own race from the very start to the finish.
I don’t know why I do it but I was shouting at her throughout the race. I know it was pointless as with the noise she couldn’t hear me with her head down but I was shouting stuff like ‘Move on’ or ‘Stay close to the person in front of you’, even commentating on the race. I knew it was ridiculous and no one was listening.
At the end when she crossed the line and had won, it was such a release as there had been so much emotion and stress leading up to it, which maybe I wasn’t aware of until that moment.
I tried to get in the photographers’ pit but I couldn’t. But as she came round I saw her from a distance and we gave each other a wave.
I didn’t really take in the Mo and Greg stuff although Mo’s race was going on as I was being interviewed by Phil Jones for the BBC.
For me, the big moment was the national anthem for Jess. I remember waiting for that seemed to go on forever. I was blown away by the manner in which the crowd sung it.
After all the fuss that was made about to sing or not sing by the British Olympic Association and the press after the football team, it was just incredible.
There wasn’t any moment for me to celebrate. I had to make sure she got the right nutrition afterwards, there was anti-doping and then I was out of the village the following morning so there were bags to pack. Not quite the dramatic ending some people might think!”
The spectator: Laurence Blackall
“I knew it was going to be a big night arriving at the stadium. There was this expectation that Mo and Jessica would win but not Greg Rutherford, and that’s not with disrespect to him.
I remember getting some drinks and coming back to my seat and saying to my friend that he wasn’t doing very well but the guy next to us said ‘Both your guys are right up there’.
What I remember was that we had what seemed like the village tea party around us and they were shouting their heads off. Here were people you’d never expect to be shouting at a sporting event going crazy.
I’m embarrassed to say I’ve watched a lot of sporting events live, like our Ashes win over Australia in 2005. On Super Saturday, we knew we’d seen something special. As people left the stadium, they were just like ‘What have we just seen?’ It was just enormous really.”
The family: Tania Farah, wife of Mo
“I was expecting twins at the time and had been showing signs of early labour two weeks previously. As a result, the doctor told me not to go to the stadium. I got a wheelchair to the stadium and wasn’t even supposed to walk at all but there was no way I was going to miss out.
I remember having kicks from the twins during the race itself. There were concerns they might come early and that Mo’s race could set off labour – I even had my doctor’s notes with me at the race. That night, there was increased movement from them – I’m not surprised with the noise.
It was my first time to the Olympic Park and I got to the stadium about an hour or so before the event and the atmosphere was pretty crazy. At the time the 400m hurdles was going on, with Dai Greene running, and I remember thinking how loud the noise was for that, so much louder than I’d expected.
Jess’s gold before Mo’s race actually acted as a nice distraction, plus I was watching Greg in the long jump as well. Mo’s event is so long, it was almost like torture.
My daughter Rihanna was pretty excited as were the twins. There was so much riding on the race. We’d changed our lives almost for this exact moment, moving out to the States for Mo’s training. So it felt like there was a lot riding on it. With what had happened in Daegu at the World Championships, it felt like things were going in the right direction but this was the culmination.
He’d looked so good all season but I didn’t take anything for granted as there were others in the 10,000m field that had run faster than him. I was so conscious of someone coming in and doing something special. That’s what makes it worse, the unknown.
Sitting in my seat, I was totally silent. I found it hard to get emotional during the race, I was just concentrating on it lap after lap.
I never thought it was his race until maybe the last 200 metres but, even then, you’re worrying that he might slip or fall. But he just looked so controlled throughout it. Over the years, he’s become a real tactician and I didn’t think anyone knew how to run that race better than him.
When he crossed the line, it was such a relief. It was like ‘Wow, he’s done it’. It felt like a huge pressure off me, off Mo, probably off a lot of people watching too. I was so so happy.
RiRi turned to me and I just said ‘Daddy’s won’. She was hugging me – it was like we’d just won the Lottery. After that, it was all a bit of a blur but I remember the noise suddenly coming back – I think I’d been oblivious to it during the race.
When I finally saw Mo I said “You did it, well done”, there really wasn’t much more talking than that. I forgot that all those people were watching – we were just caught up in our own moment. Looking back, I realise the whole country was all eyes but it just seemed like it was just us three, a very private moment, as silly as it sounds.
The first gold in the 10,000m was such a relief while the second gold was a massive bonus. I think to some degree Mo would have been satisfied with the one gold from that Super Saturday night but that second one was like the icing on the cake.”
The agent: Ricky Simms, who represents Mo Farah
“I first laid my eyes on Mo when he was about 12 or 13 in a cross-country race and started working with him in 2000 when he was 16. He’s come so far since then, and London was probably the full realisation of that.
I think I watched the race differently to a lot of fans. I had a lot of athletes in Mo’s 10,000m race, such as Galen Rupp, Moses Kipsiro, who I thought would get a medal, Moses Masai, who was leading with a lap to go, and Chris Thompson. At the start, I thought I might possibly get a one-two-three but it wasn’t to be.
I knew what sort of shape Mo was in and also Galen, but there was no accounting for an athlete getting spiked or even having a bad day. What helped Mo was that the race wasn’t super fast from the outset.
Mo had worked so hard and, in that race, achieved what people had expected of him. I remember after the win I didn’t want to get carried away. He was only halfway there with the double that was planned.
It was important to get him through the media, doping and everything like that as quickly as possible, to make sure he was refuelled and ready for the 5,000m heats as quickly as possible.
The hardest part in some ways was reining Mo in. He’s such a social guy and he just wants to high-five everyone everywhere he went. That’s the sort of guy he is.
It was definitely the highlight but that night wasn’t just about Mo for me. Another of my athletes, Christine Ohuruogu, was going in the semi-finals of the 400m and then there was Chris Tomlinson in the long jump, with as good a chance really as Greg Rutherford of winning the gold.
So like every evening of athletics at the Olympics, it all became a bit of a blur, going from celebrating with one athlete to experiencing sad times with another.”
The journalist: James Lawton
“I remember it was a peculiar emotion – it was very intense. I remember the first time I saw Muhammad Ali fight, I felt like I was suffering a heart attack. It wasn’t like that, just a feeling of well being and happiness.
Seeing this trio of athletes do what they did, to stand up and be counted in such a big moment, it was almost too much really. I remember getting the train back to King’s Cross and the feeling of exhilaration was really astonishing – like the 1966 World Cup. It was right up there for me.
I’d started writing a piece about Jess Ennis and what she did and then came Greg and Mo’s golds after that. As journalists we like to complain about rewrites but, for once, not one of us bitched about anything.
For me, Jess was marginally the highlight of the night, just the impact that she had on the stadium from the moment she started her event on the Friday. To come through those two days and win was simply magnificent. But then both Greg’s and Mo’s feats were brilliant.”
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