Team GB's new heroes: meet the medal-winners
Newham native Christine Ohuruogu, Britain's only reigning track and field champion has relinquished her crown, but she does so with dignity as new heroes emerge
Monday 06 August 2012
After a career that has fluctuated between glory, controversy and injury, Christine Ohuruogu last night silenced her doubters with a silver medal in the 400m final.
Ohuruogu was Britain's only reigning track and field Olympic champion coming into London 2012 but had only showed glimpses of her previously imperious form heading into the Games.
The former world champion stormed to victory in the Beijing 400m final with one of her trademark late surges to beat her long-time rival, Sanya Richards-Ross. But in the last four years she had suffered from injuries and poor form and was forced to surrender her world title in 2009 to Richards-Ross and was disqualified at the World Championships last year after a false start.
The 28-year-old reached last night's final with a season's best time of 50.22 seconds and produced another late surge to take her into second place just 10 metres from the finish line, with Richards-Ross winning in 49.55sec.
"I was stunned, I was heartbroken actually," said Ohuruogu. "To lose your title like that was tough. Tanya is a worthy competitor though.
"I always came here for one thing and one thing only and that was continuing my reign so I am disappointed. It's great that everyone has got behind the Games and it's them who have made this so special. It means so much to us. We really can't believe it, having so many people getting behind us."
Ohuruogu was born less than a mile from the Olympic Stadium in Newham and previously represented England age groups at netball. She studied at University College London where she graduated with a degree in linguistics in 2005.
She received a lifetime ban from the British Olympic Association in 2007 for missing three out-of-competition drug tests. She appealed the decision, claiming she would probably leave Britain and compete for another country, before the ban was overturned in November. She was appointed MBE in 2009.
Tim Mundle, the former senior ladies team manager at Newham and Essex Beagles Athletics Club, has worked with Ohuruogu since she was 18. He said: "She had been struggling for form since Beijing but we weren't worried – you can see from the way she runs that she is full of confidence and can produce the goods when it matters.
"She was in about fifth place as they came on to the straight but the last 100 metres is her strongest so I knew she could pull it off.
"I'm delighted for her, she deserves every success."
Louis Smith: Former choir boy and pop star has had to overcome attention deficit disorder
Louis Smith was propelled to national fame when he won a bronze at the Beijing Games in 2008 as a 19-year-old, the first Briton to win an individual gymnastics medal in 100 years.
Yesterday, he missed out on gold by the narrowest possible margin and was forced to settle for a silver medal in the pommel horse final at the North Greenwich Arena.
Smith, 23, posted an overall score of 16.066 and was tied with Hungary's Krisztian Berki in the final watched by the Duchess of Cambridge. But Berki was eventually awarded the gold for a fractionally higher degree of execution in his routine.
"Being a British athlete in a home Games, it's very nerve-racking, especially the build-up we've had over the last couple of years," said Smith last night. He added: "If I was going to be beaten by anyone apart from Max [Whitlock], then Krisztian Berki is that guy. He'll go down as one of the greatest pommel horse workers ever and the fact I came second to him is something to be proud of."
Diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity Smith, who comes from Peterborough, said he had only "got to grips" with the disorder at the Beijing Games.
In 2009 he reached the third round of The X Factor and has been friends with Aston Merrygold, of boy-band JLS, since their youth. He has said that aged seven he turned down a choral scholarship to a private school as it would have meant giving up gymnastics.
Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson: Best friends and defending champions who were pipped at the post
Defending Olympic champions and best friends Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson took a silver medal in yesterday's Star class sailing competition. Despite coming into Sunday's race with an eight-point lead over their main Brazilian rivals, they were eventually beaten by Sweden's Fredrik Loof and Max Salminen.
The two economics graduates, both 35, teamed-up in 2007 and won gold in the 2008 Olympics. They had hoped to challenge for the next America's Cup but focused on the London Games after Team Origin's owner, Sir Keith Mills, withdrew from the ocean yacht race in October 2010.
"We just got it wrong and it is pretty gutting for sure. It is our fault and we will take it on the chin," said Percy yesterday.
For Southampton-born Percy, it was a second gold medal to add to the one he brought back from Sydney in 2000, only two years after turning professional. Percy's sister Katrina, who also sails, said: "When they reflect on it and realise they've won silver to go alongside gold, they're going to be pretty proud."
"We didn't get it right. Fair play to the Swedes, they had a great regatta and did a great job. So did the Brazilians (who won bronze)," said Simpson.
Laura Robson: The tennis child prodigy who enjoyed 'one of the best weeks' of her life
The other story at Wimbledon yesterday was Laura Robson, who won a silver medal last night with her mixed-doubles partner, Andy Murray. Murray and 18-year-old Robson lost the final to Victoria Azarenka and Max Mirnyi of Belarus in front of a packed Centre Court despite raising home hopes by winning the first set. "I'd like to thank Andy for playing with me. It's been one of the best weeks of my life, for sure," said Robson. The child prodigy won the Wimbledon Girls' Singles title, aged 14, in 2008 – her first appearance at the championships. She entered a junior tennis academy when she was seven, signed with management company, Octagon, at 10, and a year later had a sponsorship deal with Adidas.
Max Whitlock: The 19-year-old who emerged from the shadows of team-mate
Max Whitlock travels 90 miles a day, six days a week, from his home in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, to train at the South Essex Gymnastics Club where he has been a member for seven years. He had only been tipped as an outside medal hope at the Games but won Britain's second gymnastics medal on the pommel horse yesterday. The 19-year-old had been living in the shadow of favourite, Louis Smith, but amassed 15.600 points to earn the bronze. "I just wanted to go out there and do a clean routine," Whitlock said. I'm really happy to get a medal. I didn't think I'd get one so to come home with two is an amazing feeling."
Ed Clancy: Champion settles for bronze in six-discipline cycling event
Five-time world champion Ed Clancy had already won gold in the men's team pursuit cycling but finished third in the omnium event last night. The 27-year-old Huddersfield racer set the pace in the final discipline of the six-discipline event – the time trial – lapping the track in one minute and .981 seconds, to raise his position from fifth to third. But he was beaten by Denmark's Lasse Norman Hansen and France's Bryan Coquard.
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