Yesterday at London 2012: Two Olympic golds, one great day (and there may be more today)


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The Independent Online

Never mind the giant bell or the skydiving Queen, now it's really started. It is, of course, bad manners to start unwrapping your presents five minutes after the guests have arrived, but five days was enough to stretch anyone's patience.

After what became a procession by Heather Stanning and Helen Glover down the rowing lake at Eton Dorney, and that man Bradley Wiggins showing that the streets of London really are paved with gold, swimmer Michael Jamieson won silver in the 200m breaststroke. The waiting is finally over.

Among the crowds at the rowing, almost none had considered, even as recently as a week ago, that they might be present for TeamGB's first gold medal of its home games. But they had certainly worked it out by the time yesterday morning came around.

This is the home of the "wall of noise", the venue that sporting chiefs want everywhere else to live up to. Not an empty seat in sight. While the crowds were gathering not too far away, in the streets around Hampton Court Palace, waiting for a glimpse of Britain's Tour de France hero, even the balconies of the corporate hospitality pavilion at the rowing were packed an hour before TeamGB's Stanning and Glover set off in the final of the coxless pairs.

Five seconds into the race it ceased to be in any doubt and as they approached the finish line a sizeable distance clear of the rest, the 25,000 strong crowd duly went bananas.

The Army had come to the rescue again. Stanning is a captain in the Royal Artillery and may well be back in Afghanistan before the end of the year. Glover, 26, a primary school teacher, started rowing only four years ago, a product of the UK's Sporting Giants programme.

"We kidded ourselves that there was no pressure," Stanning, 27, said afterwards. "The last thing we said to each other was, 'It's just for us, it's just for us', but it was for the whole of the team and the whole of the country." It is the first gold medal ever won by Great Britain in women's rowing.

"I can't believe we were here to see it," was the verdict of Paul Acre, wearing a Union Flag T-shirt, a Union Flag hat, Union Flag shorts and Union Flag socks. His four-year-old son, Simon, offered a more direct appraisal. "Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold!" he shouted.There was to be no fairytale, however, in the next race but one, for 40-year-old Barcelona 1992 gold medallist Greg Searle, a man etched on the public consciousness as one of two giant brothers who stood beside their tiny cox, Gary Herbert, as he sobbed all the way though God Save the Queen. The men's eight finished with a bronze, two places below where they dreamt and one below where they probably expected.

But by this time, the streets surrounding Hampton Court were thronged with fans of the man who is already the king of this "summer like no other". Bradley Wiggins, with his trademark sideburns and simply blistering pace, destroyed the opposition, riding over the finish line of the 44km race 42 seconds faster than the next man, Germany's Tony Martin.

It is a win that makes him Great Britain's most decorated Olympian, with seven medals: four gold, one silver and two bronze. Sir Steve Redgrave has six, although five of his are gold.

"It was phenomenal; the noise was amazing," Wiggins said. "I don't think my sporting career will ever top this now. That's it. It will never, never get better than that.

"Incredible. It had to be gold today or nothing. What's the point of seven medals if they're not the right colour? Mainly it's about the four golds. Now I have to go to Rio and go for five.

"To win Olympic gold in your home city in the Velodrome would have been incredible, but to do it round the streets where we are is phenomenal. To do this in this setting, in front of that castle, is so British. Absolutely incredible."

Three gaudy thrones had been placed in front of the palace, for the three fastest time trialists to sit in but it was only Wiggins who was left at the end, and at that moment he was as popular as anyone who has sat on a throne at Hampton Court, or anywhere else. As for a knighthood: "Sir Wiggo? It doesn't sound right," he said. "I'd just put it in a drawer and never use it."

Later Wiggins appeared supremely relaxed in a BBC interview with Gary Lineker. Typically competitors don't hesitate to flash their medals at every opportunity, but Wiggins shoved his on the couch beside him. Prompted to show it to the crowds outside, he drew huge cheers and said: "I know how The Beatles felt now."

Britain's Chris Froome, who came second in the Tour de France, won the bronze medal, but Emma Pooley, who won silver in the women's event in Beijing, could manage only sixth. "I'm disappointed," she said. "I shouldn't have got my hopes up." Scottish swimmer Michael Jamieson delivered a stunning performance to take silver in the men's 200m breaststroke final at the Aquatics Centre last night. He set a new British best but Hungarian rival Daniel Gyurta was fractionally quicker, taking gold and the world record. Minutes later Brit Jemma Lowe finished sixth in the 200m butterfly final.

Andy Murray progressed to the quarter-finals in the men's singles tennis, beating Marcos Baghdatis at Wimbledon.

A goal from Daniel Sturridge helped Team GB's footballers defeat Uruguay at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff to move on to the quarter finals, where they will play South Korea.

Brit watch: Today's medal hopes

1. The Velodrome

After Bradley Wiggins's success, attention turns to indoor cycling. Sir Chris Hoy defends his team pursuit title with Jason Kenny and Philip Hinde. Victoria Pendleton and Laura Trott are in the women's event.

2. Zara Dampney and Shauna Mullin

Britain's beach volleyball pair must beat Evgeniya Ukolova and Ekaterina Khomyakova of Russia to progress to the last 16.

4. Ben Ainslie

Britain's most successful Olympic sailor is second in the Finn class behind Jonas Hogh-Christensen.

5. Rowing

The men's lightweight four – Peter Chambers, Richard Chambers, Rob Williams and Chris Bartley – have a strong medal chance.