Yesterday at the Games: Every cloud has a silver lining as first GB medal goes to Armitstead
Cahal Milmo rounds up all yesterday's action, which began well in the rain and ended with a bronze for Becky Adlington
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Monday 30 July 2012
To roars of jubilation in the Olympic Park and the Mall – along with a nationwide sigh of relief – Team GB won its first medals of London 2012 yesterday when Rebecca Adlington took bronze in the 400m freestyle and cyclist Lizzie Armitstead took silver in the women's road race.
Although it was not the golden gong that many had hoped would finish the day around the neck of a British athlete, the medals ended the host nation's wait for podium glory in dramatic fashion.
Hopes had been low for Adlington, double gold medal-winner in Beijing four years ago, after she entered last night's final as the slowest qualifier despite winning her heat earlier in the day. But the 23-year-old from Mansfield powered through to come third.
Adlington appeared to have blown her chances of a podium finish in the initial stages, slipping to sixth. But, screamed on by British supporters, she powered her way through the rankings in the closing stages.
Casting aside her difficult lane position as the shouts of "Come on Becky!" reached a deafening crescendo, Adlington eased into third place with less than 100m to go and held her position for a nail-biting finish behind American Allison Schmitt and Camille Muffat of France.
After the race, Adlington said: "It was hard – so hard. I'm so pleased with that. They were so far ahead I'm so proud I've got a medal in the home games. The crowd were absolutely amazing. There were so many people who wanted me to get gold and I'm sorry I couldn't do that but I'm so pleased I got a bronze." Before the event, she had tweeted: "Just sneaked into tonight's final in eighth place! Not expecting anything tonight, all I can do is my best."
Earlier in the day, Armitstead's second place behind Dutch favourite Marianne Vos in a sprint finish to the 140km road race in front of Buckingham Palace calmed domestic nerves following the disappointment for Mark Cavendish in the men's event on Saturday.
The 23-year-old Yorkshirewoman avoided a series of crashes and timed her push for a medal perfectly when she joined a breakaway of three.
The British men's football team eased to a 3-1 win against the United Arab Emirates last night, leaving them needing to draw in their next match against Uruguay to progress to the quarter finals.
The triumph for Team GB was tempered by heartbreak for Paula Radcliffe, who announced she will not compete in the marathon because of a long-standing foot injury. The marathon world record holder said she had "cried more tears than ever" after the problem flared up in the past three weeks but felt she should not compete if not at her best.
It was a day for falling water. After the razzmatazz of Friday night's opening ceremony, greeted with global acclaim and a little head scratching, and a sun-kissed first day of competition, it was the turn of Britain's weather to make its entry into the Games.
As thunder cracked over the Olympic Park and the rain fell, spectators for the women's road race were bombarded with hailstones and heavy showers, forcing workers at Box Hill in Surrey to attempt to squeegee the road surface. Even these efforts did not prevent several crashes.
But nothing could deter Armitstead in her medal quest. The cyclist, whose rewards for her triumph included 13,000 new Twitter followers, said: "I'm so shocked, it feels really strange. [Coming second] in this race in front of my family and friends is the most special thing I've ever experienced in my life."
The rain failed to take the shine off a host of extraordinary performances. Not least among them was North Korean weightlifter Om Yun-chol. Competing in the 56kg clean and jerk, he set a new Olympic record by becoming only the fifth man to lift three times his body weight.
On a day with 13 gold medals up for grabs, one of the most celebrated was that of Kim Rhode, who became the first American to win individual medals in five consecutive Olympics by winning the skeet shooting .
The quest for further domestic medals began well. Ben Ainslie, who is seeking his fourth consecutive gold in the Finn class sailing, came second in the first two of his 11 races.
Having family members in the audience is often cited as a key factor by Olympians. In the case of Zara Phillips, as many eyes were on her relatives as they were on her performance in the dressage in the eventing competition at Greenwich. Watched by the Duke of Edinburgh and the Princess Royal, the Queen's granddaughter was placed in the top 10 for the individual competition.
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