It was the golden moment that crowned the glorious, golden day. As Christine Ohuruogu powered her way past the four rivals who had entered the home straight ahead of her in the Beijing National Stadium yesterday, she might as well have been the entire British sporting nation clearing a path to the established global superpowers. When she crossed the line, as the winner of the women's 400m final, she collapsed to the ground in disbelief. You did not need to be a professional lip reader to get the message: "Oh, my God."
The rest of the world will be asking much the same, as Britain – dear old not-so-great Great Britain – deposited another chunk of gleaming precious metal in the Beijing Olympic bank. There were four of a golden hue in total yesterday, plus two silvers. That makes 16 gold medals in all, plus nine silvers and eight bronzes. Only China, with 43 golds, and the United States, with 26, stand above this burgeoning British team in the Olympic medal table.
Australia might have the Ashes but they are lagging behind in the dashes, the splashes and the cycling clashes. They have eleven golds. Kylie, Rolf, Dame Edna, Warnie and Skippy: your boys (and girls) are taking a hell of a beating. So, for that matter, are the Germans (11 golds) and the Russians (10).
It is the biggest British Olympic medal haul for 100 years – since the London Games of 1908. And it is not over yet.
Where Liu Xiang, the Chinese national hero, came to grief before even starting a heats of the 110m hurdles the day before, Ohuruogu's dream came vividly true.
It was a stunning performance by the 24-year-old linguistics graduate. She entered the final 100m some way down on the US favourite, Sanya Richards, but judged her one-lap effort to perfection. "I'm just so proud of myself," she reflected. "I knew I had to fight from behind in the race. I may not be fast but I can fight." It just so happens that her family's Nigerian name means "fighter." She might have to do some more if she is to win round those critics who consider the 12-month suspension she served for missing three drug tests in 2006 to be an indelible stain on both her and the good sporting name of the nation (while finding it within themselves to condone the selection of Rio Ferdinand, who committed a similar offence, for the England football team). "I don't have anything to say about that," she said. "I'm here and I've got what I wanted."
That is an Olympic gold medal to take back to her family home in Stratford, right next door to the arena in which the east Londoner will hope to defend her crown four years from now. .
But no Briton has glittered with more gold than Chris Hoy. Yesterday in the Laoshan Velodrome, the Scottish cyclist became the first British Olympian to win three golds in a single summer Games since the swimmer Henry Taylor in London in 1908. Hoy won the men's sprint, with the silver going to his teammate, Jason Kenny. There was also gold in the women's cycle sprint for Victoria Pendleton and a sailing gold for Paul Goodison in the Laser class.
Back at the athletics, there was even a British medal for a towering "Jamaican" athlete. After winning silver in the high jump, Germaine Mason was hugged by one of the teammates he left when he switched allegiance from his native homeland in 2006. On a day of gold, silver and glory for Great Britain, it was just a pity that Usain Bolt did not happen to have a London-born father, too.Reuse content