The British canoeing pair Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott took a breathtaking gold for Britain in the two-man canoe slalom this afternoon.
Stott, who lists his previous greatest sporting achievements as winning the 2008 Bedford Sports Personality of the Year, and Baillie, the 33-year-old Scot, were the slowest canoe into the final, but leading out in the final they sheared a full two and a half seconds off the day’s previous best time – navigating the rapids in 106.41 seconds.
The other British pair, David Florence and Richard Hounslow took silver but missed out on gold by 0.36 seconds, despite the breathtaking performance which took them into the six-boat final.
Florence, the 29-year-old Scot who had applied for a job as an astronaut before turning late to canoeing, as developed an extraordinary understanding with the Richard Hounslow, the more outgoing of the two, and though the two are ranked three below the gold medalists in the world rankings, they were the more fancied pair.
They put their single canoe disappointments behind them, powering to the final with the fastest semi-final time of 108.93 seconds, even faster than the feared Slovakian twins Pavol and Peters Hochschorner, who had won three consecutive golds at the Olympics of Sydney, Athens and Beijing.
The Hochschorners hit a gate as they completed their final, keeping them 1.87 seconds slower than Baillie and Stott and forcing them to settle for third. The afternoon ended with the British jumping onto their canoes and diving into the water in jubiliation. All four Britons thrilled the 10,000 crowd here, racing down the feared 2m ‘Ben Nevis’ water drop before the 18th gate, to complete their semi final without any of the two-second penalties for touching a gate, which had destroyed their individual singles’ hopes.
Stott told BBC Three: "It's weird, it could have been a disaster and now it's a dream.
"We did feel the pressure but for me I thought we needed something to go right today.
"There is nothing taken for granted in this sport and getting to the final was amazing."
Baillie added: "To win is mad and for these boys (Florence and Hounslow) to finish second...
"The run we had, I was hoping it might be good enough for a medal but I didn't expect that."
Despite being edged into silver-medal position, Florence was pleased with how he and Hounslow performed.
"We had to focus on our own run and we were pleased with it," he said.
"To win an Olympic medal, we are certainly not disappointed."
Hounslow added: "We are one team, it's all about Team GB but we wanted to put a result in.
"We attacked it hard all the way down but it was a sprinter's finish."
Baillie, from Aberdeen, added: "We just did our best, we didn't do anything different. We have had plenty of experience over the last few days of dealing with such a loud crowd. It wasn't a perfect run by any means but everything went just well enough. All the crews out there are really good.
"It's a really hard course and we went down the fastest."
He added: "I don't think surreal really covers it. It's crazy. I think I will bask in the happy, strange glow for a few days. Coming in we weren't favourites or anything. The sport is so topsy turvy, we could have gone out in qualifying. You just never know.
"The legacy of having this venue alone and then having some fantastic results. It's an exciting sport. The course that is set there is only there for this race so when you are training, we had to prepare for every course you can imagine out there. It was just incredible."
Stott, from Bedford, continued: "The way we prepared for this race is that we just wanted to do a good honest graft on each run, to do the gates as best we could. Getting into the final was a dream.
"We were just waiting, having done our run. We got fifth place, then fourth, and then we had a medal. The Hochschorners went behind us - the best slalom athletes ever - and then Dave and Rich came down, blazing at it. We know they are a fast crew, the beat us all the time in training and they come in behind as well. It's a great script for Great Britain and it's a great script for canoeing.
"The way we prepared for this race we said we would be the same guys coming in and going out of it. We weren't going to change the way we are. There's not going to be a difference if we were champions.
"On the start line we had prepared for the crowd. We let the noise and experience wash over us. We weren't going to let it change what we were so determined to do on the course."
Lizzie Neave’s did not make it to the final of the women’s single kayak. Three penalties for touching gates left her 12 - just outside the top 10 qualifying places.