Rowers' refusal to be beaten heralds a most glorious day

Four gold medals represent a record-breaking haul. James Lawton reports from Beijing

In the glorious stockpiling of British Olympic gold here yesterday, who could begin to say that one medal was won more remarkably than another?

Perhaps only someone who had been convinced that one of the nation's greatest Olympic traditions was in ruins, with the boat once powered by Sir Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent apparently sunk and gone. That seemed the obvious conclusion when, with 500 metres to go, the stroke of Britain's coxless four, Andy Triggs Hodge looked across for the pacesetting Australians and saw only their stern.

"When I saw that," said Hodge, "I just thought, Jesus. But then I also thought, I really want that gold medal." It was a resolution he shared with his team-mates and, inch by inch, the Australians were hauled back and destroyed before the finishing line.

This was a classic act of grace and resolution under some of the most severe pressure sport can bring, and if you were looking for a keynote performance, a level of fortitude that defined the efforts of yesterday's other golden British performers, swimmer Rebecca Adlington and cyclists Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins, this was surely it.

It had all the qualities that take a competitor to the top of Mount Olympus for at least a day, the greatest attribute being a refusal to acknowledge that you are beaten. The great Redgrave did it when he won the last of his five golds on a still, crisp morning in Sydney eight years ago. Pinsent, still great, even though he won a mere four, did it on a steamy day in Athens. Each time they inspired massive recoveries of will when the issue appeared to be lost.

Both were at the water-side yesterday as their successors made sure that a day which had dawned with such high British hopes would not see any failure of nerve. Pinsent said, "They were all magnificent. They did exactly what they had to do win that race. The kept their nerve, which was most vital, and they dug down and found things that maybe before this they didn't know they had."

Pinsent's team-mate in Athens, Steve Williams, the one surviving gold-winner, shook his head and said, "These have been the hardest months of my career and my life – but now they are the greatest. The effort that came from our crew today is something I will never forget."

Nor will a grateful nation already thrilled by the British resurgence at these 29th Olympics – and the early morning heroics of the 19-year-old Adlington from Mansfield.

Along with the cyclist Nicole Cooke, Adlington had, at the start of the Games, created the sense that these could be remarkable Olympics for Britain when she became the first home woman swimmer to win gold in the Olympic pool since 1960. Yesterday, with a withering performance in the 800m freestyle she delivered a superb one-two combination of gold medals, and broke the world record set by the American Janet Evans in 1989 – the year of her birth.

Adlington's performance simply overwhelmed the field in a time of 8 minutes 14.10 seconds. Italy's Alessia Filippi and Denmark's Lotte Fris of Denmark gave chase, but must have groaned at the futility of all.

Said Adlington, "I hope what I have done will show a lot of young people in Britain that if you work enough you really can get your dream. Sometimes you sit by the side of the pool and think it is just too hard to go on. But then you know that there are great rewards down the road if you persevere. I certainly know that now."

Cyclists Hoy and Wiggins were scarcely on new ground. They know about the thrill of going up on the podium, and what they produced was another reminder of how British cycling has mastered the world's best opposition.

The British cycling team have been highly praised for their attention to detail –and their ground-breaking technology, but yesterday, once again, Hoy and Wiggins made the point that the most valuable ingredient of all is the level of the commitment of the cyclists.

While the Government is quick to draw attention to its fundraising support – £265m of lottery money was pumped into the British effort – the British teams have been making a point of their own: that they are able to compete at the highest level – and that this has been true for many years.

Here, though, the Britain's athletes have been given the basic support that has always been required in the modern era of the Olympics.

Yesterday it seemed like some kind of magic form. It wasn't, but to watch Andy Triggs Hodge and his team-mates making the effort of a lifetime was spellbinding. Hodge called the feat "primeval". It certainly came from the heart – and it will never be forgotten by anyone who saw it.

Super saturday: A record-breaking day for our athletes

With nine medals, and gold and silver guaranteed for today, Team GB have never had a better Olympics day.

03.25 Swimming: Rebecca Adlington takes gold in the 800m freestyle with a new world record. Her second gold of the games.

09.59 Rowing: Elise Laverick and Anna Bebington win bronze in the women's double sculls.

10.17 Rowing: Stephen Rowbotham and Matthew Wells take bronze in the men's double sculls.

10.38 Rowing: The men's coxless four of Tom James, Andy Hodge, Pete Reed and Steve Williams win gold. Williams now has two gold medals – he won in Athens in 2004.

10.46 Cycling: Rebecca Romero and Wendy Houvenaghel will between them take gold and silver today by qualifying for the 3,000m individual pursuit final.

11.57 Cycling: Chris Newton wins bronze in the men's points race.

12.34 Cycling: Steven Burke wins bronze in the 4,000m individual pursuit.

12.41 Cycling: Bradley Wiggins wins the men's 4,000m pursuit. His second gold after victory in the same event in Athens.

13.03 Cycling: Chris Hoy storms to a gold medal in the men's keirin, ahead of GB's Ross Edgar, who gets silver. Hoy is now the most successful Scottish Olympian ever.

Today's medal hopes

08.50 rowing: Men's lightweight double sculls. Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase are unbeaten this season Prediction: Gold.

09.10 Rowing: Men's lightweight four. Last year's world champions have lost form and face tough competition from Denmark. Prediction: Bronze.

09.30 Rowing: Women's quadruple sculls. They have been world champions for the past three years.

Prediction: Bronze.

10.10 Rowing: Women's eight. The crew will be looking to improve on the bronze medal they won at last year's world championships.

Prediction: Gold.

10.30 Rowing: Men's eight. The crew came first in Monday's qualifying race, and have a chance of taking the gold when up against the USA, Canada, Poland and the winner of the repechage today. Tom Stallard is set to quit after the Olympics.

Prediction: Silver.

TBA Sailing: Finn class. Fickle winds yesterday meant that defending champion Ben Ainslie had to postpone seeing off the USA's Zach Railey.

Prediction: Gold.

TBA Sailing: Women's yngling. Failing winds also delayed this British-Dutch duel. The British sailors, Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson, who have been dubbed "three blondes in a boat", are two-time world champions, with Ayton also holding a gold medal from Athens.

Prediction: Gold.

Rachel Shields

Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Sport
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Life and Style
beauty
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice