Leading article: So gifted, yet so refreshingly normal


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The Independent Online

There are, of course, any number of well-known Olympians. Sir Chris Hoy – who pedalled to a barnstorming fifth gold medal on Thursday – has been a household name since Beijing four years ago. Heptathlete Jessica Ennis became a darling of British sport when she won the world championships in 2009. And as for Bradley Wiggins, he needs no introduction at all. But the most striking aspect of Team GB's performance at London 2012 is the triumph of those who have, until now, laboured far from the limelight.

Not only is there something gloriously British in the notion of the unprofessional enthusiast crafting a world-beating feat in a garden shed (or its sporting equivalent). The contrast with the usual array of talents that populate the public scene could also hardly be more pronounced. For once the distrusted politicians, reckless bankers and foul-mouthed, overpaid footballers have been pushed aside. In their place are the likes of Gemma Gibbons, whose silver medal in the judo prompted a touching tribute to her dead mother. Or Peter Wilson, the unknown Dorset farmer's son who won gold for his shooting. Or canoeist Tim Baillie, who put his gold medal down to the inspiration of an uncle killed kayaking in the Himalayas.

The Olympics have, as usual, put minority sports on the map. But they have also turned the spotlight on to the decent, "normal" folk who also happen to be the best in the world at their sports.