London 2012 Olympics: Outpouring of praise for Team GB’s golden trio
THE long wait for British Olympic glory was finally rewarded today with two gold medals for Team GB, including one for Scottish rower Heather Stanning.
Just as the nation’s collective nerve was being tested, Britain’s cycling, rowing and swimming stars brought home a haul of five medals – a silver and two bronzes adding to the two golds.
Stanning and her team-mate Helen Glover swept to victory in the women’s coxless pairs final, making history as Britain’s first female Olympic rowing champions. Tour de France hero Bradley Wiggins followed up with a gold in the men’s road cycling time trial, setting a new British record for the most number of Olympic medals won in the process.
Meanwhile, Scottish swimmer Michael Jamieson narrowly missed out on adding a third gold, smashing the British record but finishing inches behind Hungarian Daniel Gyurta, who set a new world record to win the 200m breaststroke final.
After four tense days in which Team GB waited for a competitor to triumph, there was joyful celebration when the two women rowed into history.
Stanning, from Lossiemouth, a captain in the Royal Artillery, sparked jubilant scenes across Britain after she and her teammate took gold. In Buckinghamshire, the scene of their triumph, the 26,000 spectators lining the length of Dorney Lake – the Princess Royal, the Duke of Cambridge, and Prince Harry among them – cheered and applauded wildly as the pair crossed the finish line.
Further afield, millions of people around the country willed them to victory while watching on television or online, and applause broke out in offices and homes.
Their commanding performance was emulated later in the day by Wiggins, who swept aside all rivals in the men’s road cycling time trial.
The cyclist underlined his position as a British sporting legend as he claimed a record-breaking seventh Olympic medal, clinching gold just ten days after his historic Tour de France victory.
That seventh medal takes him one clear of rower Sir Steve Redgrave, making him the most decorated British Olympian of all-time – although Redgrave has five gold medals to Wiggins’ four.
The 32-year-old – who hugged his wife Cath and children Ben and Isabella as he dismounted from his bike – raised his hands in the air acknowledging the cheers of the jubilant crowds when his victory was confirmed. Fellow Briton Chris Froome, second to Wiggins in the Tour, took the bronze.
Suddenly, Britain has gone from having no gold medals to two, and the relief was palpable. As a headline in the Sydney Morning Herald presciently put it: “A nation can finally exhale”.
In Lossiemouth, locals gathered around TV sets to see Stanning win, and spoke afterwards of their pride in the 27-year-old, who is expected to deploy to Helmand province after savouring Olympic success.
Graham Fleming, 41, manager of the town’s Beach Bar, said: “It’s special that there is an Olympian from here, as it’s a very small town, but the fact that she also got Team GB’s first Olympic gold medal is amazing.”
Rosie Spence, 60, who runs the Skerry Brae Hotel added: “We are really pleased, we want to say congratulations to her and her family.
“It’s fantastic news for her and for Lossiemouth.”
Some 3,000 miles away, in Camp Bastion, her colleagues in 32 Regiment RA offered congratulations by way of a raucous roar of approval, delivered to Capt Stanning by video relay as she stood soaking, but exhilarated, in Eton Dorney.
Within minutes of the race’s exciting finale, the plaudits came in thick and fast, led by Britain’s most senior political figures.
Prime Minister David Cameron hailed the rowers’ success during a visit to the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, and said he made good use of the wishing chair, a landmark that, according to legend, bestows good fortune to those who sit on it.
“Can I say how delighted I am about Heather and Helen’s gold medal in the rowing – an absolutely fantastic effort,” he said. “Well done to them, a great success for the United Kingdom team.”
Scottish sports minister Shona Robison hailed not only the rowers’ victory, but its convincing nature. She said: “What a fantastic achievement for Heather and Helen to bring home Team GB’s first gold medal in such emphatic style.”
Her equivalent at Westminster, Hugh Robertson, said: “It is an absolutely fantastic result. First home gold and the first ever female rowing gold medal, so two pieces of Olympic history and a really great race.”
Other than the warm words from her parents, Tim and Mary, who travelled from Lossiemouth to watch their daughter’s race, the most meaningful tribute for Capt Stanning came from her colleagues in the army.
Commander in Chief Land Forces, General Sir Nick Parker praised the “magnificent result”, which he said was a “testament” to the women’s hard work in recent years.
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