British athletes will lead the charge in what is being dubbed Rio’s “Super Saturday” as they aim to boost the country’s Olympic medal tally – like they did in London.
“The greatest night in the history of British athletics,” is how BBC pundit Brendan Foster described that magical 44 minutes in 2012 when Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah struck gold in the women’s heptathlon, long jump and 10,000m respectively.
The three A-list stars are all back in the spotlight today with the addition of newcomer Katarina Johnson-Thompson. The 23-year-old, who will be up against Ennis-Hill, hopes to taste Olympic glory this time around after coming 15th in the heptathlon in the London Olympics in 2012.
Four years ago – 4 August, 2012 – has gone down in history as Britain’s best day in 104 years of Olympic competition when the team won six golds and one silver.
The glory started in the morning with rowing, then cycling gold in the afternoon and finished the most incredible day in British athletics history at London’s Olympic Stadium.
Jessica Ennis — as she was then — won the heptathlon, Rutherford the long jump and Farah the 10,000m. And they could all do it again in Rio today. Farah is hot favourite to defend his 10,000m title today, on the eight day of the games which are being held in South America for the first time.
Meanwhile Rutherford has proved in the past four years his gold was no one-off, with European, Commonwealth and World golds having followed to show he is a formidable competitor at major events.
Ennis-Hill, who had her first baby in 2014, said: “It has been an incredible journey since I had Reggie and it’s just so surreal to think this time four years ago I was winning my first Olympic gold medal. I didn’t think about what was going to happen after and I hadn’t thought about the next Olympics. It seemed so far away and out of reach but now I’m here again. I would love my performances to be great in Rio to show what his mum achieved just two years after he was born.”
Rutherford also reflected on taking part in a second Super Saturday.
He said: “Four years on, we are all in a fantastic position and hoping to replicate that night.”
He added: “I’m driven by competition. The chance of winning and getting more medals motivates me. Nothing motivates me like standing on top of a podium. I live for those moments,”
A number of Scots are due to take part in events today including Andy Murray who is through to the men’s singles semi-finals after beating Steve Johnson of the US in the men’s singles quarter-finals yesterday.
But despite winning the opening set by six games to love, the Scot and defending Olympic champion only won after a tense tie-break in the deciding third set.
Cyclist Katie Archibald and swimmers Dan Wallace and Hannah Miley are also vying to help team GB’s medal haul.
Rower Heather Stanning, who lives in Lossiemouth, clinched gold in the women’s pair final with partner Helen Glover yesterday – the same title they won in London.
There was another team GB gold when George Nash, Alex Gregory, Constantine Louloudis and Mohamed Sbihi won the men’s rowing four.
And Scotland was also celebrating when Glasgow-born Callum Skinner, 23, won gold in team sprint cycling.
The first Olympic athletics gold in Rio went to Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana who obliterated the 23-year-old 10,000 metres world record. Ayana, racing the distance on the track for only the second time, stormed home in 29 minutes 17.45 seconds, taking more than 14 seconds off the highly-questionable mark set by China’s Wang Junxia in 1993.
Marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe said after the race: “When I saw the world record set in 1993, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. And Ayana has absolutely blitzed that time.”
In the same race Britain’s Jo Pavey was 15th in her fifth Olympics at the age of 42, setting a season’s best time of 31:33.44.