Rio 2016: Britons lead the way on Super Saturday2

rio_olympics_2016_logo_a_pSaddleworth Independent’s sports editor Tony Bugby is reporting from his seventh Olympic Games and here he gives a unique insight into how Rio de Janeiro is coping with the greatest show on earth.

There are iconic sporting moments – Ian Botham’s Ashes heroics in 1981, Andy Murray winning Wimbledon for the first time since Fred Perry in the 1930s, Gareth Edwards’ magical try for the Barbarians against the All Blacks in 1973.

‘Super Saturday’, as it became known, was one of the most memorable moments of the 2012 London Olympic Games and will surely join that elite list.

In the space of one incredible hour at a packed Olympic Stadium in Stratford, Mo Farah, Greg Rutherford and Jessica Ennis – before the Hill was added – all struck gold in the athletics.

Farah crossed the line first in the 10,000m, Rutherford leapt the furthest in the long jump and Ennis proved she was the best on the planet in the seven disciplines of the heptathlon.

It was an amazing night, especially for those of us privileged to be in the stadium and able to say ‘I was there’.

And being achieved by home athletes, the atmosphere was electrifying – it certainly gave you goose bumps.

It was reminiscent of Sydney in 2000 when home favourite Cathy Freeman won the 400m – the noise could have lifted the roof of the stadium that was packed with 112,000 if my memory serves me right.

To put into context winning three golds in one hour was three times more than we achieved in the entire Games in Atlanta in 1996.

Those of us who can remember that far back, and also being there, will recall Steve Redgrave, now Sir Steve, won our one and only gold in the entire Games.

The vast investment in the subsequent 20 years has seen Great Britain become a major force in world sport as seen in London where there were 29 golds in a total medal haul of 65.

And with Team GB already capturing 10 golds in Rio de Janeiro by the midway point in the Games, these are halcyon days for sport and ones to cherish.

Perhaps that will be the subject of a future blog.

Back to Rio, and by fate, Super Saturday2 was set up by the same athletics scheduling for the opening Saturday night of the athletics.

And incredibly there was the same cast – Farah, Rutherford and Ennis-Hill all defending their Olympic crowns on the same night. Surely they couldn’t repeat the same treble again!

Well, the omens beforehand looked promising – Farah’s form had been imperious in the build up to Rio, Rutherford continued to dominate the long jump while Ennis-Hill won the world championship last year returning after the birth of her son Reggie.

While it was the subject of conversation about the Brits here and public back at home, it passed well and truly under the radar here.

It didn’t mean anything special to the Brazilians with Usain Bolt the headline act as he goes for a triple sprint treble after winning the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay in both Beijing and London.

And that was underlined by the fact the stadium was only about two third full – London could have sold out umpteen times such was the demand.

Farah delivered again with a masterful display of long-distance running in the 10,000m, despite suffering a tumble.

He was quickly back to his feet, signalling a thumbs up to the cameras. And despite the might and power of the Africans, Farah proved he is simply the best, sprinting away after cornering the final bend.

Farah knew he had won with 50 yards or metres to go and was so much in control that he even had the time to do the ‘Mobot’ when crossing the line. It had just been another ordinary day in the office.

So it was one down and two to go.

Rutherford took an early lead in the long jump, though it was clear the 8.20m would not win the event as proved when he was overhauled by American Jarrion Lawson in the third round.

Early in the sixth and final round Rutherford, despite improving to 8.26m, found himself in third place behind USA’s Jeff Henderson and South Africa’s Luvo Manyonga.

Rutherford needed to find another 13 centimetres to win from his final jump. He managed a best jump of the night of 8.29m, but had to settle for third place.

The dream was over, but could Ennis-Hill defend her Olympic heptathlon title.

Overnight leader in the two-day event, she didn’t perform to her maximum potential in the long jump and javelin as she was overhauled by Belgium’s Nafissatu and was second going into the last event.

Ennis-Hill needed to finish nine seconds clear of the Belgium and, despite heroic effort in which she clawed back nearly eight seconds, she fell short by 35 points. When the winner had 6,810, that indicated just how close it was.

Still a silver was no disgrace but Ennis-Hill will surely reflect on what might have been had she performed at her absolute peak.

But a gold, silver and bronze was still a fine effort by the British era on what was described as ‘Satisfactory Saturday’ as opposed to another ‘Super Saturday’.

It was also probably the end of an era as it is unlikely Farah and Ennis-Hill will be in Tokyo in four years’ time as they would be aged 37 and 34 respectively. Rutherford would also be 33.

But their heroics at London 2012 and Rio means they will rightly become athletics legends. Indeed they were already in that bracket before Rio, which has simply reinforced that status.

 

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