EXCUSE me, but I was under the impression, going into the Olympics, that Great Britain would be lucky to win a single gold medal. And yet here we are, 10 days into the Games, and we’ve won 12 of the blighters.
Admittedly, it is necessary to read the small print to get a handle on exactly what the doom-mongers were saying about Britain’s medal prospects ahead of the Games. Those in the know, such as former Olympic 400metres hurdles champion Sally Gunnell, suggested that we might not win many medals in the athletics events.
And even if Christine Ohuruogu comes up with a gold in the women’s 400metres final tomorrow, there’s every chance that Gunnell will be proved right.
Britain’s success has been down largely to its cyclists, who have brought in six of those 12 golds so far. We’ve also won two each in rowing, sailing and swimming. It might have been three in swimming, but for some Claudio Ranieri-esque tinkering with the women’s 4x200metres relay squad which saw them fail to reach the final. But given that the swimmer who was left out – Rebecca Adlington – has since gone on to win two golds and set a world record, even that decision didn’t turn out too badly.
But it’s another Rebecca – Romero – who has become the big British success story of the Games. Romero’s achievement in becoming only the second woman in Olympic history to win medals in two completely different sports is remarkable. It was silver in the quad sculls rowing event four years ago, gold in the individual pursuit cycling this time around. Perhaps in London, she’ll change things around again and take on Paula Radcliffe in the marathon.
Although she hails from Surrey, Romero was made as a cyclist in Manchester. She took up the sport when British cycling coach Dan Hunt invited her to a trial the city’s Velodrome. That was just two years ago. Hunt was convinced Romero had what it took, and yesterday, he was proved right.
Romero seems a fascinating character, judging from her interviews. Her post-gold comment that “if I hadn’t done it today, I don’t know where I’d be; probably on the floor, dead somewhere” hints at a drive far beyond that of the average sportsperson.
That drive is the chief reason she is now an Olympic champion. But British cycling’s success story is also Manchester’s success story, as those six golds in the sport have come as a result of hundreds of hours of hard work at the Velodrome. Cycling is now, without question, a sport at which Great Britain excels at international level.
We probably won’t win that many medals in the athletics. But right now, who cares?