As Team GB surge up the medal table at London 2012, do not underestimate the value of the remarkable, inspirational home crowd. Every single British athlete to make the podium has paid tribute to the phenomenal support and it is wonderful to see.
The noise on the opening day of athletics in the Olympic Stadium, as Lord Sebastian Coe proudly declared, is “unbelievable.” And it is the same at every single venue of a spectacular Games.
Watching heptathlon’s poster girl Jessica Ennis produce a personal best to dramatically catch her Dutch rival on the line in the 200 metres this evening, the BBC commentator roared: “And the crowd carried her over the line.”
It was no exaggeration. Ennis’s breathtaking display put her on a total of 4,158 points, her best ever first-day score and enough for a lead of 184 points over Austra Skujyte.
Earlier Ennis got her quest for gold off to a phenomenal start, destroying her personal 100m hurdles best by 0.25 secs in the fastest ever 100m hurdles by a heptathlete. It was no surprise to hear GB’s golden girl pay tribute to the home support.
“I’m speechless. When I crossed the line I had to double-check. I knew it would be a quick race but I still cannot believe I ran that time. Just stepping into the stadium the crowd really lifted me and got me that great time,” said Ennis.
The home support was just as deafening at Eton Dorney as joyous fans roared Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins to gold in the women’s double sculls. And it was the same at the Velodrome where Victoria Pendleton wiped away the tears after edging to the narrowest of winning margins in the keirin after the Men’s Pursuit Team broke their own world record on the way to gold.
Even when our heroes have fallen short of anticipated gold there has been unconditional support from the knowledgable home fans who have been generous in their salute to every outstanding performance from every nation.
At the Aquatics Centre it was beautiful to hear the appreciative crowd chant ‘Becky, Becky” after watching Rebecca Adington give absolutely everything on her way to a second bronze of the Games in the 800 metres freestyle.
Tonight’s medal makes Adlington the first British swimmer in history to win four individual Olympic medals and it was great to hear her passionately proclaim: “I’m so proud and pleased to get a bronze medal. It’s nothing ever to be embarrassed about. I hate it when people say silver or bronze is losing because you have not done my sport.”
Earlier in the day, Alan Campbell could barely stand up after winning an incredibly brave bronze on the single sculls. But he still found the energy to thank the crowd for their amazing support in driving him to dig deeper to edge past Sweden’s Lassi Karonen.
“The crowd really lifted me. I could see Lassi. He was going harder than I thought but knowing the shouts were for me meant I had to go now or never and secure that medal,” said Campbell.
Rebecca Adlington – proud of her second bronze – was given a rapturous ovation for her unique achievement
Off to a flying start: Jessica Ennis has responded to “unbelievable” home support