Golden Girl: Ennis Overcame the Pressure to Win Gold
Greg Rutherford Surprised to Win Long Jump Gold
Mo Farah sprinted over the last 150 to win Britain’s first gold in the 10,000.
Murray, who lost to Federer at Wimbeldon a month ago, powers himself to a gold.
During the first week, Great Britain had a rough go at the medals and many favorites failed to capitalize on their golden dreams. Mark Cavendish was favored in the men’s road race, but never figured into the lead pack and finished 29 and well back of the lead pack. Rebecca Adlington was favored as the defending Olympic Champion in the 400 and 800 free, but finished with bronze medals in both races. Paula Radcliffe, after facing disappointment in the women’s marathon in Athens and Beijing, pulled out the marathon due to injury. Tom Daley, the diving wunderkind who was expected to be force in the diving competition as defending world champion, finished fourth and out of the medals in the platform synchro event. In fact, it took until the middle of the week, until Team GB netted their first gold medals. It was a rough first week, but the weekend has more than enough made up for the early disappointments and has reinvigorated a nation’s hope in their delegation.
It all got started with Jessica Ennis, dubbed the “Golden Girl” of these games by the home county. The 2009 world champ and 2011 silver medalist came in burdening the hopes of a nation for gold. She did more than fulfill expectations, winning gold in the heptathlon with a score of 6,955 points, setting a new national record. She set personal bests in three of her first six events, including a Olympic heptathlon record in the 100 hurdles. She was ahead by 188 points heading into the 800. She overcame drifting on the back stretch and overpowered into the last 100 to take the lead and win in 2:08.65. As she finished with the crowd waving Union Jack flags, she collapsed to the track then began to sob as the enormity of the situation hitting her fully. As she composed herself, she waved to her countrymen and then grabbed a custom made Union Jack with the words “Jessica Ennis Olympic Champion” printed on them. As she circled the track for her last victory lap, you could tell that this was a landmark moment in Britain’s Olympic history. She, much like Kathy Freeman in Sydney, stood as a symbolic gesture to the culture and history of her country. As she wept and smiled during her national anthem, it became evident that the huge monkey on Team GB’s back was off and the unit was off and running.
For Mo Farah, the decision to leave home, go to the United States and train with famed coach Alberto Salazar and return home for these Olympics proved fruitful. The 10,000 meter world champ left Great Britain to avoid the pressure that accompanied many favorites within the county to focus on training and training alone. He trained with Salazar and U.S. runner and 10,000 competitor Galen Rupp to avoid the English press and focus on the race. In the race Saturday, he stayed with the lead pack that included two-time gold medalist Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia, Kenya’s Wilson Kiprop and his training partner Rupp. headed into the last lap, Farah sprinted to the lead and battled with Ethiopia’s Tariku Bekele and Rupp for the lead. With about 150 meters left to go, he turned on his final kick and powered ahead to a 10 meter lead. As he sprinted down the home stretch, he realized with 10 meters to go of his victory and beamed as he crossed the finish line for gold, with his training partner Rupp right behind for silver. For Farah, the sacrifice of uprooting his life and family for glory of his country proved true.
Greg Rutherford was considered a contender for a medal, but what he accomplished in the long jump Saturday was beyond his wildest dreams. On his fourth attempt, he soared to a jump of 27-3¼ that propelled him to the lead. He held on as he became the first Brit to win the long jump since Lynn Davies in Tokyo 1964. As he took his victory lap, he was right in the middle of Farah’s electrifying finish in the 10,000 and less than an hour removed from Ennis’s triumph. Truly a frustrating history of Great Britain in track & field was tumbling down.
The most remarkable moment for Team GB may have come this morning on Centre Court at the All-England. Andy Murray, a month removed from a disappointing loss to seven-time champion Roger Federer in the men’s final at Wimbledon, faced him again in the gold medal final. All the pressure of succeeding in front of the home crowd and the stigma of never winning a Grand Slam pushed Murray to a decisive 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 win over the tennis great to capture. Murray was brilliant in capitlizing on a below average Federer on his best surface, holding serve and breaking him 5 times. When Murray cranked a monster serve at love in the last game, he dropped his racket and covered his face from the realization of a dream and triumph that can certainly serve as a springboard in his career. With his win, he’s started a journey of shedding the label of “can’t win the big one”.
We know that in Olympic Games the host nation receives a bump in medals collected from competing on home soil. We’ve also seen how victories in certain disciplines can prove inspiring and infectious to the whole delegation. After a disappointing first week, maybe the victories on the track and on the court can spur a Team GB to a memorable and unprecedented showing at these Games.