8 Aug 2012

Team GB aims to add to record medal haul

Team GB looks to add to its medal haul after four golds on day 11 of the Games in cycling, the triathlon and team dressage.

Chris Hoy (Getty)

On a day when Team GB took its medals tally to 22, London 2012 became the most successful Olympics of the modern era.

Team GB’s first success of the day came with Alistair Brownlee’s victory in the men’s triathlon. His brother Jonny, who suffered a time penalty, secured bronze.

Team GB’s second gold came in the team dressage – the first time Great Britain & Northern Ireland has ever succeeded in the event.

Laura Bechtolsheimer, Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester pushed Germany – winners of the team dressage seven times in a row prior to London 2012 – into silver position.

More cycling success

As in Beijing in 2008, cycling has been the outstanding success of these Games. Laura Trott followed Jason Kenny’s Monday victory in the men’s with gold in the women’s omnium.

If Trott’s performance restated the dominance of British track cycling at London 2012, Sir Chris Hoy’s thrilling victory in the keirin confirmed the Scot as the greatest British Olympian of all time.

The Scotsman was overtaken by Levy after taking an early lead, and the Team GB veteran had to battle back to snatch the gold medal with a surge to the line in the final lap.

Sir Chris, who took three gold medals in Beijing and won gold in the men’s team sprint last week, now has six gold medals.

Pendleton heartache

British supporters have become used to success over the past week and a half. So the failure of Victoria Pendleton to beat Australian arch-rival Anna Meares in the women’s sprint – coming as it did between the victories of Trott and Sir Chris – caused less consternation than it might otherwise have done.

Pendleton missed out on the gold in her last Olympic Games following a relegation in the first sprint race.

The track sprint event is a cat-and-mouse game across three races, with the cyclists alternating between leader and chaser.

Pendleton appeared to have won her first race in 11.2 seconds in a nail-biting clash with Meares. With the pair jostling each other around the track, Pendleton scraped victory by one thousandth of a second.

News then broke that Pendleton had been relegated for leaving her lane during the race – meaning she scored a loss for the first race.

It is the second instance in this Olympics where Pendleton has suffered as the result of an infringement. A change-over infringement in the team pursuit saw her and team mate Jess Varnish relegated, losing their chance of a medal.

In the second race Australian Meares dominated to take home the gold, winning the final 2-0.

Interview: Tommie Smith on his 1968 Black power salute

Politics has been largely removed from the 2012 Games. But the Mexico Games in 1968 is still remembered for the two African-American athletes who stood on the winners’ podium with their heads bowed and gloved hands raised in a black power salute. Their protest was against segregation and racism in America.

The man receiving gold, Tommie Smith [see above], was a formidable runner whose world record for the 200 meters sprint stood for eleven years. But like the two other athletes, his sports career was blighted by his actions.

“[The action] was a pinnacle of what I had to do and what people had to see before they could believe that it was really understood,” he told Channel 4 News. “I didn’t do it for a necessity of religious combinations – only a realisation that human rights efforts were needed all around the world.”

His achievements on and off the track were only recognised much later. At the time both Americans were expelled from the Olympics and all were ostracised by many of their countrymen on their return home. Tommie Smith never raced again.

Asked if he thought today’s athletes would take the same political stand, Mr Smith said: “Back then, it was the power of pride, now mostly it’s the power of the dollar.”