Britain's incredible golden hour on the track

RAF CASERT
Last updated 10:19 05/08/2012
Mo Farah
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GOLDEN MO-MENT: Mo Farah breaks down after winning the men's 10, 000m.

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Britain turned Super Saturday into a gold-medal fest within one glorious hour for assembled royalty and 80,000 fans at the Olympics, with Jessica Ennis leading the way in the heptathlon and Mo Farah closing out in the 10,000 metres.

The host nation had high hopes for both Ennis and Farah, and both came through brilliantly. What few had expected was another gold, in the long jump, for Greg Rutherford.

The race to be the fastest woman on the planet almost became an afterthought, but Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce made it memorable still by becoming only the third woman to repeat as Olympic 100-metre champion, beating Carmelita Jeter of the United States and fellow Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown.

Britain, meanwhile, was merrily celebrating as the sounds of David Bowie's "Heroes" blared through the stadium speakers and a sea of Union flags fluttered in the stands after one victory run followed another.

The massive crowd stayed long after the competition was over, waiting for Ennis's victory ceremony and belting out "God Save the Queen" in unison to celebrate a night beyond their wildest expectations.

It was no surprise Prince William and his wife, Kate, were there for support.

The day itself had already been special enough when Oscar Pistorius took a giant stride into Olympic history just by starting in his 400 heat, becoming the first double-amputee runner to compete. He advanced to Sunday's semi-finals.

The Britons already delivered on Saturday, in unprecedented fashion.

"It's unbelievable," Ennis said. And few doubted her.

She triggered the gold rush when she turned the concluding 800 metres of the seven-event heptathlon into a victorious ceremonial run - she'd already built a huge lead, so a stroll would almost have sufficed.

Instead, she started out in front, briefly wavered, and to the roar of Britain fought back to win the last event and clinch a national record on top.

"To come into this event with all that pressure with everyone just saying 'oh, you are going to win gold. You are going to win gold.' I know how hard it has been to win it. Yeah, I just can't believe I've done it," Ennis said.

Then came Rutherford. He rode the atmosphere of a vocal, capacity crowd to win his first medal in a major international meet with a best leap of 8.31 metres at London Olympic Park.

"What a night for British athletics, three gold medals out of a possible three," Rutherford said.

It was as if Farah almost had no option but to win, too.

Facing double-Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele and the daunting Kenyan squad, it was always going to be tough. He bided his time in a tactical race, hit the front with 500 metres to go, and somehow held on in the tense and deafening final lap, already finding time to blow a kiss to the roaring crowd before crossing the line.

"If it wasn't for the crowd I don't think that would happen. They give you that lift, that boost. It's just incredible," Farah said.

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"Every single one of us who won a gold medal used the crowd," Farah said.

It turned into a day where few will remember Jamaicans Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake making their debut at the London Games.

Both cruised through to take the biggest duel of the games into Sunday's semi-finals.

Even if he coasted to victory in 10.09, the starting problems for defending champion Bolt were there for all to see again. Stuttering the first steps, he had to catch up four sprinters before he could relax and look left to see if he was clear for first place.

"I made a bad step and stumbled a little bit," Bolt explained. Nothing major, according to him.

With none of the hoopla that accompanied Bolt's entry, world champion Blake just ran a typically strong race - out quick and easing at the finish - to beat Bolt's time and post 10.00.

None of it, though, had the significance of Pistorius' opening race.

In front of another full house for a qualifying session, the South African cut through the morning sunshine on his carbon-fiber blades to reach the semi-finals with a second-place finish in his heat.

"Today was just an unbelievable experience. I found myself smiling on the starting blocks, which is very rare," Pistorius said.

His time of 45.44 seconds was important enough, but didn't quite match the fanfare from the stadium announcer who marked the start of the race by proclaiming: "This is Blade Runner, Oscar Pistorius."

- AP

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