Great British year of sport

Last updated 05:00 28/12/2012
Jessica Ennis

HOME HEROINE: Heptathlete Jessica Ennis electrified the home fans with her dominating gold medal performance on the middle Saturday.

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For the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012, her countrymen and women delivered in the best way possible on the sporting field - and it wasn't just at the Olympics.

Even those well-paid footballers and rugby players stood tall for their country with Wales winning the Grand Slam five months after crashing out of the Rugby World Cup semifinal and Manchester City and Chelsea brought home the silverware.

The English footballers actually did better than I thought they would at EURO 2012 after all the calamity in the buildup with the hasty replacement of Fabio Capello with Roy Hodgson, Wayne Rooney's early suspension and John Terry's court case. England won their group of death ahead of France, the hosts, Ukraine and their eternal kryptonite, Sweden. They were stoic against a superior Italian side but once again, couldn't quite finish the job in the penalty shootout - both Ashleys (Young and Cole) joining Gareth Southgate, David Beckham, David Batty, Chris Waddle and Stuart Pearce in that illustrious list of decisive English penalty missers.

The English cricketers also solidified their placing as world cricket's number two team ahead of the decisive Ashes next season. They couldn't quite repeat their Twenty20 glory this year and it was quite obvious that the team was in transition with Alastair Cook assuming more of the captaincy responsibilities while new talent was being introduced.

The English rugby players may also have symbolically staked their claim as rugby's number two team after a stunning thrashing of the world champion All Blacks in the final test of 2012. While the ABs may have been tired after a long season, it was still a tremendous win for England three years ahead of their Rugby World Cup.

But now to those who really brought home glory for Queen and country - the cyclists.

For so long, Great Britain was behind the rest of Europe when it came to the grand tours and the sport of cycling itself. Yes, Britain had the likes of Chris Hoy to fly the flag alone against the rest of the world, but Hoy along with the likes of David Millar were the sole stars of a "minority" sport.

How times have changed as record funding and a surge in interest has now seen Britain produce undoubtedly its finest generation of cyclists, on the track and on the road. The recent success of Mark Cavendish, Bradley Wiggins and Dave Brailsford's Team Sky has inspired a new generation of cyclists - the Tour of Britain has never been popular in light of Wiggins' Tour de France and Olympic wins this year.

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The women are also getting in on the action - while Victoria Pendleton may have called it quits after the Olympics, Laura Trott looks set to follow in her footsteps. Elizabeth Armitstead also delivered a fine silver to world champion Marianne Vos in the road race. If only the UCI would have a tour series for the women just as they do for the men.

Britain's dominance also continued in the rowing where they had their best ever Olympics. Both men and women reigned supreme at Eton Dorney and were always in the medals even if they didn't quite win gold.

In track and field Britain enjoyed its greatest night on the track when Mo Farrah, Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford all won gold. Jessica Ennis had been the cover girl of this Olympics and had dominated the heptathlon from start to finish and it was apt that she would win the final 800m and put the seal on a gold medal at home - her predecessor, Dame Kelly Holmes would have been very proud.

All this of course made London 2012 the most successful Olympic games in British history post World War II - they finished third on the medal ladder only behind the USA and China and ahead of Germany and Australia.

Moment of the year? Shan't bother, too many of them.

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