OLYMPICS: Time of our lives

Oxford Mail: Oxford’s Andrew Triggs Hodge (left) and his men’s four colleagues salute the passionate home crowd after rowing to a gold medal at Eton Dorney Oxford’s Andrew Triggs Hodge (left) and his men’s four colleagues salute the passionate home crowd after rowing to a gold medal at Eton Dorney

MANY of you, like me, will have been suffering from Olympics Withdrawal Syndrome (OWS) this week.

After so many highlights in little over two weeks, it is hard to replace the buzz of Britain’s gold-medal haul.

Oxfordshire’s sportsmen and women played their part in an historic Games, with a medal tally of two golds, two silvers and three bronzes.

Having been fortunate enough to report on them and much, much more during London 2012, I know I will always remember that glorious 16 days of sport.

The Games began slowly for Britain and Oxfordshire, but it was rowing that lit the touch paper for country and county.

Much was expected of the men’s cycling road race on the first day of London 2012, with the course seemingly set up for Britain’s Mark Cavendish to sprint to gold on The Mall.

That did not happen by a long stretch and a sense of apprehension started to grow, especially after Rebecca Adlington ‘only’ won bronze in the pool.

Our first Oxfordshire medal chance came with Tetsworth’s Simon Burnett swimming for Britain in the 4x100m freestyle relay.

Britain failed to make the final and Burnett, a veteran of three Olympics, retired.

There was better news coming from Eton Dorney, where Oxfordshire contributed more than half of the British rowing squad.

Wallingford’s Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter, from Henley’s Leander Club, excelled in their lightweight double sculls heat, as did the lightweight four featuring brothers Peter and Richard Chambers, of Oxford Brookes fame.

Oxon’s first medal came hot on the heels of Britain’s debut gold.

There was a real sense of expectation, fuelled by increased numbers of British journalists and photographers, but Heather Stanning and Helen Glover kept calm and delivered an emphatic triumph in the women’s pairs.

Less than an hour later, Britain’s men’s eight, featuring five Oxfordshire-based men, earned a brave bronze.

From there, it just got better and better. Oxon experienced lightweight silver success with contrasting emotions in the four and double scull.

The county’s first gold came from Leander’s Anna Watkins, alongside Katherine Grainger in the women’s double sculls.

They had dominated the class and were Britain’s gold medal ‘banker’ going into the Games.

It had been far less plain sailing for the men’s four, stroked by Oxford’s Andrew Triggs Hodge.

Triggs Hodge and Oxford Blue Pete Reed had only been put back in the boat alongside Henley residents Alex Gregory and Tom James this year.

And a World Cup defeat to Australia meant there was a slight pre-Games doubt over Britain’s flagship boat.

It was, therefore, the local highlight of London 2012 when they found their best form to see off the Aussies by more than a second.

Week two was even more of a roller-coaster, with Mara Yamauchi dropping out of the marathon due to injury.

Fellow Oxford athlete Hannah England’s Achilles problem then went a long way towards her not reaching the 1,500m final.

On the flipside, there was Lawrence Clarke’s superb fourth place in the 110m hurdles final.

He said afterwards: “It is wierd because I am on such a high, but at the same time I am just so knackered that I feel like I am about to pass out.”

The icing on the cake was a women’s hockey bronze for Henley’s Sarah Thomas.

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