Nicola Adams leads British girl power in Olympics
Britain’s athletes at the Olympics did not just exceed expectations, they smashed them, and in doing so a series of previously little-known athletes became household names.
Nicola Adams was just one example, the 29-year-old former Bradford College student becoming the first woman in the world to win an Olympic boxing gold medal.
Adams woke up yesterday morning to discover that Prime Minister David Cameron had cited her triumph as one of his two favourite London 2012 moments.
It was performances such as that by Adams that helped Britain to a remarkable third place in the final table, higher even than Russia.
The total of 65 medals, including 29 golds, is the best tally recorded by Britain at any Olympics since 1908.
It was also the Games when British women came to the fore – with first-ever golds in rowing, stunning performances in cycling, Jessica Ennis in the stadium and several riders in the equestrian events.
That could prove to be the most important legacy for British sport and Adams herself hopes her example rubs off on girls and young women.
She said: “I’m really hoping it brings more women into sport, even if not boxing. I was inspired by Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard and to think kids in the future have a female role model to look up to is really great.
“My mum rang me and said that David Cameron just said on the news that me and Mo Farah were his favourite athletes. I couldn’t believe it.”
Colin Moynihan, chairman of the British Olympic Association, admitted he could never have imagined that Britain would finish in third place ahead of the Russians.
Moynihan said: “It’s the greatest team we have ever sent to an Olympic Games. The most important thing now is to use the success of the team to build on that success.
“We finished in fourth place behind Russia in Beijing, where we were without a number of top athletes, and I was aware Vladimir Putin was focused on making sure they would be better financed so we expected them to be a remarkably strong and competitive team.
“Did I believe we would beat them? Probably not, I thought the Russian team would take third place. The fact we did is to the phenomenal credit of the quality of our athletes and support staff, who have exceeded expectations.”
Moynihan believes London will herald a sea change in British sport – especially for women’s sport.
He said: “I think the face of British sport will be transformed. In women’s sport, we have had women’s role models come through in a huge variety of sports.
“I believe one of the successes of the women’s football team will be large number of girls getting into football and I hope there will also be more women in positions of authority in sport.”
For IOC president Jacques Rogge, there was no doubt that Britain’s record medal haul had been hugely important for the overall success of the Games.
He said: “London was a dream for a sports lover. Since the awarding of the Games in Singapore in 2005, I have said that we need home gold medals and that is so important for the mood of the general public. We had to wait two days but then it accelerated and it has been fantastic.”
The BOA have promised there will be no slackening now and that even more success will be expected at the Rio Olympics in 2016. If that can be achieved, then London 2012 will have been the start of something truly great.