If you, like the people above in Trafalgar Square, kicked back in front Olympic TV yesterday you will have enjoyed Saturday's festival of British medal winning which included "Team London" adding significantly to Emma Pooley's silver. Top of the bill was the men's four who stayed true to the tradition of Redgrave and Pinsent in delivering gold. The image of Chiswick's Andy Triggs-Hodge trying to celebrate through utter exhaustion will endure to London 2012 when he and former pairs partner Peter Reed as well as Tom James and, now double winner of this event, Steve Williams may yet be back to defend their title. Elise Laverick, now a double Olympic bronze medallist, was the first declared retiree to openly to admit that the draw of a hometown Games might be enough to tempt her back for one more try. In quick succcession both the women's and men's double sculls won bronze for us and both crews featured in grippingly tight finishes where a couple of metres was the difference between podium positions. Steve Williams described rowing those last couple of hundred metres in vivid terms:
The emotions are sending messages to the muscles but it becomes beyond skills. It is like flying blind, something primeval.
Laverick reckoned they'd left their challenge a fraction late, but was still delighted to be in the top three while Rowbotham and Wells were torn between extreme disappointment at not taking gold and relief at not finish fourth. Wells commented:
In that last couple of strokes I thought we had it but I'm really pleased to have come away with something.
In the other finals, Alan Campbell defied an injury hit season to finish fifth in the single sculls while Louisa Reeve and her partner finished sixth in the women's pairs, but had overachieved to get to the medal race, the experience of which will stand them in good stead in four years' time.
Today sees the last day of rowing in the Games before the canoeists move in to Shunyi next week. First up at 8:50am (all times BST) is Freeman of the Thames, Mark Hunter, with former single sculls world champion Zac Purchase in the lightweight men’s double sculls. They look good for a medal as they won both their heat and their semi final. Then it's the Jameses Clarke and Lindsay-Fynn at 9:10 as part of the lightweight men’s four looking to catch the Danish and French crews that qualified faster than them. Rowing last will be the eights, with the seven-of-nine London women's boat going at 10:10, twenty minutes before the men's crew, which features a mere two Londoners, one of whom, Alastair Heathcote, will be hoping to bring home a gold for the Army to go with Peter Reed's for the Navy. Bronze is the most realistic ambition for the ladies who qualified through the repechage.
Athens rowing medallist Rebecca Romero will be going for gold against her in-form GB team-mate, Wendy Houvenaghel, in the Women's 3000m Individual Pursuit Final, the only cycling title to be contested today. Over in Hong kong Ben Maher will be looking to go clear again in the showjumping though, as Lizzie Greenwood-Hughes points out on a BBC blog, it's less than clear what that would actually achieve. After his clear with one time fault on Friday she wrote of that round:
It didn't count towards any medals but basically, it decided the order for the team competition which starts on Sunday and the scores from all three first rounds will be added up to decide which riders did well enough to qualify for the Individual competition which takes place next Thursday. Got it?
So today the round at 12:15pm is the first of two in the team final (the second is tomorrow) and also the second of three that count as qualifiers for the two round final in four days time. Come back the track cycling points race, all is forgiven.
Thankfully, the hockey format is much more straightforward, even if the actual qualifying for the final stages is anything bit. Both the men's and women's teams are outperforming the world rankings, but even that may only get them third place in their respective pools if the hot favourites above them don't slip up. Crista Cullen, who lives in London and works as a Business Development Consultant for the Kennel Club, grabbed England a vital late winner against the Japanese yesterday, but even victory over the US tomorrow won't help unless winless New Zealand beat pool leaders Argentina or, more plausibly, Japan beat second placed Germany who opened the competition by comfortably dismissing the GB team. The men should see off Canada at 1:30 this morning, but need either of their conquerors, Australia or the Netherlands to drop some points in their final two games.
If anybody slipped up in Qingdao it would be a welcome distraction from the serious business of hanging about. Yesterday, British sailing legend Ben Ainslie's medal decider got underway, but both it and the rest of the day's programme had to be abandoned when everyone got becalmed again. Ainslie was not slow to identify where the deficiency in the Olympic regatta lay:
It's not the sport's fault, it's not the sailors' fault, it's the fact that we have been put in this venue where we do not get any wind.
Frankly, we've given up any attempt at providing even the vaguest of schedules for Bryony Shaw, Will Howden and Andrew Simpson. Some sailing involving some people might happen some time. But probably not unless somebody can perform some sort of Jedi mind trick on the weather. If that doesn't work we suggest remote control toy yachts in a hotel bath to decide the winners.
No such problems in the Bird's Nest where once again the London athletes appear thick and fast. Sarah Claxton of the Woodford Green club leads off in the heats of the 100m hurdles at midday, while three quarters of an hour later Jeanette Kwakye goes in the flat 100m semi-final, with the final scheduled for 3:30pm. Yesterday Laura Turner was edged out in the first round and Montell Douglas in the second. Tyrone Edgar was well-down the field in the men's 100m semi-finals. Shaftesbury Barnet Harrier and Commonwealth Games silver medallist Natasha Danvers goes in round one of the 400m hurdles at ten past one with the men's high jump featuring another athlete holding a Commonwealth Games silver medal, Martyn Bernard, and Germaine Mason beginning concurrent with those races. World champion Christine Ohuruogu should qualify comfortably from the 400m semi-final at 2pm with Andy Baddeley hoping to negotiate the 1500m semi at five to three.
Congratulations also to middleweight boxed James DeGale who yesterday comfortably reached the quarter finals in the Beijing Workers' Gymnasium.
Picture via ebeth's Flickr stream.