David Leggat: Land of hope and glory hails winners

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Great Britain's Jessica Ennis was jubilant after winning her heptathlon 800m to take the gold medal on Saturday. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Great Britain's Jessica Ennis was jubilant after winning her heptathlon 800m to take the gold medal on Saturday. Photo / Mark Mitchell

British heroes are all around us at the London Olympics. Six gold medals on Super Saturday took the hosts to 14 at the start of activity yesterday, third behind the United States and China, and giving them their best haul in an Olympic day since 1908.

Acclaim of the highest order accompanies those who triumph. The flipside is that the fall can be brutal for those who tumble from favour.

Here's four Olympic champions, three current, one past: Bradley Wiggins, Sir Chris Hoy, Rebecca Adlington and Jessica Ennis.

When the quirky Wiggins, a "mod" in his fashion sense with his buttoned-to-the-neck polo shirts and long sideburns, entered the velodrome to watch the track cycling the day after winning the individual time trial on the road, the place erupted. "Wiggo! Wiggo! Wiggo!". On and on it went.

He is now Britain's most successful Olympian with seven medals. Sir Bradley? Why not.

Track cyclist Hoy got his gong for his achievements in Beijing four years ago, was Britain's flagbearer here, now has five Olympic golds and has kept his nose clean, so fame is his.

Adlington won "only" two bronzes in her 400m and 800m freestyle finals, having become sporting queen of the nation with a pair of golds in 2008. "Becky (clap, clap, clap), Becky" etc rolled around the Aquatic Centre as she strove unsuccessfully to repeat.

Adlington cried on the podium. They still love the woman from Mansfield. There've been piles of waterworks from the hosts on the podium.

Now it's the turn of Ennis, the little heptathlete from Sheffield. She is the latest to capture British hearts with her gold at the stadium yesterday. Everlasting fame is assured. Dame Jess? Don't bet against it.

'Jess The Best'; 'Jess Fantastic'; 'Jess the Best Day Ever'; 'Yes Yes Jess'; 'Happy and Glorious' roared the national newspaper front pages.

No one reveres their sporting heroes more than the Americans, but the Brits give them a decent run for their money.

New Zealanders tend towards a lower key form of admiration for their sporting stars. It's there, just a touch more understated.

At Atlanta in 1996, Bruce Jenner, the Olympic decathlon champion 20 years earlier, strode through the giant media room, waving monarch-like to American journalists either side of him who all but fell at his feet.

There will be more British athletes to get the regal treatment this week. The hosts are on a roll and making the most of it.

- NZ Herald

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