Olympics: 30 moments that made the XXX Olympiad

By Dylan Cleaver, David Leggat

Mahe Drysdale made amends for his Beijing disappointment with an impressive victory in the single sculls. Pictures / Mark Mitchell.
Mahe Drysdale made amends for his Beijing disappointment with an impressive victory in the single sculls. Pictures / Mark Mitchell.

David Leggat and Dylan Cleaver pick 30 moments that the London Olympics will be most remembered for.

1. Usain Bolt - the king of sprinters

In winning the 100m final in 9.63s against the fastest field assembled for an Olympic final, Bolt went from a great to a god, especially when he backed up to win the 200m. Everyone in the 100m, apart from the hamstrung Asafa Powell, went under 10s and fastest times ever for the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh place were set. Stunning stuff.

2. Michael Phelps bows out a winner

Forget the relays, the biggest race of this meeting was Phelps beating Ryan Lochte in the 200m individual medley in 1m 54.27s. This was redemption on a grand scale after being schooled by Lochte in the 400 IM. Phelps would also win two relays and the 100m butterfly to end his Olympic career with 18 golds and 22 medals overall.

Legend of the pool.

3. Mr Bean steals the show

Even if you think opening ceremonies are a gross waste of money and a bit naff, you couldn't help but chuckle at Danny Boyle's off-kilter sense of humour when he had Mr Bean muscling his way into the famous beach scene on Chariots of Fire.

4. Mahe gets his gold

There's something brutally honest about the single sculls. There's nowhere to hide, just one man in a boat trying to row 2km faster than anyone else. Five times Mahe Drysdale has been world champion but his solitary Olympic experience was not a happy one. In Beijing he used up all his energy and couldn't hold on. This time he paced himself through 1000m, burst clear in the third quarter and held off the fast-finishing Czech Ondrej Synek to win gold. You could see just how much it took to win.

5. Bad news at the badminton

The women's doubles descended into farce as, in a bid to avoid facing the best teams in the knockout draw, four teams tried to lose their final matches. So we had one player after another dumping serves into nets and hitting wide on purpose. The crowd booed, the IOC moved. Expulsions were handed out to two Korean pairs, a Chinese pair and an Indonesian pair. The Chinese duo everybody was trying to avoid, Qing Tian and Yunlei Zhao, ended up winning the tournament.

6. Wiggo wows 'em

Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins was the best thing since sliced bread coming into the Games but when he couldn't help Great Britain engineer a Mark Cavendish win in the road race, it was up to him and him alone to soothe worried minds in the time trial around Hampton Court Palace. He obliterated the field, beating second-placed German Tony Martin by 42s.

7. Val's misery

Her registration form wasn't filled in properly, but that wasn't the form Adams really had to worry about. Rather it was the form of squat Belarusian Nadzeya Ostapchuk. She showed there was nothing ropey about the distances she was recording in Minsk and Grodno by hurling the shot out to 21.36m, a whopping 66cm further than the defending champion.

8. Shootout at the Riverbank Arena

Agony for the Black Sticks, but what a game. They took the fight all the way to the No1-ranked side in the world, ending regulation and extra time locked at 2-2. That meant a shootout where five players from each side had eight seconds to beat the goalkeeper, starting with the ball on the 25m line. The Dutch were better at it than New Zealand, but nobody left that arena doubting the Black Sticks' fortitude.

9. Duets in harmony

They were a day apart and went about their business in very different ways, but it seems right to combine them. Hamish Bond and Eric Murray enjoyed a stress-free coronation, destroying their opposition in the men's pair. Twenty-four hours earlier, in the double sculls, Joseph Sullivan and Nathan Cohen launched a stunning 500m burst to come from fourth to gold. Top effort lads.

10. Toddy Again?

When Mark Todd sat third after the dressage phase of the team eventing, people shook their heads and wondered: He couldn't, could he? Dressage is traditionally the weakest phase for New Zealand eventing horses. But Todd, with two individual titles already, and aged 56, was right in the hunt. He didn't make the individual rostrum, but was part of the bronze medal team result. Still, for day and a night, we wondered.

11. Tears of Hoy

But the good kind. After ceding the defence of his sprint title to eventual winner Jason Kenny, Sir Chris Hoy had one last chance to add to his five gold medals on the boards of the velodrome. He won a thrilling keirin race - the same one in which Simon van Velthooven dead-heated for bronze - and melted on the podium. Say it again, awww.

12. Dark mutterings at the pool

Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen turned in one of the most sizzling swims in winning the 400m individual medley. She spotted American Elizabeth Beisel close to 2s with 100m remaining and simply ate her up, setting a world record and touching almost 3s ahead of Beisel. Cue innuendo, notably from the Americans, about how a 16-year-old could make such huge leaps over a short time. The Chinese weren't impressed. No positive drug test means take it at face value. It was a truly awesome sight.

13. Swiss timing off

Andy Murray has yet to win a tennis Grand Slam, but he'll always have Wimbledon. Olympic Wimbledon, that is. The formerly dour Scot cleaned out Swiss maestro Roger Federer in straight sets to claim gold and emoted big time.

14. Just one rail

When Swedish eventer Sara Algotsson Ostholt and her horse Wega approached the last fence in the three-day event, she had the individual gold medal in her pocket. Clear it and gold was theirs. But Wega brushed the top rail. Initial delight on the faces of her teammates turned to horror as the rail wobbled a moment, then fell. A cruel but utterly gripping moment.

15. Anglo-Irish affair

Boxing venues can be fairly lively locations. None more so than the ExCel Arena when Ireland's poster girl Katie Taylor, a four-time world champion, took on Britain's distinctly handy Natasha Jonas in the lightweight division. The hall, not a seat spare, was in uproar, Irish tricolour flags swamping the Union Jacks. Taylor showed why she's rated the world's best female boxer and expect her to have the gold medal around her neck by the time you're reading this. Yes, there's some history between the countries, but this was pure mad, riotous entertainment.

16. Solo success story

Success, but no medal? In the case of Lauren Boyle, absolutely. The Auckland freestyler deserves a guernsey on several counts: she was the beacon in a fog of mediocrity among New Zealand's swim contingent, and made two A finals, finishing two seconds off bronze in the 800m, broke three national records along the way. Tears of delight at the end too. Nice.

17. The beach at Whitehall

Put a big tick beside the person(s) who decided the beach volleyball should be at Horse Guards Parade, just off Whitehall and under Prime Minister David Cameron's window. It was a sellout each day, a fabulous location and the women's title went, for the third straight time, to Americans Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh.

18. Sailing away

It's been 20 years since New Zealand sailors, other than the boardsailors, made the Olympic podium, but young pair Peter Burling and Blair Tuke were in strong touch in the 49er class from the start and were rewarded with the silver medal.

19. Four of the best

Former Team New Zealand sailor Ben Ainslie (had to get that in) nailed his fourth successive Olympic gold (one Laser, three Finn) which, along with a silver in 1996, makes him the most decorated Olympic sailor of all.

20. Double-handeddelight

Sailors Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie had won the last two Sail for Gold regattas at Weymouth, and justified their pre-Games hype. Whether they won gold or silver - split with British pair Hannah Mills and Saskia Clarke - was to be decided early today. Either way, job well done.

21. Oi! Oi! Oi!

Europeans invariably dominate the four-seater classes at the kayaking regatta. Not so this week when Australians Tate and Dave Smith, Murray Stewart and Jacob Clear won the K4 1000m crown. It's been a lean time for the Aussies in London and this one was celebrated long and loud.

22. The weight

Defending 105kg-plus champion Matthias Steiner walked away from a terrifying incident when he dropped a 196kg stacked barbell on his neck. There was an awful hush while he was attended to, before he walked away.

23. Going underground

The USA basketballers were, collectively, the highest-paid athletes at the Games. So how did they get around London of an evening. The Tube of course. Nice common touch for a group of guys whose egos are often assumed to be as large as their bank accounts.

24. Bang on target

It's always good to be first. So that award goes to Chinese shooter Yi Siling. Not exactly a household name in New Zealand, she won the 10m air rifle final back on July 28. Other golds were won that day in judo, fencing, cycling's men's road race, archery, swimming and weightlifting. But deadeye Yi took the honours.

25. Tears of joy

When South African swimmer Chad le Clos won the 200m butterfly final it was a time for unconfined joy. Instead le Clos cried beside the pool. Why? Because he'd beaten his hero Michael Phelps by .05s. "To beat Phelps is something I have wanted my whole life, it is what I have been dreaming of since I was 12."

26. Tight as

Best finish of the Games? Van Velthooven and Dutchman Teun Mulder, officially a dead heat for cycling bronze, but don't forget the women's triathlon. When Swede Lisa Norden and Swiss Nicola Spirig breasted the tape simultaneously it was clearly a tight call. How tight? 0.01s. Norden celebrated, thinking she had the gold, but the decision went Spirig's way.

27. Kiss from Mum

When Zara Phillips helped Britain win the silver medal in the teams eventing, the medals were presented by her mother. The Princess Royal shook hands with the other four members of the British team, and gave her daughter a kiss on each cheek. It looked a touch formal, but the Brit papers loved it.

28. Incredible sulk

Discus champion Robert Harting of Germany looked very clever when he did his Incredible Hulk impersonation by ripping his singlet off. He wasn't looking so clever when, boozed out of his head, he fell asleep on a train and woke up to find himself robbed of his money, accreditation and most of his dignity as security made him sleep outside the athletes' village.

29. Brothers trim

The British bookmakers couldn't offer you anything near decent odds on the Brownlee brothers - Alistair and Jonathan - being out of the medals in the men's triathlon. And so it proved on a course tailor-made for the Yorkshire pair. Only Spaniard Javier Gomez spoiled what would have been a perfect result, taking the silver behind Alistair with Jonathan third.

30. Glory days

Our Aussies neighbours were in a lather the first week when New Zealand led them on the medal table. The Australian media took the slight to heart, bemoaning their lack of success and suggesting that the two countries perhaps should become one in the interests of gold.

- NZ Herald

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