There has never been an evening quite like the one of August 4, 2012, when gold rained down on London. Read on as our series on the greatest moments in the 75-year history of AW continues
Super just doesn’t seem like a strong enough word to properly do justice to the events which unfolded on August 4, 2012. The London Olympics were already a smash hit by that point but a truly astonishing evening sent them careering off the charts.
For British athletics fans, there has never been anything quite like what is now known as “Super Saturday”.
With the sport at centre stage and the Olympic stadium pulsating to a cacophonous crowd which was absorbed and roared every run, jump and throw, the stage was set for three home athletes to shine. They did just that during an unforgettable hour.
At 9:02pm, Jessica Ennis-Hill – the poster girl of the Games – proved herself capable of handling the most intense pressure by securing heptathlon gold, the release of emotion all too evident as she finished the job in style by winning the 800m.
By 9:24pm, Greg Rutherford had seized his opportunity and jumped his way to becoming a household name, emulating 1964 gold medallist Lynn Davies in becoming a British Olympic long jump champion.
Come 9:46pm, cheered on by the new long jump champion who was also soaking in his lap of honour, Mo Farah was accelerating away from the rest of the field to land the first of his four Olympic golds, in the 10,000m.
The feel-good factor has rarely felt so good.
For Ennis-Hill, she had been in control right from the start of the heptathlon competition the previous day with a 100m hurdles performance of 12.54 seconds which was then the British record, Olympic record and the fastest heptathlon hurdles performance in history.
Entering day two, her prime area of concern had been the long jump but a leap of 6.48m allayed any fears and she followed that up with a then javelin personal best of 47.49m.
There was margin for error going into the final event, the 800m, but Ennis-Hill drew on that crowd noise to make sure she crossed the line first. Her score of 6955 was a then British and Commonwealth record.
As everyone was drawing breath, attention then switched to the long jump pit, where Rutherford had had the crowd on their feet with a second-round jump of 8.21m which put him in the lead before his fourth-round 8.31m put him further ahead.
With American Will Claye mis-timing his final jump, it meant the Briton – who had been seventh at the world championships the previous year – was given a “jump of honour”. He ultimately ran through the pit but there was nothing but joy on his face as his victory was confirmed.
Then came Farah.
After 9500 captivating metres, the then 29-year-old made his move and would not be budged from his place at the front of the field, coming home ahead of training partner Galen Rupp in 27:30.42.
He had judged his run to perfection and would, of course, go on to claim the 5000m gold as well as another Olympic distance double in Rio.
For one particular onlooker, however, it was not just the performances which made a lasting impression.
“I have to admit to bias as I coached Jess,” says Toni Minichiello, who masterminded Ennis-Hill’s triumph. “From a personal point of view Super Saturday was the culmination of a dream come true. To win an Olympic gold medal at a home Olympics and to top and tail it with British records in hurdles and heptathlon is truly the stuff of dreams. The records have now gone but the medal and the moment will of course live on.
“The abiding memory for me is not so much the performance or the athletics but the crowd that brought an atmosphere like no other I have witnessed before or since.
“The moment when Geoff Wightman’s announcing voice was completely and thoroughly drowned out by the roar of the crowd, to the way that the cheering followed Jess around the stadium like a Mexican wave of sound as she ran the 800m and after how so many stayed for the medal ceremony and sang the national anthem befitting the start of any international sporting event.
“The true measure of what makes it the greatest day in athletics history is those who witnessed, watched and were inspired by the events that day. Greatness is not only about what you do, but what you leave in your wake.”
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