Last updated: August 4, 2012 12:03 pm
Britain won three more golds on Friday, taking the total to eight at the end of the first full week of competition in the London Olympics and putting the nation third in the total medals table behind China and the US.
Victoria Pendleton claimed a hugely popular victory at the velodrome, taking gold in the women’s keirin in what is supposed to be her weakest event at these games.
Britain’s 4000m men’s team pursuit track cyclists had earlier added another gold to the victory claimed by Sir Chris Hoy and his team sprint colleagues on Thursday.
But while those victories were to be expected, Pendleton’s was not, eclipsing world champion and long-time rival Anna Meares from Australia in a tactical battle the Briton comprehensively won.
One cyclist who could not take part in the keirin was Russia’s Victoria Baranova following her expulsion from the games for testing positive for a banned substance.
Britain’s 4000m men’s team pursuit cyclists had already proved they were a class above the opposition to claim Britain’s second gold in the velodrome, once again breaking the world record.
Having first claimed the record at these games in Thursday’s preliminary round, the quartet of Ed Clancy, Geraint Thomas, Steven Burke and Peter Kennaugh showed their mastery by blowing away Denmark in the second-round knockout.
In the final, the GB team were initially pegged back by Australia, but quickly established their ascendancy and won by an impressive margin.
Earlier Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins triumphed in the women’s double sculls at the rowing regatta.
With three silver medals from previous Olympics, Grainger claimed gold at last, joining Watkins in a dominant display to beat Australia by more than a length in front of an ecstatic crowd. “It was worth the wait,” an emotional Grainger said after the race.
Also at Eton Dorney, GB rowers George Nash and William Satch took bronze in the men’s pair behind France and the dominant New Zealand crew while Alan Campbell, the Northern Ireland rower, gained a bronze in the men’s single sculls in another race won by a New Zealander, Mahe Drysdale.
Nations’ performance scored against a benchmark of socioeconomic factors known to affect Olympic success
In the judo, Olympic veteran Karina Bryant of Great Britain won a bronze medal in the over 78kg women’s category.
At Wimbledon, deafening roars greeted Andy Murray’s 7-5 7-5 win over Novak Djokovic of Serbia, the former world number one, to reach the Olympic final on Sunday.
Murray will play Roger Federer of Switzerland, who beat him on the same Centre Court only last month in the grand slam tournament. The Scot is guaranteed a silver medal at least.
In the women’s singles, Serena Williams of the US reached the final by defeating Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, while Maria Sharapova beat fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko in the other semi-final.
When action switched to the Aquatics Centre, Michael Phelps claimed yet another gold, this time in the 100m butterfly, his 21st Olympic medal overall.
Phelps could add to that record haul with his last race as an Olympian – he plans to retire after London 2012 – in the 4x100m medley on Saturday.
News, analysis and the latest action from the London 2012 Olympic Games
Rebecca Adlington, warmest and most endearing of Britain’s modern Olympians, hinted at retirement after she had to settle for a bronze medal in the 800m freestyle.
Adlington, winner of both the 400m and 800m in Beijing, came third in both finals this time. And this second defeat, in her specialist event, hurt in more ways than one. The conqueror was a 15-year-old American, Katie Ledecky, who just missed breaking Adlington’s own world record.
And Ledecky is only going to get better, as Adlington admitted – whereas, for her, as an ancient 23-year-old: “Swimming is so painful, and the more and more I’ve done it, the more and more it hurts.”
She now plans a cycling trip to Africa and will make a decision on her swimming future in October. It is hard to imagine her carrying on, but equally hard to imagine bubbly Becky from Mansfield slipping quietly out of the limelight.
The race was lost early on as Ledecky took an early lead, and in the end Adlington lost second place to Litte Friis of Denmark. “I am not disappointed with a bronze medal,” she insisted. “I’m disappointed mainly in my time. I’ve been doing better than that all season. But at the end of the day I gave it my absolute all.”
In London, hundreds of athletes took part in the opening day of athletics in the 80,000-seater Olympic Stadium, a test not only of their prowess but also of the host city’s infrastructure. It was the first time the main stadium has been used since the opening ceremony a week ago.
With two separate sessions of athletics taking place, huge crowds headed to east London on Friday, with heptathlete Jessica Ennis among the star attractions. Ennis broke the British record for the 100m hurdles, clocking 12.54 seconds – the fastest time ever recorded for the hurdles in the seven-discipline event. She ended the day with a lead in the event of 184 points after also performing well in the high jump, shot put and 200m.
Two athletes successfully defended their Olympic titles – Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia in the women’s 10,000m, and Tomasz Majewski of Poland in the men’s shot put.
With David Cameron, UK prime minister, apparently tempting fate by saying that the “threat of meltdown on the traffic system” in London had been defeated, and urging people to return to the capital to work, shop and eat, the ability of roads, rail and the Olympic Park to cope will be thoroughly tested.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2015. You may share using our article tools.
Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.