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Golden Olympic moments

ESPN staff
December 3, 2011

Christmas season is upon us, so in the build-up to the big day itself we at ESPN Towers will be picking out a host of top-five moments, and then asking YOU to vote for your favourites.

What was the goal of 2012? Who are the top five bad boys of the past 12 months? Who had years to forget? Come back each day for a new topic and cast your vote to pick the winners of each category…

Opening ceremony

The Olympics kicked off in style as director Danny Boyle silenced the naysayers with an electrifying opening ceremony. Described as "bonkers" and "breathtaking" in equal measure, Boyle's creation celebrated British history and culture; from Kenneth Branagh's rendition from Shakespeare's The Tempest to rapper Dizzee Rascal.

In a quintessentially British performance, there was even a cameo appearance by the Queen, who appeared to parachute into the stadium accompanied by James Bond, while comedy legend Mr Bean played 'Chariots of Fire' on a keyboard.

David Beckham delivered the Olympic flame via speedboat, but the honour of lighting the cauldron went to seven budding Olympians, who ignited 204 copper petals, brought into the stadium by the participating nations, which closed like a flower to form the cauldron to signify unity.

Sir Chris Hoy

Sir Chris Hoy was denied the chance to go for three golds in London, but that did not stop the great Scot becoming the most successful British Olympian in history.

After striking gold in the team sprint, the crowd nearly blew the roof off the Velodrome as Hoy capped a 12-year Olympic career by winning gold No. 6 with victory in the keirin to surpass Sir Steve Redgrave.

"This is the perfect end to my Olympic career," he said. "I look back to Sydney and I was over the moon to have a silver. If I'd have stopped then I'd be happy. No more Olympics, I'm 99.9% sure I won't be there in Rio. How can you top this, this is phenomenal."

Honourable mentions

  • Andy Murray Tennis: Just three weeks after his defeat to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final, Murray returned to the All England Club, beating Federer to win men's singles gold before adding mixed doubles silver with Laura Robson.
  • Ben Ainslie Sailing: In a dramatic finale, Ainslie won his fourth gold to become the most successful Olympic sailor in history
  • Katherine Grainger Rowing: After three successive silver medals in Sydney, Athens and Beijing, Grainger finally struck gold with Anna Watkins in the women's double sculls.
  • Bradley Wiggins Cycling: After becoming the first British winner of the Tour de France, Wiggins capped a glorious summer, blitzing to gold in the men's time trial.
  • Nicola Adams Boxing: Women's boxing captured the public's imagination on its Olympic debut and Adams sealed her place in the history books as she became the first women's Olympic boxing champion with gold in the women's flyweight division.

Usain Bolt

The fastest man on the planet arrived in London with a big ego and an even bigger challenge on his hands - to become the first man to successfully defend both his 100m and 200m Olympic titles. He had lost to training partner Yohan Blake in the Jamaican trials, but that did not stop Usain Bolt swaggering his way to another three gold medals.

Chatting to a volunteer just seconds before his 200m final, the Jamaican delivered a royal wave to his adoring fans before romping to victory in trademark fashion.

He then stole a photographer's camera to take photos of Blake before signing off in style with victory in the 4x100m relay on the final night in the stadium, sharing the limelight with British long distance hero Mo Farah as the pair swapped their signature celebrations; Farah striking the 'Lightning Bolt' pose while Bolt pulled the 'Mobot'.

Jessica Ennis

Poster girl Jessica Ennis smashed her own British record as she kicked off a golden night for British athletics with victory in the heptathlon.

Ennis quite literally burst out of the blocks with a British record in the hurdles, before producing lifetime bests in the 200m and the javelin to leave her streets ahead of her rivals ahead of the final event.

The 800m was essentially a two-lap victory parade, but Ennis refused to take it easy, and fell agonisingly short of the magical 7000-point barrier - her score of 6955 saw her finish more than 300 points clear of silver medallist Lilli Schwarzkopf.

"I told myself at the start that I'm only going to have one moment to do this in front of a crowd in London and I just wanted to give them a good show," Ennis said.

Mo Farah

If Beijing 2008 was Usain Bolt's coming out party, London was where Mo Farah became a global superstar.

Previously the bridesmaid of long distance running, Farah became a national hero on a glorious night for Britain in the Olympic Stadium, with victory in the 10,000m.

Spurred on by a patriotic home crowd, Farah did not panic when he fell off the pace in the early stages, making his move just before the bell to streak to an historic victory. The 'Mobot' was to make a second appearance a week later as he became only the seventh man in history to win both the 5000m and 10,000m titles on the final night of the Games.

Vote for your favourite Olympic moment here

What was the defining moment of the Olympics?
Usain Bolt's sprint success0%
Sir Chris Hoy's British gold record0%
Jess Ennis in the Heptathlon0%
Mo Farah's double0%
Opening Ceremony magic0%

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