London Olympics 2012

/ Features

  • London Olympics 2012: Ten things

A unique Olympic double

Steven Lynch
August 7, 2012
Christa Luding's Olympic feats may never be repeated © Getty Images
Enlarge

Each day of the Games we will bring ten facts you may or may not know about the great sporting spectacle that is the Olympics. Today we have some big names in athletics

At the Velodrome it's the final of the men's keirin, the race which starts with the slightly peculiar sight of a portly gentleman on a motorbike leading the riders around at what seems a sedate speed, and ends in a blur as the contenders sprint for the line. It's one of the events won in Beijing by Chris Hoy, and the missile now known as Sir Chris goes again today, in search of his sixth Olympic gold, which would be a new British record.

And British hopes are high, too, in the women's sprint, where Victoria Pendleton - six times the world champion in this discipline - aims to round off her illustrious career with a third Olympic gold, after winning this title in 2008 and the keirin here in London. The women's sprint was added to the Games programme in 1988, when the silver medallist was East Germany's Christa Luding, who uniquely had won a gold medal in the Winter Olympics (in speed skating) earlier the same year.

On the track it's the final of the 1500m, the race that used - pre-Bolt, perhaps - to be considered the blue riband event of the Games. Those heady days when we wondered which of Coe, Ovett or Cram might routinely win are long gone, and the last four titles have been shared around the African nations. Coe, one of the masterminds behind the 2012 Olympics, remains the only man to win it twice (in 1980 and 1984). In 1952 the 1500m was won by an outsider, Josy Barthel, who remains Luxembourg's one and only summer Olympic gold medallist.

It's also the final of the men's high jump, where Robbie Grabarz, the new European champion, has a chance of Britain's first-ever gold in this event. Germaine Mason took a surprise silver for Britain four years ago in Beijing, while Steve Smith won bronze in 1992 - the first British medal in the high jump since 1908, when Con Leahy (who was actually Irish) took the silver. Meanwhile in the men's discus, one of the favourites is the 40-year-old Lithuanian Virgilijus Alekna, the gold medallist from 2000 and 2004.

One of the oddities of the women's 100m hurdles is that one of its best exponents in the 1990s, Gail Devers, never won the Olympic title. In 1992, she was leading in the closing stages but clipped the final hurdle, stumbled and fell over the line in fifth; four years later she again finished just out of the medals, in fourth. Devers - who had survived Graves' Disease, a serious thyroid problem which at one point made amputation of her feet look likely - did make up for this disappointment in a big way, though, winning the 100 metres flat in Barcelona and retaining the title in Atlanta in 1996.

Before the other athletics finals, the men's 200 metres gets under way, and with it Usain Bolt's quest for a unique double double - seven others have won the 100m and 200m at the same Olympics, but none of them managed a repeat. Arguably the closest was actually by someone who never actually won a gold at all - the popular Namibian sprinter Frankie Fredericks took silver in the 100 and 200m in both 1992 and 1996.

Among the individual medals to be decided in the women's gymnastics is the one for the floor exercises, in which Olga Korbut captivated the world in winning Olympic gold in 1972. Nadia Comaneci and Nellie Kim shared the gold in 1980, since when Comaneci's fellow Romanians have won five of the seven titles. But in 2009, when the world championships were held in London, the gold went to ... Beth Tweddle.

Adjust mirror, apply lipstick: it's time for the synchronised swimming duets, a glitzy event added to the Olympic programme in 1984. It started as a north American preserve - the Americans and Canadians shared the first three golds - but since 2000 the winners have all come from Russia, with the Anastasias, Davydova and Yermakova, winning in Athens and Beijing. Until 1992 there was, rather mystifyingly, a solo competition, but this was sensibly replaced by a team event in 1996.

In the diving pool it's the final of the men's three-metre springboard event, which isn't Tom Daley's specialty - his 2009 world championship was in the 10m platform diving. The springboard gold went to America at every Games from 1920 to 1992, except 1972 and 1980, when Russians won it; since then it's been the preserve of the Chinese. In 1988 Greg Louganis took gold despite famously hitting his head on the board during an early dive, and suffering mild concussion. And the American winner in 1928, Pete Desjardins, might just have the honour of the least catchy sporting nickname of all time: he was apparently known as "The Little Bronze Statue from the Land of Real Estate, Grapefruit and Alligators".

Off the Dorset coast it's time for the medal races in both the men's and women's RS-X category (windsurfing, to the layman). In the men's event Britain's Nick Dempsey is poised for a medal, to accompany the bronze he won in Athens in 2004. Dempsey is married to Sarah Ayton, one of the gold-medal-winning "three blondes in a boat" from the 2004 and 2008 Games.

Today's the day for the male triathletes to strut their stuff around Hyde Park. Britain has never yet won a medal in this event since it was added to the Olympic programme in 2000, despite producing several top-flight triathletes in recent years. This time, though, Team GB has the reigning world champion, Yorkshireman Alistair Brownlee, and the world silver medallist too - Alistair's younger brother Jonathan. What could possibly go wrong?

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Feeds Feeds: ESPN staff

ESPN staff Close