Anyone familiar with my articles will know by now that I should have stopped making predictions long ago. Yesterday, I boldly suggested that Britain could have their first gold before everyone got home from work, with world number 1 David Florence going in the canoe slalom individual final. In the end, I couldn’t have been more wrong. In the semi-final, Florence started slowly, and crashed into the tricky gate 18, incurring a two second penalty, which added to a lacklustre run put him into 6th place with the top four qualifiers still to go. All of those four overcame his time, and leaving him outside the top 8 who went through to the final. As a silver medallist in Beijing, who lives nearby to the Lee Valley Centre which is the venue for the event where Florence has trained for the last 18 months, he was as close to a favourite as the knife-edge sport of canoe slalom gets. On the other hand, he scraped into the semis with one awful run and one average run, and the pressure of expectation already appeared to have overcome him.
On day 4, he was by no means the only one to struggle with a roaring home crowd behind him. Ellen Gandy, a world silver medallist, failed to qualify for the semi-finals of the 200m butterfly, although there was some good news as Jemma Lowe did in the same event, and third-fastest to boot. There was more agony in the diving pool, as Britain’s women’s 10m platform synchro team produced a remarkably similar performance to the men, finding themselves in 2nd after two dives, only to make a key mistake on their first higher-difficulty dive, an error from which they never really recovered, as the European champions Couch and Barrow finished in 5th place.
It was not all doom and gloom though, as Team GB picked up another silver in the 3-day eventing, which is the only event (apart from the other equestrian events) in which men and women compete in the same category. Dressage (horse-dancing as far as I can tell), cross-country (which is just as gruelling as when you used to do it at school, only on a horse, and with 6-foot fences), and showjumping make up the 3 days, and Britain, having fallen to fourth after dressage, moved into second on day 3 of the Games in the cross-country, and secured the team silver medal with an excellent showjumping performance. The most remarkable member of the team was Mary King, a name synonymous with equestrianism in Britian, who became the second oldest ever women to win a medal for Great Britain at the age of 51, competing in her 6th consecutive Olympics. I challenge anyone to call her “middle-aged”. Mrs Mike Tindall (I think she prefers Zara…Ed.) was also in the team. In the individual, Sweden’s Sara Algotsson Ostholt was seconds away from becoming the sport’s first Olympic champion, only to bring down the final fence, costing her the gold medal. Anyone who says horse-riding is boring to watch might have had their mind changed today.
There is more British interest tonight as well. The women’s gymnastics team are competing in the final as I write, and the hockey, water polo, and beach volleyball teams are all in action tonight, along with hosts of other nations doing everything and anything frankly…The big finals for Brits tonight come in the pool: Caitlin McClatchey in the 200m freestyle, and Hannah Miley in the 200m individual medley. Watch out for Phelps vs Clary as well in the 200m butterfly final, which could be tasty after Tyler Clary claimed that Phelps “doesn’t work that hard”…
I’ll be back tonight with a round-up of all the swimming, fights and some of the more obscure sports.