Yes its a cop out, but we genuinely couldn’t separate out all the London 2012 achievements bar Jennis who only gets a separate mention for dealing with all the initial hype pre Olympics and still kicking ass. Well we could, but it would have taken us a long time. To summarise however, the Olympics and Paralympics provided a world stage for women to prove their worth and the seriousness of their sport and prove it they did.
It was the female athletes who did things first for Great Britain. Whilst the nation’s eyes were on Mark Cavendish to bring home a medal, it was Lizzie Armistead instead who put us on the medal table after a hard fought battle up the mall against her rival Marianne Vos. And although Team GB went on to win 29 golds in everything from shooting to Taekwondo, rowers Glover and Stanning not only won the first gold medal ever for women’s rowing, but at the same time also instigated the now legendary Team GB gold rush.
The Games themselves also saw many firsts for female athletes worldwide. For the first time ever every country competing in London 2012 included female athletes in their squad. Sarah Attar and Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani became the first women to compete for Saudi Arabia whilst Habiba Ghribi became the first Tunisian woman to ever win her country a medal. Not only did women’s boxing début at London 2012 but Nicola Adams cemented herself in boxing history by being the first woman ever to win a gold medal in the sport. Dressage, judo and gymnastics also saw Team GB female athlete’s names etched into the record books. Over in the Paralympics, amongst all the records set and medals won, Jessica-Jane Applegate also became the first intellectually disabled swimmer to win gold for Team GB.
Its amazing how many achievements, records and rules were set, broken and re-made in those two sets of two weeks last summer, especially for the world of women’s sport. The Olympic and Paralympic games televised to the entire world the ability of female athletes and although the progress for equality and recognition in sport is still moving slowly for women, London 2012 certainly pushed the agenda along. There’s always a first for everything.
The wonderful thing about ‘moments’ is that they’re so readily re-definable. Such it can be that JEnnis’ remarkable sprint down the home stretch of the 800m, Ellie Simmonds’ heart-in-mouth overhaul final 50m to peg back Victoria Arlen or Steph Houghton’s rocket of a free kick against New Zealand before the Olympics had even officially begun can be individual moments worthy of celebration, while concurrently we can say without a second’s hesitation that London 2012, Olympic and Paralympic, was a moment in itself that we can never forget.
And what a moment it was. Consigned to history they may well be, but who will ever forget the emotions felt in the midst of some of the summer’s greatest single achievements? Sarah Storey’s frankly terrifying domination of the Paralympic cycling events, Trott-King-Roswell rewriting record books every single time they took to the velodrome, Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins finally putting the golden touch to a golden competitive career, Christine Ohuruogu’s astonishing 400m finish to come within metres of taking successive Olympic Gold medals, Hannah Cockroft’s infectious joy as she dominated the T34 sprints, Charlotte Dujardin and Sophie Christiansen emerging as true equestrian stars in both ‘lympic forms, Beth Tweddle finally achieving her overdue Olympic medal, Jade Jones high-kicking her way to Taekwondo Gold – all these and more delivered the most remarkable of Great British medal counts.
Outside of the patriotic, Serena Williams’ near-perfect procession to tennis gold, Ye Shiwen’s eye-popping destruction of all received-wisdom on female swimming (we’re choosing to take the clean assumption of her victory), Missy Franklin proving US swimming goes beyond Lochte and Phelps, McKayla Maroney inspiring a world of memes (okay, that one’s just cruel – but what a demonstration of the Olympic will to win) amongst many, many others were all symptomatic of the wealth of astonishing female sporting talent that populated London for a few short weeks in the summer.
The even more wonderful thing about ‘moments’ is how such a small thing can have such a vast impact in many moments to come. The importance of legacy cannot be understated and the challenge, inevitable, is to continue the ‘lympic moment into 2013 and beyond. Women’s sport has taken strides that could barely have been foreseen even 12 short months ago, and the ladies above are all trailblazers – within their own sports, for recognition of the wider female competitive sporting world and, critically, for an appreciation that exercise and active lifestyles for women are something that should be supported for the good of all.
Wouldn’t it be great if the number 1 moment of 2013 could be the point at which we decided not to squander the greatest moment of 2012?
Let’s start today.