Ed Clancy got Yorkshire’s first gold medal of London 2012 last night with the floodgates set to burst open on ‘Super Saturday’.
Twenty-five gold medals are up for grabs today on the busiest day of the Games with Sheffield’s Jessica Ennis on course to fulfil her Olympic destiny in the heptathlon as she takes a handsome lead into today’s final three events.
Hebden’s Andrew Triggs Hodge is poised to defend the gold medal he won in Beijing in the men’s four while the North Yorkshire duo of rower Katherine Copeland and long jumper Chris Tomlinson also go for glory.
British athletes were feted on the podium seven times yesterday as they climbed up to fourth in the medal table.
Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins took gold on the lake and Victoria Pendleton gloriously so in the velodrome.
But it is Clancy who is the toast of the White Rose this morning.
The 27-year-old, who was born in Barnsley and raised in Huddersfield, was the driving force of the team pursuit squad that shattered their own world record in completing a successful defence of the Olympic title they won four years ago in Beijing.
And last night Clancy hailed his gold in London as that little bit sweeter than the one he and the team won in 2008.
“In Beijing I thought ‘you’ll never top that’, but this is different,” he said as he looked up in acknowledgement of a packed velodrome.
“There was a lot of pressure on us, not just because we’re Team GB at a home Olympics but because we’re defending champions and the public expects.
“I think it makes it more meaningful, more for the fact that we’ve lost a lot of bike races along the way.”
The road taken since Beijing has not been a smooth one for the pursuit team with world titles lost and a defeat in the London velodrome suffered in February.
But they beat rivals Australia Down Under at the world championships in April and set two world records over the last two days, the latter a time of 3mins 51.659secs against the Australia quartet in last night’s final.
“We could have gone even lower,” said Clancy of the form he Geraint Thomas, Steven Burke and Pete Kennaugh have shown.
“Not many people know this but Geraint had a good dose of food poisoning a week ago and if he was on his A game we’d have gone quicker.
“He’s one of the best riders in the world.”
Of that defeat to Australia at the World Cup meet in February, which gave their bitter rivals false hope, Clancy said: “We always knew when the Aussies turned us over here that we had more to come.
“British Cycling is all about the Olympics, the process, and we knew there would be ups and downs.
“It’s not nice losing events and seeing the best in the world go past us. But we knew we had more to come in terms of tapering down and freshening up. We saw London (February) pretty much as a training ride.
“We said that at the time but I guess not everybody believes us.”
If they did not before they will now.
Gold for Clancy took Yorkshire’s haul from these Games to four medals, following on from the silvers of Otley’s Lizzie Armitstead in the road race and Northallerton’s Nicola Wilson in the team eventing. City of York club rower Tom Ransley also won bronze in the men’s eight.
It should get better still with Hodge and Ennis on the verge today.
Gold for the team pursuit squad and for Pendleton yesterday took the British cycling squad onto four Olympic titles, following Sir Chris Hoy’s team sprint win and Bradley Wiggins’s time-trial triumph.
They won eight in Beijing, an unprecedented haul that many believed would be difficult to repeat. But Dave Brailsford’s flying machines are halfway there with Hoy to come again in the keirin and Pendleton in the sprint over the next four days.
The women’s team pursuit squad set the quickest time in qualifying for tonight’s first round and final by lowering the world record, and Laura Trott is tipped to win the omnium.
Taking the British seat in the men’s omnium, which begins this morning, is none other than Yorkshire hero Clancy.
Team pursuit has always been his priority, with the omnium more of an added bonus.
But he won the world title in the multi-event discipline in 2010 and if can get himself prepared mentally and physically for the 10am flying lap, then who knows, come tomorrow night we could be crowning Clancy as a three-time Olympic champion.
“It’s possible,” he said.
“Mentally I’ve put a lot into this team pursuit, physically I’ve put everything into it, as I always do.
“For the omnium I’m guessing I’ll ride a good pursuit, a good kilo and a good lap, but I’ll struggle in the bunch races as I always do.
“I’ve got an all-right chance to get a medal but equally an all-right chance of finishing ninth or 10th.
“I’ll get stuck in, I’ll give it everything I’ve got.
“If it works out, great, if not...”
There was no need for Clancy to finish the sentence. He has already accomplished more than most as a two-time Olympic champion.
Pendleton also has two. She said: “This is by far the most important victory of my life.
“I think a lot of people wrote me off after the 2011 worlds.
“A lot of people thought that I had passed my best and I just wanted to prove them wrong. This does feel pretty good.”