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The key moments of London 2012

posted 13 Aug 2012, 02:11 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 13 Aug 2012, 02:12 ]

The London Olympics were packed with sporting highlights, dramas and emotional highs and lows. Here are some of those moments from the Games.

LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (AUGUST 12, 2012) (REUTERS) - The London Olympics were packed with sporting highlights, dramas and emotional highs and lows. Here are some of those moments from the Games.

Usain Bolt wins, the world's fastest man and his Jamaica relay team mates provided three of the enduring moments of the Games. The showman opened his campaign with a Games record in the 100 metres, followed up by becoming the first man to retain his titles in the 100 and 200m - where Jamaica finished 1-2-3 - and then anchored the 4x100 relay to a world record time.

The moment where Bolt and Yohan Blake caught each others' eyes as they crossed the finish line in the 200, with the winner putting his finger to his lips to silence the young pretender, was a classic moment of theatre.

"I'm feeling great, I'm happy I did what I did. I came here to become a legend and I am now so I'm very happy with myself," Bolt said after winning his third gold medal in London and sixth in total.

"It's a wonderful feat. We always come out here and give it our best. Last time we did great, this time we did great. So for me it was an honour to share with these guys to do these wonderful things and to do extraordinary things so I'm very happy.

"I'm not even worried about that right now. Right now it's just about fun and enjoyment."

Michael Phelps bows out with a record medal haul. The greatest of swimmers and possibly the greatest Olympian of all time, said farewell with one last immense performance for the U.S. relay team in the men's 4x100m medley. He finished with 18 career golds, and 22 in total. Phelps had done everything he set out to achieve. The world of swimming has lost a titan of the pool.

"As soon as I stepped up on to the podium I could feel the tears start coming, and I said to Nathan 'uh oh here they come, this could be pretty brutal up here', and they just started coming, and I tried to fight it and I just decided to let it go," Phelps said. "Whatever happened happened and just take in these last moments of my swimming career."

Ye Shiwen won two golds in London but her smashing of the 400 metres individual medley world record, with a time five seconds faster than her personal best, was astonishing.

Suggestions from a top American coach that it was, in fact, altogether unbelievable and might be a result of banned substances triggered a firestorm in China where many saw the accusations as biased and racist.

"If you think about it, we have never challenged athletes who win gold medals from other countries, even those who won several of them," Ye said in an interview with CCTV.

"Why do I get questioned after just winning one?

"Because our training, I believe, is harder and more tiring compared to swimmers from other countries. In the very least, we really have made a huge effort to prepare for the Olympic Games."

The last three Olympics had been a comedy of errors for the United States women's 4x100m relay team, with botched baton exchanges keeping them off the top of the podium track, but they got their act together in style this time. Their record, a sizzling 40.82 seconds, smashed the world mark of 41.37 set by the old East Germany in 1985.

It also saw Allyson Felix complete the hat-trick of the 200m, 4x100m and 4x400m titles during her Olympic career.

David Rudisha won the 800 metres and broke his own world record, which was hailed by Games chairman Seb Coe as the standout performance of the Olympics.

Certainly, anyone there that night will never forget the sight of him streaking away from gun to tape to win in one minute 40.91 seconds. A dazzling, unbelievable show of strength.

"You know, coming to these Championships I was very confident, and I prepared myself well, and there was no doubt," Rudisha said. "You can see even when we started that race I was confidently going the front, I knew I can control the race, I knew I was in 1:40 shape, it was just a matter of time to do it, maybe this year.

"But to do it here was something fantastic. So I knew nobody was going to challenge me."

After years of battling for Olympic inclusion, female fighters finally had their moment. The first to take gold in the ring was 29-year-old British flyweight Nicola Adams whose

previous jobs included tiling and working as an extra in television shows. The gold won, she looked forward to a chicken dinner.

"It's still all sinking in," Adams said shortly after winning the gold. "I can't believe what I've achieved today. It's definitely a childhood dream come true."

When Mo Farah won the 5,000m gold to add to the 10,000m title he won the week before that even Bolt was moved to do the 'Mobot', the M-shaped hands-on-head gesture after Farah's 5,000m win.

Mogadishu-born but proudly British, Farah's feat was hailed as the greatest in the country's athletic history. The first Briton to win a long-distance gold, he was only the seventh man to do the Olympic 5,000/10,000 double.

"In my head I was telling myself: 'I'm going to get there, I have to get there, dig in, dig in'," Farah said. "I got great support from the crowd and it gave me a bit more boost that extra 10 per cent I think came from the crowd"

Lithuanian Olympic swimming champion Ruta Meilutyte was relatively unknown before the Olympics but she returned home to Vilnius, a hero.

The 15-year-old became the country's first Olympic swimming gold medallist when she won the women's 100 metres breaststroke.

Meilutyte had to do it the hard way, surviving a fierce challenge from American Rebecca Soni, the reigning world champion in the event, and just holding her off at the death.

Meilutyte lives with her father, Saulius Meilutis, in Plymouth, England where she studies and trains but teenager plans to stay in Lithuania for a few weeks to rest and relax before the new school year begins.

Meilutyte attends Plymouth College, a fee-paying school with a respected elite swimming programme, and is also the school where British diver Tom Daley studies.

"It still hasn't really sunk in yet," Meilutyte said. "But, yeah, all this attention, I think it's great for developing swimming in my country. I still can't believe what I did. I think I need a couple of days to kind of recover from it."

The 'Hoy Wonder' that is Chris Hoy shed tears of joy after winning his sixth Olympic cycling gold to become Britain's most decorated Olympian.

At 36 years of age Hoy won both the keirin and team sprint gold medals to take his Olympic medal tally to seven.

But Hoy insisted former British rower Steve Redgrave's achievement of winning five gold medals over five Olympics was a better feat than his own.

"On paper when you look, technically I've got six gold medals, that's more than Steve Redgrave," Hoy said. "But Steve Redgrave won five at consecutive Games. The way he did it, the way he carried the whole team in Atlanta, the only gold medal for the whole team, he and Matt Pinsent. He's been an inspiration to me and to most of the team as well, I'm sure."

Bradley Wiggins is another British cyclist who had a summer to remember. After becoming the first Briton to ever win the Tour de France he went on to become the first ever cyclist to win the Tour and the Olympic individual time trial title in the same year.

"This last six weeks I don't think I'm ever going to top in my sporting career now; winning the Tour and coming back and winning a home Olympic Games and a fourth Olympic gold medal," said Wiggens shortly after winning the gold. "I still can't believe I won a fourth Olympic gold medal. A vodka tonic helps I tell you."

British sailor Ben Ainslie also entered the history books after winning his fourth successive gold medal. Ainslie won a silver at Atlanta in 1996 and since then has one a gold medal at every Games.

President Barack Obama wants to meet her, Oprah Winfrey shed 'happy tears' for her and her surname is an anagram of 'USA Gold'.

America fell in love with gymnast Gabby Douglas, the 'Flying Squirrel' who became the first African American to win an Olympic title in the women's individual all-round event.

"I can go home and say I'm still the Olympic champion, the first African-American to win the all-round individual medal so I still went down in history," Douglas said. "I can go home thinking of that. I gave it my all I put a lot of effort into it so I can say I finished strong, I finished like a champion."

Italian fencer Valentina Vezzali became one of only four athletes in the history of the Summer Olympic Games to have won five medals in the same individual event when she won bronze in the women's foil individual. The three other athletes to achieve the feat are German shooter Ralf Schumann, the Slovak slalom canoeist Michal Martikan and the Japanese female judoka Ryoko Tani.

Vezzali also made it six Olympic golds by helping Italy win the Foil team gold.

South African 'Blade Runner' Oscar Pistorius made history by being the first double amputee to compete in the Olympic Games. The runner competed in the 400m individual and 4x400m relay which South Africa made the final.

There are questions about whether Pistorius' prosthetic legs give him an advantage but the South African dismisses these claims.

"There's no doubt that, you know, what (former champion sprinter) Michael Johnson says about the development of prosthetic legs, that one day they will be able to make a prosthetic leg, if not already, that could give you an advantage, probably for a lot less money than what we have at the moment," Pistorius said.

"But at the moment, what I believe in is the fairness of sport and at the moment the prosthetic leg that we're using and which is deemed to be not providing an advantage, you know I'm pretty happy using that."

There were a number of doping cases which marred the Games but the most memorable case will be the one of Olympic 50 km race walk champion Alex Schwazer who wept before a packed room of reporters as he described how he purchased and took EPO, and expressed weariness for his sport two days after being excluded from the London games for doping.

The athlete said he had continued to race walk despite wanting to give up because of external pressure, and that he probably decided to take EPO because he was worried about being able to perform in both the 20 km race and the 50 km race.

"With the Olympics ahead of me I was no longer lucid, the pressure that I felt, coming above all from myself, the expectations I had, of returning, I was not able to say no to this decision to use doping for the 2012 Olympics and I made this great mistake," Schwazer said in an hour-long news conference.

Badminton was also in the headlines for the wrong reasons. China's Olympic badminton team chief had to make a public apology following the deliberate throwing of matches.

Eight players were thrown out of the Games for throwing matches in a bid to secure more favourable draws later in the tournament.

"As chief coach I really feel I must say sorry to fans and viewers nationwide. It's true that we really didn't display the fighting spirit of China's outstanding badminton team," said Li Yongbo, chief coach of the Chinese badminton team.

Perhaps the most significant story from the London Olympics is it was the first Games where women from Saudi Arabia were allowed to compete.

The kingdom sent female athletes ensuring every country competing was represented by both sexes for the first time.

Judoka Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani, a painfully shy teenager with no international experience and wearing an ill-fitting suit and headcovering, made a brave debut in front of a global audience of millions. She lasted only 80 seconds but won plenty of applause nonetheless.

Sarah Attar, meanwhile, competed in the 800m but did not qualify from her heat.

"Such an amazing experience just having that much support, to be one of the first women for Saudi Arabia and to have that many people supporting me was just truly empowering," Attar said.

"I think it really shows that there's progress on its way and that we were allowed to compete it shows that more steps are going to come and that this is just an amazing thing and for women in Saudi Arabia I think it can be inspiring, you know, to not give up on your dreams because it can and will come true."