Britain sets best Olympic gold total in 100 years
LONDON — Riding a wave of passionate home support, Britain has now won more Olympic gold medals than at any Summer Games in 104 years.
The British team raised its total of golds to 22 on Tuesday and trails only superpowers China and the United States in the medal table.
Cyclists Chris Hoy and Laura Trott, triathlete Alistair Brownlee and the equestrian dressage team have lifted the tally above the 19-gold haul at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Four years ago, Britain celebrated what was hailed as a sports renaissance for a country accustomed to seeing what Hoy described as "plucky losers."
"I think that's starting to change," said Hoy, now Britain's most successful Olympian with six career gold medals. "You have a group of athletes that have only seen success, and to them, being part of the British team is being part of the winning team."
Beijing set a tough standard, even with the advantage of passionate support on home fields, tracks, roads, lakes, courts and courses.
Now, expectations have been surpassed by athletes and London Games organizers, who were boosted by widespread popular acclaim for the opening ceremony.
"We have shown the world the best face of Britain," Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters in his official Downing Street residence on Tuesday. "Our athletes, both individually and as a team, can be incredibly proud of what they have achieved."
Track cycling venue again showed British athletes and fans performing at their peak.
Hoy's keirin race victory was his second London Olympics success, after being part of the victorious team sprint trio last week. It also lifted the Scottish rider over rowing great Steve Redgrave who won five golds from 1984-2000.
The 36-year-old Hoy wrote another chapter of British Olympic history. With seven medals of all colors, he tied Bradley Wiggins whose gold in the men's road time trial last week was his fourth straight Summer Games with at least one medal.
Trott matched Hoy in adding an individual gold to a team title. The 20-year-old rider won the multi-event omnium three days after helping the women's pursuit team to victory.
The futuristic Velodrome could be remembered as the defining home-team venue of the London Games. The hot, noisy, 6,000-capacity arena saw Britain take seven of 10 gold medals on offer there.
"It was just a matter of winning the first couple of medals to transform the whole thing into a real sports festival," said Dave Brailsford, British Cycling's director of performance.
Brownlee swam, cycled and ran to glory over a 54.5 kilometer (34-mile) course in Hyde Park across town in London's up-market west end — and wrapped himself in national colors to celebrate early.
Grabbing a Union flag from a fan, Brownlee slowed to walking pace to acknowledge the home support before crossing the finish line. His brother Jonathan took the bronze medal.
The 2012 London Olympics is arguably Britain's best-ever, though the record book shows it once won 56 golds and 156 medals overall. That was when London hosted in 1908 and 21 rival countries arrived to take on a home team which supplied one-third of all participating athletes.
It all seems a long time since the typically emotive British press was agonizing over a gold-medal shutout in the first full days of action in London.
"We are where we expected to be at this stage," British Olympic Association chief executive Andy Hunt had said last Tuesday. "There is no sense at all amongst the team that we are not delivering."
If British self-confidence seemed unconvincing seven days earlier, it proved well founded Tuesday.
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