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Britain celebrates Olympic gold rush

08/05/2012 05:21 EDT | Updated 10/05/2012 05:12 EDT
Britain's Olympic team promised big things at the London Games. This weekend, they delivered.

In a remarkably short period of time, Team Great Britain racked up multiple gold medals, sending their country rocketing up the medals table to third spot behind China and the United States.

The medals have come fast and furious. At London's Olympic Stadium on Saturday night, it felt like the last echoes of applause from one victory had just ended when another one began.

Track-and-field star Jessica Ennis — an athlete who has become the face of the 2012 Olympic Games in Britain — took the top prize in heptathlon in front of 80,000 screaming fans.

Her feat was followed by victories by her teammates Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah. Rutherford won gold in long jump, while Farah waited to the final stretch of the men’s 10,000-metre race to pull ahead of the pack and finish first.

It all happened in the space of 45 minutes.

Farah, a Somalia-born British runner, provided one of the most poignant moments of these Games. Moments after his victory, he was joined on the track by his pregnant wife and young daughter. The two beamed at Farah and waved the Union Jack as they embraced the country’s newest Olympic champion.

Earlier in the day — dubbed "Super Saturday" in the British press — Britain’s women cyclists took gold at the velodrome and its rowers took another two. The grand total for Team GB, an incredible six gold medals in one day.

A golden boost

Sebastian Coe, the head of the London Olympic organizing committee could only gush glowingly, calling it "the greatest day of sport I have ever witnessed."

"I dreamt that we would have a night like that. But not in my wildest dreams did I think that it would actually unfold in the way that it did."

But Team GB's achievements didn’t end on Super Saturday. There were more medals to come on Sunday.

At Wimbledon, tennis star Andy Murray triumphed against his Swiss rival Roger Federer. Murray was left in tears just a month earlier when Federer defeated him in the Wimbledon final. But on this day, Murray shut down his opponent in straight sets to win gold.

Following his win, Murray climbed into the stands to celebrate with his girlfriend and family. He called his victory the biggest win of his life and said he drew inspiration from the performance of his fellow Team GB athletes.

"It gave me a boost coming in today," he said. "The momentum the team's had the last couple of days has been so good."

Murray went on to win silver in mixed doubles tennis.

Years in the making

On Sunday, British sailor Ben Ainslie also made history, becoming the world's most decorated Olympic sailor after winning his fourth gold medal in his fifth consecutive Olympic Games.

After one of the most successful two days in their country’s sporting history, British sports fans were delirious.

At Wimbledon, where a sold-out crowd cheered on Andy Murray, fans could hardly believe how well the home team has been doing.

“Super Saturday and Super Sunday," said Emily Matthews. "It’s just a super weekend."

"We’ve just done brilliantly, moved up the medal table. I mean you can’t ask more from such a little island."

Britain’s success has been years in the making. Since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the country has ramped up spending on amateur sport.

It has its own version of Canada’s Own the Podium program, a system that targets elite athletes for support and focuses on sports most likely to produce Olympic medals.

Going into the London Games, Team GB's stated intention was to win more medals than the 47 it took home in Beijing. After this incredible weekend, they're a lot closer to that goal.

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