Exactly a year ago London and the UK were graced with the presence of the greatest athletes in the world competing at the highest level for the most prestigious prizes.
The extent of the planning and preparation all became worth it as Sebastian Coe and his team successfully staged one of the country’s greatest ever spectacles, unifying the nation for one month of the best sporting culture and tradition. Now, one year on, some of our sporting heroes have gone from strength to strength in their professions and adapted to the increased media attention, whilst in other cases controversy exists amid the debate over cheating and drug scandals.
In terms of our favourite medal winners, Andy Murray has probably achieved the most since claiming gold in the tennis at Wimbledon. His emphatic win over Roger Federer in last summer’s final was used as a springboard to immediate success in the US Open, defeating Novak Djokovic to claim his first ever Grand Slam title and the first by a British male in 76 years. His success did not finish there though as the Scot went onto reach the final at the Australian Open before recently capturing the holy grail of British tennis; a first Wimbledon title just 3 weeks ago. Murray’s on court success has also helped to create a rather different off court persona to what British fans had previously defined him by. His teary reaction to last year’s defeat at SW19 and emotions after winning the gold medal increased his popularity immensely, highlighted by the nation’s overwhelming support during this year’s Wimbledon championships.
Double Olympic Champion and hero of last year’s unforgettable Super Saturday in the Olympic Arena, Mo Farah, has been propelled into the country’s limelight as an icon and idol to all up and coming competitors. His success in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres and infamous ‘Mobot’ celebration has helped him become one of the country’s favourite faces and placed him up there with some of the best athletes Great Britain has ever produced. Farah has now set himself a goal of competing in next year’s London Marathon, running half of this year’s event in preparation as he makes the transition from different forms of long distance running. In this weekend’s London Anniversary Games, moved from the usual Crystal Palace venue to the Olympic stadium to mark the event, Farah comfortably won the 3000m to highlight he is still committed to the shorter distances too.
Last year’s pin up girl Jessica Ennis has had similar fame and fortune to Farah. She became Jessica Ennis-Hill in May as she got married to her long term boyfriend, whilst also becoming the face of huge advertising campaigns with Sky TV and Lucozade. The Sheffield girl even had a stand named after her at the home of local football team Sheffield United. Unfortunately, her track performance has been hampered by a recurring achilles tendon injury which has raised concerns about her ability to compete in the upcoming World Championships in Moscow. She, like Farah, competed in the Anniversary Games but used it more as a test for her injury than the opportunity to win the heptathlon.
Britain has always had a reputation for producing competitive boxers and Anthony Joshua continued that trend by winning gold in the Superheavyweight event last summer. His career recently took a huge step forward as he announced he was to leave the amateur circuit and turn professional. The 23 year old has signed a deal with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Organisation and his debut fight will be at London’s O2 Arena in October. He will hope to emulate the success of previous Olympic champions Amir Khan and James DeGale.
In terms of the impact the Olympics had a on a single sport then Women’s football has to be regarded as benefiting the upmost from the Games. The success of Team GB and the attraction the sport gained during the competition has set the foundations for women’s football to really establish itself in the nation’s eye. A new Women’s Super League has been created with the sport getting far greater exposure by the BBC both online and via television. There was also huge television coverage for the recent European Championships which Germany won for the 6th time in a row.
Nevertheless, the problems surrounding performance enhancing drugs has not gone away and in the last month athletics has had a dark cloud cast over it. Usain Bolt, the sport’s greatest athlete, has come out as saying he will always remain clean in response to two of his main rivals and previous Olympic medallists, Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell, being found guilty of cheating the law. The Olympics itself had very few issues with drug cheats but athletics now has a growing reputation for problems after previous controversies surrounding Marion Jones, Justin Gatlin and Dwain Chambers to name but a few.
Despite these lingering issues one bonus that can be taken out of the scandal is that very few British athletes seem to have been caught up in the issue. Our heroes from last year’s event are setting the greatest precedent by achieving at the highest levels yet simultaneously having exemplary medical records. Whether its Murray, Wiggins, Farah, Ennis or Weir, the Olympics has provided the nation with the greatest icons to be proud of whilst creating a legacy of further British sporting success. One year on their achievements still live fresh in the memory and more importantly provide the springboard for the next generation to follow in their footsteps.