Rio 2016 has begun, and already swimmer Adam Peaty has joined the ranks of Great Britain's great Olympians, twice breaking the world record on the way to a crushing triumph in the 100m breaststroke. But how does Peaty's gold compare to the famed moments of Olympics past? Starting from Moscow 1980, relive ten Olympic triumphs for Britain in each of the last ten Games. The Nineties were a struggle...
Sebastian Coe v Steve Ovett – Moscow, 1980
Some names are inextricably linked: Ali-Frazier, Federer-Nadal, Fischer-Spassky. Mention Coe-Ovett to those of a certain age and their eyes shall immediately grow distant as they relive one of Britain’s great sporting rivalries. Moscow saw its pinnacle as each won the other’s favoured event: Ovett winning the 800m, with Coe second, before Coe hit back to claim the 1500m, with Ovett third – the latter's first defeat at that distance in over three years. While illness prevented Ovett adding to his medal tally four years later, Coe became the first – and to date only – man to defend the 1500m Olympic title.
Daley Thompson breaks the decathlon world record – Los Angeles, 1984
Daley Thompson was a born winner. He twice claimed decathlon gold, yet never attained the place in sporting folklore occupied by the likes of Seb Coe, Steve Redgrave or Paula Radcliffe. His notoriously brusque manner with fans and opponents alike made Thompson hard to love – but it’s impossible not to admire the brilliance of the man on track and field. Due to the mastery of ten separate events required to compete in the decathlon, the Olympic champion is given the unofficial title of World’s Greatest Athlete. Thompson was the World’s Greatest Athlete twice over – and rivalled Tom Selleck for the title of World’s Greatest Moustache.
1988 and all that: Great Britain's hockey heroes – Seoul, 1988
Granted, it may not be the most famous final victory against West Germany, but Great Britain’s 3-1 triumph in Seoul is just as momentous as you-know-when. British hockey doesn’t exactly have a storied history; indeed, 1988 remains a glorious anomaly, the only male victory as Great Britain. (The ‘England’ team won a couple in the early 20th century.) Secured on foreign soil and in unspeakable heat and humidity, this victory deserves to remembered as one of the great unlikely sporting triumphs. “Where were the Germans?” whooped commentator Barry Davies after the third goal. “But frankly, who cares.”
Derek Redmond and his dad finish together – Barcelona 1992
Poor Quincy Watts. The American enjoyed a marvellous Barcelona, twice breaking the Olympic record in the men’s 400m on his way to a magnificent gold. But his achievement will always be overshadowed by Derek Redmond’s hamstring injury in the semi-final, and his tearful limping over the finish line on the shoulder of his father. While Watts is the name in the record books, Derek and Jim Redmond entered Olympic folklore, immortalised in countless advertising campaigns, motivational videos, TV shows and articles like this one. If you’re feeling fragile, treat the above clip with caution: crying in the office is rarely a good look.
Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent salvage (a little) British pride – Atlanta 1996
OK, so you expected rowing – but you probably expected Sydney 2000, in which Steve Redgrave become the first Olympian to win gold medals at five consecutive Games. However while Sydney was the crowning achievement of an extraordinary career, Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent’s gold in Atlanta is arguably the more significant achievement for Great Britain. Why? Because it was the only gold we won. The eminently un-great Britain finished in 36th position, with 15 medals in total and below Kazakhstan in the table. Between them Redgrave and Pinsent won nine gold medals in six Olympics – this remains the one for which we should be most grateful.
Denise Lewis overcomes injury and the field – Sydney 2000
Whereas the merits of certain Olympic disciplines may be questionable – race walking? Really? – nobody can argue with heptathlon. Consisting of seven separate events, merely to compete as a heptathlete requires supreme skill and endurance; to win a gold medal demands otherworldly respect. Yet in Sydney 2000 Denise Lewis won heptathlon gold – and she did so after injuring her left foot in the long jump. Running the 800m with a bandaged lower leg, Lewis finished well enough to retain her points lead and secure instant national hero status.
Kelly Holmes and her wonderful face – Athens 2004
The best bit of Kelly Holmes’s victory in the 800m isn’t the actual race itself - although it was a classic, Holmes squeaking home by five-hundredths of a second. Yet it’s Holmes’s reaction that brings a smile on every watch – a journey from uncertainty, to hope, to euphoria to joyous disbelief in a matter of seconds. Many great novels are less eloquent than Holmes’s wonderfully expressive face as the realisation of her victory dawns. In 2003, plagued by injury, she was diagnosed with clinical depression and sought refuge in self-harm. Now she had triumphed in the 800 metres, an event she only entered five days before the finals. She won the 1500m five days later.
Chris Hoy's triple triumph – Beijing 2008
In truth Chris Hoy deserves a list unto himself. As the figurehead of Britain’s glorious emergence as a cycling powerhouse, Hoy has pocketed seven Olympic medals, six of the golden variety. Three of those golds were won in four days at Beijing 2008, Hoy becoming the first British Olympian for over a century to win a trio of golds at one Games. As if that weren’t enough, he then submitted an interview answer for the ages. Asked, “What does Chris Hoy think of Chris Hoy?” Chris Hoy replied: “Chris Hoy thinks that the day Chris Hoy refers to Chris Hoy in the third person is the day Chris Hoy disappears up his own arse.” Masterful.
Super Saturday: say no more – London 2012
You remember this, don’t you? In 44 unforgettable minutes, Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah won three golds for Team GB. Coupled with the three golds bagged earlier in the traditional strongholds of rowing and cycling, Great Britain had enjoyed its most successful day at the Olympics since 1908. Sebastian Coe described Super Saturday as "the greatest day of sport I have ever witnessed", and a recent poll voted it the greatest sporting moment of all time, ahead of the 1966 World Cup final. Rutherford, Farah and Ennis-Hill should all be competing in their respective finals in the early hours of Sunday August 14. Don’t get an early night.
Adam Peaty wins our first gold – Rio 2016
Rio 2016 may still be incomplete but already a British athlete will struggle to match Adam Peaty’s magnificent achievement in the 100m breaststroke. The 21-year-old broke his own world record by winning in 57.13 seconds and becoming the first male British swimmer to achieve a gold medal since 1988. Peaty won Britain’s first gold of the Games - it’s unlikely to be the last.