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London 2012 heroes including Ben Ainslie, Bradley Wiggins and Jessica Ennis gave us the time of our lives – Patrick Collins

Thank you, Sir Ben and Sir Bradley, Jessica, Ellie and David for giving us time of our lives

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UPDATED:

00:15 GMT, 30 December 2012

It was towards the end of the Opening Ceremony that a blissful certainty descended. In the space of a single enchanted evening, Danny Boyle had painted a picture of a nation at ease with itself; compassionate, resourceful, diverse and quirky. And as we stumbled away from the stadium, senses reeling from the spectacle, we knew beyond question that Boyle’s masterpiece had set the stunning tone; that London would stage an Olympics for the ages.

The heroes would emerge in golden clusters; Mo and Jessica, Bradley and Victoria, Ben, Andy and all those for whom first names alone now suffice. Over the past few weeks of the awards season, those heroes have been duly feted by a grateful public. Soon they will tramp in massed ranks to the house at the end of The Mall, where a sword will touch deserving shoulders and medals will dangle from worthy lapels.

Arise: Ben Ainslie is one of the Olympic heroes being honoured for their achievements

Arise: Ben Ainslie is one of the Olympic heroes being honoured for their achievements

Pace setter: Bradley Wiggins celebrates winning the Men's Individual Time Trial

Pace setter: Bradley Wiggins celebrates winning the Men's Individual Time Trial

Something to behold: Jessica Ennis flew the flag for Britain as she won the heptathlon

Something to behold: Jessica Ennis flew the flag for Britain as she won the heptathlon

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It is right that they should be rewarded, especially if those rewards help us remember how it felt in the days of high summer, when great deeds were done in stadium and velodrome, on lake and road and in all those arenas which held the country entranced for day after magical day. And not merely the deeds themselves, but the numbers and the passion of those who witnessed them.

Those of us who have followed the Olympic circus down the decades had grown used to stadia being thinly populated for heats or qualifiers or so-called ‘minor’ sports. Not in London. Sebastian Coe had promised that the Games would be watched by capacity crowds. To the amazement of the International Olympic Committee, that promise was emphatically delivered.

The numbers were unprecedented. If tickets were unobtainable, then the public would stand five, ten, 15 deep to cheer on the triathletes, the marathon runners or the road racing cyclists. And not only the British contenders, but each and every Olympian.

The feats of the gods demanded full tribute, of course. Usain Bolt was already installed as a citizen of the world, while the likes of the American swimmer Michael Phelps, and Kenya’s David Rudisha, whose 800 metres world record was perhaps the performance of the entire Games, produced the kind of excellence which far superseded nationality.

But the same approval and admiration was accorded to the overmatched boxer, the outclassed swimmer, and to young Sarah Attar, the first woman athlete from Saudi Arabia to compete in an Olympic arena. Sarah finished more than 30 seconds behind the field in the 800 metres but thunderous cheers told of her ultimate triumph. Somebody asked if she had a message for her countrywomen. ‘I’d tell them: Don’t give up on your dreams,’ said Sarah, and a roomful of reporters began blinking furiously.

Usain and Michael, David and Sarah; we treated them all alike. Never was a Games more welcoming, less partisan. It was an object lesson in how civilised sport should be conducted. In truth, we surprised ourselves. For there was courtesy and friendliness, a willingness to chat with strangers, advise on travel and recommend decent pubs. This was not what visitors expected from Britain, and most certainly not from London. Their surprise was our delight.

Delivered: Sebastian Coe oversaw a fantastic Olympics in front of packed stadiums

Delivered: Sebastian Coe oversaw a fantastic Olympics in front of packed stadiums

Global citizen: Usain Bolt is known all over the world and his popularity increased further still at the Games

Global citizen: Usain Bolt is known all over the world and his popularity increased further still at the Games

What about the golf

If anybody is foolish enough to ask me about the last day of the Ryder Cup, I tell them at some length about standing on the fringe of the 18th green at Medinah, so close to the winning putt that I actually heard Martin Kaymer’s ball fall ‘clonk-clonk-clonk’ into the cup.

And it’s true, at least I think it is. Difficult to tell as, at that moment, the world went mad in celebration of the most incredible recovery in the history of the event.

In any other year, it would have been the outstanding sporting memory. In the year of the London Olympics, it took its place in a long queue.

The same may be said of Rory McIlroy. Being leading money-winner on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as US PGA champion, qualifies him for no more than an honourable mention. Even so, it was a staggering year for the young Irishman.

Naturally, the mood was assisted by the extraordinary success of Team GB. At this nostalgic time of year, the tales of gold are lovingly retold. Even those of us present on the first ‘Super Saturday’ occasionally wonder if it really happened.

But the reality was gold in the women’s team pursuit, gold in the men’s coxless four and gold for Sophie Hosking and Katherine Copeland in the women’s double scull. All of which was a prelude to a night of sheer fantasy in the Olympic Stadium.

Heptathlon gold for Jess Ennis, long
jump gold for Greg Rutherford, 10,000 metres gold for Mo Farah. Lord Coe
called it ‘the greatest day of sport I have ever witnessed’. But it was
even more; with six Olympic gold medals, it was the greatest day that
British sport has ever known.

And so it continued; Wiggins in the time
trial, Murray at Wimbledon and, absurdly, another Super Saturday with Mo
winning an historic 5,000 metres and Bolt’s Jamaicans obliterating the
sprint relay world record.

Magic MOment: Farah crosses the line to win the 5,000m at the London Olympics

Magic MOment: Farah crosses the line to win the 5,000m at the London Olympics

Spectacular: It wasn't just the stadium and the fireworks which looked great

Spectacular: It wasn't just the stadium and the fireworks which looked great

Along with a fierce pride in our city and its people, there was a deep and genuine sadness when the Olympic flame died. We told ourselves that never again would we know such times, nor see such sport. That mournful conviction lasted precisely 17 days.

For, quite astonishingly, the Paralympics were equally compelling. Long before the first week was through, the names of David Weir and Sarah Storey, of Sophie Christiansen and the captivating Ellie Simmonds were rolling off the tongue. Ellie’s 400 metres performance in the Aquatic Centre was equalled only by the drama of the men’s 100 metres, when Britain’s Jonnie Peacock sprinted away from the overwhelming favourite, Oscar Pistorius.

Captivating: Ellie Simmonds (right) was one of the Paralympians who stunned us again and again

Captivating: Ellie Simmonds (right) was one of the Paralympians who stunned us again and again

Thrillers: David Weir and Sarah Storey (below) delighted us during the Paralympics

Thrillers: David Weir and Sarah Storey (below) delighted us during the Paralympics

Sarah Storey

Sarah Storey

The Paralympics were no longer worthy and esoteric. In less than two weeks, they had moved into the mainstream. It was perhaps the most significant advance that British sport made all year. And when they ended, in lachrymose lashings of Coldplay, the melancholy began in earnest.

I remember leaving the Olympic Park on that Sunday evening and boarding the Docklands Light Railway. Across the carriage, in their distinctive purple and red suits, sat a couple of volunteers. They were middle-aged, tired and a little emotional. Unpaid and largely unheeded, they had worked throughout the Olympics, then the Paralympics. Save for a single basketball game, they had seen little live sport.

On that final day, they had completed a double shift, getting up at 6.15 for the early start. It was almost midnight, and their faces were grey with fatigue. Tomorrow, they would become civilians again. They were not looking forward to it. ‘So you enjoyed the Games’ I asked. They smiled at the foolish question. ‘Enjoyed it’ said the man. He shook his head, slowly. ‘It was the best time of our lives.’ In those few words, he had given us the perfect summary of our Olympic summer.

Murray delivers the dream

There were times during 2012 when the bare facts read like tall stories. Andy Murray, Wimbledon finalist, was one thing. Andy Murray, Olympic gold medallist, was another.

And Andy Murray, US Open champion, the first Briton to win a Grand Slam since 1936, was of another order entirely. Yet in the course of his staggering summer, he delivered all three. In a normal era, it would have been a sensational achievement. But in an era containing the finest players the game has known, it was a feat beyond compare.

Enlarge

What a year: Andy Murray memorably won the US Open title in November

What a year: Andy Murray memorably won the US Open title in November

Unless the comparison happened to be with the deeds of Bradley Wiggins. His victory in the time trial at the London Games was his fourth Olympic gold. He also happened to win the Tour de France.

It goes without saying that he was the first Briton ever to do so; the first to scale the mountains, to charge through the valleys, to endure the sprints and the time trials and to ride into Paris in a yellow jersey. He covered 2,173.75 miles and devastated the most formidable field his sport could assemble.

To have a Murray or a Wiggins once in a lifetime would represent lavish prosperity. To have two such athletes in the same astonishing year was sporting wealth beyond measure.

Pietersen keeps finding new ways to steal the limelight

One abiding image of the celebrations which followed England’s series victory in India is of Kevin Pietersen grinning at the camera, the autographs of his team-mates scrawled all over his shirt front. The picture screamed ‘reintegration’, which was presumably what Pietersen wanted to convey.

It was a momentous year for English cricket. A great captain, Andrew Strauss, made way for the youthful Alastair Cook, who also has the whiff of greatness about him. And England lost a hard-fought home series to a formidable South Africa team, which made their subsequent triumph in the sub-continent the more remarkable.

Yet throughout the year, Pietersen had invaded the headlines to the discomfort of the cricket authorities. There was his texting to South African opponents — ‘provocative’ but not ‘derogatory’, he insisted. There were his crass public statements, the indiscreet jabber which invited retribution.

Whirlwind: Currently there is tranquility between England and Kevin Pietersen... will it last

Whirlwind: Currently there is tranquility between England and Kevin Pietersen… will it last

And there was his unfortunate habit of listening only to bad advice, taking only unsound decisions and repeatedly allowing ego to over-rule his dubious judgement.

But there was also his talent, that glittering ability which allowed him — in Colombo, at Headingley and, most dramatically, in Mumbai — to play, in a calendar year, three of the finest innings the modern game has known.

It was that glorious talent which saw him reintegrated into a team that sorely need his gifts. At the moment, all is tranquil between Pietersen and England. We must hope that tranquillity reigns in 2013.

Greed and ugliness 3

Drama and Sense 2

At the last gasp, Manchester City won the most dramatic title contest the Premier League has seen. Still more improbably, Chelsea emerged from the Champions League clutching the trophy with the big ears.

Another massive TV deal was signed, prompting agents to order fresh stocks of Krug. And England chose an immensely capable and experienced man to be their new manager.

There were those who declared it an excellent year for football. And they were wrong.

For the most urgent priority of the English game was the pursuit of the bottom line. The Premier League was the richest, therefore, it had to be the best.

Racism was ugly, of course, but it was a problem for less enlightened countries. We have no truck with that kind of thing here. Likewise hooliganism; all in the past. And yet, the cases began to accumulate. The Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra affair was shabbily treated by Liverpool.

Shambolic: Liverpool's treatment of the Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra race row was poor

Shambolic: Liverpool's treatment of the Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra race row was poor

The John Terry-Anton Ferdinand scandal dragged on through much of the year and was appallingly handled by just about everybody involved.

The moral leadership was non-existent, the consequences deeply damaging.

Meanwhile, crowd chants grew uglier, more threatening, and grounds suddenly seemed less safe than they should be.

Good things were happening, too, and the appointment of Roy Hodgson was sane and sensible. He may not have sufficiently talented players and the Brazil World Cup is surely a hopeless quest. Yet he represents an important step in the right direction.

The national game — so wealthy, so confident yet so little loved — needs many such steps in 2013.

The Ian Wooldridge award: Vote for your sporting hero

The Ian Wooldridge award: Vote for your sporting hero

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UPDATED:

22:46 GMT, 20 December 2012

The Ian Wooldridge award

Established in honour of the late Sportsmail legend Ian Wooldridge, who died almost six years ago, the annual award is voted for by you, our readers.

It celebrates the combination of sporting genius and Corinthian spirit so beloved of 'Woolers'.

You can send your nomination by email and to help you in your selection, our writers offer their choices and the reasons behind them . . .

JONATHAN McEVOY

LORD COE

I suggest Ian would raise a glass to Sebastian Coe, even if age means that the great athlete is no longer quite 'every mother's son, every girl's dreamboat, every schoolboy's idol, every spinster's sigh, every reactionary's recollection of how young men used to be'.

Coe was one of Ian's favourite figures in sport, as you may have gathered. This summer Coe might also have succeeded in rekindling Ian's lost love for an Olympic movement that had become tarnished by the dual stimulants of cash and drugs. Ian would certainly have approved of the manner in which Coe presented the grand old city of London to the world.

Poster girl: Jessica Ennis wins heptathlon gold

Poster girl: Jessica Ennis wins heptathlon gold

DEREK LAWRENSON

Ian Poulter

Nominate your hero

Send an email to:

[email protected]

Poults at the Ryder Cup is the most compelling example imaginable of sport at the highest level boiled down to its purest essence. Here is a man who earns millions every year yet the most passionate you will ever see him is when he is playing for nothing for Europe.

Nothing was more miraculous at Medinah this year than the manner in which he breathed life into Europe to complete their astonishing comeback, and it was all underwritten with that certain sense of style that has earned him his worldwide following.

Not only would Woolers have enjoyed writing about Poulter, he would have enjoyed getting to know him as well.

PAUL NEWMAN

JESSICA ENNIS

Where to begin in this of all sporting years Ian would have loved 2012 and all the rich array of sporting goodies it provided, but I think he would have had a particular soft spot for Jessica Ennis. She carried the pressure of being the poster girl of the London Games with class and dignity and won her gold medal with that perfect blend of sporting genius and a big smile.

Mary Peters was a big favourite of Woolers and I think he would have seen echoes of her in Ennis. My vote goes to Jess.

Katherine Grainger: Personifies the cheery discipline of GB oarspeople that Ian would admire

Katherine Grainger: Personifies the cheery discipline of GB oarspeople

MIKE DICKSON

KATHERINE GRAINGER

Roll of honour

2008…………. Chrissie Wellington
2009…………. Rebecca Adlington
2010……………………. Jessica Ennis
2011……………………. Amy Williams
2012………………. Jonny Wilkinson

I have a feeling Ian would have liked Katherine Grainger, her equally delightful partner in the double sculls Anna Watkins, and would have revelled in the former winning gold this summer after three consecutive silver medals.

Her ready smile would appeal, as would the fact that she has a hinterland beyond her sport, studying for the PhD in homicide that helps make it easy for her to discuss matters way beyond the realm of rowing. She personifies the cheery discipline of GB oarspeople that Ian would admire.

Grainger can count herself extremely unlucky to only finish 11th in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, but winning this award would be some fitting consolation.

LAURA WILLIAMSON

DAVID WEIR

Not even Usain Bolt had his own theme music played inside the Olympic Stadium last summer, but 'The Weirwolf' did.

Weir covered more than nine miles in six races over 36 laps of the track to win Paralympic gold in the T54 800 metres, 1500m and 5,000m and then topped it all with a fourth gold in the marathon to become the greatest wheelchair racer of all time.

The scale of his sporting achievements in 2012 were incredible, yet even more impressive was the way Weir transformed people's perceptions of Paralympic sport.

The man who fell out of love with wheelchair racing, after seeing the Paralympics sidelined and maligned in Atlanta in 1996, returned, triumphant, 16 years later to put it firmly on the map. And this very British champion did it all powered by 'nothing more than beetroot juice'.

Beet that: David Weir in the 800m

Beet that: David Weir in the 800m

MARCUS TOWNEND

SIR HENRY CECIL

You do not need to be a racing fan to realise Frankel was a horse in a million nor to appreciate the massive contribution to his success of Sir Henry Cecil. The criteria for this award demands the description of genius in a nominee – that is not in doubt with the Newmarket trainer.

Science delivers fresh aids to his profession each passing season, but it is Cecil's all-seeing eye, allied to his innate feel for a horse, which helped him mould Frankel's raw strength into the turbo-charged racing machine which achieved a perfect 14-race career record. This was done while undergoing draining chemotherapy that ravaged Cecil's body and reduced his voice to a barely audible whisper. He had to miss the Sussex Stakes win at Glorious Goodwood in August but, with incredible courage, was back at Frankel's side amid never-to-be- forgotten scenes for the colt's final two wins.

ALAN FRASER

ALASTAIR COOK

Ian loved his cricket and he loved his genuine English cricketing heroes. He would have loved the full flourishing of Alastair Cook as a prolific run scorer and a winning captain.

Woolers might privately have preferred a bit more dash from Cook along the lines of a Denis Compton. But he would certainly have been impressed by Cook's steadfast refusal to have anything to do with the modern cult of celebrity. Five centuries in his first five matches as captain; the youngest to reach 7,000 runs in Test cricket; the most Test centuries, 23, by an Englishman. Yet, stats would not have been the clincher for Woolers. He would have looked at Cook, seen an unassuming, modest, dignified man with intelligence and steely resolve and thought: he will do for me.

Run machine: England captain Alastair Cook

Run machine: England captain Alastair Cook

JEFF POWELL

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL

The Ryder Cup captain's humble deference to his late friend and fellow Spaniard Severiano Ballesteros as the legendary inspiration for Europe's great comeback victory over the US at Medinah was very much in keeping with Ian's style.

Giving the award to Ollie would also expand the tribute to the memory of Seve, one of Woolers' all-time sporting heroes.

To vote email [email protected]

Sports Personality of the Year – who will win on Sunday?

After the greatest ever year of sport for Britain, 12 of our stars line up for Sports Personality of the Year… but who will win

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UPDATED:

13:55 GMT, 14 December 2012

With the BBC Sports Personality of the Year winner announced on Sunday, it's time to relive the drama and triumph that saw 2012 become the greatest year for sport in British history.

With the Ryder Cup, historic Tour de France and Grand Slam victories, a Champions League title and, of course, the London Olympics, there is an incomparable glut of success to choose from that made this year special, and the awards ceremony will pay homage to those who made it so unique.

Here's a reminder of who's in the running and why they could go home with the final big prize of the year.

The contenders… and what they won in 2012

Nicola Adams – Olympic gold winner and placed second at the World Championships

Ben Ainslie – Took gold in the Olympics, World Cup and World Championships. Also named ISAF World Sailor of the Year

Jessica Ennis – Silver at the World Indoor Championships, gold in the Olympic heptathlon

Mo Farah – Double Olympic gold medal winner

Katherine Grainger – gold medal in the Olympic double sculls, as well as winning all three World Cups

Sir Chris Hoy – Gold in the World Cup, World Championships and the London Games

Rory McIlroy – Both money list titles, Honda Classic, PGA Championship, Deutsche Bank Championship, DP World Tour Championship, Ryder Cup

Andy Murray – Finally bagged his first Slam, the US Open, as well as Olympic gold and a silver in the doubles.

Ellie Simmonds – Double Paralympic gold, as well as a silver and a bronze

Sarah Storey – quadruple gold at the 2012 Paralympics and a double gold at the UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships

David Weir – Four Paralympic gold medals and a gold in the European Athletics Championships

Bradley Wiggins – Tour de France champion and Olympic road race winner

*BBC Sports Personality of the Year will be shown live on BBC1 on Sunday from 7.30pm

WHO DO YOU THINK SHOULD WIN… AND WHY LEAVE YOUR COMMENT BELOW

'Has it sunk in Not really. When
everything settles down I will be like “Wow, I've really done it.” But
for now I just hope I've made everyone in the country proud.'

Current Odds: 200/1

Nicola Adams – Boxing

This young woman will go down in history as the first Olympic gold-medal winning female boxer.

It’s hard to gauge how much of a landmark the inclusion of women in boxing for the London 2012 Games will be. Only time will tell. But it will certainly be a competition worth remembering for Adams.

And the fact that it was a revenge mission will have made victory all the sweeter for the flyweight. She had been defeated by Ren Cancan of China twice in world championship finals before exacting revenge in a 16-7 victory at the ExCel Centre.

Adams discusses the future with Laura Williamson

'To leave at the top in the home Olympics will never be improved on.'

Current Odds: 150/1

Ben Ainslie – Sailing

He was awarded the honour of carrying the flag for Team GB at the Olympic closing ceremony after becoming the most decorated Olympic sailor of all time.

When his rivals upset him this summer, combining efforts to put a dent in the Brit’s progress, Ainslie turned his anger into inspiration and went on to claim his fourth Olympic gold medal.

Having won silver in his first Olympics, aged 19, this took his tally to five medals in five different Games.

Ainslie talks to Chris Hall about his fourth Olympic gold

Ben Ainslie flies the British flag after his gold medal win at the London Olympic Games

The sailor captured his fourth gold medal, and his fifth Olympic medal overall, at this years Summer Games

‘I’m just wanting to make the most of this moment, just enjoy it. It’s been a long time coming and a lot of hard work put in.'

Current Odds: 7/1

Jessica Ennis – Athletics

What more can be said about the golden girl of athletics

Ennis has well and truly become a national treasure this year, after sprinting to a gold medal in the heptathlon while the world watched with bated breath.

Having been forced to withdraw from the Beijing Olympics before being elevated to the face of the 2012 Games, the pressure could not have been higher.

And yet Ennis managed to exceed all expectations, setting a British record in the 100m hurdles with a time that would have seen her take gold in the individual event four years ago, and a personal best in the javelin.

She didn’t need to win the final event, the 800m, but she did so anyway, in joyful fashion.

Ennis talks gold medals and wedding dresses with Laura Williamson

'I could never have imagined it would be
like that. As an athlete you dream of becoming an Olympic champion, but
not in front of a home crowd, and also twice doing it.'

Current Odds: 5/1

Mo Farah – Athletics

It’s been an emotional year for Farah. First two Olympic gold medals, then two baby girls.

Not to mention his fearless performance as he became the first winner on The Cube, raising 250,000 for charity in the process.

Farah joined the very shortlist of men to have won both the 5,000m and the 10,000m at the Olympic Games, and in doing so became arguably the best runner Britain has ever seen.

His moment of glory was named the most inspiring moment of the Games by a public poll.

Farah wins greatest TV moment of the year

Mo Farah reacts to his 5,000m win at the London 2012 Olympics

Mo Farah had two doubles this year – A set of twin girls to match his double Olympic gold

'When you want gold, winning silver is a failure. It might sound ungrateful, but that’s the truth of it.'

Current Odds: 200/1

Katherine Grainger – Rowing

Here is another star who delivered a fairytale ending at the Games.

After having taken silver at the last three Olympic Games, it looked as though the rower was destined to look back on her career never having been able to reach the golden peak.

But all that changed when she teamed up with Anna Watkins in 2010. Since linking up, the duo have bagged two World Championship titles.

They powered past every opponent they came up against in the run up to the Games, and pushed themselves clear of the competition when it came to the final, confirming Grainger as the most successful female British rower of all time.

And let’s not forget, she did all this at the age of 36, when most athletes have long since retired.

Grainger talks to Sportsmail about her gold medal and PhD

Katherine Grainger celebrates her Olympic gold medal in the double sculls

Grainger finally made it gold in 2012 after having settled for second place three times

'I can't put into words what it means to me. It's one of the greatest feelings I have ever had.'

Current Odds: 100/1

Sir Chris Hoy – Cycling

Another British best, Chris Hoy became the most successful British Olympian ever after overtaking Sir Steve Redgrave this year with seven Olympic medals, six of them gold.

He knows what it means to take the Sports Personality award home, having won it for his heroics in the 2008 Olympics.

Like Grainger, he achieved his latest feat at the ripe old age of 36. His position in the Team GB squad has not just been to win medals, but also as a figure of inspiration to those coming into their prime, such as Jason Kenny.

In a team that dominated the Velodrome this year, Hoy was the shining star leading the charge.

Chris Hoy talks about launching his own range of cycles

‘This has been one of the most perfect
days on a golf course if you’re a European. We went out in strength
today trying to lead from the front…it’s an unbelievable feeling.' – After the Ryder Cup

Current Odds: 100/1

Rory McIlroy – Golf

McIlroy had momentum behind him this year, and managed to finish in the top 10 of tournaments 15 times.

After having rounded off a knife-edge victory in the Ryder Cup with the rest of an awe-inspiring European team, he was recently awarded the 2012 Golf Writers' Trophy.

He’s also taken the money titles on both sides of the Atlantic, and been named the PGA Tour Player of the Year.

Sports Personality would just be one more accolade to heap on the Northern Irishman, after what has been the finest year of his career.

He won the PGA Championship by eight shots, and became the youngest multiple major champion since Seve Ballesteros.

McIlroy is named PGA Tour Player of the Year

Rory McIlroy celebrates winning the Ryder Cup in 2012

Rory McIlroy topped the money lists in what was most successful year of his career

'It means the world to me. It’s what I’ve
been working towards the last ten years of my life, I always wanted to
try and win a Grand Slam.’

Current Odds: 12/1

Andy Murray – Tennis

The wait for Andy Murray to achieve his dream of a Grand Slam title has been filled with disappointment, bitterness and heartbreak – and that’s just for the fans!

The Scot reached the peak of his career in the latter part of 2012. He suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final, but steeled himself and powered through the Olympics only weeks later, determined to take at least one title at the All England Club.

After duly sweeping to a straight sets victory, there was no stopping the 25-year-old, and he went the distance against Novak Djokovic in the US Open final.

After an epic dual, Murray was crowned the first male British Grand Slam winner for 76 years.

Mike Dickson trains with Andy Murray

‘I just put my head down and went for it,
and gave it everything. Everyone was wishing me luck which was so nice.
I did it for myself, I did it for my family.’

Current Odds: 50/1

Ellie Simmonds – Swimming

Simmonds went on a record-breaking run at this summer’s Games, setting new world records in the 200m individual medley and the 400m S6 freestyle, the same race she won in Beijing at the tender age of 13.

She’s already tasted Sports Personality success, having taken home the Young Sports Personality of the Year in 2008, and she’s back in the running for the adult version having taken home another double gold.

She also bagged herself a silver medal in the 100m S6 freestyle, having already set a Paralympic record in the qualifying rounds, and a bronze in the 50m freestyle.

Ellie Simmonds looks back on her golden summer

‘Everything the Paralympics has been
over the last 20 years that I've been involved has now been shared with
everybody. People realise now what we've all been so enthralled with.'

Current Odds: 200/1

Sarah Storey – Cycling

It’s hard to grasp just what Sarah Storey has achieved as far as the Paralympics go.

She now has an incredible haul of 22 medals to her name, after winning gold four times over in 2012, and by significant distances too.

The 35-year-old has competed as both a swimmer and a cyclist, and her most recent triumph came in the C4-5 road race, which was her 11th gold medal overall.

No other Paralympian can match her success in the modern era.

Her Paralympic career has spanned 20 years, and there is no sign of her slowing down anytime soon.

Sarah Story set to add to her family after 'golden' year

‘Obviously I dreamt about winning all my races but it was going to be a tough order. I just really had to dig deep’

Current Odds: 33/1

David Weir – Athletics

The ‘Weirwolf’ dominated his events in the Paralympic Games, winning gold in all four of his T45 category races, from the 800m to the marathon.

His tally of Paralympic medals now stands at 10, and he left commentators hoarse with the drama of his sprint finish in the marathon.

The racer was so intently focused on the race that he couldn’t even tell where the finish line was, and simply kept pushing.

He also won his sixth London Marathon in 2012, equalling Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson.

David Weir chats to Laura Williamson

‘I said at the start of the year I
couldn’t prioritise one or the other, I wanted both. I was greedy, I
don’t mind admitting that. I felt I could do both.’

Current Odds: 1/3

Bradley Wiggins – Cycling

It’s hard to believe that cycling in Britain will ever be looked at the same way after what Bradley Wiggins achieved in 2012.

The first British man to win the Tour de France, he had claimed the yellow jersey early in the race.

He then cruised to his fourth Olympic gold in the time trial, which was also his seventh Olympic medal overall.

On top of that, 2012 has seen him become the only rider in history to win Paris-Nice, the Tour of Romandy and Criterium du Dauphine in one season.

He was recently awarded the Sports Journalists Association's sportsman of the year.

Bradley Wiggins says he wants to defend Tour de France title

Bradley Wiggins sits atop his throne after winning gold at the 2012 Olympics

Wiggins claimed the yellow jersey in the Tour de France before winning gold in the Olympics

WHO DO YOU THINK SHOULD WIN… AND WHY LEAVE YOUR COMMENT BELOW

Jessica Ennis shortlisted for Athlete of the Year

Golden girl Ennis shortlisted for prestigious award after stunning Olympic success

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UPDATED:

12:23 GMT, 6 November 2012

Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis is among the three finalists shortlisted for the 2012 World Female Athlete of the Year.

The 26-year-old, who won gold in front of her home crowd at this year's London Games, is in contention for the award alongside American sprinter Allyson Felix and New Zealand shot putter Valerie Adams.

Golden girl: Jessica Ennis won the heptathlon at the London Olympics

Golden girl: Jessica Ennis won the heptathlon at the London Olympics

Felix was a double Olympic champion with victories in the 200m and 4x400m relay, while 2008 Olympic champion Adams was awarded a second successive gold after Nadzeya Ostapchuk was stripped of the title following a failed drugs test.

The shortlist for the men's award was announced on Monday, with Usain Bolt, Aries Merritt and David Rudisha in contention.

Done it! Ennis will now hope to be named Athlete of the Year

Done it! Ennis will now hope to be named Athlete of the Year

The winners of both categories will be announced on November 24 in Barcelona.

LONDON OLYMPICS 2012: Jessica Ennis could have stadium named after her

The Jessica Ennis stadium Britain's Olympic hero could be given new honour

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UPDATED:

11:33 GMT, 9 August 2012

Jessica Ennis' Olympic feat should be recognised by having Sheffield's Don Valley Stadium renamed after her, former sports minister Richard Caborn has claimed.

Heptathlon champion Ennis uses the stadium as a training venue and Caborn, an ex-Sheffield MP, said renaming the stadium after her would help inspire young people to take up sport.

Looking good, Jessica: Ennis receives a special makeover on Wednesday

Looking good, Jessica: Ennis receives a special makeover on Wednesday

He said: 'I am calling for the Don
Valley Stadium to be renamed the Jessica Ennis Stadium by the local
authority as she has spent so much time there, and it would help
encourage young people into sport if they link the stadium with such a
recognisable figure.'

Caborn
also wants Yorkshire's contribution to the Games to be recognised by
the British Olympic Association with at least 10 medallists coming from
the region.

Unforgettable: Ennis celebrates winning the heptathlon at the Olympic Stadium

Unforgettable: Ennis celebrates winning the heptathlon at the Olympic Stadium

He added: 'I will contact the BOA and ask them for some official recognition of Yorkshire's significant contribution to the British medal success and for the BOA to be supportive of some type of celebration.'

London 2012 Olympics: Jess Ennis is a Great Brit, like me – Daley Thompson

She's MaJESStic! Now Ennis is a great Brit just like me

PUBLISHED:

22:15 GMT, 5 August 2012

|

UPDATED:

22:15 GMT, 5 August 2012

Jessica Ennis will have woken up on Sunday morning feeling different – she’ll have felt smug like me. Being an Olympic champion does that to you.

What she has achieved will take a while to sink in, though, because it takes time to get over all the emotions. You put so much of yourself into an event like that. Physically it’s not too bad but mentally it is so tough.

In a heptathlon you are trying to give 100 per cent seven times in two days — not just two or three times like a 100 metres runner and other athletes. Your body is so well prepared.

Gold standard: Jess Ennis followed Daley Thompson in winning Olympic gold in a multi-sport event

Gold standard: Jess Ennis followed Daley Thompson in winning Olympic gold in a multi-sport event

Gold standard: Jess Ennis followed Daley Thompson in winning Olympic gold in a multi-sport event

Gold standard: Jess Ennis followed Daley Thompson in winning Olympic gold in a multi-sport event

For example, you would normally do a couple of hundred shot puts in a week and in competition you do only three — but keeping the intensity going is the challenge. It is so draining on your mind.

There was more to it than that for Jess, too. Being the face of the Games must have been very difficult. You are always under scrutiny.

People are watching your training, how much work you’re doing for sponsors, whether you are smiling in the supermarket. That level of scrutiny is not something I had to deal with. But she has grown into it and it hasn’t affected her in a negative way.

For the rest of the team, what she achieved is massive. All the other sports have been performing out of their skins and even with no athletics gold medals, it would have been a great Olympics.

But a bit of the shine would have been taken off if we hadn’t won gold in the stadium because athletics is the biggest and hardest sport in the Games.

There’s a reason we have an 80,000-seat venue and other sports have 10,000. It’s the centre of the Olympic Games, it’s where the flame is and Jess winning so early on takes the pressure off the other athletes and inspires them. The others want to perform, they want medals, they want their faces on stamps.

Showpiece: It was important Team GB had success in the Olympic Stadium, and Jess provided it

Showpiece: It was important Team GB had success in the Olympic Stadium, and Jess provided it

The way Jess ran her 800m impressed me a lot. She came into the race in a better position than she could have imagined, knowing unless she fell over, pulled a couple of muscles or crashed into the steeplechase barrier, she was going to win gold.

In the final event of the decathlon in Los Angeles in 1984 — the 1500m — I didn’t run as hard as I could because I wanted to just enjoy the race. But I should have done because it was the last time I had good weather in a decathlon and I could have scored more points.

She went for it and wanted to become the fourth person ever to break the 7,000-point barrier. She wanted to do the best possible. Yes, she just missed out on those 7,000 points but it won’t bother her too much because she gave it her all.

It was the perfect end to a potentially awkward second day, as Tatyana Chernova is always better than on the first day. Jess started the second day with a poor long jump effort but wasn’t bothered by it and then jumped really well.

She threw fantastically in the javelin, too. She always had the ability to throw it, she just wasn’t doing it with confidence. She has done a shed-load of work in the past six months and it has paid off. She’s done what only a handful of competitors at these Games will do and that is produce a personal best. It’s not easy in these conditions.

To see a nice person get a good result is what makes sport special.

Vast improvements: Ennis showed especially in the javelin the benefit of working on weaknesses

Vast improvements: Ennis showed especially in the javelin the benefit of working on weaknesses

It’s great to see. She will now be considered among the greatest but there’s room for us all. Hoy, Wiggins, Coe — everyone has their favourite and that’s how it should be. I’m delighted to share the attention with her.

I hope she wants to continue competing because she is great for the sport. I was really looking forward to my next Olympics as soon as I’d won in 1980 because athletics is where I had most fun. I don’t see why she can’t continue to Rio.

Getting married might change things a bit and maybe she will want to have kids. But she doesn’t need to worry about that just yet. She should spend time enjoying this. Take time until Christmas and enjoy the parties, holidays and whatever else. Then she can make her next plans.

What I would say is that I’m not sure anything can top this because it’s a home Games and that makes it different. Continuing is a risk but one she might be happy to take.

Mighty: Mo Farah was awesome

Mighty: Mo Farah was awesome

A quick word on Mo Farah because for us to win three golds in one night is everybody’s dreams come true.

I was sitting with Steve Ovett for Mo’s race and he was in no doubt that he was going to win. His tactics were spot on and he can sprint at the end. He was in command all the time.

He made a big decision going to live in Oregon — you have to be serious about sport if you choose to live there — and that won’t have been easy on his family. That’s what the real pressure is. Not going to your kids’ birthday parties and missing anniversaries — those are the true sacrifices.

What the Olympics has done to this country in the past week is amazing.

Nine billion pounds is cheap. There are so many people who are happy to be here and happy to be alive and that wasn’t the case a month ago.

Kids will now be desperate to be Jess, Mo, Rebecca Adlington, Louis Smith or whoever. My 10-year-old stayed up to watch Jess’s medal ceremony — he wouldn’t go to bed.

Hosting the Olympics was such a good idea and we’ve done it so well. It’s the best Games I’ve ever seen.

London 2012 Olympics: Golden Brits Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford start new era

A new golden age is born… Rutherford, Ennis and Farah give athletics new lease of life

|

UPDATED:

22:35 GMT, 5 August 2012

Mark the date: August 4, 2012. Athletics in Britain, a shadow of its glorious golden past in Beijing four years ago, was re-born this day.

From the moment, at 17 minutes to ten when Mo Farah crossed the line as the first Briton ever to win the 10,000 metres at an Olympic Games and the third to win gold in 42 minutes, a new age had begun.

At last, we can stop living in the
past, bewailing the passing of the time of Sebastian Coe and Steve
Ovett, Daley Thompson and Linford Christie when Britain was a power in
track and field.

Solid gold: Greg Rutherford smiles with delight as he receives his gold medal

Solid gold: Greg Rutherford smiles with delight as he receives his gold medal

On top of the world: Rutherford celebrates on the podium

On top of the world: Rutherford celebrates on the podium

We are again — not only because Mo
Farah, Greg Rutherford and Jessica Ennis won gold medals in such a
rush, but because they are only the vanguard of a new generation who may
be as good as it ever got.

Four years ago, Farah failed to
qualify for a final at the Olympics, Rutherford failed to qualify for
the final three jumps and Ennis watched at home recuperating from three
leg fractures of the leg. Beijing’s four medals was the nadir.

The rebirth has been 44 months in
gestation, conceived when a panel at UK Athletics had the courage to
admit that four years earlier, when they passed over Charles van
Commenee for the post of head coach, they got it wrong. And, belatedly,
they put it right.


Golden girl: Jessica Ennis celebrates the day after her night of glory

Golden girl: Jessica Ennis celebrates the day after her night of glory

Flag girl: Ennis celebrates after winning the heptathlon

Flag girl: Ennis celebrates after winning the heptathlon

From the day he started in February 2009, Van Commenee looked beyond the realms of athletics for inspiration and ideas.

He recognised how cycling and rowing
in Britain had been transformed by the recruitment of the world’s top
coaches, physical therapists, bio- mechanists and psychologists and by
their centralisation in high- performance centres.

He scoured the world, as Dave Brailsford had for cycling and David Tanner for rowing.

Most notably, he persuaded Dan Pfaff,
coach to 1996 Olympic 100 metres champion Donovan Bailey and a world
expert on bio-mechanics, to leave a leafy US university campus for
London’s Lee Valley. Pfaff has coached Rutherford to gold and coaches
five more on the team.
Van Commenee then entrusted endurance running to Ian Stewart, a former world European and Commonwealth champion.

He's done it! Mo Farah crosses the line to win gold in the 10,000m

He's done it! Mo Farah crosses the line to win gold in the 10,000m

Golden moment: Farah shows off his medal

Golden moment: Farah shows off his medal

Stewart knew Alberto Salazar,
established a link and sent Farah to live in Portland, Oregon, for the
finishing touches to be applied to an existing talent.

Van Commenee almost made a mistake
with Ennis, trying to complete his centralisation by suggesting she move
to Loughborough. But she dug in her heels to remain in Sheffield among
friends, family and with coach Toni Minichiello.

Van Commenee does not believe his
mission is complete. There are ‘one or two’ of an older guard resistant
to his ideas. But in a couple of years, he knows all those remaining
will be on board.

We saw one on Saturday. Katarina
Johnson-Thompson, 19, broke the British Under 20 record for heptathlon
for a third time this year in the event where Ennis improved the senior
record.

Hope for the future: Katarina Johnson-Thompson performed well in the heptathlon

Hope for the future: Katarina Johnson-Thompson performed well in the heptathlon

We saw another talent yesterday in
Adam Gemili, 19. Watch today for Andrew Osagie in the 800, Perri
Shakes-Drayton in the 400m hurdles, Lawrence Okoye, 20, in the discus
and Holly Bleasdale, 20, in the pole vault.

‘We run the sport with more discipline, more professionalism and better accountability,’ said Van Commenee.

And in 42 minutes his athletes won as many gold medals as the aggregate of the previous two Olympic Games.

London 2012 Olympics: Greg Rutherford expects tears at medal ceremony

Long jump champion Rutherford expecting floodgates to open at medal ceremony

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UPDATED:

08:56 GMT, 5 August 2012

Olympics 2012

Greg Rutherford admitted he is likely to shed a tear when he is presented with his gold medal on Saturday.

Rutherford struck gold in the long jump on Saturday night on an incredible evening for Team GB in the Olympic Stadium.

After a jump of 8.31 metres, Rutherford was crowned champion just minutes after Jessica Ennis crossed the line for gold in the heptathlon.

On top of the world: Rutherford celebrates his gold medal on Saturday night

On top of the world: Rutherford celebrates his gold medal on Saturday night

And while Rutherford was on his own lap of honour, Mo Farah came home for gold in the men's 10,000 metres.

Rutherford and Farah will be presented with their gold medals in the stadium on Saturday.

Speaking on Radio 5 Live on Saturday morning, Rutherford said: 'I'm probably going to cry, I'm not going to shy away from that, I'm going to embrace it.'

On how he is feeling this morning, he added: 'My body is aching. I've come out of it with no big injuries, I'm just a bit achy. I'm ready to compete again in a couple of weeks time.'

Memorable night: Rutherford celebrates with 10,000m winner Mo Farah (left)

Memorable night: Rutherford celebrates with 10,000m winner Mo Farah (left)

Rutherford, Ennis and Farah were roared to gold by the crowd, and the 25-year-old described the night as a 'fantastic experience'.

He added: 'I was lucky enough to see the end of Mo's race while still out on the track.

'It is so good to see the entire nation get behind everybody.'

London 2012 Olympics: Beijing medal count is no curse – Jonathan Edwards

Six giant steps on Super Saturday could prove Beijing’s legacy is no curse

|

UPDATED:

23:07 GMT, 4 August 2012

Olympics 2012

For days, we suspected that the magic weaved by the British team in Beijing was a curse on these Olympics on home soil. Perhaps that success in China is going to prove a blessing after all as the British team won an extraordinary six gold medals on Saturday.

After a slow start, the British have gathered magnificent momentum, moving into overdrive. In eight days’ time, it will be possible to answer the most fascinating question at these Olympics: Will Britain occupy fourth place in the final medal table next Sunday evening, as they had done in Beijing

In China, Britain won 19 gold medals, and an overall total of 49. Just when it seemed British athletes still seemed to have a mountain to climb, the summit appeared nearer after a golden Saturday. The outcome depends on how each British athlete, still to compete, reacts to the peculiar circumstances of performing in front of a home audience.

Golden girl: Jessica Ennis started a gold medal rush for Great Britain on Saturday night

Golden girl: Jessica Ennis started a gold medal rush for Great Britain on Saturday night

Jessica Ennis, the women I identified to be under most scrutiny, having the highest profile in the British team, prospered to stunning effect by making home advantage tell. She deserved unreserved credit for winning the heptathlon with such absurdly cool authority. Then Greg Rutherford won a staggering gold in the long jump. And when Mo Farah won a phenomenal 10,000 metres with a thrilling last-lap surge there was pandemonium. Elsewhere, rowers and track cyclists elevated the mood across the nation to a level of unsuppressed optimism.

Others have not been so successful. When I first walked into the Olympic Stadium with my old team-mates, Colin Jackson and Denise Lewis, the last British Olympic champion in the heptathlon, it was still a construction site, and we discussed what it would be like to be competing in London. Just walking around the stadium gave us goose-bumps. Would we be more inspired, or intimidated, by the experience of being at home

At the time, I thought that it could
be touch and go for many. After a week at these Olympics I think that
has proved to be the case. At the canoe slalom competition I witnessed
the anguish — and the joy — of being a British athlete at London 2012.

Brit special: Mo Farah (right) won the 10,000m on Saturday night to continue the success story

Brit special: Mo Farah (right) won the 10,000m on Saturday night to continue the success story

David Florence, who won a silver in Beijing, has trained at the Lee Valley White Water Centre since 2010. He didn’t make the final of his event despite coming to the Games as world No 1. Similarly, Richard Hounslow also underperformed. It’s what pressure can do. Likewise, Lizzie Neave had a torrid time after having two days to think about her semi-final following a fine first appearance. She looked unlike the athlete who had swept through her heat; it was just too much for her to deal with.

Then, without any real warning, Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott, came from out of nowhere to win the gold in the C2, with Florence and Hounslow — who deserve huge commendation for turning their fortunes around — in silver position. Clearly, Baillie and Stott rose to the occasion and thrived in the atmosphere created by 12,000 people in the amphitheatre.

It is possible to see other examples
of this dichotomy. /08/04/article-0-145A9DB6000005DC-724_634x407.jpg” width=”634″ height=”407″ alt=”Turning point Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott won gold in the canoe to start a medal rush” class=”blkBorder” />

Turning point Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott won gold in the canoe to start a medal rush

Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish have trained and rehearsed and honed their bodies to perfection for this track cycling meet. Yet in their first contest, they failed to successfully complete the changeover as they miscalculated the distance they had to leave between their bikes before Pendleton could accelerate into the final part of the team sprint. Under duress, in front of an ecstatic crowd in the Velodrome, their technique failed them.

Others who failed to live up to
expectations include Tom Daley and Pete Waterfield in the synchronised
10m platform diving competition when they made a hash of their fourth
dive when they were in gold-medal position. Why The magnitude of the
moment struck them, and one poor dive later their medal hopes were over.
Something almost identical afflicted their team-mates Tonia Crouch and
Sarah Barrow. Swimmers Hannah Miley, Liam Tancock and Ellen Gandy will
also reflect on opportunities missed.

If there was one athlete you would
have put your house on to win a gold medal, it is Ben Ainslie. The Finn
regatta at Weymouth and Portland should be his crowning glory, the
chance to end his Olympic career with a fourth gold medal. Yet he is one
who has lived with thinking, worrying and analysing his competition for
seven years since London was awarded these Olympics.

Leap of faith: Greg Rutherford was the third Brit to win track and field gold on Saturday

Leap of faith: Greg Rutherford was the third Brit to win track and field gold on Saturday

Ainslie began sluggishly for no
apparent reason I can tell; other than to think that outside pressures,
induced by being the overwhelming favourite in home water, took their
toll. As a reflection of the champion he is, Ainslie took advantage of
the time he has on the water to fight back and place himself in with the
chance to become Olympic champion for a fourth occasion on Sunday.

But it was not the regatta Ainslie had planned, nor expected to sail.

I
used to walk an emotional tightrope. At Barcelona in 1992, I had the
potential to medal as my personal best at the time was 17.43m; and, in
fact, the bronze at those Olympics was won with a jump of 17.36m. With
hindsight, I froze. I never really fully engaged with the competition;
perhaps because the Olympics meant so much to me.

On track: Ben Ainslie is bidding to win his fourth Olympic gold medal

On track: Ben Ainslie is bidding to win his fourth Olympic gold medal

At the time, one of my rivals Brian Wellman, a friend, said: ‘Jonathan’s a great competitor except when all the marbles are on the table.’

I took exception to that. To say you can’t compete goes to the heart of what you do as an athlete.
Every athlete in Team GB at these Olympics would tell you they wouldn’t be here unless they were good competitors. But these Games are making demands on British athletes like never before.

He may be a mystery man but I back Idowu to deliver

Phillips Idowu likes to be the maverick of the British track and field team. He seems to relish presenting himself as a man of mystery.

But the fact that he did not want to fly to Portugal to prepare within the holding camp of the British team does not alarm me.

Nor does Idowu’s breakdown in communications with Charles van Commenee, the performance director of UK Athletics, cause me to worry about him failing in Thursday’s triple jump final.

Provided Idowu has not gone missing because he is troubled by a major injury, I back him 100 per cent to perform well in the Olympic Stadium. His appearance, with his ever-changing hair colour and his multi-piercings, may indicate a man who values his individuality. But it is not just the way he chooses to look that makes him different to most athletes.

Will he, won't he Phillips Idowu's participation in the Olympics has been shrouded in mystery

Will he, won't he Phillips Idowu's participation in the Olympics has been shrouded in mystery

He has always held strong views and done things his own way. In that regard, he is not dissimilar to Van Commenee.

Athletics is not a team sport. Van Commenee would not dispute that, even though he has to try to create a team ethic at the Olympic Games and there is no doubt that athletes do feed on the success of team-mates.

Idowu’s story has many obvious similarities to my own journey through athletics. I won a silver medal at the Atlanta Games when I was favourite to take gold; he won silver in Beijing when most thought he had it within his grasp to capture gold. I was 34 at my last Games when I became Olympic champion. Idowu is 33 and he will be competing at his last Olympics.

But unlike Idowu, I did not have to jump against a truly great triple jumper from America called Christian Taylor at my final Olympics. Taylor is the real deal.

The only true mystery surrounding Idowu is his degree of fitness. If he is able to deliver his best, I hope that his last Olympic Games has the same fairytale ending as mine.

You don’t have to be a drug cheat to win

Anyone walking past me in the street would not instantly think of me as an athletics world record-holder.

Yet without sounding egotistical, the triple jump record of 18.29m I set 17 years ago next weekend proves it is possible for ordinary-looking people to do remarkable things clean of drugs.

Doubt: Ye Shiwen's swims have been questioned after the Chinese athlete stormed to gold

Doubt: Ye Shiwen's swims have been questioned after the Chinese athlete stormed to gold

Which is why I am disappointed that 16-year-old Ye Shiwen, who has won two gold medals, and set a stunning world record in the 400m individual medley in the Olympic pool, finds one of the first questions she has to answer is: ‘Are you taking drugs’

It is disturbing that her brilliance is challenged before she has barely climbed out of the water. Given the history of Chinese athletes and drugs, perhaps we should have expected little else. But Ye has never failed a drugs test; despite that, her name and her deeds have been tarnished.

Surely, this is a betrayal of the British belief of innocent until proved guilty.

Patrick Collins: London"s joyful Games prove there is life on Planet Olympics

London's joyful Games prove there is life on Planet Olympics

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UPDATED:

23:51 GMT, 4 August 2012

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LIVE RESULTS |
EVENT SCHEDULE |
MEDALS TABLE

Katarina Johnson-Thompson, a
19-year-old heptathlete, shielded her eyes against the noonday sun and
prepared to make her attempt at the high jump. She became aware that the
80,000 people clustered on the slopes of the Olympic Stadium were
staring down on her, willing her to succeed.

So she heaved a mighty breath, bounced
up to the bar and flung herself over in a personal best of 1.89metres.
The crowd shrieked its ecstatic approval. When Katarina competes for
Liverpool Harriers, an audience of 80,000 is an impossible dream. Yet
the dream has been delivered, and her sense of wonder is shared by most
of her colleagues.

For no previous Games has ever
attracted such numbers to watch a session of heptathlon, along with the
opening rounds of the men’s shot and hammer and the women’s triple jump.
But these are the London Olympics and normal rules are gleefully
suspended.

Magic moment: Katarina Johnson-Thompson clears the bar in the high jump

Magic moment: Katarina Johnson-Thompson clears the bar in the high jump

Never in the history of the modern
Games has a nation been so captivated by sport’s most compelling
spectacle. Nothing else matters. Somewhere out there, a Test match is
going on. Somewhere, the usual suspects are preparing for the football
season. Nobody seems to care. Instead, and starting with that
astonishing opening ceremony, Britain has abandoned itself to Planet
Olympics. Naturally, we must acknowledge an inevitable cargo of
bean-counters, curmudgeons and conscientious objectors but their numbers
are diminishing, along with their influence. Because these Games have
seized the imagination in a manner way beyond our most ambitious hopes
and expectations.

Over the
past seven days, diligent research has taken me to the three-day event
amid the glories of Greenwich Park. More than 50,000 crowded in for the
cross-country section, which featured a princess named Zara and a
patrician parade of hyphens. It laid the foundations for a British
silver medal earned by high skills and robust courage. Later, Alice
Fox-Pitt, wife of William, remarked that the home team had been ‘Soooo
on the cusp of gold’. Another bemoaned the enforced absence of one Ms
‘Piggy’ French, who might have made a difference. And if gentle mockery
was difficult to resist, then the skills and the courage were impossible
to ignore.

More from Patrick Collins…

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14/07/12

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VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

On another day, I visited the women’s
hockey at the Riverbank Arena, lured by the attractions of South Africa v
Germany. The place was packed to raucous capacity by 15,000 fans and
everybody behaved with the frantic exuberance of people who felt lucky
to be there. The same was true of the wonderful madness of the
velodrome, as well as the basketball arena, where 12,000 gathered to
watch Nigeria v Lithuania. Sadly, a loutish chunk of Lithuania’s
followers insisted on standing, screeching and booing whenever Nigeria
won the ball. A number of neutral Britons took umbrage at the shabbiness
of such behaviour and at least one affronted patron stormed off to
complain to the duty volunteers. ‘It isn’t right,’ he insisted. ‘It just
isn’t fair.’ From the nation which practically invented football
hooliganism, this could be seen as cool cheek. Yet his anger was
justified and his protest deserved sympathy.

For
a phenomenon has occurred that even now we only dimly comprehend. The
Games have persuaded vast numbers of our fellow citizens to behave in a
healthier, happier fashion. In London, that most tenaciously reserved of
capital cities, strangers are striking up conversations on buses and
trains. Seized by a common Olympic interest, people are exchanging
pleasantries, pooling information, swapping gossip and enjoying the
buzz.

And the entire process is being carried out with an air of blushing disbelief, for the development seems wholly un-British and thoroughly admirable. Because we are, in truth, a friendlier, more engaging people than our staid image would suggest. We live in a land which takes justified pride in its stunning diversity and the warmth of its welcome. Yet we are emotionally stunted, constrained by stale custom, terrified of yielding to spontaneous impulse for fear of ridicule.

Fervent support: Fans cheer on triathletes

Fervent support: Fans cheer on triathletes

But the Olympics have helped to tear down those barriers. They have teased out our better nature and liberated our virtues. No longer prisoners of our stultified, stiff-lipped past, we have made a real effort to become the kind of people we always hoped we might be.

It won’t last, of course. In a few weeks, the magic will fade, the buzz will evaporate, stern orthodoxy will descend, fascinating strangers will become bloody foreigners and a deafening silence will reign on our transport systems. Our sporting minds will turn to issues of Lampard’s contract, Rooney’s fitness and daft Joey’s deluded twittering.

So we must salvage what we can. We must remember those weeks when reality was rescinded and a beguiling insanity lit up our lives. And we must cherish that bright, shining moment when the capital became a kind of Camelot, the nation could throw off its restraints and a vast, entranced audience could watch with wonder as a young girl from Liverpool lived out her dreams at the London Olympics.

A faultless performance from a very British hero

When Helen Glover and Heather Stanning clambered from their boat after winning Britain’s first gold medal of the 2012 Games, the face they saw was that of Sir Steve Redgrave.

They fell into his arms and that huge, reassuring rock of a man embraced them for several poignant seconds, while the rest of us stared at our shoes and pretended that we weren’t really blinking.

When Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins made the same euphoric journey two days later, they were swamped in the same embrace. This time we didn’t even try to hide our tears, so affecting was the scene, so moving the moment.

Redgrave played no official part in the glorious Olympic regatta, yet his influence was pervasive. Amid the plethora of pundits employed by the BBC, Redgrave’s views — along with those of the admirable Michael Johnson — have carried the most weight. Clearly, five gold medals at five Olympic Games lend his opinions a certain authority but he communicates that authority with the skills of a born teacher.

Olympic hero: Sir Steve Redgrave helps a shattered Alan Campbell out of his boat

Olympic hero: Sir Steve Redgrave helps a shattered Alan Campbell out of his boat

There is no hyperbole about Redgrave, no high-flown phrases colour his conversation. Instead, he deals in understatement, watching every word.
He analysed the rowers’ emotions with a certainty born of experience. He laid out their strategic options, indicating his preferred choice. He forecast their fate with enviable accuracy and his words clearly enhanced the confidence of our golden women.

The small details were instructive. When the men’s pair, George Nash and Will Satch, came gasping on to dry land after their gruelling bronze medal, the commentator, John Inverdale, quite naturally advised them to ‘go away and lie down’.

Redgrave intervened, gently. ‘Keep moving around,’ he muttered. ‘Don’t stop.’ He had been at this point of exhaustion a time or two and he understood what the body needed. In its understated way, it was genuinely impressive.

There are certain individuals who command a special place in this nation’s affections. They are gruffly dependable, easily embarrassed, ferociously accomplished.

Steve Redgrave is such a person. A man you don’t meet every day. A very British hero.

PS

The men’s triple jump begins on Tuesday and nobody can say for certain if Phillips Idowu will turn up. For weeks and months, Idowu has been involved in a coy charade over his fitness and availability for the Games.

Tedious poseur: Phillips Idowu has behaves shamefully

Tedious poseur: Phillips Idowu has behaves shamefully

Everybody, including his loyal coach, has been shamelessly used. At a time when British athletics has a marvellous story to tell, this tedious poseur has written his own shabby sub-plot. He should be told that his presence is not required. The Games will get along without him.