Thanks for being MAGNIFICENT! Sportsmail pays tribute to the seven athletes we have followed from 2005 to the 2012 Olympics
00:04 GMT, 28 December 2012
Seven years ago, Sportsmail began following seven young athletes as they set out on their journeys to try to reach the 2012 Olympics and Paralympic Games in London.
Three of the original seven made it to the Games but two called time on their sporting careers before the start of this year. Their replacements, however, were both part of Team GB and Paralympics GB last summer.
It has been an enlightening experience, punctuated by extremes of success and disappointment, watching the development of these athletes' careers since 2005.
Recently, Sportsmail's Magnificent Seven met up for the final time and shared memories of their experiences.
Then and now: From left, Gemma Howell, Tom Daley, Louise Watkin, Sportsmail's Andy Hooper, Emily Pidgeon, Shanaze Reade and Louis Smith met up for one final time recently
As they were: The original Magnificent Seven lined up at Lord's, from left, Tom Daley, Louis Smith, Jean-Rene Badrick, Emily Pidgeon, Giles Scott, Rachael Latham and Shanaze Reade
Tom Daley, Diving, 18, from Plymouth
The youngest of the Magnificent Seven has become a superstar. Daley was selected for the Beijing Games aged just 14 after becoming a British and European champion in the 10-metre platform.
He added the world title in 2009, two Commonwealth golds (in the individual event and synchronised 10m platform) in 2010 and then won an emotional Olympic bronze medal in London, despite intense pressure and expectation and the passing of his father, Rob, in May 2011.
'When I look at some of the photos from 2005 I'm so small! It's crazy how much I've changed since then and what I've achieved in that time.
'Life's changed, too. In fact, it's stacked up to a whole new level since London. Going out anywhere, there are so many people who stop you and say, “Congratulations”.
'It's nice to feel appreciated and respected but it does feel weird that seven years of training were geared towards London 2012 and now it's been and gone.
Superstar: Tom Daley won a bronze medal in the men's 10m platform at the London Games
In the spotlight: Daley (right) presented the Young Sports Personality of the Year award to Josef Craig (centre)
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN…
The Magnificent Seven series originated in 2005 through Sportsmail selecting seven talented athletes to follow through to London 2012.
The National Lottery joined as partner in 2006 to promote their funding into the seven chosen athletes, along with over 1,200 other competitors, on their journey to the London 2012 Games.
National Lottery funding, originating directly from the Lottery-playing public across the UK, enables elite athletes to benefit from the world-class coaching, facilities and medical support, giving them every possible chance to succeed during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
As the nation's attention moves from the London 2012 Games to Rio 2016, The National Lottery will continue to invest in sports facilities, support staff and coaching, providing opportunities for future generations to succeed on an elite level.
No-one has contributed more to our athletes than National Lottery players, with more than 1,200 athletes having benefited from world-class coaching and support. www.national-lottery.co.uk/London2012
'I think 2012 changed the face of British sport but there was a bit of a crash after the Olympics when I thought, “I can't believe it's all over.” I'm slowly, gradually, building my way back up there.
'After the Games, I went on holiday with my family and then got two golds at the World Junior Championships: one in the 10-metre event and one in the 3m synchro with Jack Laugher. Then I went to Dubai with my friends and have been back at school catching up on my maths and Spanish A-levels. I want to get three A*s rather than three As.
'Rio in four years' time does seem a long way away, but there are also World Championships, European Championships and Commonwealth Games in between, so there's plenty to look forward to.
'I think in total I might make maybe four or five Olympic Games – depending on how diving moves on – but we'll get to Rio first. It's outdoors, which the Chinese don't like, and I love diving outdoors.'
Louise Watkin, Paralympic Swimming, 20, from Redhill (replaced Rachael Latham)
Latham, who was born with Erbs Palsy, which limits the use of her left arm, made two swimming finals at the Paralympic Games in Beijing.
She retired in 2010 due to injury but went on to become a Channel 4 presenter and was a Sportsmail columnist during the London Paralympics. Watkin, who has upper limb deficiency, won two Paralympic silvers and two bronzes in London.
Dazzling: Louise Watkin won four medals in the London Paralympic Games
'The Paralympics were amazing. I didn't want them to end. You could hear the crowd when you were under water in the Aquatics Centre. I came away with two medals from the individual events and two in the relays. It went brilliantly.
'In the past four years, the Paralympics has moved on so much. People are still talking about it now. It's nice so many people have got the Paralympics bug. 'I hope there will be more integration in the future. Come and watch us at the World Championships next year. Then hopefully I'll get my gold in Rio!'
Giles Scott, Sailing, 25, from Huntingdon
Scott was a world youth champion in the Laser class when he joined us in 2005 and became world champion in the Finn in 2011. The one major disappointment was missing out on London 2012.
Scott competes in the same class as Ben Ainslie and GB could only send one sailor. With Ainslie now retired, Rio 2016 cannot come soon enough.
Disappointed: Giles Scott missed out on the London Games as he was in the same division as gold medal winner Ben Ainslie
'I wouldn't call it bad luck, being in the same division as Ben. If I had performed at the right regatta it would have led to me being selected to go to the Olympics.
'I was unsure whether to watch the Olympics and some of it was hard, but I got into it and was probably as addicted as everyone else by the end. Since then I have joined an America's Cup team (Team Korea) and moved away from the UK. I wanted to broaden my horizons so I don't mess up for Rio like I did this time around.'
Emily Pidgeon, Athletics, 23, from Cheltenham
Pidgeon was an outstanding junior 5,000 metres runner but has struggled with injuries and found it difficult on the senior circuit. She still hopes her best years are to come.
Her boyfriend, GB runner Andrew Osagie, was in the fastest 800m race in history, the Olympic final in London.
'It has been an amazing journey. It's scary how quickly it's gone. I always thought I'd be there in London, so it's been up and down.
'When I realised I wasn't going to be
able to compete, it wasn't that I didn't want anything to do with the
Olympics but I just knew I'd find it hard to go and watch.
A first: Emily Pidgeon ran around the Olympic Park stadium before anyone else
'But because I got injured in May I had dealt with that by the time the Olympics came round.
'I was determined to enjoy the experience and I'm so glad I did. I was there to watch Andrew in his heat and his final. I think there's a reason I was injured and I hope Rio will be my time.'
Gemma Howell, Judo, 22, from Telford (replaced Jean-Rene Badrick)
Badrick, then 16, won bronze at the European Youth Olympics but retired in 2010 through injury. Howell replaced him, battled back from serious injury and was selected for London.
She was disqualified in her first-round fight against world champion Gevrise Emane.
'It was the worst and best week of my life. I was devastated. When I came off the mat I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible but then I thought, “I just have to use this going forward to Rio.”
Devastated: Gemma Howell was disqualified in her first round bout at the 2012 Olympics
'I was more nervous than I'd ever been. I have dreamed since I was little of being Olympic champion and I was a bit overwhelmed. Hopefully I can just get on with the job next time around.
'I've started a sport and exercise science degree at Bath University. My brain hurts after four years out of education. But while I want an Olympic medal more than anything, it's education and judo going forward.'
Louis Smith, Gymnastics, 23, Peterborough
In 2006, Smith won the Commonwealth pommel horse title aged 16 and has not looked back. He won Britain's first individual Olympic gymnastics medal for 100 years with a bronze in Beijing and went one better with silver in London.
He also won a bronze in the men's team event. Since the Games he has won the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing. 'No one would ever have thought we could have got that bronze in the team event. I didn't even think we could do it. It was a big statement to the rest of the world.
'It was really hard to come back again for my individual event. Winning the bronze was such a high and then you've got to come back down again for the event that was most important for me, and the one everyone expected me to do well in. It was tough but I'm glad I finished it the way I did.
Enjoying it Smith posed for Sportsmail on the back of a real 'pommel horse'
Proud: Smith put in a sterling performance on the pommel horse to take silver home
A different route: Smith recently won the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing
'There are about seven different paths I could take now: fashion, property, sport. Do I carry on to Rio The Commonwealths When do I call it quits It's about making the right and the best decision, not necessarily the one everyone wants me to make.
'I want to start my own fashion range. It's something I've wanted to do for a while, although I won't be keeping any clothes I've worn on Strictly. They love their glitz and glam and shiny stuff!
'Magnificent Seven has been remarkable in so many different ways. It's been fantastic and we've done some funky stuff along the way.
'I never want to go on a horse again after that photoshoot when I pretended it was a pommel horse! I was scared stiff. I did it, although I probably wouldn't do it now!'
Shanaze Reade, BMX Cycling, 24, from Crewe
Reade went to Beijing as a world champion but crashed out in the final after deciding she would not settle for silver. Reade regained her BMX world title in 2010 and has also won two world championship golds on the track, but that Olympic medal still eludes her. Reade finished sixth in the BMX final in London.
'It was quite hard, mentally, after the Games. Everyone in British cycling did so well and I was tipped to get a medal but, again, I didn't fulfil my potential. I can definitely see what went wrong. It's about staying injury-free moving forward and just getting on that good mental pathway of getting some success under my belt and getting my confidence back.
'I have “Team Reade”, a group of people who I trust and I know will push me, to help me do that, but first and foremost it comes down to me.
Crushed: Shanaze Reade finished sixth in the final of the Olympics BMX Cycling
'I'm at a crossroads now where I feel I want to be world champion again in BMX, hopefully in New Zealand next year, and win a BMX Olympic medal. But then I've been world champion on the track and I also want to get further in that because I've only ever done six- to eight-week blocks of training. I would like to do the Commonwealth Games, and BMX isn't in it, so we'll see.
'I went to Beijing on such a high. I hadn't lost a race for six or seven years so I thought, “Why should it be any different”
'Coming into London was the opposite. I had been injured, missed races, crashed out of finals. I had never really fulfilled what I was capable of doing on the day. Now I don't want to short-change myself any longer.'