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When they were young…the 12 heroes who made us feel proud in 2012

When they were young: The 12 heroes who made us feel proud in 2012

PUBLISHED:

23:56 GMT, 15 December 2012

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UPDATED:

00:27 GMT, 16 December 2012

Tonight the BBC Sports Personality of the Year will be announced to an audience expected to top 15 million viewers.

And in a year of extraordinary sporting achievement, at London 2012 and beyond, the final 12 contenders represent the cream of British sport.

NICK HARRIS and MARTHA KELNER talked to the people who know them best to find out what they were like … when they were young.

1. SIR CHRIS HOY

Age: 36

Nominated: For winning two gold medals at London 2012, in the team sprint and keirin, to become the British sportsman with the most Olympic gold medals in history (six), overtaking Sir Steve Redgrave’s five.

Chris Hoy

Future knight: A young Chris Hoy shows off one of his first prizes

Parents: David and Carol. Mum Carol says: ‘I am just as proud of the way Chris conducts himself when he loses, when things don’t go to plan or an opponent comes up with a moment of brilliance.

'Chris is able to handle winning and losing equally and I value that in life.

'When I hear Chris described as a true “Olympian”, that means more to me than all of the medals and honours.

Great Britain's Chris Hoy celebrates winning Gold in the Mens Team Sprint Final

Olympic glory: Hoy celebrates winning Gold in the men's team sprint final. He also won the keirin

'He was brought up simply to do things as well as possible and treat other people properly, whatever the circumstances.’

Plans for future: ‘I’m definitely not going to Rio,’ says Hoy. ‘Nothing will top London.’ He hopes to cap his career on a high at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Scotland.

2. ELLIE SIMMONDS

Age: 18

Nominated: For winning gold in the 400m freestyle, one of the most thrilling swimming races of the summer, and another gold in the 200m individual medley to add to her two Paralympic titles won at Beijing in 2008.

Parents: Steve and Val. ‘It sometimes gets a bit surreal, you have to give yourself a pinch,’ says Val of the moment she saw her teenage daughter collecting her fourth Paralympic gold medal.

Ellie Simmonds Age 7

ELLIE SIMMONDS WITH HER GOLD MEDAL FOR THE SWIMMING 200 METRES MEDLEY

Golden girl: Ellie Simonds' infectious smile was there to see at the age of seven. She went on to pick up two golds in 2012 with the 400m freestyle final considered to be one of the most exciting races of the Games

She remembers having to say goodbye when Ellie went away before Beijing for a month’s training camp in South Africa.

‘She was only 12, my little baby, but she’s very mature and loved it.’

If Ellie does not win Sports Personality, Val is backing Mo Farah.

‘I’m a keen athletics fan and used to watch it all the time before swimming took over our lives,’ she says.

Plans for the future: ‘She certainly has plenty more years to carry on swimming and get on the Sports Personality list again,’ says Val.

3. DAVID WEIR

Age: 33

Nominated: For winning three wheelchair racing gold medals on the track this summer, before topping it by becoming road race champion, the final gold of the Games and his sixth Paralympic medal in total. He has also won the London marathon six times.

Parents: Jackie and David, a former soldier from Belfast, brought up David, who was born with a severing of the spinal cord, in a similar way to his three brothers.

Britain's David Weir

David Weir age 11.

Triple gold: David Weir aged 11 (right) and in action during this summer celebrated his success with his mum in a quiet pub

‘I never mollycoddled them,’ says Jackie.

‘We brought him up to expect taunts and told him not to worry because all kids get them, don’t they’ David would join in with everything.

‘When his mates had a kickaround, David would go in goal and use his sticks to save the ball,’ says Jackie.

He celebrated winning his fourth gold in London by having a quiet drink with his mum in their local pub in Richmond.

Plans for the future: He is not thinking about defending his titles in Rio in 2016 yet but the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow are on the agenda.

4. BEN AINSLIE

Age: 35

Nominated: For winning a fourth Olympic gold this summer to confirm his status as the world’s greatest ever sailor.

Parents: Roddy and Susan. Roddy was a renowned sea captain and Ben was bred for maritime glory, given his first taste of sailing on a family holiday to Cornwall when he was eight.

Ben Ainslie

Britain's Ben Ainslie

Incredible career: Ben Ainslie has announced his Olympic retirement admitting he will never beat the buzz of Weymouth

/12/16/article-2248817-145DA7F8000005DC-915_306x454.jpg” width=”306″ height=”454″ alt=”Fourth time lucky: Katherine Grainger celebrates her gold medal after missing out in 2000, 2004 and 2008″ class=”blkBorder” />

Fourth time lucky: Katherine Grainger celebrates her gold medal after missing out in 2000, 2004 and 2008

Fourth time lucky: Katherine Grainger celebrates her gold medal after missing out in 2000, 2004 and 2008, and in her youth (right)

They knew how upset I was when we didn’t win gold at Beijing. All a parent wants is for their child to be happy, and seeing me so unhappy was very difficult for them.’

Plans for future: Says she remains undecided whether to attempt to win a fifth Olympic medal and second gold in Rio.

‘I’m certainly not burning my bridges and deciding that I won’t be at the next Olympics. I’m looking forward to getting back in a boat in 2013 and making a fresh start.’

6. ANDY MURRAY

Age: 25

Nominated: For becoming the first British man in 76 years to win a Grand Slam singles title (the US Open), having just won Olympic singles gold at Wimbledon, just a few weeks after losing on the same court against Roger Federer in the Wimbledon men’s singles final. Also won Olympic doubles silver.

ANDREW MURRAY TENNIS PLAYER FROM DUNBLANE. ANDREW IS PICTURED HERE AGED 8. Andrew Murray pictured during his first round Boys' Singles victory over Mykyta Kryvonos at the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis

Andy Murray

Emotional year: After bursting into tears at Wimbledon, Andy Murray went on to grab gold in London 2012 before picking up his first grand slam

Parents: Judy and Will. Judy has been a consistent presence at courtside throughout his career after both parents, despite their divorce, helped him in his early years, funding his attendance at a Barcelona academy.

‘Both of my parents made a lot of sacrifices to give me and [brother] Jamie the opportunity to play tennis,’ he says.

Plans for future: Will certainly want to defend his Olympic crown in Rio in 2016 if fit and healthy but the demands of the singles circuit — and four Slams each year — will take precedence before then, starting with the Australian Open early in 2013.

7. BRADLEY WIGGINS

Age: 32

Nominated: For becoming the first Briton to win the Tour de France and for winning the time trial gold medal at London 2012.

Olympic cyclist Bradley Wiggins aged 2 on his first ever bike

Road racer: A two-year-old Bradley Wiggins on his first ever bike

Parents: Linda and Gary. His father was an Australian cyclist who drank heavily, was violent to Linda and who abandoned the family when Wiggins was two.

Linda supported her son’s fledgling career, taking him to Paris to see the Tour when he was 13.

When he won, he pointed to Linda and said: ‘Some dreams do come true. My old mum over there

Her son has just won the Tour de France!’

Bradley Wiggins

Hot favourite: Wiggins is the bookie's favourite to scoop Sports Personality of the Year after winning Olympic gold as well as the Tour de France

Plans for future: Wiggins has said he wants to return to track cycling for the 2016 Games in Rio. Whether he goes for another Tour de France triumph depends on whether Team Sky pick him or Chris Froome as their No 1.

8. NICOLA ADAMS

Age: 30

Nominated: For becoming the first-ever female Olympic boxing champion, a feat she celebrated with a chicken wrap at Nando’s.

Nicola Adams

Olympic boxer Nicola Adams aged three.

Record breaker: Nicola Adams became the ever female boxing champion this summer

Parents: Mother Dee and father Innocent split up when Nicola was a child. When Dee could not get a babysitter, she took Nicola and brother Kurtis to an aerobics class.

Nicola, who had watched videos of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier with her dad, joined in with a boxing class instead.

‘It has been really tough for Nicola being a female boxer,’ says Dee. ‘I thought, “She’s doing this for her country and she isn’t getting the recognition she deserves”. But now she has made history. It is amazing. I am just so proud of her.’

Plans for the future: Back in training with TeamGB boxers in Sheffield. Next up are the European Championships, then the 2014 Commonwealth Games, where women’s boxing is debuting. Plans to defend her Olympic title in Rio.

9. JESSICA ENNIS

Age: 26

Nominated for: Coping with the pressure of being the face of the Games and dominating the Olympic heptathlon, before sealing victory in the 800m.

Jessica Ennis

Jessica Ennis - aged 4

Super Saturday: Ennis played a huge role in one of the greatest nights of sport this country has ever seen

Parents: Vinnie and Alison took Jessica and younger sister Carmel to an athletics summer camp when she was 10.

‘I think they just wanted to get rid of me for a bit,’ jokes Jessica. But while Carmel did not like running, Jess thrived.

‘She always wanted to stand on the top of a podium and I’m just so proud of her,’ says Vinnie.

‘After all those years of going to low-key meetings when she was little with the rain and the snow and the early mornings, it has all come together and it’s just brilliant.’

Plans for the future: A spring wedding to childhood sweetheart Andy Hill means a delayed start to the 2013 outdoor season. Has not ruled out defending her heptathlon title in Rio but may switch to the hurdles.

10. RORY MCILROY

Age: 23

Nominated: For winning his second major and being part of Europe’s winning Ryder Cup team.

Parents: Father Gerry McIlroy worked 100 hours a week and mother Rosie did night shifts at a factory in their native Holywood, in Northern Ireland, to save to send Rory to competitions in the US as a junior.

Rory McIlroy on his local golf course aged nine

Rory McIlroy f

In form: Rory McIlroy bagged his second major while playing his part in a hugely emotional Ryder Cup

It has paid off already but there could be a further 200,000 windfall for Gerry and three friends, who bet 400 at 500-1 that the then 15-year-old would win The Open before 2014.

‘It’s ridiculous really, isn’t it’ says Gerry. ‘You realise you can make more money on the golf tour in one week than some people make in a lifetime.’

Plans for the future: Greg Norman believes Rory McIlroy is more likely to break Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major wins than Tiger Woods. Golf will feature at Rio 2016, so McIlroy could add Olympic gold to his impressive medal cabinet.

11. SARAH STOREY

Age: 35

Nominated: For winning four cycling gold medals in the Paralympics, including Britain’s first gold of those Games in the Velodrome, having narrowly missed selection to compete for Team GB at the Olympics.

Sarah Storey

 Sarah Storey

Ruling the roads: Storey picked up a phenomenal four gold medals at the Paralympics

Parents: John and Mary Bailey, who wore T-shirts at the Games listing every gold medal their daughter had ever won in swimming and cycling, as well as being ‘the Under-14s Cheshire table tennis champion’.

Storey was born without a functioning left hand and was bullied at school.

‘When I was at my lowest, my parents told me to keep looking to the future, that everything would be all right,’ she says. ‘It was the best lesson anyone could have taught me.’

Plans for future: Says that defending her four Paralympic titles at Rio 2016 would be ‘the ultimate dream’.

12. MO FARAH

Age: 29

Nominated: For winning a historic Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m distance double in London and making the Mo-bot his trademark.

Parents: Father Muktar left Somalia as a young man to settle in London and met Mo’s mother, Amran, during a holiday in his homeland.

Mo Farah

Mo Farah,14

Party time: Mo Farah (aged 14 – right) created one of the most iconic images of London 2012

They married and brought Mo to London as an eight-year-old for the opportunity of a more prosperous life after weighing up the cost of parting him from his twin brother, Hassan, and two older brothers who remained in Somalia.

When Mo arrived at Feltham Community College as an 11-year-old he was barely able to speak English.

‘I was giving a javelin lesson and trying to instill some discipline into the boys,’ says PE teacher, Alan Watkinson.

‘I walked on to the field and Mo was swinging on the crossbar.’ Mo went the wrong way round the athletics track the first time he ran — but soon found his direction.

Plans for the future: Could run the marathon as well as the 10,000m at Rio in 2016, but that would be a tough challenge.

Andy Murray, Amir Khan and Victoria Pendleton at London Fashion Week

Murray, Khan, Pendleton and more swap sport for style at London Fashion Week

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UPDATED:

10:09 GMT, 18 September 2012

Forget about training for a while – it seems like the Burberry Prorsum's London Fashion Week show was the place to be for some of Britain's top sports stars on Monday.

US Open winner and Olympic gold medalist Andy Murray left his racquet behind as he was given a front row seat with his girlfriend Kim Sears at London's Kensington gardens.

Scroll down for video

Doubles: Andy Murray and Kim Sears swapped the tennis court for the catwalk as they attended Burberry Prorsum's London Fashion Week show

Doubles: Andy Murray and Kim Sears swapped the tennis court for the catwalk as they attended Burberry Prorsum's London Fashion Week show

The Scottish tennis star was not the
only Olympic star spotted at the event. Boxing star Amir Khan, who won
silver in Athens in 2004 and Victoria Pendleton who retired after the
2012 Games were also present.

Khan was in attendance with his fiance,
Faryal Makhdoom. The boxer has recently split from his coach Freddie
Roach after defeats to Lamont Petersen and Danny Garcia but was clearly in a light-hearted mood as he enjoyed some downtime.

Amir Khan and fiancee Faryal Makhdoom

Amir Khan and fiancee Faryal Makhdoom

Checking in: Amir Khan and fiancee Faryal Makhdoom also attended the show

Pendleton, meanwhile, took some time out from her Strictly Come Dancing
training to make an appearance at the show. She has been partnered with
ballroom dancer Brendan Cole in the BBC programme.

The former Olympic cyclist bowed out after winning gold in the women's keirin in August.

The look of love: The couple couldn't take their eyes off each other as they cuddled up on the white carpet at London's Kensington Gardens

The look of love: The couple couldn't take their eyes off each other as they cuddled up on the white carpet at London's Kensington Gardens

Stroll: Murray and Sears walk on the white carpet at London's Kensington Gardens

The best seats in the house: The US Open champion and his girlfriend were given coveted front-row seats alongside US Vogue editor Anna Wintour

The best seats in the house: The US Open champion and his girlfriend were given coveted front-row seats alongside US Vogue editor Anna Wintour

Paralympic sprinter Jonnie Peacock and Olympic rower Pete Reed also showed up, both having won golds in the summer.

The former picked up his medal in the T44 100m sprint and the latter in
the men's coxless fours, a category he also won gold in four years
before, in Beijing.

Strictly stylish: Cycling champion Victoria Pendleton also took a break from her Strictly Come Dancing training to attend the Burberry Prorsum event

Strictly stylish: Cycling champion Victoria Pendleton also took a break from her Strictly Come Dancing training to attend the Burberry Prorsum event

Strictly stylish: Cycling champion Victoria Pendleton took a break from her Strictly Come Dancing training

Front row viewing: Jonnie Peacock (third left) next to Pendleton

Front row viewing: Jonnie Peacock (third left) next to Pendleton

Bet you want these: Pete Reed with his prized possessions and girlfriend Frauke

Bet you want these: Pete Reed with his prized possessions and girlfriend Frauke

VIDEO: Victoria and Andy swap training for fashion…

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London 2012 Olympics Cycling: Sir Chris Hoy could compete at Rio Games in 2016

EXCLUSIVE: Hero Hoy may ride on and go for more gold in Rio

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UPDATED:

23:23 GMT, 8 August 2012

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Sir Chris Hoy could be tempted into making a dramatic U-turn and take part in the 2016 Olympics.

Hoy, who won his sixth Olympic gold in the Velodrome on Tuesday, is desperate to compete in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow — something he previously called ‘the perfect way’ to end his career. Then he will decide whether continuing to Rio to chase more medals is an option.

Carry on cycling: Sir Chris Hoy has hinted he may ride in Rio in four years time

Carry on cycling: Sir Chris Hoy has hinted he may ride in Rio in four years time

While Hoy’s camp maintain the 36-year-old is certain to resist the temptation to compete in his fifth Games, Sportsmail understands that the Scot was so overwhelmed by the emotion of Tuesday’s triumph, he is having second thoughts about retiring.

Hoy’s decision may well depend on how his body feels. He admitted after his keirin win that he is unsure whether he can carry on training for 35 hours a week.

The end: Hoy won two gold medals at London 2012 in what was expected to be his final Olympics

The end: Hoy won two gold medals at London 2012 in what was expected to be his final Olympics

Hoy became Britain’s most decorated Olympian with his two golds in London, surpassing Sir Steve Redgrave, who has backed him to continue. ‘Chris has the capability. He’s still a young man in my eyes,’ he said. ‘He’s on the top of the world and can carry on for the next four years if he wants to.’

London 2012 Olympics: Sir Chris Hoy – I should have been allowed to claim a hat-trick of golds

Hoy: I should have been be allowed to claim a hat-trick of golds in London

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UPDATED:

17:38 GMT, 8 August 2012

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Sir Chris Hoy has hit out at cycling's
world governing body after he was denied the chance to compete for
three gold medals at the London Olympics.

The 36-year-old capped a remarkable Olympic career with his British record sixth Games gold in a dramatic keirin race.

Two more: Chris Hoy with his 2012 gold medals

Two more: Chris Hoy with his 2012 gold medals

It was Hoy's second gold of a hugely successful Olympics for Britain's track cyclists as they won seven of the 10 events in the Velodrome.

But 24 hours after the action wrapped up, Hoy revealed he still harboured some frustration he could not have added further to his personal bounty of medals.

Hoy was overlooked for the men's sprint in favour of Jason Kenny – a decision vindicated by the Bolton rider's gold medal and one which the Scot had publicly backed.

Hoy, however, believes British Cycling's bosses should not have been forced to make the call before the Games due to a change in policy from the International Cycling Union (UCI).

Following Team GB's dominance in Beijing four years ago the UCI, amongst other alterations to the Olympic programme, opted to restrict each nation to just one rider in the sprint race – which Hoy won in China.

Hoy has previously been outspoken on the matter but after an Olympics which has been marked by memorable inter-country battles – such as Jamaicans Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake on the track and Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps in the pool – he was moved to make his feelings heard again.

v

Frustration: Hoy was denied chance to defend sprint title

'We knew there was only one rider per nation. It was disappointing not just for us but also for the other nations and for the fans,' he said.

'I think they missed out on a number of top-class competitors in a number of the events.

'Can you imagine a 100 metres final with only one Jamaican or American runner

'Anyway, it happened and we dealt with it and I think we dealt with it well.'

Hoy also claimed that Britain's track cycling success had undermined a perceived bid by the UCI to “manipulate” the medal table.

The UCI shuffled the events on the Olympic programme – which also involved evening up the number of women's and men's track events at five apiece – after Britain also won seven track golds in 2008.

Further success on the road in London, with Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins winning the time trial, means Team GB's cyclist have never been more dominant.

Seeing double: Hoy and Laura Trott with their gold medals

Seeing double: Hoy and Laura Trott with their gold medals

'It's immensely satisfying,' he said.

'It didn't really work out for the UCI in their attempt to manipulate the medal table.

'To have the seven gold medals on the track and Bradley's and the potentially more success with the BMXers and mountain bikers, it has been fantastic.

'I don't think any of us really believed that we were going to emulate Beijing. we've been blown away by it.'

After signing off his Olympic career, which began with gold in the one-kilometre time trial at Athens in 2004, Hoy has called for the funding that has established Team GB's dominance in the velodrome to remain.

'Fifteen years ago the National Lottery Funding started and that was the catalyst and starting point for the team,' he said.

'Peter Keen had this vision for where cycling was going to go and we all thought he was mad initially when he had this dream to be the best team in the world.

'For someone like Laura (Trott, double gold medallist) she has only known the team as it is now but for the older riders like myself we remember it when it was run on a shoestring budget.

'That's why we take so much pride in seeing how far it has come in a short space of time.'

London 2012 Olympics: Victoria Pendleton last event is sad day – Dave Brailsford

End of Queen Vic's reign in the Velodrome is a sad day, admits GB chief Brailsford

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UPDATED:

09:05 GMT, 7 August 2012

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British Cycling performance director Dave Brailsford paid tribute to Victoria Pendleton ahead of her Olympics swansong in the velodrome.

Pendleton bids to sign off with a second gold medal of London 2012 in the women's sprint that would make her Britain’s most successful female Olympian with three gold medals.

Sir Chris Hoy also goes for gold in the men's keirin knowing victory would see him climb above Sir Steve Redgrave as Britain’s most successful Olympian with six gold medals.

Waving goodbye: Victoria Pendleton is expected to retire after the Olympics

Waving goodbye: Victoria Pendleton is expected to retire after the Olympics

'We’re phenomenally proud of them,' Brailsford told BBC Breakfast. 'They’ve been the backbone of British track cycling for a long time.

'This could be the very last competition for Vicky so it’s quite a sad day for us in that respect.

'I do think she deserves special mention. She has worked so hard in the last three years to bring herself up to this level of competition.'

Brailsford is understandably pleased with Britain’s medal haul going into the final day of track cycling competition, with five track golds and one bronze already in the bag.

'It’s been great so far. We’ve three medals available today and we’re ready for them. I hope by the end of today we might have three more.'

Laura Trott is the third British rider eyeing a gold medal tonight as she completes the omnium, and Brailsford also singled her out for praise.

'Laura is a bundle of energy. She’s got this contagious enthusiasm. She’s a brilliant bike rider and it would be great if she can finish off the job today.'

One last push: Pendleton goes for gold in the women's sprint on Tuesday

One last push: Pendleton goes for gold in the women's sprint on Tuesday

Britain’s success has had their French rivals scratching their heads.

'They came up with the conclusion that we have special wheels,' said Brailsford, who believes good coaching has been a crucial factor in delivering medals.

'Essentially you have to have great riders with talent and commitment. You need both of those. But fundamentally it’s all about coaching and very good coaching.

'I’m more of an orchestra conductor. The key is to have great coaches and we have brilliant coaches.

'We have a small group led by Chris Boardman who look for the latest innovations in other industries and apply them to cycling.

'You start by analysing the event that you want to win and then you give yourself priorities because you can’t win everything.

Six of the best Sir Chris Hoy can win yet another gold in the men's keirin

Six of the best Sir Chris Hoy can win yet another gold in the men's keirin

'We look at the gap between where we are and where we have to be to win and then we create a plan and execute it.

'If you break down everything that you need and improve every little aspect by 1 per cent then that can make a difference. Some things are essential – fitness, biomechanics, etc – others are less essential but can make the difference such as posture when you sleep, using the right kind of pillow.

'Hygiene is extremely important because you are going to get ill a little bit less. If you put all these little things together you are going to improve.'

Looking beyond London 2012, Brailsford’s enthusiasm and drive are as strong as ever.

He added: 'We’ve got Rio (2016) coming up, we want to win the Tour again and we just want to keep cycling booming, getting more people on their bikes, getting participation up.

'There has never been a better opportunity. There is something to be done to make that real link between inspiration and participation.'

London 2012 Olympics: Girlie Games – Laura Williamson

Success of Britain's wonder women have made London 2012 the girlie Games

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UPDATED:

22:18 GMT, 5 August 2012

At the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996, Denise Lewis’s heptathlon bronze was the sole medal won by a British woman.

Just 16 years later, the time it took Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen to go from cradle to double Olympic champion, Britain’s sportswomen reached the halfway stage of London 2012 with 12 medals between them. Six of them are gold. This is fast turning into the girlie Games.

Jessica Ennis crossing the line to become the greatest all-round athlete in the world will surely become the enduring image of this Olympics. Victoria Pendleton’s stunning gold in the women’s keirin puts her among an elite group of females who have tasted Olympic success once and come back for more — but Pendleton is the only one to have done it on her own.

Medals of honour: In 1996, Denise Lewis was Britain's only female medal winner, but 16 years later the girls - like Lizzie Armitstead, Victoria Pendleton and Jess Ennis - are enjoying a golden Games

Medals of honour: In 1996, Denise Lewis was Britain's only female medal winner, but 16 years later the girls – like Lizzie Armitstead, Victoria Pendleton and Jess Ennis – are enjoying a golden Games

Lizzie Armitstead

Victoria Pendleton

Jessica Ennis

You wait 36 years for Britain’s first female gold medallists in rowing and then three boats come along at once. We go 12 years without seeing a medal in judo and then Gemma Gibbons and Karina Bryant furnish us with silver and bronze inside 24 hours.

Rebecca Adlington has never finished outside the medals in her four Olympic finals. Lizzie Armitstead saw the men miss out on road cycling glory but came within inches of gold. And we will claim Britain’s equestrian silver because four of the five team members were female.

These are extraordinary, unprecedented times for British sportswomen. You can’t begin to understand how much pleasure it gives me to write that; to know that young girls watching at home will feel it’s OK to run, jump, swim, cycle, row or throw someone to the ground in the pursuit of excellence.

That female athleticism is being celebrated and encouraged, not feared, mocked or indulged as a pastime that allows the woman in your life to eat an extra slice of pizza and still fit into her skinny jeans. Female athletes are not the sideshow but have equal billing; they matter just as much as the men.

Remember the debate last December, when no woman made it on to the 10-man shortlist for BBC Sports Personality of the Year Those days seem long gone.

Better than ever: British women have made history on the water at Eton Dorney

Better than ever: British women have made history on the water at Eton Dorney

It seems trivial to even discuss that award when British Olympic gold medals are raining down on London, but it reared its head again this week.

Lewis, of all people, argued there should be two trophies for the male and female sports personalities of the year. I nearly fell off the sofa.

THEY SAID WHAT

It is nigh-on impossible to be an
expert in all 26 Olympic disciplines, but some journalists' questions
have brought a smile this week.

'How do you know who's won bronze in
the tennis' was my favourite, closely followed by 'Which pieces of
apparatus do gymnasts compete in during the all-round event'

'Er… all of them,' came the reply.

Her line of thinking went something like
this: one of our brilliant British sportswomen might miss out because
the awe-inspiring first British winner of the Tour de France and
four-time Olympic gold medallist Bradley Wiggins happens to be male.

So we will just create another award for the girls. That’ll sort it. What a lot of patronising twaddle.

Britain’s sportswomen do not deserve to be demeaned by an award that might as well be called: ‘BBC female sports personality of the year (because you weren’t good enough to win the other one).’ Their achievements merit equal billing, particularly in Olympic year when the sports at which Britain’s women excel are given equivalent coverage.

It’s a public popularity contest and both Wiggins and Ennis would be worthy winners, regardless of their gender. Things have moved on since 1996 — and that is something that should be celebrated, not dressed up as a pretty sideshow.

… And this is what I've been doing this week

Gripped as Britain’s gymnasts won their first bronze for 100 years in the team event on Monday, then interviewing Louis Smith in a sound booth as he charged his phone and tried to make sense of it all. ‘Olympic fever baby, it’s gets you,’ he said. He’s right…

He's got the fever: Louis Smith may have been disappointed by his bronze, but he's loved the Olympics

He's got the fever: Louis Smith may have been disappointed by his bronze, but he's loved the Olympics

Feeling disappointed as Britain’s first female Olympic football team’s campaign ended in the quarter-finals. They provided magical moments and merited the support and coverage, but I can’t help thinking real success, a medal, was needed to send the sport into orbit…

Considering a career as a counsellor. The four-year Olympic cycle makes winning and losing so much more emotional; not only for the athletes, but for their families, too. There have been many hugs and tears of joy and frustration over the past seven days.

Performance of the week

There have been so many. Gemma Gibbons’s surprise silver in the women’s judo -78kg category – with a broken thumb – was a highlight, but it’s got to be Jessica Ennis’s blistering 100m hurdles in her bid for heptathlon gold. Pressure What pressure

London 2012 Olympic Cycling: Jason Kenny makes good start to sprint quarter-final

Pendleton and Kenny on track for more glory as they progress in sprint

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UPDATED:

17:08 GMT, 5 August 2012

Defending Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton advanced to Monday's quarter-finals of the women's sprint competition on day four of action at the London 2012 velodrome.

Moments after Jason Kenny moved into the semi-finals of the men's sprint, Pendleton progressed to the last eight of the corresponding women's competition.

Making her mark: Victoria Pendleton rides into the next round of sprint

Making her mark: Victoria Pendleton rides into the next round of sprint

On track for a medal: Pendleton competes in the track cycling in front of a cheering crowd

On track for a medal: Pendleton competes in the track cycling in front of a cheering crowd

The 31-year-old from Stotfold is seeking a third Olympic gold and second in the sprint, which concludes on Tuesday's final day of track action, to become the most successful female British Olympian of all time.

After qualifying in an Olympic record of 10.724 seconds, six-time world champion Pendleton met Ekaterina Gnidenko in the first round and advanced with ease, overtaking the Russian on the back straight and easing to a comfortable win.

Out in front: Britain's Jason Kenny beat Malaysia's Azizulhasni Awang 2-0

Out in front: Britain's Jason Kenny beat Malaysia's Azizulhasni Awang 2-0

Keeping him in sight: Kenny watches Awang

Keeping him in sight: Kenny watches Awang

Holland's Willy Kanis provided the opposition in the second round and again Pendleton's success was comprehensive as she advanced to the best-of-three last eight.

Kanis was set to have a second opportunity to advance after falling into the repechage.

Friday's victory in the keirin saw Pendleton move level with athlete Kelly Holmes, swimmer Rebecca Adlington and sailors Shirley Robertson, Sarah Ayton and Sarah Webb on two Olympic gold medals.

London 2012 Olympics: Victoria Pendleton breaks record in women"s sprint

Queen Victoria returns to the track in style as cycling ace smashes Olympic record

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UPDATED:

11:03 GMT, 5 August 2012

Victoria Pendleton began her bid for a third and final Olympic gold in sensational fashion in qualifying for the women's sprint at the London 2012 velodrome.

The 31-year-old won the event in Beijing four years' ago when it was the only title available to her and on Friday triumphed in the keirin, a new event to the Games programme.

World champion Pendleton opened her final competition before retirement with an Olympic record of 10.724 seconds, qualifying quickest ahead of perennial rival Anna Meares of Australia, who was second in 10.805secs.

Home favourite: Pendleton is bidding for her second gold of the Games

Home favourite: Pendleton is bidding for her second gold of the Games

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LIVE RESULTS |
EVENT SCHEDULE |
MEDALS TABLE

The duo were the only riders to dip beneath 11 seconds, with Pendleton gaining top seeding for the knockout rounds as she began her bid to sign off her career on Tuesday with victory.

China's Guo Shuang was third in 11.020, with world record holder Kristina Vogel of Germany fourth in 11.027. Ed Clancy was second with two events remaining in the omnium.

With the 15km scratch race and one-kilometre time-trial to come in the day's only medal event at the velodrome, world champion Glenn O'Shea of Australia led on 17 points, with Clancy two points behind.

Lasse Hansen of Denmark was third, Elia Viviani of Italy fourth on 20 points and France's Bryan Coquard fifth on 22 points. Clancy was fourth overnight after three events, but the second and final day of the six-discipline event featured two events against the clock in which he thrives.

In the first, the four-kilometre pursuit, the 2010 world champion, twice an Olympic team pursuit gold medallist, clocked four minutes 20.853 seconds to place second in the event and move up to second overall.

Hansen finished in 4mins 20.674secs to win the discipline, with O'Shea third in 4:24.811.

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London 2012 Olympics Watch BBC video highlights from day seven

Watch BBC video highlights from day seven at the Olympics

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UPDATED:

07:32 GMT, 4 August 2012

It was another golden glory day for Team GB as Victoria Pendleton bagged gold in the keirin and women's double sculls pair Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins sealed their places in the history books at Eton Dorney.

The medals flowed thick and fast for the hosts as Karina Bryant landed a bronze in Judo and Rebecca Adlington was in floods of tears after coming third in the 800m freestyle but failing to defend her title.

You can watch highlights of day seven on the video player below…

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London 2012 Olympics: Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish disqualified from sprint final

From new world record to disqualification! Joy to despair for Pendleton and Varnish

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UPDATED:

16:23 GMT, 2 August 2012

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LIVE RESULTS |
EVENT SCHEDULE |
MEDALS TABLE

Great Britain's Jess Varnish and Victoria Pendleton missed out on a ride-off for Olympic gold after being relegated by officials for a takeover infringement on an eventful opening evening of track action at the London 2012 velodrome.

Varnish and Pendleton had set a world record in the two-woman, two-lap event in qualifying, seeing the mark broken moments later by China.

The Britons set the second fastest time in the first round and were due to advance to the final against China, who set another world record, but officials ruled against them.

Pendleton was set to resume competition in the keirin on Friday, but for Varnish, who has focused on the starting lap in the event, the Games are over.

Speedsters: Victoria Pendleton (left) and Jess Varnish in the team sprint qualifying

Speedsters: Victoria Pendleton (left) and Jess Varnish in the team sprint qualifying

It meant Germany were promoted to the final against China, with Australia and Holland to contest bronze.
Pendleton told the BBC: 'It wasn't my fault and it wasn't Jess's fault. It's one of those things that happen. Rubbish things happen sometimes and this is one of them.'

The eight fastest teams advanced to the first round, with Varnish and Pendleton clocking 32.526 seconds to better the time Germany set in winning Track Cycling World Championships gold in Melbourne in April.

But China's Gong Jinjie and Guo Shuang went faster still in the fifth and final heat, clocking 32.447secs.

German duo Kristina Vogel and Miriam Welte were third fastest in 32.630, with Australia's Anna Meares and Kaarle McCulloch fourth quickest in 32.825.

The four fastest teams from the first round were set to go through to the medal rounds in an event which was wide open.

Lap it up: Great British rider Victoria Pendleton waves to the crowd at the Velodrome

Lap it up: Great British rider Victoria Pendleton waves to the crowd at the Velodrome

Varnish and Pendleton set the world record in February's Track World Cup in London, but finished fourth at the World Championships in an event which is new to the Olympic programme.

Jason Kenny and Sir Chris Hoy entered the corresponding men's event as defending champions and teamed up with 19-year-old German-born Philip Hindes.

Hindes had a disastrous start to his Olympic career in the fifth and final heat against Germany.

Round and round: Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish were two of the main attractions in the Velodrome on Thursday

Round and round: Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish were two of the main attractions in the Velodrome on Thursday

The teenager wobbled out of the start gate and lost control of his bike before tumbling to the track at the beginning of the first bend as team-mates Kenny and Hoy rolled past him.

Britain were poised to get a second opportunity but it was an unsettling start. The hosts' rivals had already thrown down the gauntlet.

Russia trio Sergey Borisov, Denis Dmitriev and Sergey Kucherov clocked 43.681 in the third heat, quicker than the Olympic-winning mark in Beijing.

France trio Gregory Bauge, Michael D'Almeida and Kevin Sireau went quicker, lowering the Olympic record to 43.097.

Wheels came off: Philip Hindes took a tumble at the start of qualifying but picked himself up

Wheels came off: Philip Hindes took a tumble at the start of qualifying but picked himself up