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Once upon a time Britain's rivalry with Russia was referred to as the "Great Game", Asia was the playing field and India was the prize. Now, Asia is still the playing field, India's nowhere and the prize is a great Games.

With three days left and 63 gold medals still to be decided, Team GB are going head-to-head with Russia for third place in the Beijing medal table.

After Super Saturday, Splendid Sunday and Terrific Tuesday, the impossible seemed possible: Britain's Olympic team really could finish as high as third in the Olympic standings for the first time in 88 years.

But then the track cycling, rowing and sailing finished, and sightings of a suddenly rampant Russian bear were spotted in venues across town. We're in front at close of play on Thursday, but there's only one gold in it, 17-16, with the Russians leading on silvers and bronzes.

Hold on to your laptops, ladies and gentlemen, this one is going to the wire.

Continue reading "China for gold, Britain for bronze?"

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All day, the omens had looked so good for Phillips Idowu.

The rain had fallen so heavily in Beijing that he could have been at home in London. His hair was dyed red, the same tone as the Chinese flag. He even had the same bib number, 1809, as Kelly Holmes had worn when she won 1500m gold in Athens - the same number, spookily, as the Olympic triple jump record.

But in the end, even for a man who had said a few weeks ago that he felt "bullet-proof", who had gone all year unbeaten and who produced his season's best in the Olympic final, it wasn't quite enough.

Continue reading "Idowu pipped on night of disappointments"

Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson's gold medal was the perfect prize to handover to the next Olympic sailing regatta in Weymouth 2012.

Great Britain's medal target in sailing was four - to achieve that in golds with an additional silver and bronze was beyond anyone's wildest dreams.

Percy and Simpson's victory in the Star class was pure gold in every sense of the word. The lifelong friends showed great resilience to squeeze through an extremely testing medal race to secure first place.

Continue reading "Sailors provide perfect handover"


Britain have won 39 medals at this Olympics - but have any of them been harder earned than David Davies' silver in the men's 10k open water race?

And is there a more deserving champion than the guy who beat him to gold?

Welshman Davies said he felt "violated" after his swim - he was kicked in the mouth, swum over, and had his goggles knocked off in the course of the one hour 51mins 51second race.

Wednesday's women's winner Russian Larisa Ilchenko said it had felt like "boxing not swimming".

And in today's race, pundit and former Olympic bronze medallist Steve Parry said it looked like Davies was having to practice the art of taekwondo at the same time as well as executing his strokes.

By the end of it he was tacking like Ben Ainslie as he flailed up the final 300m, his wayward line in part responsible for losing him his seven-metre lead to eventual winner Dutchman Maartin van der Weijden.


Continue reading "Marathon swim delivers another sensational finish - and inspirational champion"

"What's Tianjin famous for?" we asked our local driver as we flew along the highway between Beijing and the coastal city to the east of China's capital.

"Lazy people and good restaurants," replied Tony.

That may well be the case, indeed the pace of life is definitely slower in Tianjin than Beijing and we enjoyed a decent lunch but the city has more to boast about than leisurely lunches.

It is also the birthplace of Eric Liddell, Britain's 1924 400m Olympic Champion who was immortalised in David Putnam's film "Chariots of Fire".

Continue reading "Liddell is Chinese hero"


A 13-year-old Michael Phelps was acting up after practice one day - squirting the girls with water bottles, splashing people, generally playing the goat. Bob Bowman, head coach at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, was unimpressed and called Phelps over to reprimand him.

"You shouldn't even have the energy to clown around," said Bowman, miffed that his session hadn't worked as intended. "That was the hardest practice we've ever done. Why aren't you tired?"

"I don't get tired," replied Phelps.

At that moment Bowman realised he had something special on his hands, and if he was going to unlock this kid's full potential he was going to have to become a much better coach. Trying to tire out Phelps would become his mission.

Continue reading "The secret to being like Mike"

With my event, the men's mountain bike cross country, coming up on Saturday, all is going well but I'm getting bored with waiting and just want to get on with it.

The training camp in Chanping, north of Beijing, went really well and was a great location with good roads and a relaxed atmosphere.

Since coming to the Olympic Village things are a bit busier but all is still good.

The success of the other Brits - and in particular the cyclists - is amazing and great to be involved with it, and hopefully I can add to it on Saturday.

The course has been made far tougher than the test race last year and is now a real test. It will be every man for himself out there as there is no hiding.

So what are the most important lessons for London 2012 to be learned from the Beijing Games?

All you have to do is walk into the Olympic Green here and talk to spectators to find out.

A lack of TV screens around the Green showing other sports, the absence of a simple thing like a programme for spectators, and the poor food on offer; those were the main criticisms I heard from spectators.

Meanwhile, if you take a tour around Beijing, you will quickly see there is no carnival atmosphere in the streets away from the venues.

Continue reading "London must be HIP Games"

Ukrainian heptahlete Lyudmila Blonska was exposed five years ago as a drugs cheat.

If she were British she wouldn't have been at the Beijing Games, because the British Olympic Association's bye law, still intact after Dwain Chambers' recent challenge, would have prevented her.

The lifetime ban which will now surely follow once the IOC and IAAF have concluded the disciplinary process against her will hopefully bring to an end a career built on a lie.

Sources say this latest infringement is another steroid case, just as it was in 2003, when she was first banned for two years.

Continue reading "Drug cheats getting comeuppance"

The standard of diving at these Olympics has been absolutely mind-blowing - and I can't wait to see what the men's individual 10m platform has got in store when it starts on Friday.

Tom Daley will be in action again for Great Britain and I can tell you he's in good shape and diving well in training.

We didn't plan it, but I've actually seen him every day, either at the Water Cube - where he's been taking in the swimming competition - at the Village or at the team lodge, which is where athletes can meet up with friends and family.

Obviously, there was a bit of a furore about Blake Aldridge's comments about Tom after their disappointing performance in the synchro final last week. I know, because my phone was ringing off the hook!

Continue reading "Daley ready, but don't count out Waterfield"

Bird's Nest Stadium, Beijing

On Wednesday evening Beijing time, Phillips Idowu will walk out into the Bird's Nest stadium as hot favourite for triple jump gold.

It's an unfamiliar feeling for Phillips. After jumping to sixth in Sydney eight years ago as a fresh-faced 21-year-old, he's struggled to convert that talent into big medals.

This season, however, he's dominated from the World Indoors onwards, cementing his world number one ranking with a first round jump of 17.44m in qualifying on Monday.

Idowu has been almost scarily confident this summer, going as far as describing himself as "bullet-proof" last month.

But former Olympic triple jump champion Jonathan Edwards, says self-belief was never the problem for the the 29-year-old from Hackney.

Continue reading "Delivery day for talented Phillips"

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