Every since the curtain went down on the Beijing Olympics—the most bountiful medal haul from a British team in a century—just under four years ago, expectations have multiplied. The nine billion pound extravaganza, it was hoped, expected even, would manifest itself into an even more dominant display of British supremacy. In the window of the world, Great Britain wanted to look their best.
We are now four days in, and Britain has four medals; a medal a day, if you will. Yet, most pertinently, the cabinet lacks a certain golden luster. In their home Olympic games, the host nation cannot yet boast a gold medal.
While the situation is far from endemic, a plethora of fancied medal prospects have just missed out. The most recent being Canoeist David Florence, the current world number one. Again, on the opening day of competition ’The Manx Missile’, Mark Cavendish had the gold medal albeit pinned to his lycra by the overzealous brazen of the British press. After allowing a break to form in the race, however, the dominant GB cyclists were unable to draw the field back again and Cavendish finished back in 25th.
Tom Daley too, the golden boy of British diving succumbed to the debilitating affliction of failed expectation, as he and partner Pete Waterfield, despite promising much, finished in fourth.
It has not all been a case of failed expectation, however, as GB’s men’s gymnasts produced a quite unbelievable performance to claim a shock bronze medal.
Put into perspective the extent of the British under-performance is minor. Not a single medal has been awarded from any of Britain’s traditionally strong events of athletics, sailing and rowing, and only two have been decided in their strongest, cycling—and one of those they medalled in.
The lack of gold is a monkey that will sit on the back of team GB, administered by a nation desperate to live up to four years ago. The only remedy is the long awaited gold, and until it comes the expectation will only permeate.
So, how long do we have to wait?
In all likelihood the voodoo may well be broken tomorrow, with a clutch of opportunities in the next two days.
The first bite of the proverbial cherry will come in the cycling time trial tomorrow, when Emma Pooley will ride with a clear chance of a medal. However, with American Kristin Armstrong starting out as the favourite in the event, the silver medallist from Beijing may have to be content with one of the minor medals.
At around the same time—midday tomorrow—new Olympic record holding women's pair, Helen Glover and Heather Stanning take to the lake for their final. The 2011 World Championship silver medallists have been in superb form this year and harbour a very realistic ambition of becoming GB’s first ever female Olympic rowing gold medallists.
Around two hours later, Britain will again start as favourites for gold as Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins rides in the men’s time trial event. Having won the Tour time trial by over a minute from GB team-mate Chris Froome, Wiggins will look to seal his Sports personality of the year win, with another strong ride. Whilst reigning Olympic champions and time trial specialist Fabian Cancellara will look to curtail British celebrations, on his day Wiggins is the strongest rider in the field. Froome will also look to medal in the event, but with a relatively flat course going against the climbing temperament of the British rider, a gold looks a long shot.
Even if none of these avenues yield golden return, three more opportunities will present themselves before the weekend.
Down at Dorney lake, Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins are red hot favourites to claim gold. For Grainger, the silver medallist at the last three games, it would put the golden seal on a glorious career.
At six o’clock, the men’s team pursuit will look to reassert Britain’s dominance of the velodrome in the second day of competition. The current Olympic champions and World record holders, will start as strong favourites.
Two hours later, at 8 o’clock, the third chance of the night will come in the pool, where Britain’s darling Rebbeca Adlington will go in her favourite 800 metres event, looking to defend the title she won in Beijing four years ago.
Patience is most certainly a virtue, one the British public possesses in spades. It is understandable that, given the media exposure and insatiable desire to succeed that an Olympic games spawns, we will start to wonder when expectations are not met. Yet with failed expectation, the inevitable cathartic joy of subsequent success will be all the sweeter.
We don’t have long to wait.