Sophie Hosking, a former Durham student, won rowing gold in the lightweight woman’s double scull to contribute to what was arguably the greatest day in British sporting history.
Hosking and rowing partner Kat Copeland powered home in front of a raucous crowd at Eton Dorney, beating China by two seconds and leaving world champions Greece trailing in bronze position.
Their stunning triumph adds to a memorable Olympics for Team GB’s rowing set-up, who have delivered four gold medals, two silver and three bronze.
In addition, their achievement came on a day of unprecedented Olympic success for Team GB, when another rowing gold, this time from the men’s coxless four, was matched in the velodrome by the all-conquering cycling team in the women’s pursuit.
The Olympic Stadium was then set alight with unforgettable performances from Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah, who all stormed to gold medals in front of a delirious 80,000-strong crowd.
In total, Saturday brought 6 gold medals for Great Britain, a feat which propelled them to third in the medals table, behind only the USA and China.
And a former Chemistry and Physics student from Trevelyan College helped make that happen.
Hosking graduated in 2007, and has in the past attributed her sporting success to her time at Durham.
Speaking to Team Durham, she said:
“‘I can honestly say that if I hadn’t gone to Durham I wouldn’t now be competing internationally in rowing.
“Durham as a collegiate university in a small city lends itself to let students study and pursue sporting careers simultaneously.
I am therefore glad I chose Durham for the sporting experiences I have had as a result of studying there for three years.”
Hosking’s achievement is remarkable, considering she teamed up with Copeland just a number of months ago at the start of the 2012 World Cup series.
They showed glimpses of their star potential during the series, not least when they finished just half a second behind Greece to win a silver medal in Belgrade, and they had recorded the fastest time in the heats and the semi-final.
But they were by no means favourites heading into the final at Eton Dorney, and at half-way they trailed the Greeks in second place.
A controlled and devastating burst of pace over the final 1000m, however, powered the pair to a comfortable gold medal.
As they crossed the line, Hosking burst into tears of pride, while Copeland’s expression of utter disbelief will surely be one of the enduring images of the 2012 Games.
Hosking’s tremendous achievement is further proof of the important role university education can play in the development of elite sportsmen and women.
‘Inspire A Generation’ is the motto of the London Games, and Hosking’s golden exploits may just have inspired Durham students to follow in her footsteps.