PUBLISHED: 20:57 01 December 2009 | UPDATED: 15:28 20 February 2013
Cheshire athletes made a major contribution to the success of the Beijing Olympics.
Britain's cycling team dominated the world at Beijing and the contribution of Cheshire riders was outstanding. Jamie Staff from Disley set the fastest time in the world when leading off the first leg in the Olympic team three-man sprint on the way to gold medals and the world record. He told the world's press that 'essentially four years of effort comes down to 17 seconds of action'.
Stockport's Paul Manning at last won an Olympic gold in the men's four-man team pursuit, to add to Olympic bronze in 2000 and silver in 2004, in what will probably be his last Olympics.
Sadly, a huge disappointment and surprise came in the women's BMX final when Crewe's world champion Shanaze Reade, hot favourite for the gold medal, fell rather badly in the final and had her hopes of an Olympic title destroyed. Despite her extreme disappointment and her injuries, Shanaze vowed she will claim the title in London in 2012
Macclesfield-born Ben Ainslie incredibly won his fourth Olympic medal and made it three gold medals in consecutive games, Sydney 2000, Athens, 2004 and Beijing 2008 and has been dubbed by Britain's media as Britain's greatest ever sailor.
I think Horatio Nelson might be turning in his grave but Ben Ainslie is a formidable sailor. He won the Finn Class in Qingdao,China in very trying conditions. He said: 'The conditions were among the toughest I have ever experienced.'Following his latest success and almost legendary status there is a suggestion that he be given the freedom of Macclesfield.
Britain's rowers enjoyed considerable success and Matt Langridge from Northwich in his second Olympics won a silver medal representing Great Britain in the Men's Eights to add to his 2007 World Cup gold in the double sculls and Men's Eight.
Cheshire had two women in the Great Britain team, young Hannah Whelan from Stockport who gained valuable experience in representing her country in the Women's
Team Event and of course the world renowned Bunbury girl, Beth Tweddle.
Sadly there were no medals for either. Hannah gained priceless experience while Beth suffered terrible frustration. During training she injured herself which curtailed her movements but in the Uneven Bars she gave an incredible performance. Despite receiving the highest A score in a worldclass field, she had to settle for fourth place missing a bronze Olympic medal by 0.025 of a point to a Chinese competitor.
Northwich-born Paula Radcliffe, world marathon champion and holder of many long distance running titles had never won an Olympic medal. Tragically in preparation
for Beijing it was discovered that she had suffered a femur fracture and her participation in the games was in doubt up until the very last minute. She elected to run and despite a near miraculous recovery she finished in 23rd place and earned the sympathy and respect of the world's press.
Great Britain's women's hockey team was captained by Stockport's Kate Walsh but were unable to progress to the medal positions despite several good performances. They needed to beat the USA to progress to the semi-final but could only manage a 0-0 draw. Kate could barely hide her disappointment when she told the television interviewer that she was emotionally drained and 'bitterly disappointed about the result'.
Stockport Metro Swimming Club has provided Great Britain with several swimmers of the very highest class and this year was no exception. James Goddard former winner of Commonwealth Games gold and British record holder of the 200m individual medley time reached the Olympic final and finished a credible sixth behind the winner, America's
unbeatable Michael Phelps.
Another member of Stockport Metro, Michael Rock had mixed fortunes. Although he was disappointed in only making the semifinal of the 200m butterfly and missed out on the final of the 100m butterfly he did compete in the final of the Men's 100m Medley Relay.
He was part of the British quartet that finished sixth in the final but broke the British record during an exciting event that saw Michael Phelps win his historic eighth gold medal in one Olympics. However it was two of Stockport Metro's girls who brought considerable light and joy not only to the sporting public but also to the watching British audience.
Swimming in one of the toughest events, new to the Olympics, the 10 kilometres Open Water race, Keri-Anne Payne won the silver medal while close friend Cassie Patten took the bronze. Both girls led throughout the tough, contact swim for almost two hours before the unbeaten Russian world champion pipped them at the post.
In the pool Keri-Anne did not fare so well in the 400m Individual Medley but Cassie reached the final of the 800m finishing eighth behind the gold medal winner and one of her best friends, Rebecca Adlington.When the girls were interviewed by the BBC, Cassie put her arm around Rebecca who had just won her second gold medal and said: 'Queen if you are watching (pointing to Rebecca) Dame Becky remember, Dame Becky.'
The Olympic class of 2008 has added to Cheshire's sporting legacy and the gold medal winners join the exclusive club of previous winners,Willie Dod, Sean Kerly, Chris Boardman and Ben Ainslie (for the third time.)