For British athletes and spectators alike, the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games was an experience like no other.
It’s now ten years since Jess Ennis-Hill and Jonnie Peacock lit up the Olympic Stadium, Dame Katherine Grainger and Ellie Simmonds shone both on and in the water, and the likes of Laura Kenny, Hannah Cockroft, Nicola Adams and Lee Pearson made themselves household names.
For some, it changed careers and lives. All this summer, we’ll be asking British athletes – whether they competed in London or not – for their memories of the Games, and the impact that it’s had on them. Here, Kristian Thomas, who won gymnastics bronze alongside his Great Britain team-mates, shares his experiences.
“I remember London winning the right to stage the Games in 2005. Being a junior at that stage, I wasn’t necessarily focusing on a specific competition in the future, but being a home Games certainly meant London 2012 became more of a focal point, and naturally my biggest target to aim for.
“Coming into London 2012, we were quietly confident that we had an outside chance of a medal. We didn’t put too much pressure on ourselves, and we knew that as the first Great Britain men’s gymnastics team to qualify for an Olympics since 1992, we had already achieved a massive milestone for the sport.
“Not being medal favourites meant we could concentrate on our preparation and come in under the radar from media, press or other pressures that can naturally distract your preparation.
“For that reason, we decided to hold our prep camp in France, and come into the village relatively late. This meant we missed a lot of the ‘noise’ and media attention that was starting to build ahead of the Games.
“Maybe because of that, the thing that took me most by surprise during the Olympics was the support we received from the nation. The opening ceremony felt like we were coming together as a team, and allowed us to feed off the positive energy and use the support and home advantage to our favour.
“Once the first GB medal was won, it felt like the confidence and momentum amongst GB athletes grew, and continued to do so thereafter.
“London was my first Olympics so I didn’t have too many expectations of what to expect, but living in the Olympic village, being surrounded by fellow athletes and your idols was an incredible experience.
“The sheer size and vast amount of food options in the dining hall, and having an opportunity to socialise with other athletes from Team GB and other nations all made the village atmosphere an enjoyable and unique one, and it was a great place to live for those few weeks – something that will always stay with me.
“In terms of my overall highlight of the Games, it would have to be the team final competition. Waiting backstage before we were announced into the O2 Arena, every single emotion was running through my body; excitement, nerves, adrenaline, butterflies…and taking a moment, I knew that whatever I would go onto achieve, I would never be able to replicate those feelings that I had right there and then – and for that reason, it is one of my most memorable moments.
“Equally, the moment we found out we were Olympic medallists and hearing the noise of the crowd cheering was like nothing I had ever experienced, and that raw reaction and emotion will always stay with me.
“The experiences and success of London 2012 were not only a highlight of my competitive career, but gave me the confidence to go on and be competitive at the highest level for the remainder of my career, winning further medals at world and European Championships. Looking back, this was a missing element of my gymnastics up to that point, and one of the reasons why London 2012 was truly life-changing.”