Not since the first London Olympics, when just 22 nations took part compared to the present 204 and when much of the world was ruled from the British capital, have the country’s athletes stashed away so much gold and so many medals.
“Brits historically got used to being the plucky losers … It is like it is almost inevitable that the Brits are going to get beaten at some point and I think that is starting to change,” said British cyclist Chris Hoy.
“You now have a group of athletes who have only seen success … and to them being part of a British team means being part of a winning team.”
Yorkshire in the north of England can claim more gold medals than Britain’s archrival Australia who have won just three so far.
With five full days remaining, Britain had taken 22 golds and 48 medals from 13 sports, if track and road cycling are considered separately. Britain is third in the medals table.
“This has really turned into a golden summer for Team GB and for the whole of the UK,” Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters.
Sauntering across the triathlon finish line in leafy Hyde Park, the Union Jack flag draped around his shoulders, Alistair Brownlee secured Britain’s 19th gold to equal the tally from Beijing four years ago that ranked as the previous best in a century. His brother Jonathan finished third.
The immaculately turned out dressage team of Carl Hester, Laura Bechtolsheimer and Charlotte Dujardin took the total to 20 golds at the Greenwich Park equestrian arena and Laura Trott added another in the women’s track cycling omnium event.
Hoy then rounded off a day of triumph with the seventh Olympic medal of his career, and sixth gold, to rival the tally of compatriot, Tour de France winner and London time trial champion Bradley Wiggins.
The victory put Hoy ahead of Wiggins, who has four titles, on ‘gold difference’ as Britain’s most decorated Olympian.
In Beijing, Britain ended up fourth overall in the medals table with 47 medals from 11 sports.
That was the country’s best performance since 1908, where Britain as hosts won 56 golds and 146 medals in total, but in Beijing the tally of 19 gold was not reached until the final weekend.