Having won silver medals on the same night in Beijing and now gold on the same heady night in London, Sally Pearson and Anna Meares are revelling in the back-slaps of a grateful nation and the glow of a mutual admiration society.
Meares set the tone by winning the blue-ribbon event of women’s track cycling, the match sprint, against crowd favourite Victoria Pendleton, the Brit who had beaten her to gold in 2008 and beaten her again in the London keirin event.
Pearson followed suit a few hours later at the track, winning the 100m hurdles gold medal like a true world champion to give Australia its first golden double day of the 2012 Olympics.
The winning theme continued on Wednesday when sailors Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen won the 49er skiff gold medal, Australia’s fifth, on what was essentially a lap of honour at Weymouth because they had already amassed an unassailable lead.
The skiff gold made sailing Australia’s most successful sport at these London Games following Tom Slingsby’s win in the men’s Laser moved Australia to 11th on the medal tally.
Back in London, Pearson and Meares were breathing a huge sigh of relief, thanking their support networks and revealing what an inspiration they had been to each other.
Meares asked Pearson to sign her copy of Aspire, the Australian Olympic team’s daily news sheet, which was justifiably trumpeting their twin golds on its front page alongside the headline “Track Queens”.
“That’s cool, to get to share the front page with Sally Pearson,” said Meares, who was beaming on Wednesday morning despite failing to get a wink of sleep overnight.
“I was full of pride and happiness to see her run.”
“I have always looked up to Anna Meares,” said Pearson.
“I have watched her riding for a long time now, way before I made it to the Olympics, and she has always been an inspiration to me.
“To share this with her is a dream come true.”
The pair bumped into each other for the first time after their victories at about 1.30am in the morning while meeting media commitments and ran to embrace and congratulate each other.
Their twin triumphs gave a much needed boost to the Australian team, vaulting them up the medals table to a more respectable 12th position and lifting spirits after a mediocre start to the Games.
Meares revealed criticism from the media and public had been affecting the athletes.
“Yes, oh my God, yes,” she replied when asked if they had been feeling the pressure.
“I think the whole team is feeling it, to be honest. I was very surprised in the village this morning to realise how many of the Australian team had been watching Sally and I. I was truly overwhelmed.”
Pearson travelled the most flawless path of all to her moment of glory.
She went in as world champion and hot favourite, and ran a technically brilliant race to turn the tables on Dawn Harper, her Beijing conqueror, albeit by just two hundredths of a second.
“I have been wanting that gold medal since watching Cathy Freeman win (the 400m) in 2000 in Sydney,” Pearson said. “It’s been a 12-year dream that has finally come true.”
Meares probably had to dig deeper to overcome the setback of a disappointing fifth place in the keirin final.
She also spent some moments believing she had lost the first race of the best-of-three sprint final against Pendleton, who ultimately had her win taken off her for straying outside the sprinter’s lane.
But those moments were a precious time for some self-evaluation by Meares.
She asked her coach if there were grounds for a protest over a collision but he told her: “Don’t worry. You’ve got to beat her twice anyway.”
“I looked at him and said, ‘I can do this’. I knew in that moment that the first ride had given me huge confidence that I had the strength in my legs to run her down.”
Meares did just that in the second sprint, blowing Pendleton away to claim the gold that had eluded her four years ago.
Both athletes felt a huge relief, a weight off their shoulders.
Meares talked of “huge anxiety levels”, saying: “I’m glad I dyed my hair before the competition because I swear I’m going to go grey.”
She revealed a tip from former Wallabies great and Olympic team mentor John Eales had helped her cope with the pressure of tackling a British favourite on home soil.
Eales told her how the Wallabies had worn track suits during the traditional pre-match performance of the haka by the All Blacks, giving them the chance to get into a huddle to remove the track suits and regain their composure.
Meares used a similar strategy at the velodrome, letting Pendleton go to the start line first so that she could mentally regroup while the raucous home crowd settled down.
And the best thing of all is that it worked.