Tom Thornycroft in his power boat, Gyrinus II in 1908.
WIGHT LIVING THE years of waiting are finally over. Tonight, the opening ceremony of the greatest show on earth takes place in London where thousands of athletes from all over the planet are set to compete for the greatest prizes in sport.
The compelling spectacle to find out who is the strongest, fastest and fittest of our species will unfold over three weeks of high drama at the 2012 London Olympics.
There will be highs and lows, triumphs and disappointments — and, hopefully, a huge medal haul for Team GB as we attempt to outperform the stellar benchmark set in Beijing four short years ago.
Watching the drama unfold on the Island will be a select breed of athletes from our shores who have already had their share of Olympic glory.
Most famous among these will be Shirley Robertson. A double Olympic gold medallist, she will be commentating for the BBC as the sailing competition, featuring the likes of Ben Ainslie, unfolds just across the water in Weymouth.
There is also the Island’s very own Lewis Attrill, who won gold at the Sydney Olympics as one of the rowing eight who captured Britain’s first gold medal in rowing’s Blue Ribband event since 1912.
Bronze medallist in the women’s heptathlon in Athens, Newport’s Kelly Sotherton, did not make team GB this year and has since retired from the sport.
However, she has made a number of TV appearances since and just last week was on the 50 Greatest Olympic moments show with Richard Bacon and hurdler Colin Jackson.
Thought to be the Island’s only other living medallist is Cowes sailor Jo Richards, who scooped Olympic bronze in 1984 when he helmed a Flying Dutchman racing dingy.
Then there are the Islanders who competed in the Olympics but did not quite make the podium.
Most well-known of these is the swimmer Darren Mew, who was tipped for glory at the Athens games in 2004 but cruelly suffered a shoulder injury before the competition.
Another star from the Island was the table tennis player c, who competed in three Olympics and reached the last 16 in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics but was beaten by the eventual gold medal winner.
There are other heroes on the Island who represented their country with distinction.
Among them, veteran sailor Maj John Barrington-Ward, who was at Helsinki in 1952, and Gurnard sailor Pete Newlands, who competed in the 1984 Los Angeles games, and who, along with Shirley and Jo, recently took a cruise for the RNLI to raise money for the new Cowes lifeboat station.
Also from Yarmouth are the two members of the 1976 Winter Olympics bob sleigh team, John Caulcutt, 63, and Richard Minchin, 62.
The pair, who competed at Innsbruck, Austria, and came a creditable 18th out of 36 teams, proudly donned their Olympic blazers and helped to welcome the Olympic torch as it arrived in Yarmouth for the beginning of the torch relay on July 14.
Finally, there are the island’s success stories which can now only be read about in the history books.
Strangest and most prestigious of these was during the first London Olympics held in 1908 when, for the first and only time, power boating was an Olympic sport, and an Island man won two gold medals.
Tom Thornycroft, from the ship-building family, won both the Class B and Class C events with his motor boat, Gyrinus II. The Thornycroft quest for speed originated at Sir John Thornycroft’s home Steyne House, Bembridge, where a specially designed test tank for boats was built and still exists.
Tom’s success in the 1908 Olympics was not quite the end of his association with the Olympics. In 1951, at the grand old age of 70 and 44 years after winning his gold medals, he was official reserve for the yachting team and although he went to Finland for the Helsinki Games, he was not called to compete.
One thing is certain. As the current crop of Islanders, both in the Olympics and the Paralympics embarks on their quest for glory, we will all be glued to our TV screens and wishing them every success as they strive to be the best in the world.