Britain awoke, afraid it might all have been a dream.
It wasn’t: Six gold medals, including three in track and field within the space of an hour Saturday night, had given the country its best day at an Olympic Games since 1908.
A country accustomed to sporting disappointment could scarcely contain its disbelief.
‘‘Don’t choke on your cornflakes,’’ said a BBC morning TV presenter, before telling viewers that Britain, with a population of 63 million, lay third in the medal table, behind the United States (310 million) and China (1.3 billion).
British Sunday newspapers tried to outdo one another in front-page superlatives.
The Observer declared it ‘‘Britain’s greatest day,’’ and the Sunday Times said it was ‘‘Our finest Olympic hour.’’ For the Sunday Telegraph, it was simply ‘‘Sensational.’’
‘‘The six pack,’’ said The Sun — referring both to the gold medalists and to the washboard abs of British heptathlon champ Jessica Ennis.
Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted that Ennis’s triumph was ‘‘awe inspiring.’’ It was followed by victories in the 10,000 meters for Mo Farah and in the long jump for Greg Rutherford, in what London Games organizer Sebastian Coe called ‘‘the greatest day of sport that I have ever witnessed.’’
What a difference a week makes. Last Sunday, newspapers were full of gloom after Mark Cavendish had failed to win the cycling road race on the first day of competition.
The British medal rush continued Sunday, with Andy Murray trouncing Roger Federer for singles tennis gold and sailor Ben Ainslie winning his fourth Olympic gold in the Finn class race. For good measure, gymnasts Louis Smith and Max Whitlock took a silver and a bronze in the pommel horse, while Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson took silver in sailing’s Star class.
What had appeared an unreachable target by national Olympic officials — to better the 47 medals won in Beijing — now seems a real possibility.
The athletes seemed as stunned as the fans. Farah said he couldn’t have done it without the ‘‘incredible’’ lift from the 80,000-strong hometown crowd.
Rower Kat Copeland sobbed with disbelief after she and Sophie Hosking won the lightweight doubles sculls.