The tale of Katherine Grainger, who finally and wonderfully won a gold medal yesterday, is compelling, riveting and, forgive the descent into cliche, inspiring. This is not because the Glaswegian won the double sculls with her team-mate Anna Watkins at Eton Downey yesterday. It is because she almost unwittingly related a story with which most can recognise as deeply personal.
Grainger, famously, has won an Olympic gold medal after three consecutive silvers. The public at large may not identify with brilliance, with physical perfection or with that strength of temperament that marks the perennial champion. Indeed, the winner can make the supporter feel inadequate.
The loser, though, has traits that invite both empathy and sympathy. We all know what it is like to come up short, we all know what is like to long for something and find it beyond our grasp, we all know what failure looks like as we have seen it in a mirror on occasion.
The massed public reaction to the gold-medal victory of Grainger owes everything to this identification with the supreme rower as someone like ourselves, as a victim of disappointment, a martyr to thwarted hopes. It is why she called her gold the People's Medal. It is why she promised to show it to us all.
"I'm prepared to go round the country until the people are sick to the sight of me and my gold medal," she said, "It does feel like everyone deserves a go at it. So yeah we'll go on a tour."
Perception is everything when it comes to reaction. It is all when the backstory is written. It has its obvious absurdities, however. The image of Grainger as some kind of loser is rendered deeply suspect by her having won three Olympic silver medals and numerous world titles. She has attained a degree in law at Edinburgh University, a master of philosophy in medical law and medical ethics at Glasgow University, and is now studying the matter of homicide for a PhD at King's College, University of London.
In short, she is intelligent, a world-class athlete and, forgive the superficiality, attractive. It is not the portrait of a loser.
However, the resonance of the Grainger narrative is sustained by the repeated chronicling of her three second-place finishes at consecutive Olympics. This is a storyline that captures the hearts and the minds.
The tale of the bridesmaid who wanted to be bride, the eternal runner-up who wants to take that one more step up a podium ensured that the rowing at Eton Downey yesterday captured more than the 25,000 committed fans who looked on to the waters.
"This is the People's Medal," said Grainger after her victory and for once a sound bite had some authenticity. Watkins, her solid partner, stood by her side after Australia had been dismissed in the double sculls with Poland taking the bronze.
But the day centred on the 36-year-old Grainger. Indeed, such was the impact of her achievement that it was almost forgotten that Team GB won two other medals in rowing yesterday, with single sculler Alan Campbell and the men's pair of George Nash and William Satch both taking bronze.
But the main event was the coronation of Katherine the Great. "Finally," she said with the sort of grin that makes others feel better when she stepped on to land after a race that was almost a formality.
There was little in the way of twists and turns and no dramatic denouement to the contest. Team GB took an early lead, were slightly concerned about the proximity of Australia and then pulled into clear water. They held their advantage until the finish line of the 2000-metre race.
There were then the ritual celebrations for a special gold. Grainger pumped the air with her fist, the Eton Downey roar floated across the water and there was a special reception party when she came ashore.
There was a long, strong hug with Steve Redgrave. This will be captioned as the ultimate winner meeting the erstwhile loser. It has a slickness but the truth is that Grainger had finally climbed to the top of a mountain that she had identified all of 17 years ago when she started rowing at Edinburgh University. The public image obscures an obvious truth: Grainger is a born winner.
The hug with Redgrave was one between two rowers and two kindred spirits. The first-time gold medallist whispered in wonderment to the man who won five. "I don't know how he could get through five amazing moments like that," she said. "Just one has filled me up with so much joy. He wasn't saying much, he knows what it means and he's been there along my entire Olympic journey."
There were words of praise from Craig Reedie, a fellow Scot who is a member of the International Olympic Committee Board, who said: "Katherine's is the medal of the Games. I told her: 'Go and be famous. She's a star lady."
John Major, the former prime minister, believes the win will be savoured by all in Britain. "The whole country would have been in mourning had she not won. It's absolutely tremendous. There will be kids watching that think: 'Can I be like Katherine Grainger one day'. I certainly hope they will be."
Through the past two years, through that definitive 2000 meters yesterday and through the post-race mayhem, Watkins was close by Grainger and she has been more than a team-mate for the Scot. "The first time Anna and I got in the boat together we knew we had the potential to be the best in the world," said Grainger.
"Once you know you have it it's about delivering it. For us delivering it in front of a home crowd at a home Olympics, the biggest sporting event in the world, was what we set out to do. We knew if we did that we'd have achieved something very, very special."
And they did, maintaining their unbeaten record since they teamed up in 2010. The most awful question did not have to be asked of Grainger after her victory. She did not have to be probed and poked about a fourth Olympics without a gold but she did have to reflect on what it would have been like if it had all ended on the waters of Eton Downey with another second place or even worse.
Would her career have been unfulfilled? "In a word, yes," she replied without hesitation. "As a person and individual I'd still have been happy, secure, safe, normal-ish. But as an athlete it would have always been the one I didn't get. I've achieved it today and I think we knew we were special together in a boat and if we hadn't achieved that together then we'd have under-performed."
There was no hint of any vulnerability in their boat and their stark superiority raised the immediate question of why Grainger would even consider quitting. Her mother, Liz, in a forgivable outburst of jubilation, cried out after the race: "Bring on Rio."
Both the 29-year-old Watkins and Grainger would not be drawn on the future but, intriguingly, the Scot did not rule out yet another Olympic campaign in the Brazilian capital. "We're both very aware of August 3 as this massive day in history when we were going to have the race of our lives and we did not really think beyond it," she said. "I do not even know what we're doing tomorrow. Once we have got this result settled we will probably look forward."
Reflection will come for Grainger. Plans will be made. But the story of yesterday will endure and not just for the gold medallists. This is a tale that tells us all that sometimes dreams come true, sometimes all the effort pays off and sometimes, just sometimes, there can be unmitigated joy after desperate disappointment. Grainger needed this, but so do we all.