Sports History Chronicle Awards: Sporting Highlights of 2012

This award is a personal selection of the moments and events that I enjoyed most or made the biggest impression on me. Some are the famous moments of the year, others are less obvious.

These are some of my favourites with an explanation why.

From the Olympics

The GB women’s volleyball team winning against Algeria. Among the British teams which took part in the Games only through being hosts there were few victories.  This one occurred well after midnight. Algeria were ranked much higher than the British but GB won in the fifth and deciding set.

GB women basketball v France. The French went on to win the silver medal but the British women led them by three points with just seconds to go in their group match. The French captain then produced a miracle shot to tie the game and produced another in overtime to win it for France. Cruel on the British but that is why sport is so dramatic.

Jade Jones – before the Games I didn’t know much about her but as the day progressed it became clear that she was in tremendous form. Her reaction on winning the gold medal when she threw her head-guard way into the air showed the sheer elation of victory and makes me smile every time I see it.

Katherine Grainger – at the start of 2012 I tweeted that if I could choose one British athlete to win a gold medal it would be Grainger. She won silver medals at the previous three Olympics and I was pleased to see her finally win the gold. In fact it was a slight anti-climax as it was clear almost from the start that she and Anna Watkins were going to win easily.

Jessica Ennis in the hurdles – the first event in the Olympic stadium was the heptathlon. Jessica Ennis ran an unbelievably fast 100m hurdles to set the fastest time ever seen in a heptathlon. At that moment I realised that the track was super fast and we would see world records.

Ye Shiwen – the women’s 400m individual medley in the pool was developing into a close race with 100m to go. On the freestyle leg Ye left the rest of the field way behind as she broke the world record with a devastating burst. It was so fast that it caused some to question Ye’s performance. I prefer to take it a legitimate until there is any evidence to the contrary.

Super Saturday – Golds were won earlier in the day but the real highlights came on the first Saturday evening in the Olympic stadium. In under an hour Jessica Ennis in the heptathlon, Greg Rutherford with an unexpected gold in the long jump, and Mo Farah in the 10000m all won gold. This was surely the greatest night in British athletics history.

Gemma Gibbons – British judo had been a disaster for the previous few Olympics and it looked as though these Games were going the same way. The first players had hardly won a fight. Then Gemma Gibbons came along and made it to the semi-finals. The moment when she achieved the winning throw to guarantee a medal was truly emotional.

Laura Trott – watching Trott ride the elimination race in the omnium where the last rider across the line on each lap is eliminated from the race is a pleasure. She generally rides near the back and just does enough each time to stay in the race. In an event which can be a lottery you always feel that she will do enough to win. And she did.

Outside the Olympics I enjoyed

Jason Kenny – At the world track championships Kenny was up against Gregory Bauge who was clearly in brilliant form and appeared unbeatable. After losing race 1 of the sprint Kenny tried the tactic of going straight from the gun rather than get involved in a tactical battle then a sprint for the last lap. Bauge was taken by surprise and had to make a huge effort to win the race. It so nearly paid off for Kenny and Bauge lay on the ground afterwards exhausted knowing he had been in a real race.

Andrea Pirlo – the penalty shoot out between England and Italy in the quarter-final of Euro 2012 is delicately poised. Joe Hart the England keeper jumps up and down to put Pirlo off as he steps up to take a penalty. Pirlo gently chips his penalty down the centre of the goal in Panenka style as Hart dives helplessly away. The nerve it took to take such a penalty. Italy go on to win the shoot-out.

Serena Williams- quite simply the finest exhibition of serving I have ever seen from a woman tennis player. At Wimbledon and at the Olympics her serve was at times unplayable. The pace was fast and the direction was so perfect that opponents couldn’t get near the ball. Azarenka played well against Williams in the Wimbledon semi but in the second set the Williams serve was nearly perfect.

Lexus Chase -Tidal Bay is one of the most enigmatic horses in training. often seeming to be struggling at the back before charging through at the end of a race. In the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown he appeared to have no chance at the last fence but somehow squeezed through an impossible gap to take the race in a desperately close finish with four other horses. The most exciting steeplechase of the year.

Carl Froch v Lucien Bute. This was expected to be a close fight for Bute’s IBF world super-middleweight title but in front of his home fans in Nottingham Froch tore into Bute and stopped him in five rounds.  One of the best performances by a British boxer for years.

Australian Open/Wimbledon/US Open men’s singles – The Australian saw two epic matches involving Djokovic. A five hour semi against Andy Murray followed by an even longer final against Nadal. The Wimbledon final appeared to be going the way of Murray until a rain break. On the resumption Federer changed gears and sept to victory. The US Open final saw Murray finally win a Grand Slam after four final defeats in another five setter against Djokovic. These matches all showed just what a golden era of men’s tennis we are in.

Frankel – Among all of of Frankel’s magnificent performances taking him to the top of Timeform’s all-time ratings perhaps it was his win in the Queen Anne Stakes that impressed most. Facing some of the top horses in Europe he simply left them in his wake when powering away to win by eleven lengths. This was the performance which raised his rating to a record 147 and was simply awesome.

Premier League season climax – Manchester City appear to have thrown away their chance of winning their first league title since 1969 when they trail lowly QPR 2-1 with minutes to go of the final game of the season. They equalise but Man United are still celebrating taking the title when City score a winning goal in the final seconds of the game. An astonishing end to the season.

Ellie Simmonds 4oom freestyle at the Paralympics. For me this was the best race in the pool in either the Olympics or Paralympics. Simmonds and her great rival Victoria Arlen battled neck-and-neck for nearly eight lengths before Simmonds got away to break the world record.

The Open Golf – Australia’s Adam Scott appeared to have an insurmountable lead with five holes to play. However, Ernie Els of South Africa produced a brilliant finish to put a little pressure on. Scott was still in control but crumbled in the final holes to lose the Open. It typified the sporting fortunes of their two nations over the summer.

The Ryder Cup – the USA took a four point lead into the final day. Somehow the European team managed to turn it around in the singles to snatch a thrilling victory from the USA in front of an American crowd and retain the Cup.

 

If I had to pick my top three they would be:-

3rd The Ryder Cup

2nd The final day of the Premier League

1st Super Saturday at the Olympics. That evening’s athletics at the stadium will probably never be equalled by Great Britain. You had a real sense that you were watching something amazing and seeing history being made.

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