10 Great Sport Moments - Part 1
The history of sport is littered with great moments, with many different reasons for a moment being great. Instead of trying to come up with a definitive list of greatest moments in my opinion and in order or greatness, I’ve merely chose to list and comment on ten moments, all great in my opinion and all great for different, particular reasons. Here we go then in no particular order.
Brazil’s last goal in the 1970 World Cup Final
Most people’s idea of the best team ever, scoring the ultimate team goal in the biggest game of the biggest sport in the World. One match commentator sums it up brilliantly with his words: “They’re taking it in turns to give an exhibition.” In a World Cup final, against Italy – the masters of defence, the Brazilians do take turns in producing skills that you’d be delighted to see in a charity match. Just when you think it is merely some showboating with them in control of the game at 3-1, they sweep majestically forward, gradually dragging the Italians just where they want them, creating some space for Pele who is calmer than a Jamaican on a bank holiday as he controls the ball and rolls it into the path of the onrushing Carlos Alberto, who smashes it first time across the keeper into the bottom corner – perfect finish, to a perfect move at the perfect moment.
Jack Nicklaus comes from behind to win 1986 Masters
A truly great one wins one more time. Despite having won 17 Major titles (six more than any other player in the history of the game at the time) and five Masters titles (more than any other player), Jack Nicklaus had been written off as an also ran. He was 46 years old, hadn’t won a major since 1980 or the Masters itself since 1975. Even when a round of 69 on Saturday got him within five shots of the lead going into the last round, it still wasn’t thought of as much more than being nice to see he can still shoot some good scores.
Eight pars in a row at the start of his final round did nothing to change the belief of the people watching that this was going to be nothing more than an enjoyable ceremonial round by the greatest player of all time. Then it started. Birdie at the ninth followed by birdies at the tenth and eleventh, two of the toughest holes on the course. All of a sudden the cheers for the crowd weren’t just for old time’s sake, Jack was now a presence on the leader board. A three putt bogey on the par three twelfth would’ve told a weaker soul that his little, nostalgic run was over. Instead it spurred Nicklaus on. He made a regulation birdie on the par 5 13th. On the fifteenth, the next par five his second shot was a trademark towering iron shot to the heart of the green. The three birdies on 9,10 and 11, made for a nice little story, Nicklaus had never been interested in writing nice little stories, he only wanted great stories. A hushed silence as he stood over his eagle putt was followed by a riotous roar as it poured into the hole. Three of the very best players in the world at the time were ahead of him, Tom Kite, Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman. None of them needed to look at the leader board to know who was making a charge, only a Jack charge would make so much noise. The last person any of them wanted appearing in their rear view mirror was Nicklaus, the man in the history of the game least likely to blow a chance of winning a Major Championship.
Again a normal player would probably be thinking after that eagle that parring the last three holes would set the others a good target. Again Nicklaus wasn’t interested in anything normal. A phenomenal tee shot on the par three sixteenth produced another birdie. The ultimate spine tingling moment came on the seventeenth green when he stroked a birdie putt in from around fifteen feet, walking after it with his putter raised in celebration, almost as if he was conducting the increasingly loud cheers of the crowd.
The eighteenth itself wasn’t the grandstand finish to complete the fairytale, Nicklaus could only manage a ‘disappointing’ par. However as he had done seventeen times before, Nicklaus had done enough to win a major. One last time, the Master had won the Masters.
Nadia Comaneci 1976
Everybody who has ever played sport has in some way been searching for perfection. Whether it’s an amateur hacker golfer dreaming of a hole in one, a pub team footballer fantasising about smashing one into the top corner from 30yards or a drunken darts player playing for the day they hit 180. Only a tiny number of people can say they achieved and sustained perfection on the biggest stage of all. You don’t have to be an expert to know that several things can go wrong in any gymnastic routine. Nobody had ever been given 10 out of 10 before for a gymnastics routine, showing just how reluctant judges were to concede that there was no way a routine could be bettered. On the bars Nadia battled through the reluctance of the judges and received a score of ten, a score that was flashed up as ‘1.00’, because the electrical scoring system didn’t allow for two figures before the decimal point. Before the end of the Olympics she had been given six more tens. Miss Comaneci had been given the ultimate accolade; ‘perfection.’
Goran Ivanisevic wins Wimbledon 2001
If you give up on a dream, you’ll never know how close you were to achieving it. Few sports stars had come closer more often to achieving their ultimate dream than Goran Ivanisevic. Three times a beaten finalist at Wimbledon, the Championship he most wanted to win and the one his game was most suited to. By 2001 his game had seemed to have deserted him, slipping down the rankings to such an extent that he needed a wild card invitation to even get into the Wimbledon draw. Unlike Jack Nicklaus the only memories Goran could call on to drag him out of a slump were ones that ultimately ended in heartbreaking defeat.
With his wild card he played with a freedom of being merely happy to be there at Wimbledon at least one more time. An impressive win against Andy Roddick in the first week had the feeling of a last hurrah about it at the time. But then Pete Sampras was at the end of his reign of supremacy, beaten in the fourth round by an emerging Roger Federer who was a couple of years aware from starting his own reign at Wimbledon. There was definitely a window of opportunity at the top of the men’s game for someone to grab their chance of glory. Home fans were starting to believe it was the year for Tim Henman to finally win his first Wimbledon, but Goran had been waiting longer. The pair met in the semi final and but for a rain delay the Brit may well have triumphed, destiny now seemed well and truly on Goran’s side.
Pat Rafter was his opponent in the final, the Aussie had two US Open wins to his name, but like Goran had never won Wimbledon and had tasted defeat in the previous year’s final.
What made this an even more memorable sporting moment was that the rain had caused the match to be played on a Monday, leading to a far from traditional crowd on centre court. A raucous, but always respectful crowd, including the Australian Cricket team, providing a massively greater atmosphere than the usual Pimms drinking crowd do whilst finishing their Daily Telegraph crossword.
Right from the start this was one of those matches that never looked like being anything other than a five set thriller. No one could’ve imagined just how close and dramatic it would be. There was the customary temper tantrum from Goran, kicking the net with disgust at one of his serves being called out. At this point you started to think that maybe he’d lost it mentally and wouldn’t be able to recover. But he dug in like never before and in the final set he broke Rafter’s serve, courtesy of two brilliant flashing forehand passing shots, to lead by 8-7 and give him the chance to serve for the title.
Surely now with one of the best serves in the history of the game, Goran couldn’t get this close to his dream and not achieve it. But by this stage anybody expecting a straight forward finish to this match would be accused of being extremely delusional. On the brink of everything he’d always dreamed of and the most heartbreaking loss of all, both at the same time, Goran was never going to do a passable impression of ice man Bjorn Borg. Somehow he found himself with a match point. Only to produce a spectacular double fault. Any thoughts of game plan and shot selection seem to have completely escaped him at this point, all he was doing was hitting the ball as hard as he could and if that didn’t work he’d hit it a bit harder. Another match point and another even more spectacular double fault. On his third match point he finally got the ball in play, only for Rafter to produce a stunning backhand lob, which given the moment was out of this world brilliance. By this stage Goran was making deals with the devil, promising that he’d never play tennis again if he could just win this game. On fourth match point Rafter put the ball in the net, Goran collapsed in floods of tears, dreams can come true as long as like ‘Journey’ sang, you ‘Don’t stop believing.’
A while before that championship with Goran in the doldrums, his ranking showing no signs of coming out of his recent slump, a tennis journalist had asked him why he bothered carry on, after all he was more than financially secure, was it worth the mental torture he was putting himself through? Goran’s reply was simple. ‘I like to play tennis.’
England beat Pakistan in Karachi in 2000
I suspect this won’t be in many people’s list. It’s not in my list because it was the first time Pakistan had ever lost a test match in Karachi, it’s not because England came back from Pakistan being 292-3 at the end of the first day, it’s not because England won the game with a run chase that ended with only a couple of overs left in the game. The reason I think this moment stands out most is because it was a moment when the umpire struck back for the morality of the game. Once Pakistan realised they weren’t going to bowl England out and therefore a draw was the best they could do, they started bowling their overs shamefully slowly. Figuring that it would get dark before England could get to the winning total and the match would have to be declared a draw. It did get dark, very dark, definitely the darkest any test match had been played in. The Pakistan players continued to appeal to umpire Steve Bucknor that they should go in because of the light. Technically Mr Bucknor would’ve been within his rights to bring the players in, claiming it was unfair that the fielders couldn’t see the ball. Instead Mr Bucknor took a stand, as long as the England batsmen were happy to play in the light, or lack of it, he would let the game continue until the target had been reached or all the overs had been bowled. He was determined that the bending of the rules and going against the spirit of the game was not going to allow Pakistan to salvage a draw.
England somehow managed to keep getting bat on ball, enough to scramble the desired runs to win the game. They and the spirit of sport should be forever in Mr Bucknor’s debt.
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