10 great moments in Sport part2
Nadal v Federer Wimbledon Final 2008
Every now and again, a sporting occasion is everything you could have hoped for and maybe a little more, the Wimbledon men’s final of 2008 was one such occasion. Two unbelievably outstanding tennis players going head to head and playing close to their absolute best. The undisputed top two players in the world had been in imperious form throughout the fortnight. Such was their dominance that the rounds leading up to the final seemed merely like warm up matches, to ensure that each man would be at their best for the final. It was fascinating to see how they reacted to not being the dominant one, we had seen both of them excel at being the dominant force in all six of their other matches. Never was either player going to be dominant in the final, both knew that only their best would be near good enough. One of the beauties of tennis that it always finds a winner, but on this occasion it was as close to an honourable draw as you could ever get on a tennis court. If anything the rain breaks actually helped make it into more of a classic, it allowed us to take in the full magnitude of what was happening before our eyes. The sheer frequency of amazing shots was just one of the many things to admire about both players. For one thing their behaviour was impeccable, both during and after the match. Mentally both players proved to be incredibly tough. Federer found himself two sets to love down to one of the best front runners in the history of the game, playing his best ever tennis. Virtually anybody else who has ever played the game would have folded then and there. Instead Federer showed why he had deservedly won the previous five Wimbledon titles. Keeping icy cool to take Nadal to two tie breaks and in both of them producing an array of dazzling winners, even when facing match points in the fourth set. Then it became Nadal’s temperament that was under the spotlight, having led the fourth set tie break by five points to two, with two breaks of serve and having match points in that set, he had still somehow succumbed to the brilliance of Federer to find himself in a fifth set. Nadal is known as someone who never ‘chokes’, had he lost that fifth set critics would had said he had done just that. Even though that criticism would have been ridiculous, it would have been hard to take. Being tantalisingly close to winning the biggest tournament in the world, against the best player in the world and maybe of all time, only to have it snatched away again is the point where a lesser man would’ve crumbled. Instead the quality of play in the fifth set didn’t even look like dropping from either playing. A classic gladiatorial battle ensued. In the previous year’s final Nadal had resembled a young gunslinger in the Wild West who had hunted down the most notorious gunslinger around. But when he’d looked Federer in the eye Nadal’s finger had frozen on the trigger, and Federer took advantage to win his fifth straight title. This year Nadal kept on firing bullet after bullet until eventually even Federer’s armour was pierced. It felt like we’d found out the answer to one of life’s great questions, the immovable object had beaten the irresistible force. What made it even better was that this was a pure sporting contest. No controversy, no blaming officials, no petulance, no agents, no gamesmanship, no spoiling tactics and for those of us lucky enough to watch it on the BBC – no adverts. And which is more, you felt sure that at no stage was either player thinking of the prize money, any amount would have paled to insignificance compared to the glory and honour both men were desperate for.
Roger Bannister runs a mile in under 4minutes
Barrier breaking in sport and life is one of the most fascinating sphere’s of human achievement. When people are told something is impossible the vast majority of us believe it. The fact that the human race has developed so much owes much to the people who refused to believe such nonsense. Esteemed Scientists of the time were firm in their belief that man will die if he tries to run a mile in under four minutes. The fact that the current world record stands at 3:43.13, tales absolutely nothing away from Bannister’s feat in 1954. Sport is littered with feats that were thought to be ‘impossible’ being achieved once then being achieved several times in quick succession after that. In each of those cases there will only ever be one person or team that did if first, proving to others that it can be done.
In all the cases of barrier breaking this one seems to have stood out and stood the test of time more than any other. To prove that I could ask how many people know who was the first man to run under ten seconds for the one hundred metres? Under 20seconds for the 200m? The first to throw a javelin over 90metres? The first to jump higher than two metres or further than eight metres? I suspect a lot more of you knew the answer to the question who was the first man to run a mile in under four minutes.
The fact that he did it whilst being busy studying to be a Doctor certainly doesn’t detract from the achievement.
2005 Ashes Test Match Cricket Series
The 1981 series will forever hold a fond place in English cricket lovers hearts, the miracle victory at Headingley, Botham’s heroic feats in the other victories as well made it a Roy of the Rovers type of sporting summer. 2005 had one big thing over that series 24year earlier, that being the fact that the two teams were ranked number one and two in the world at the time. It didn’t matter where you came from, 2005 was outstanding test cricket and sport at it’s very best. The closeness of the series, the pure quality on show and the several dramatic moments make it incredibly hard to argue with it being the greatest test series of all time.
A resurgent England team had marched up to number two in the rankings with impressive results of the previous eighteen months. On the first morning of the series they showed they weren’t going to be intimidated and battered by the Aussies as so many England teams of the recent past had. However Australia, and Glenn McGrath in particular, were quick to respond and show just why they were number one, taking the first test match at Lords.
The next match was better than most series ever played on its own, and a great candidate for being the best test match ever played. England looked on top for most of the game and appeared to be about to wrap up a reasonably comfortable win on the fourth day, once again the Aussies had other ideas. Stubborn tail end batting got them within 3runs of victory, a victory that would’ve given them a 2-0 lead and almost certainly so crushing a defeat that England couldn’t have come back from. Then Harmison gets one to bounce on Kasprowicz, who gloves it down the leg side and Jones scrambles to his left to take the winning catch. Queue manic scenes of celebration and relief on the Edgbaston terraces and on the ground.
It was the Aussies who were celebrating after a dramatic finish in the 3rd test at Old Trafford. But only because they survived with one wicket left to hang on to a draw. In the fourth test once again England put themselves into an excellent position to win, once again the Aussies refused to let them win easily, England eventually scrambling home by three wickets.
Onto the final test at the Oval with England just needing a draw to win the series. Playing for a draw in any test match isn’t easy, when the opposition feature Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne as well as a host of world class batsmen, it’s a million miles from easy. England edge the first innings exchanges, but batting third with a slender lead was an awkward position to be in, especially when they lost a few early wickets. A brilliant 156 from Kevin Pietersen and support from the lower order was enough to see them to safety and a much deserved series win.
What’s more the series was played in a magnificent spirit. There was the iconic photograph of Flintoff shaking hands with Lee moments after the dramatic win at Edgbaston. The fact that even though video replies showed that technically Kasprowicz shouldn’t have been given out in that same finish, the Australians refused to complain. On the last game when England were hanging on for a draw and any stoppage of play would’ve been most welcome, with the clouds greying a little during an interval, many of the crowd put up their umbrellas, to insinuate to the umpires that they can’t possibly permit play in these conditions. The Aussies responded by coming out after the interval all of them wearing sunglasses. Sometimes even during the most heated of battles it’s good to remember that indeed it is only a game and should be fun.
Ali v Liston 1st fight 1964
This is one of the ultimate moments of sport when somebody who is exceptionally good is forced to acknowledge that there is someone better. Liston had dominated the heavyweight division by being a brutal bully, destroying his opponents with devastating punching power. Most people thought that Muhammed Ali (or Cassius Clay as he was then known), was going to be the latest weaker challenger to be destroyed by the stronger Liston, many of them were looking forward to the brash youngster getting his mouth completely shut. Instead boxing fans were treated to a boxing master class, it dawned on Liston that not only could he not bully this opponent, in fact he was completely outclassed by a far superior boxer.
As the bell sounded to signal the start of the seventh round Sonny Liston refused to get off his stool, giving away victory and the title, prompting a celebratory performance of what would become known as the ‘Ali shuffle’.
Lance Armstrong wins the Tour De France in 1999
Overcoming adversity is often heralded as a most impressive quality for a sports star to have. On most occasions far too much is made of the ‘adversity’, a football team managing to come back from two nil down away to a good team, are talk of as if they’ve scaled Everest wearing only flip flops and a pair of running shorts. A golfer who loses a couple of Major Championships, but then manages to win one is talked about as if his mental strength is far beyond those of a single mother who has to remain cheery for her kids all the time no matter how badly her life is going.
Often words like bravery and adversity get completely overused in sport. But one can only imagine what Lance Armstrong had to go through whilst fighting off two forms of cancer. Merely surviving the disease would’ve been a great triumph. To get back to health and then go on to win one of the most energy sapping and gruelling sporting events in the world is a truly great triumph over adversity. Doing so in a record winning time and going on to win if for the next six years defies belief.