BRITAIN’S Sport magazine has compiled the 100 greatest sporting moments in history. Here is the top 50.
No. 1 sporting moment: JONNY WILKINSON WINS THE RUGBY WORLD CUP
Appropriately, perhaps, tomorrow marks five years to the day since your number one sporting moment of all time took place.
The date was November 22 2003, the venue Sydney’s Telstra Stadium, the event the 2003 IRB Rugby World Cup final.
And the perpetrator of this magnificent deed was Jonny Wilkinson, the darling of English rugby and very possibly the greatest kicker in the history of rugby union.
More: Greatest sporting moments 51-100
With less than a minute of extra time remaining, the team cannily built by Clive Woodward and inspirationally led by Martin Johnson was locked at 17 points apiece with the defending world champions Australia.
But then a sniping run by scrum half Matt Dawson and one final drive from the behemoth Johnson created the opportunity all England had been waiting for.
Wilkinson took a pass from Dawson just outside the opposition 22; he steadied himself, took a step to his right and placed a right-footed drop goal between the Australian posts.
The World Cup was England’s, and Wilkinson’s place in history assured.“I feel like a very proud member of a very proud team,” he said afterwards.
“But this is not the end of our journey.”
As things turned out, it pretty much was – Johnson retired soon after, Woodward was gone within the year and Wilkinson himself, plagued by injury and self-doubt, has never been the same player since.
No matter, because this one moment will be with him – and us all – forever more.
What’s your greatest sporting event? Leave your comment below.
To read the top 100 sporting moments in Sport magazine, click here
2: ENGLAND’S 1966 WIN
The 1966 World Cup win was English football’s finest hour – or two – and, after the subsequent 52 years of international failure, it reads all the sweeter today.
England fans are reared on the story of the match, which hinged on Geoff Hurst’s goal in extra time.
His shot cannoned down off the underside of the bar and, after some confusion, was finally adjudged to have crossed the line.
That gave England a 3-2 lead over West Germany – and, when Hurst scurried away to complete that hat-trick, it was all over. We may never have it quite so good again.
3: STEVE REDGRAVE WINS HIS FIFTH OLYMPIC GOLD
GOLD Britain’s most successful Olympian wasn’t even supposed to be at his fifth Olympic Games in Sydney 2000.
After winning a fourth gold at Atlanta four years earlier, he famously said, on national television: “I hereby give permission to anybody who catches me in a boat again to shoot me.”
Luckily, no one took the big man seriously and, in front of the 6.6 million British viewers who stayed up until midnight to watch history being made, he rowed to his fi fth and fi nal Olympic gold medal.
As Matthew Pinsent climbed down the boat to hug his old mate, Redgrave slumped over his oars, utterly exhausted and fi nally ready to call time on a journey that had begun at the LA Games of 1984.
Redgrave’s is a feat that won’t be repeated by many, but remembered by most.Relive Sir Steve Redgrave’s fifth Olympic gold on
4: LIVERPOOL’S ISTANBUL COMEBACK
Dead, buried and stinking Istanbul’s Ataturk Stadium out, Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool had been picked and pulled to pieces by AC Milan in 2005’s Champions League final.
In the most one-sided fi nale in Champions League history, the Reds were behind after 52 seconds and three down by the break, with a fourth dubiously chalked off by sympathetic offi cials. But then a funny thing happened.
“The manager told us to keep our chins up,” recalled Steven Gerrard afterwards. “To try and score early in the second half, and give some respect for the fans.”
The skipper led by example, steering a clever header past Dida on 54 minutes. It should have been mere consolation, only Milan showed themselves to be as bungling in the second half as Liverpool had been in the first.
By the hour, Liverpool were level, Milan on the ropes. Instead of going for the knock-out blow, though, the Reds seemed happy just to hang on for penalties, a ploy that would have misfired spectacularly had Andriy Shevchenko not missed an open goal from 12 inches at the death.
When he missed again in the shoot-out, fi ring limply at Jerzy Dudek’s legs, it brought Liverpool their fi fth European Cup in the most dramatic, incompetent and emotionally draining fi nal ever witnessed.
5: ENGLAND REGAIN THE ASHES
Yes, cricket again. And yes, England winning the Ashes again.
Defeat to Australia had become a way of life for England’s cricketers; not since 1987 had they won a Test series against the old enemy, and the Ashes were in danger of becoming ritual humiliation every two years.
After a successful couple of years, though, Michael Vaughan’s team approached the 2005 series with cautious optimism – only for it to be blown away after a one-sided Australian victory in the opening Test at Lord’s.
Same old story – or so we thought. A two-run England win at Edgbaston squared the series and, after stalemate at Old Trafford, Andrew Flintoff’s century nudged the hosts ahead at Trent Bridge.
Australia should have tied things up in the fi nal Test, but a defi ant 158 from Kevin Pietersen on the fi nal day of the series secured a draw and the regaining of the Ashes.
The subsequent celebrations were loud and boisterous, with more than 25,000 people turning out for an open-top bus tour of London – and Flintoff’s drunken face was a picture.
6: BOTHAM’S ASHES
Today, the 1981 Ashes series is known simply as Botham’s Ashes – but if there is one defi ning match that lives on in the memory, it is the third Test at Headingley.
Despite an exquisite century at Old Trafford and a devastating spell of fi ve wickets for just one run at Edgbaston, Botham’s heroics at Headingley brought the country to a standstill.
With England following on and staring down the barrel at a heavy defeat, Botham strode to the wicket in the second innings at 105-5, his team still more than 100 behind Australia’s fi rst innings total.
His 149 was as clever as it was brutal, as he cajoled tail-end partners into adding more than 200 runs.
The last-wicket partnership with Bob Willis was worth 37 runs, of which Willis contributed two. That summer, Ian Botham was the greatest cricketer who ever lived. And he did it all without a helmet.
7: THE RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE
Muhammad Ali’s epic third encounter against Joe Frazier (see Thrilla in Manila, No. 39) was arguably the better fight, but this – his battle with George Foreman in Kinshasa in October 1974 – is ranked 32 places higher.
Why? Perhaps it’s because this fi ght did more for the legend of Ali than any other.
The deposed heavyweight king was bidding to regain the world titles he was stripped of in 1967, but Foreman was considered the overwhelming favourite in the then Zaire; he was knocking out fi ghters for fun, including Joe Frazier and Ken Norton, who had both beaten Ali.
But the older man triumphed, thanks almost entirely to his bizarre ‘rope-a-dope’ tactics – he covered up, retreated to the ropes and allowed Foreman to punch himself almost to a standstill before knocking him out in the eighth round.
It was, all things considered, a remarkable victory.
8: OWENS FOILS HITLER
With Germany on the brink of starting World War II and Berlin awash with Nazi swastikas and boot-stomping storm troopers, the 1936 Berlin Olympics were, thought Adolf Hitler, a chance to affi rm the racial supremacy of the Aryan race.
Not so. Along came 22-year-old African-American James Cleveland ‘Jesse’ Owens, the grandson of a slave, who romped to gold in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and the long jump.
But, after receiving a hero’s reception by the German public, it was back home in the States where Owens suffered the most acute racial prejudice, being forced to ride in the freight elevator to a celebratory reception at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria.
“I wasn’t invited to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn’t invited to the White House to shake hands with the President either,” he said.
9: BOLT FROM THE BLUE
Just 9.69s was all it took for 21-year-old Jamaican Usain Bolt to utterly destroy a world-class fi eld in the 100m Olympic fi nal this summer.
We’ll say it again – just 9.69s, and that was despite Bolt having left one shoelace untied and slowing down to start his celebrations some 15 metres before crossing the finish line.
At 6ft 5ins, Bolt is not built like a sprinter; he doesn’t dress like one, choosing instead to wear loose-fi tting running vests – and, with a diet based largely on chicken nuggets and yams, he certainly doesn’t fuel himself in the way we might expect an elite athlete to.
But Jamaica’s fi rst ever Olympic 100m champion set a world record in Beijing’s National Stadium (otherwise known as the Bird’s Nest) that looks unbeatable.
Except, of course, by Bolt himself, who with shoelaces secured and a determination to sprint right through the finish line – as he did when breaking Michael Johnson’s 200m record a matter of days later – could get faster and faster over the coming years.
It’s quite mind-boggling to think that Beijing might just be the beginning.
10 COMEBACK KINGS
When Manchester United clashed with Bayern Munich in the Champions League final at Barcelona’s Nou Camp on May 26 1999, both teams were chasing a historic league, cup and Champions League treble.
Only one could do it, though – and, with Bayern leading 1-0 and the clock ticking past 90 minutes, it wasn’t set to be United.
But two scrambled injury-time strikes from subs Teddy Sheringham (timed at 90:36) and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (92:17) turned the game on its head and saw United crowned champions.
UEFA president Lennart Johansson, who had left his seat early to present the cup, stood in shock when he arrived on the pitch.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “The winners were crying and the losers dancing.”
11: THE GREATEST GOAL EVER
The Brazilian side at the 1970 World Cup, which overfl owed with sublimely skilful players like Pele, Jairzinho, Rivelinho and Tostao, was the best football team that has ever lived.
And so they were destined, quite rightly, to score the best goal in World Cup history. It was the fi nal goal in their 4-1 victory over Italy in the 1970 fi nal at the Azteca Stadium, Mexico City – and it was a mesmerising move that began deep in their own half and involved eight outfi eld players.
It climaxed with Pele, lurking on the edge of the opposition penalty area, playing an incisive, inch-perfect pass to Carlos Alberto Torres, who rocketed the ball into the net.
The move involved individual skill, intricate movement and an almost telepathic understanding between the team. “We only realised how beautiful the goal was after the game,” said the scorer.
12: ROGER BANNISTER OPENS LEGS, SHOWS CLASS
Running a mile in less than four minutes won’t win you any medals these days, but on May 6 1954 it was a feat that attracted 3,000 cheering spectators.
On that day, at an annual meet between the Amateur Athletic Association and Oxford University, Bannister’s record attempt was nearly scuppered by the 25mph gusts of wind circling around the Oxford track – but they dropped enough to give Bannister his chance.
Two pacemakers helped get him to within 200 yards of the fi nish line, from where Bannister took over, sprinting over the line in a time of 3:59.4.
It might have taken just one month for the record to be broken – by Bannister’s Australian rival John Landy, in 3:57.9 – but it will be Bannister, now 79, who is forever remembered as the man who ran the “miracle mile”.
13: OLYMPIC STADIUM, MUNICH, SEPTEMBER 1 2001
Germany 1-5 England
14: MICHAEL THOMAS STEALS LIVERPOOL’S CROWN
“It’s up for grabs now,” noted ITV mouthpiece Brian Moore as Michael Thomas raced through Liverpool’s back line until there was only Bruce Grobbelaar left standing between him, the league title and a place at number 14 on this list.
Arsenal needed to win by two goals at Anfi eld on the fi nal night of the season, a fixture backlog having thrown up the most dramatic dénouement imaginable.
Liverpool rarely lost back then, and never by two goals at home, so even though Alan Smith’s debatable second-half header had set up a nervous climax, the hosts appeared to be home and hosed as the game entered its death throes.
But John Barnes lost possession, John Lukic punted it downfi eld towards Smith, whose knock-on found Thomas powering through the heart of the Liverpool defence.
He kept his head to jab the ball home – and then, as he engaged in a crap body-popping celebration, a light bulb gently fi zzled and popped in Nick Hornby’s clever bald head.
15: BORG AND McENROE SLUG IT OUT
Another absolute corker. Bjorn Borg was the Roger Federer of his day; cool, stylish, the king of Centre Court.
John McEnroe was the sport’s enfant terrible, capable of tennis nobody had seen before but beset by demons that often came out to play on court.
The two fought out the most extraordinary five-setter, including a fourth set tie-break McEnroe won 18-16, saving five championship points along the way.
Borg eventually won the fi fth 8-6. McEnroe had his revenge a year later, but this game is the one that goes down in history as the greatest ever.
16: MANDELA SHOWS HIS TRUE COLOURS
Very rarely does the ceremonial presentation of a trophy overshadow the sporting event that has gone before it.
But, when the South African president Nelson Mandela handed the Webb Ellis Cup to Francois Pienaar after the host nation had seen off favourites New Zealand to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup, the tournament had gained its one true defi nitive moment.
First, the victory would come to represent a glorious South African return to the international sporting stage after their apartheid-driven exile; and second, Mandela flouted all known conventions of sporting impartiality by wearing a South African shirt and cap to hand over the trophy – which he did with a grin the size of Table Mountain itself.
17: LANCE ARMSTRONG WINS HIS FIRST TOUR
The indefatigable Texan went on to win more Tours de France than any other man when he made it seven straight victories in 2005, but the votes flooded in for 1999, his first victory.
After being diagnosed with an aggressive strain of cancer that had spread through his brain and lungs in 1996, Armstrong had been given less than 40 per cent chance of survival.
But they were Armstrong’s kind of odds, and within three years he’d won his battle – and his first Tour.
What followed is cycling history.
18: NADAL ENDS FEDERER’S REIGN
The Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal rivalry fi nally boiled over last summer, and Wimbledon – a tournament the Swiss world number one had won for the previous five years – was the tournament at which it reached its most enthralling climax so far.
For a full four hours and 48 minutes, viewers watched the momentum swing back and forth until, after numerous breaks for rain and with the scores locked at 7-7 in the fi fth, the Spaniard got the break he so desperately desired.
He consolidated, holding serve to win his fi rst Grand Slam title away from the clay of Paris and fi nally putting an end to Federer’s reign at SW18. The greatest final ever? Well we’d say so, but…
19: KELLY HOLMES’ DOUBLE GOLD
Until 2004, a series of injuries had made Kelly Holmes the nearly-woman of track and field.
But, arriving at the Athens Olympics free of injury for the fi rst time in years, Holmes was quietly confident that her time had arrived.
Lining up for the 800m fi nal alongside defending champion Maria Mutola, Holmes ignored the fast start and paced herself perfectly.
Battling past Mutola on the home straight, the Brit crossed the line first – just.
As the realisation of her achievement dawned, Holmes’ eyes widened and her mouth dropped wide – an image that adorned the back of every British newspaper. Her second (and stronger) event, the 1,500m, took place days later.
Holmes started favourite and, despite lying only eighth at the bell, duly obliged. “I’m absolutely gobsmacked,” she said after, the nearly-woman no more.
20: RELAY BOYS STRIKE GOLD IN ATHENS
Solid proof that a relay team comprising four lightning-quick individuals does not always make for a gold medal-winning performance.
Jason Gardener, Darren Campbell, Marlon Devonish and Mark Lewis-Francis won a few medals between them but, facing an American 4x100m relay team including 100m Olympic champion Justin Gatlin, 200m champ Shawn Crawford, Coby Miller and former 100m champion Maurice Greene, the Brits knew they were outsiders.
But, when Devonish handed the baton to Lewis-Francis for the final leg, he did so with a slight advantage.
It was Lewis-Francis versus Greene for gold, and it was close; Lewis-Francis’ chest crossed the line one-hundredth of a second before Greene’s, and Britain had won a first Olympic relay gold since 1912.
21: EIGHT UP FOR PHELPS
Few believed eight golds at a single Olympics possible. But, this very year in Beijing, US swimmer Michael Phelps showed it was.
22: BANKS DEFIES PELE
23: THE BLACK POWER SALUTE
In this time of a newly elected black US president, it’s worth remembering how things weren’t always so.
In 1968, the civil rights struggle was at its peak – and, when black Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos won gold and bronze in the 200m at the Mexico City Olympics, they made the world sit up and take notice.
As the US national anthem played, they bowed their heads and raised black-gloved fists, to boos from the crowds.
They were sent home in disgrace and largely ostracised by the American sporting establishment, but their message had been heard loud and clear.
24: BECKHAM SAVES THE DAY
Typical England. Having hammered Germany 5-1 in Munich earlier in the campaign, it seemed automatic qualifi cation for the 2002 World Cup would elude them.
Trailing 2-1 to Greece at Old Trafford, Sven-Goran Eriksson’s team were staring down the barrel of a play-off.
But then England won a free-kick in the 93rd minute – and captain David Beckham did what he has always done best and curled it in from 25 yards.
The free-kick was not only fantastic, but it set the seal on one of the most determined individual performances ever seen from an England player.
We’re getting shivers in funny places just thinking about it.
25: TORVILL & DEAN DO BOLERO
Hard to imagine now, but in 1984 the whole country was hooked on ice dancing, thanks to Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean.
Their perfect routine (6.0, 6.0, 6.0 etc) of Ravel’s Bolero was watched by 24 million people in this country alone – and, coming, as it did, shortly after the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, the country was gripped by a fever of romanticism.
Despite their protestations that the relationship was platonic, newspapers carried front-page speculation about them. Will they, won’t they?
The country was spellbound. Turns out the relationship was platonic after all. By then, probably, so was Charles and Diana’s.
26: MARADONA’S WONDER GOAL
There’s an argument with Maradona’s legendary goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarter final that, had Peter Reid roused himself above plodding pace or Terry Butcher simply put his boot through him, then El Diego would never have been free to conjure up the greatest solo goal in World Cup history and would not now be on this list.
But now is probably not the time for that argument.
27: ERIC CANTONA’S KUNG-FU KICK
Can’t condone kicking fans in the head, of course – but, well, the obnoxious gobshite probably deserved it.
28: GAZZA BLUBS
The 1990 World Cup transformed Paul Gascoigne into Gazza, a bona fide global superstar, thanks to a string of tub-thumping performances at the heart of England’s midfield – but mostly, it has to be said, because of the most famous yellow card in the history of the game.
With the semi final against West Germany deadlocked at 1-1 into extra time, Gascoigne lost possession of the ball and, stretching desperately to win it back, brought down the German defender Thomas Berthold.
The booking was his second of the tournament, ruling him out of playing in the final if England progressed – cue a fl ood of tears from an increasingly blotchy-faced Gascoigne as realisation sank in.
29: DOWN TO THE VERY LAST BLACK
After 34 frames of an attritional but captivating 1985 World Snooker Championship final, Steve Davis (who had earlier led 8-0) and Dennis Taylor engaged in a final-frame showdown that took place some time past midnight and was watched by a still-record BBC 2 audience of 18.5 million people.
The frame lasted a draining 68 minutes and came down to the fi nal black, which Taylor finally sank to claim his one and only world title.
“In general, it was total garbage,” said Davis some years later. “We couldn’t pot a ball.”
30: GAZZA’S GOAL AGAINST SCOTLAND
England fans weren’t sure what to expect from Paul Gascoigne at Euro 96. It was six long years since he had thrilled the world at Italia 90, and injuries had taken their toll – would he still have the verve to win internationals?
The answer was yes, for Gascoigne sprinkled his class over Euro 96 with some cameo moments of genius.
Best of all was his goal in the group game against Scotland; as the ball bounced in front of him, Gazza flicked it over the head of Colin Hendry before volleying under the despairing dive of Andy Goram and into the net without breaking stride.
31: BEN JOHNSON RUNS VERY FAST
Yes, he was on drugs.
But, for one day, before Des Lynam gravely told us the bad news, we believed a human really could run that fast. Johnson’s 9.79s run was like nothing we’d seen before.
In hindsight, the mad, staring eyes were a bit of a giveaway, but they were innocent times. How were we to know?
32: THE BALL OF THE CENTURY
We knew nothing of Shane Warne as he wheeled in to bowl his first ball in Ashes cricket in 1993.
Three seconds later the world had somehow changed a little, certainly for the hapless Mike Gatting at the other end.
The leg-break pitched three feet outside leg stump and Gatting padded up happily, only for the ball to turn sideways, rear up and zip over Gatting’s outstretched leg to clip the off stump.
Gatting’s mouth made the shape of a big ‘O’ and Shane Warne had arrived – two decades of all-out pace attacks dominating cricket were over.
33: BEAMON’S GIANT LEAP
The jump, an unbelievable 8.90m, by Bob Beamon at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City was so freakishly brilliant it remains the Olympic record today.
Yes, it had something to do with the altitude of Mexico City, which allowed for less air resistance, as well as a hefty trailing wind; but it also had everything to do with the sheer brilliance of Beamon, a Jamaican-born American who collapsed to his knees in shock on learning he had obliterated the previous record by over half a metre.
34: SAM’S RYDER CUP TEARS
It had been on the cards, but fi nally Europe got the better of the US in the 1985 Ryder Cup.
Sam Torrance was the man who downed the winning putt at the Belfry before standing, arms aloft, in tears.
Captain Tony Jacklin, and inspirational players such as Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo, deserve much of the credit – but it was Sam’s moment of glory.
35: OWEN COMES OF AGE
In the heady days before the 1998 World Cup in France, Michael Owen was a sprightly, injury-free young striker who had just netted 23 goals for Liverpool in his full debut season.
The 18-year-old began the tournament as a sub, but forced his way into the team and went on to score the goal of the tournament in the epic last-16 showdown with Argentina in Saint-Etienne.
With the scores at 1-1, Owen received a pass in the centre circle, then terrorised the Argentina defence with his electrifying pace before smashing the ball into the back of the net.
It signified a time of hope and possibility for England – who, of course, went on to lose on penalties.
36: TYSON EATS HOLYFIELD’S EAR
Some fi ghts are famous for all the wrong reasons, and this was one such fight.
Mike Tyson lost his heavyweight title to Evander Holyfi eld at the end of 1996 – so, when the pair came together for a rematch a year later, there was plenty of bad blood swilling about.
Tyson had accused Holyfi eld of headbutting in the original bout, and perhaps that was the reason he started biting the champion’s ears in the third round.
One chomp severed part of Holyfi eld’s right ear. Tyson was disqualifi ed, the fi ght abandoned, and the crowd all but rioted. Truly, truly incredible scenes.
37: WILDCARD WINS WIMBLEDON
The big-serving Croat Goran Ivanisevic was ranked 125 in the world before the 2001 Wimbledon, but the three-time runner-up was handed a wildcard into the men’s singles.
It proved a super decision, as Ivanisevic stormed through to the final, taking out Andy Roddick, Greg Rusedski, Marat Safi n and even Tim Henman along the way.
Pat Rafter put up a strong fight in the final, but it was Ivanisevic’s destiny to win the title at his fourth attempt; and he did so, 9-7 in the fifth, to become the first wildcard – and first Croat – to win Wimbledon.
38: RED RUM WINS HIS THIRD NATIONAL
No horse, before or since, has entranced the country as Red Rum did, winning the Grand National three times and coming second twice.
His third win, at the age of 12 in 1977, marked him down as one of the all-time greats. As he galloped his rivals into the ground, the crowd erupted – “they’re willing him home,” shouted a hoarse Peter O’Sullevan.
When he died in 1995, his ashes were buried by the Aintree winning post.
39 THE THRILLA IN MANILA
The Thrilla in Manila, which actually took place in Quezon City, was the third time Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier had fought each other.
Frazier won in 1971, Ali in 1974 – but, by the time Frazier challenged Ali for his heavyweight title in October 1975, he was considered past his best.
The fi ht was more of a gruelling marathon than a thriller, though, with both men pounding each other to the point of oblivion in the energy-sapping 38-degree heat of the Philippines.
Ali nearly quit on his stool at the end of the 14th, but it was Frazier’s trainer Eddie Futch who brought it to an end; with his man’s eyes swollen shut, Futch refused to send him out for the fi nal round.
40: ENGLAND 4-1 HOLLAND
A stodgy draw against Switzerland and a less than convincing win over Scotland in the group stages of Euro 96 gave no indication that England could play fluent, attacking football and carve a team like Holland to pieces.
But they did. An Alan Shearer penalty put them 1-0 up at half-time, but after the break they opened up, scoring three goals in 11 dizzy minutes.
The third, created by Paul Gascoigne’s surge into the box and Teddy Sheringham’s adroit squared pass for Shearer to lash home, was especially easy on the eye. Shearer and Sheringham ended up with two apiece. It was England’s best performance for many a year.
41: SOBERS’ SIX OF THE BEST
When West Indies legend Sir Garfield Sobers became the fi rst man ever to blast six sixes in an over, while batting for Nottinghamshire against Glamorgan at Swansea in 1968, the feat sent shockwaves around a cricketing world entirely oblivious to the era of Twenty20 yet to come.
It almost never happened, too; on the fi fth ball, Roger Davis took a catch but landed over the ropes.
Sobers made no error with the sixth, walloping it out of the ground and down King Edward Road. The bowler was Malcolm Nash, a seamer trying out spin.
“It was a pretty short experiment,” he said.
42: HAGLER AND HEARNS AT WAR
This fight was short, intense, brutal and compelling; no wonder many boxing afi cionados consider it the best ever.
When ‘Marvelous’ Marvin Hagler and Thomas ‘The Hitman’ Hearns fought for the world middleweight titles in Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace in April 1985, both men went at it hammer and tongs. It was explosive and exhausting, more like a street brawl than a professional bout.
In a fi rst round played out at breakneck speed, Hearns rocked Hagler with a mighty right but broke his hand in the process; Hagler, the undisputed champion, eventually knocked him out in the third.
43: ALEX HIGGINS ASKS FOR BABY
Upon securing his second world title in 1982, the Hurricane broke down, signalling to the crowd that he wanted “my baby”.
Moments later, his young daughter Lauren was brought on to complete an endearing family portrait, while gallant runner-up Ray Reardon sat chain-smoking in the background.
44: ALI: THE GREATEST
No one gave Cassius Clay a hope when he challenged Sonny Liston for the world heavyweight title in 1964.
The 22-year-old kid had talent, of course, but his runaway mouth and arrogant manner didn’t make him the most popular boxer – and Liston, a ferocious wrecking-ball of a fighter, was expected to demolish him. I
Instead, Clay danced and skipped around the champion, eventually forcing Liston to quit on his stool at the end of the sixth round. “I’m King of the World!” screamed Clay, who soon after changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
“I am the greatest!” And, after this, people other than himself began to believe it, too.
45: THE RYAN GIGGS WONDERGOAL
April 1999, and an epic semi fi nal decided by one of the FA Cup’s most epic goals.
Giggs’ run started 10 yards inside his own half, intercepting a misplaced Patrick Vieira pass.
With little support, he decided to go it alone, slaloming past every man in Arsenal’s back four before crashing the ball high past David Seaman’s fl ailing palms. A fi tting fi nale.
46: COE SEES OFF YOUNG RIVAL
The future Lord Coe went to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics as reigning champion over 1,500m – but there he faced a new rival in world 1,500m champion Steve Cram.
Coe was up to the task, though, beating the younger man and becoming the only man ever to win back-to-back Olympic 1,500m titles.
47: CHRIS HOY AT THE TREBLE
Having already won Beijing 2008 golds in the team sprint and the keirin, the Scotsman steeled himself for one last challenge – the individual sprint.
After cruising through the qualifying rounds, Hoy faced young teammate Jason Kenny in the final.
It was his closest race yet, but Hoy had too much – the hat-trick was complete, his place on this list assured.
48: AC MILAN 4-0 BARCELONA
On paper, the 1994 European Cup fi nal should have been a keenly contested affair between two of the continent’s great clubs.
In reality, Milan completely overwhelmed a Barcelona team that included the likes of Zubizarreta, Guardiola, Koeman, Stoichkov and Romario; the Italians turned the whole thing into an exhibition game – and their third goal, a cute lob from Dejan Savicevic, summed up the stylish nature of the win. Milan’s coach, by the way, was a certain Fabio Capello.
49: MICHAEL JOHNSON SETS THE ATLANTA OLYMPICS ALIGHT
If you’re going to wear golden shoes, then you’d better be damn good.
Luckily for Michael Johnson, he was. At the 1996 US Olympic trials, the Texan broke Pietro Mennea’s 17-year-old 200m world record.
But that was merely for starters because six weeks later, at the Olympics themselves, Johnson won the 200m final in a staggering 19.32 seconds.
He had taken 0.34s off his previous mark, to set one that stood until Usain Bolt’s mind-boggling run in Beijing this summer.
50: BOB CHAMPION WINS THE NATIONAL
Still recovering from the cancer which doctors had given him just a 40 per cent of surviving, the 32-year-old jockey rode 10/1 shot Aldaniti to an emotional win in the Grand National at Aintree.
The story was made into a 1984 film with John Hurt playing Champion; Aldaniti, who died in 1997 at the grand old horsey age of 27, played himself.