Sporting memories of 2016

By Ray Petersen –

January: Scotsman Gary Anderson was too sharp for Wales’ Adrian Lewis as he darted his way to 2016’s first World Darts Champion’s title. The sharpshooting pair nailed 34 possibles (180) between them. The darts Masters title though, later in the month, went to Dutchman Michael van Gerwen. Surly, enigmatic Ronnie O’Sullivan won the Snooker Masters, again. A hugely talented cueist, it has to be said that the sport would probably be better off without him for his petulant outbursts, and ill manners. In this region, Qatar took out the Asian Handball Championship, where Oman finished 8th by virtue of a single goal loss to the Emirati team.
February: The Denver Broncos triumphed in Super Bowl 50, over the Carolina Panthers, with nearly half of America watching on TV. Maybe $5 million for a 30 second TV ad ain’t so much after all? Further East, the Tokyo Marathon saw yet another Ethiopian long-distance runner, Feyisa Lilesa, upset a strong Kenyan presence in the men’s event, though Helah Kiprop turned the tables in the women’s race. At the moment, the Africans are looking streets ahead of the world in this particular event.
March: The cricket world, and much of India was stunned when, at the World T20 Cup in India, chasing a meager New Zealand score of 126, the home team capitulated for an embarrassing 79 all out, with Mitchell Santner taking an amazing 4 wickets for 11 runs. “It was one of those days” said MS Dhoni. Meanwhile, Aussie maestro Eddie Jones took over the England Rugby team in late 2015, and got an immediate result as his revitalised team took out the Six Nations Championship. The Brits also took out the UCI World Cup Cycling Champs in London, though storm clouds are gathering over Sir Dave Brailsford’s reign, with methinks, more to be revealed. Nico Rosberg was a winner for Mercedes in the Australian Grand Prix, and Victor Espinoza jockeyed California Chrome home for an American win in the Dubai World Cup at the Meydan Course in Dubai.
April: The final of the T20 World Cup saw an amazing finish, with England odds on to win as Ben Stokes faced Carlos Braithwaite at the start of the final over. Four balls, four hits, and 6, 6, 6, 6 later, Stokes was the ‘April Fool,’ and West Indian Braithwaite the ‘Windies’ hero. Rosberg was again too sharp for his F1 rivals, this time in the heat of Qatar, with Kimi Raikonen and Lewis Hamilton sharing the podium, and then repeated the dose later in the month, in China. Britain’s Danny Willet shot a stunning final round of 67, to overtake a faltering Jordan Speith, who was having a meltdown of ‘Tin Cup’ proportions, and don the famed green jacket.
May: The Leicester Foxes were the ‘Cinderella,’ feel-good story of the year, winning the EPL ahead of all of the big guns. Jamie Vardy, Ngolo Kante and coach Claudio Ranieri were on fire, and the team in blue were the winners alright, but not Chelsea. Great romance, great theatre, great achievement. Nico Rosberg started the month with yet another win in Moscow, though things weren’t to go as well later, in Spain, Max Verstappen the beneficiary, when Rosberg and Hamilton collided, setting off a real storm in pit lane. Their enmity was to simmer all season. Hamilton finally got a win at Monaco, his favourite track, at the end of the month. Vicenzo Nibali was too good for a strong field in the Giro d’Italia. Novak Djokovic won the Spanish and French Tennis Opens. Real Madrid won the Uefa Champions League, of fellows Atletico, taking the penalty shoot-out 5-3 after it was tied at 1-1 earlier.
June: Harzand, owned by the Aga Khan, took out the 237th running of the prestigious equine classic event, the Epsom Derby, under Pat Smullen. Portugal won Euro 2016, which was more notable for minnows Iceland humiliating England, and offering something new and refreshing to a jaded looking football season. In the NBA, Ben Simmons was the number one pick, and went to the Philadelphia 76ers. The US Golf Open went to Dustin Johnson, fresh back from a suspension for drugs violations.
July: Chris Froome, on two wheels triumphed in the Tour de France, which was again beset with drugs allegations, while on four wheels, Lewis Hamilton continued his resurgence in the Austrian GP. He was to frank that form at Silverstone, in the British GP and stack up his third in a row, in the Hungarian GP towards the end of the month, and capped it all off with the German GP on the last day of July. Things were looking ominous for Rosberg at that stage. Nearly the veteran, Jimmy Walker won golf’s PGA Championship, veteran Paul Broadhurst scored a popular victory in the British Senior Open, and Henrik Stenson won the one they all want, the Open Championship, at Troon. Ariya Jutanugarn won the women’s event, and looks a formidable foe for Lydia Ko in years to come.
August: The Hurricanes Super Rugby team, comprehensively dealt to the Lions from South Africa in the Super Rugby Final by 23 – 3. The Lions were never really in it, but had confounded the pundits just reaching the last two. The ‘Canes, so often the bridesmaids riding on the back of a stellar season by their halves, TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett. Also in rugby, the All Blacks easily won the Southern Hemisphere’s Rugby Championship in a canter. And…the Olympics took place in Rio, and what were the highlights? Usain Bolt too fast, again. Estonian triplets Lily, Leila, and Liina Luik, a tongue-twister if ever there was one, all qualified for the Final of the Triple Jump, to provide a weird sport (hop, skip and jump), with a weird coincidence. The Olympics honestly get less and less attractive every year,… or four years.
September: The Summer Paralympics headlined this month, but again they weren’t memorable. Unlike Mo Farah, the ‘Mobot’ winning the Great North Run in the UK, as he wasn’t happy with two golds from Rio. Mo’s wife, Tania was later to be revealed as a ‘graceless’ individual with an airport meltdown of the “don’t you know who I am,” variety. Nico Rosberg got up Hamilton’s nose with two successive wins, in the Singapore and Italian GPs, and the bitterness continued. And, wait for it, the 42nd Chess Olympiad. Well, China, represented by Hou, Ju, Jhao, Tan and Guo, sounding like a series of dance steps took out the women’s prize, while the very American sounding team of Caruana, Nakamura, So, Shankland and Robson, won the men’s. I guess if Donald Trump has his way that sort of thing will stop! Not very PC is it? Oh well.
October: The Chicago Cubs won the World Series Baseball, featuring only America, but it’s still a big deal. That they came back from 0-3 in a best-of-seven series shows they are one tenacious unit.
Zhan Wendong won the Men’s World Table Tennis title, and Miu Hirano the fairer sex’ event. How many of you knew that? Found, under Ryan Moore, found the line best in a moderate Arc de Triomphe field to give Aidan O’Brien yet another classic win. O’Brien always looks miserable, but he can sure train them nags! Jan Frodeno is a ball of muscle, and won the World Ironman for Germany, and the Swiss maid, Daniela Ryf, nicknamed ‘Angry Bird’, took out the feminine event.
It was a somber October for the rugby community, as they were left reeling by the passing of Munster Coach Anthony Foley, prior to a game in Suresnes, France. RIP ‘Axel’.
November: It may have been Guy Fawkes Day, November 5, but the Irish rugby team caused all the fireworks with their first ever defeat of the World No 1 ranked All Blacks in Chicago. In doing so, and in the manner of their victory, winning by 40-29, the Irish have offered a blueprint for beating the seemingly invincible New Zealanders.
Almandin won the Melbourne Cup for millionaire Lloyd Williams, again. He loves this race, and Arrogate and Mike Smith combined to win the Breeder’s Cup in the USA. Hamilton again clawed his way back to Rosberg by the time the F1 roadshow got to Abu Dhabi. Having left himself a mathematical chance of winning the F1 Driver’s Championship, he tried some dodgy tactics, understandably, late in the race, but couldn’t get Rosberg into enough trouble, so the German took the crown, and promptly retired. Classy, or chicken? Hard to say really, but certainly gutsy.
December: India, having inflicted some serious Test cricket pain on New Zealand the previous month, then proceeded to thoroughly embarrass Alistair Cook’s England team in their final series of the year. Ravi Ashwin tied the England batters in knots, and Virat Kohli flayed them at the batting crease throughout the series. Then, heaping ignominy on a tired and dispirited opposition, Karun Nair scored 303 not out in a team score of 759. Not a bad way to end a year. England’s rugby team ended the year unbeaten under coach Jones, and captain Dylan Hartley, to achieve 14 straight wins for the year.
However, Hartley went from hero to zero, as he
was yet again before the judiciary for foul play at club level, earning yet another ban. Will he never learn? Really, December seems to be mostly a ‘minor sports’ month, as the elite athletes are winding down for Christmas.