10th November 2022
15th September 2022
We have been contemplating the huge job in front of King Charles III. We reminded ourselves what an able man he has shown himself to be over the years. Us being us, we looked to sport for the clues. We all know what a great polo player and general equestrian he was. We’ve seen him […]
21st July 2022
How proud would these pioneers of women’s football from 1918 be to see England’s Lionesses perform in the Women’s Euros 2022?! When this Scottish women’s team played in 2018, they would have rightly believed they had already come far. Despite attempts to set up and build up women’s football in the nineteenth century, it was […]
The Winter Olympics are not often the scene for British sporting triumphs. At this year’s Olympics we have 4 medals to date, one of which is gold. We may possibly win another medal, which would make the Pyeongchang Olympics our most successful Winter Olympics ever.
We have, however, managed a few sporting coups at the Winter Olympics over the years. One of the greatest and most surprising might be Britain’s gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Germany. The British men’s ice hockey team beat the then reigning champions, Canada, that year. Canada had won the event for four preceding, consecutive Olympics. Britain had, in fact, a spectacularly successful ice hockey team at the time. It was the first team to become Olympic, World and European Champions, all in the same year.
The 1936 Winter Olympics was notable in its own right. Held in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany, it was the last time that a winter and summer Olympics was held in the same country in the same year. Hitler was, of course, Germany’s leader at this time. Months before the winter games an English reporter visited Garmisch-Partenkirchen. He saw several signs, saying ‘Jews not wanted’ and ‘Jews not allowed’ in the village. He took a photo of one of them above the Partenkirchen ski clubhouse. The photo was published throughout the world.
A movemement formed in the US to boycott the Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympics. It threatened the entire German Olympic Project. Germany could not risk countries pulling out of their planned Olympics showcase in Berlin months later. So Berlin ordered all anti-semitic signs and posters removed in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and presented themselves to the outside world as a ‘friendly dictatorship’. Their ice hockey captain was , in fact, Jewish, the only Jew to represent Germany at the Games. The British ice hockey team even performed a Nazi salute during the Games out of ‘respect to their hosts, the German People’.
Of course ice hockey at the Olympics has the power to surprise in 2018 too. The appearance of a united North and South Korean women’s ice hockey team has definitely earned the term ‘historic’. They may not have won any medals – or any games! – but they certainly won the prize for most rapturous and warm reception at this year’s Olympic Games. Long live Olympics upsets and surprises – they’re a huge part of the Games’ appeal.
Martin Sheridan was actually born and brought up in County Mayo, Ireland. The USA was very quick – and sensible – to claim him as one of their own, soon after he stepped upon their shores! Sheridan was born in Bohola, County Mayo in 1881. He stayed in Ireland until he was 18. Then he followed his older brother, Richard, to New York. There Martin Sheridan became a physical trainer and then a policeman.
Martin Sheridan was 6’3″ and 194 lbs, a fair old size at the beginning of the twentieth century. He was also extremely strong and athletically talented. He specialised in throwing and jumping, competitively. Over the course of his competitive life he won 12 US Championships and over 30 Canadian titles. Those were the national titles…Sheridan won 5 gold Olympic medals over the course of 3 Olympics: 1904 in St Louis, Missouri; 1906 in Athens and 1908 in London for discus and shot put. He won two silver medals for the Standing High Jump and Standing Long Jump. The man was virtually unbeatable over a 14 year period, during which he established 16 world records.
Sheridan had by this time officially become American but, understandably, Ireland has always laid claim to him too. They quickly gave him the accolade of having won more Olympic medals than any other Irish athlete. When he returned to Ireland after the 1908 London Olympics, he imagined he would ‘slip into’ Ireland quietly to see his family. Instead, as his train drew into Swinford Station, people thronged the platforms and the town’s band played ‘See the Conquering Hero Comes’.
Sheridan returned to New York and policing after his athletics career. He was always held in huge esteem. He saved four children and their parents from certain death in a burning building. He also was the New York Governor’s personal bodyguard whenever the governor was in town. Sadly, strong and mighty as he was, Martin Sheridan’s life was cut short by the 1918 flu epidemic. He was one of its earliest casualties in 1918.
Who will light the flame at the Olympics in Brazil tomorrow? The big money is on the ‘King of Football’, possibly Brazil’s greatest national treasure, Pelé. The International Olympics Committee has already, and quite rightly, honoured Pelé twice this year. In June Thomas Bach, IOC president, awarded Pelé the Medal of the Olympic Order, the Games’ highest honour. On the 22nd July, the Olympic torch was passed to Pelé in the town of Santos at the Pelé museum. Santos was, of course, where the great footballer’s career began.
In 1999 the IOC named Pelé its athlete of the century. He has been officially declared ‘Best Football Player of the 20th Century’ several times. Sadly for him, however, he was never able to play football in the Olympics themselves. His international, professional career began in spectacular fashion at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. As a 17 year old boy he scored two of the winning goals against home team, Sweden, in the World Cup Finals. At that time only amateur sportsmen were allowed to take part in the Olympics. Professional sportsmen were only admitted to the Games in 1986. So Pelé was prevented from ever being an ‘Olympian’ footballer- he jokes that that’s why Brazil has never won there!
When Thomas Bach presented Pelé with his Medal of the Olympic Order he said of the Brazilian, “In everything he does, both on and off the field, he exemplifies the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect.” Although he may not have played in the Olympics, Pelé has been involved in the Olympic movement massively over the years. We know for a fact that he was an ‘Honored guest’ at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, because we have recently acquired his accreditation pass for those games, a cracking piece of sports memorabilia and sport history. There he watched his great friend, Muhammad Ali, light the torch with dignity and great ceremony. It will be fitting and equally symbolic to watch the great Brazilian footballer, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, doing the same at the Opening Ceremony in Brazil 2016.
Sportspages has taken a look at BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year candidates since the programme began in 1954. The runner, Sir Christopher Chataway won it that first year. We’ve delved into our archives to detail a winner from each decade. Since all were worthy victors in the years that they won, our selection of individuals has been fairly arbitrary. Almost all could have caught our attention. We’ve tried to be fair (in sport?!) and picked out a sports personality from different sports over the years.
We start with Jim Laker, who won Sports Personality of the Year in 1956 for his record-breaking number of wickets taken against the Australians in that year. In the 4th Ashes Test, at Old Trafford, Laker was the first bowler in history to take all 10 wickets in a test innings. In fact Laker took 19 Australian wickets for 90. He bowled 9 for 37 in the first innings; 10 for 53 in the 2nd Innings.
Jim Laker later went on to set the record of the most wickets taken in a 5 match Ashes series (admittedly, a niche area): 46, a record still held today.
In the 1960s our attention turns to Sir Henry Cooper, the only British boxer ever to be knighted…yet. He was BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1967, having been unbeaten throughout that year. We may have fond and more recent memories of him in Brut aftershave commercials and hamming it up in pantos and chat shows. He also had an exceptionally long career as a successful boxer from 1954 – 71. He won 40 of his 55 contests, 27 of which were knockouts. Cooper was legendary for his very powerful and very fast left hook. It was called ‘Enry’s Ammer’ and was most famously used against Muhammad Ali in both of their hugely publicised fights in 1963 and again in 1966. As well as Henry Cooper’s boxing achievements, he was also the first sportsman to win SPOTY twice – he won the award again in 1970.
We come to Dame Mary Peters in the 1970s. She won SPOTY in 1972 after her triumphant gold medal in the pentathlon at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, where she narrowly beat the local favourite. Mary Peters came from Northern Ireland and was a ‘war horse’ in athletics. She represented Northern Ireland at every Commonwealth Games between 1958 – 1974. She honed her craft in tough times. She recalled her training schedule every day, ‘I used to have to get two buses into Belfast City centre and then another to the track, carrying my shot, which weighed four kilos, and my starting blocks. The track was full of pot-holes. It wasn’t the ideal place to come but it was the only place we had’.
The 1980s offers us almost too many fine candidates from which to choose. We could have concentrated on Beefy Botham. Unsurprisingly he won Sports Personality of the Year in 1981. There was Daley Thompson too, Torvill and Dean, Nigel Mansell and Sir Nick Faldo among others. But we wanted to share the love among sports and also to honour a fond favourite of ours: Steve ‘Interesting’ Davis! Davis was the first player to complete snooker’s triple crown in a single year to win the World Championship, the Masters and the UK Championship won Sports Personality of the Year in 1988. He went on to win the world championships six times in total. Steve Davis was ranked no. 1 in snooker for seven consecutive seasons and his 1985 World Championship final against Dennis Taylor pulled in 18.5 million British viewers.
Steve Davis was accused of being boring at times due to his seeming lack of emotion and expression. In that case our 1990s Sports Personality of the Year might be the Yang to Steve Davis’ Ying. Footballer Paul Gascoigne, SPOTYS winner in 1990 was known as much for his passion and tears on the pitch as for his exceptional, natural talent. He won that year for being an integral part of the England team that reached the last 4 places in the 1990 World Cup in Italy. His tears afer the semi-final defeat against Germany reached the hearts of many fans. He wasn’t all tears though. He ended up with 57 caps and was described as the ‘most naturally gifted English midfielder of his generation’
The Noughties was another decade packed with fantastically achieving Sports Personalities of the Year. They included David Beckham, Paula Radcliffe, Jonny Wilkinson, Freddie Flintoff, Sir Chris Hoy and Ryan Giggs. All were worthy winners. We have gone for a huge sporting figure, literally and figuratively: Sir Steve Redgrave. Steve Redgrave ended his career being the most successful rower in history. He won 5 successive Olympic Gold medals and 1 bronze. He was onto his third Olympics and 3rd Gold medal in 2000 when he won Sports Personality of the Year then.
Since 2010, two of the past winners are contenders again this year: Andy Murray in 2013 and Lewis Hamilton last year. Will one of them do a ‘Henry Cooper’ and win Sports Personality of the Year for the second time this year? Will our Olympics poster girl, Jessica Ennis-Hill or Lizzie Armitstead step up as one of the few women to win the title over the years? Can Mo Farah or Chris Froome stay the course? Or will Kevin Sinfield, Greg Rutherford, Adam Peaty or Max Whitlock whip the trophy out from under the frontrunners’ noses? So many questions! Thankfully it’s only 10 days to find out the answers…