by Allan Fish
A bit of a blast from left field, this is what I hope will be the first in a series of pieces on WitD contributors greatest sporting moments from their lifetime. I say from their lifetime in that these events must have taken place while you yourself were breathing and not before. In my case, this rules out anything pre 1973, from Pele’s Brazil to Arkle in full flow to Jim Laker’s 19 wickets in a test to Roger Bannister’s four minute mile. This list will doubtless be radically different to anyone else’s. Baseball, American Football and Basketball are completely absent and ice hockey only gets one mention – and that hardly needs an introduction. So let’s get that out of the way first.
30 – USA beat USSR, Olympic Ice hockey final, 1980, Lake Placid
Better and more knowledgeable writers than yours truly have already waxed lyrical about this, but I remember watching this at the age of 6 or 7, cheering on the States against the Russians and not really being old enough to take in the ramifications. You don’t need reminding, but here…
29 – Arazi wins Breeders Cup Juvenile, 1991, Churchill Downs
There are moments in sport that don’t just give one the emotional lift that seeing your country or team win at the highest level give you, they simply take your breath away. One such occasion came in the 1992 Breeders Cup Juvenile in 1991, when the French trained Arazi, racing on dirt for the first time in the States, and drawn uncomfortably wide and left way behind the pace early on, scythes through the field like Road Runner on speed to win in one of the most devastating performances ever seen on a racetrack. Sadly, he didn’t train on as a 3yo, but anyone who witnessed this will never forget it.
28 – Phil Taylor makes two 9 Dart Finishes in one match, 2010
The event was the Premier league final in 2010, and after years of no 9 dart finishes on TV, in recent years we have had a slew of then. It took the master Phil Taylor, the greatest tungsten tickler in history, to do 2 in one match.
27 – Borg beats McEnroe, Wimbledon final, 1980
While it would be easy to just pick that tie-breaker, how can one really single out one moment in such a match. Anyway, the link is to the start of that tie break. A final we thought would never be beat…
26 – Ronnie O’Sullivan makes a 147 in five minutes, World Snooker Championships, Sheffield, 1997
You’re in the World Championships. What better place to do a 147. There have been eight or nine there over the years, but no-one did one like this, a world record fastest maximum. Sheer perfection. Enough to make anyone who has held a cue in their hand, in snooker, billiards or pool, shake their head. One of those gasp moments, poetry in motion.
25 – The Try from the end of the World, France vs New Zealand in New Zealand, 1994
Only the French could score a try like this and against the All Blacks in their own back yard. Delicious. Magnifique.
24 – Alderbrook wins Champion Hurdle, Cheltenham, 1995
You’ll forgive my indulgence of horse racing, my greatest sporting passion, but this was a moment I’ll never forget. Alderbrook was only a novice hurdler, running in only his third race over hurdles, only his second of the season. The conventional wisdom for novices is to run in the Novice Hurdle championship, the Supreme Novices Hurdle. Not Alderbrook. Against the best Champion Hurdle field assembled in the 1990s, he wins going away. But for injury and having legs like glass, he’d be acclaimed as one of the greatest hurdlers of all time. In my opinion, he still is.
23 – Steven Gerrard’s third goal for Liverpool against Olympiakos, 1995
While everyone remembers Liverpool’s win at Istanbul in that unforgettable 2005 final, for me the defining moment was in an earlier round, when Liverpool found themselves having to score 3 times in the second half to go through. They’d managed two. Minutes were slipping away when this happened…
22 – Desert Orchid wins the Cheltenham Gold Cup in a bog, Cheltenham, 1989
A personal favourite. Not the greatest performance, but for sheer courage and emotion in ground that he loathed, impossible to beat.
21 – Kauto Star wins King George VI Chase for record 5th time, Kempton Park, 2011
When Desert Orchid won his fourth King George in 1990, I remember saying to myself I’d never see his like again. Ye of little faith. But who could believe the greatest chaser in nearly 50 years would come along and win five, the last against the previously thought certainty Long Run, conceding him five years’ youth!
20 – Usain Bolt wins 100m and 200m, World Championships, Berlin, 2009
Need I say more? The Bolt is loaded…9.58 and 19.19. Michael Johnson’s 200m in Atlanta was unreal. This made even him gasp.
19 – Brian Lara makes 400 not out against England, 1994
OK, so the pitch was flatter than Keira Knightley’s chest, but it would take me a week to score 400 runs. Most teams would take 400 between them, he did it all on his own and brought up the 400 in style.
18 – British Lions defeat Australia, Brisbane, 2001
The Australians were World Champions, invincible. Brisbane was their stamping ground. The British and Irish Lions came there and made history. Sadly, they didn’t win the series, but that win will live long in the memory.
17 – Mike Powell wins World Championship Long Jump, Tokyo, 1991
23 years after Bob Beamon sailed out to 8.90m in Mexico City, if you’d said that two jumpers would go further, I’d have marched you off to the funny farm. First Carl Lewis does it, 8.91 but with slight wind assistance so not a world record, then Mike Powell goes and jumps 8.95m. World record, Incredible. Lewis jumps four times over 8.80 and DOESN’T win.
16 - Ali beats Foreman, 1974, Rumble in the Jungle
Do we need any introduction here either. Even before documentary When We Were Kings this had been immortalised, now it just fills you with awe.
15 – Liverpool 4-3 Newcastle, Anfield, 1996
The greatest Premier League match of them all. Unforgettable. They nearly matched it a year later with the same result.
14 – Jonathan Edwards, Triple Jump, 1995, Gothenburg, two World Records in half an hour
18.00 was always the greatest barrier in triple jumping. What better than to break it and the World Record in the World Championship final in the first and second rounds. Unbelievable. No-one’s come remotely close since.
13 – Nadal beats Federer, Wimbledon, 2010.
Nuff said. The greatest tennis match ever played between arguably the two greatest players of the modern era. Could anything beat the 4th set tie break from 1980. Er, yes…
12 – Frankel wins 2,000 Guineas, Newmarket 2011
The greatest single performance in a British classic you will ever hope to see. 1m run like a sprinter. Astronomical.
11 – Marco Van Basten’s goal for Holland in European championships, 1988.
Again, words do not describe. For me the greatest striker I have ever seen.
10 – Secretariat wins Belmont Stakes by a distance, 1973
In some ways this feels like cheating. I was 12 days old when this happened. But give me a break, there will never be anything like this seen in a Triple Crown race in US dirt. Stratospheric.
9 – George Weah, AC Milan versus Verona, 1996
Remember watching this on Channel 4′s Football Italia and spluttering out my coke. You don’t see this down the local park.
8 – Ian Thorpe’s final leg to win the 4x100m Freestyle Relay for Aus against USA, Sydney, 2000
From an emotional point of view, Steve Redgrave’s fifth Gold medal in rowing was an undoubted highlight of the 2000 Olympics, but for sheer tongue hit the floor awesomeness, this takes it. Thorpe was a 200 and 400m swimmer, up against the fastest man in the world at the time over 100m and facing a deficit. He couldn’t, could he?
7 – Gilles Villeneuve against Rene Arnoux, French Grand Prix, 1979
We sometims forget in this turgid era that Formula 1 was once exciting. The documentary Senna reminded us of his legendary abilities and those of Alain Prost in the greatest rivalry the sport ever saw and which I grew up with, but for sheer drama and excitement, the last three or four laps of continual overtaking between Arnoux’s yellow Renault and Villeneueve’s red Ferrari in France would go down in legend. This is when drivers really were drivers…
6 – Andrew Flintoff’s over to Jacques Kallis, Edgbaston, 2008
While the euphoria of that incredible 2005 Ashes will live long in the memory, if anyone told me that Flintoff would bowl a better over than he did in 2005 to remove Langer and Ponting, I’d have laughed myself to death. Three years later, he did just that, against South African legend Jacques Kallis. He had him out once, but it wasn’t given by the umpire Aleem Dar. It only made him more determined.
5 – Barbarians vs New Zealand, 1973, Gareth Edwards try
Simply the greatest try ever scored, Cardiff Arms Park. Technically, I’m cheating, it was four months before I was born. But assuming I was breathing inside my mother’s womb…
4 – Torvill and Dean Olympic Free Dance, Sarajevo, 1984
In all honesty, if asked which Torvill and Dean routine I prefer, in some ways the Mack and Mabel and Barnum routines of 1982 and 1983 win out, but for sheer artistry and emotion, beyond poetry in motion, there could only be one. Ravel’s Bolero.
3 – Tiger Woods holes his 2nd shot at the 16th hole, US Masters, Augusta, 2005
One of those genius moments. You just have to stand back and applaud.
2 – Alex Higgins’s 69 clearance in World Championship semi-final, Sheffield, 1982
While Ronnie O’Sullivan’s 147 was pure perfection at pace, the greatest EVER break in snooker history surely came in 1982. Alex Higgins was losing 15-14 in the first to 16 semi-final. He couldn’t afford to miss a single ball. He compiled the most miraculous break you will ever see to clear up, win the frame, then the last and then go on to win the final. It’s the first 6 minutes in this clip.
1 – 1973 Grand National, Red Rum overhauls Crisp, Aintree
It had to be a racing clip to top it, and so it is. Again, I was technically in mater’s womb when this happened. Red Rum would go on to win an unprecedented three Nationals, winning again 19 1974 and 1977 (and second in 1975 and 1976), but despite this, we still will Crisp on. The giant Australian beast who treated the Aintree fences that were then more like spruce roadblocks with utter contempt. He was carrying top weight of 12st. Red Rum was only carrying 10st 5lb, in receipt of 23lb from Crisp. Crisp was a 2m chase champion running over 4½m. What happened would go down in history.
Anyway, the next entry will be from back across the pond. This Limey is going back to his films…