Joining a gym, handing in assignments on time, spending less money on VKs in Park End – ’tis the season of New Years resolutions. But whilst everyone looks forward to 2016, we here at Cherwell Sport have chosen to take a moment and reflect on what a year 2015 has been for sport. With multiple scandals, two world cups, an Ashes triumph and plenty of ‘tab shoeing’ this certainly was a year to remember.
The Davis Cup
It was 1936 when Great Britain last won the Davis Cup. Over three-quarters of a century later the GB team, driven almost single-handedly by the 11 points of Andy Murray, overcame the USA, France, Australia and Belgium on the way to glory in Ghent. When Murray beat David Goffin in the last match of the 104th final, the Olympic champion cemented his place amongst Britain’s sporting greats. Murray, along with his brother Jamie and their teammates, saw their almost unprecedented achievement recognised at the BBC Sports Personality awards, where they were crowned Team of the Year.
The Boat Races
This April all eyes were on the tideway as, in a historic first, both the Men’s and Women’s crews raced over the 6.8km championship course. The banks were packed and to the delight of the Oxford supporters the river ran dark blue. Led by decorated American Olympian Carynn Davies the Oxford Women left Cambridge in the wake showing complete domination. Cambridge hoped that their men would fair a little better but stroked by GB Olympic bronze medalist Constanine ‘Stan’ Louloudis, the men’s grit, power and determination meant they rowed clear despite Cambridge’s tidier rowing style. A successful year for the Oxford oarsmen and oarswomen who after a summer off are busy preparing for the 2016 Boat Race where Cambridge will certainly be hungry for revenge.
The Ashes series of 2015 saw a swashbuckling, ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it’ brand of cricket that left the pendulum of momentum swinging viciously between the English and Australian sides. Having only managed to draw against the allegedly weaker West Indies and New Zealand in preparation for the world-beating Aussies, it was a series that England had no right to win. A mere 14 days of cricket later, the script had been well and truly re-written. In truth, both teams were equally flawed but, thanks largely to ‘Man of the Series’, Joe Root, it was England who recaptured the precious little urn with a 3-2 series victory.
The Varsity Matches at Twickenham
This year’s Varsity Matches had an intense build up both at university and on external social media and news outlets, given the historic nature of the matches and their participants. For the first time, the women’s match would be held at Twickenham Stadium, preceding the men’s. Oxford strove to obtain a sixth consecutive victory, a record number and Cambridge gained international coverage for their enlistment of Welsh Rugby World Cup star Jamie Roberts.
Although Oxford were sadly defeated 52-0 in the women’s match, the playing of the match at Twickenham was a historic moment. The men’s match was filled with tension and anxiety, as injuries sidelined players from both teams, most notably Oxford’s captain Henry Lamont and the aforementioned Jamie Roberts. Additionally, disastrous luck (Oxford dropping the ball over the try line) and dangerous defensive plays (Cambridge’s Simon Davies yellow card) left the match tryless for the first time in fourteen years. Nevertheless, Oxford emerged victorious, with a final score of 12-6 and a new historic precedent for consecutive victories. Here’s to many more in 2016.
The FIFA Women’s World Cup
This summer, the apex of women’s football was hosted in the Great White North, and it was certainly a tournament for the ages. The final itself was certainly historic – in a match that was supposed to be a clash of women’s football heavyweights, USA ran rampant over Japan, with Carli Lloyd taking over the show and scoring one of the best goals we’ve ever seen to round off her 16-minute hat-trick.
However, this World Cup was impressive both on and off the pitch, as it brilliantly showcased the development in popularity and perceived legitimacy of women’s football, and perhaps women’s sport in general, and rightfully so. Not only were there more participants than ever, as the 2015 tournament saw the World Cup expand to 24 teams from 16 in 2011, it also drew in more viewers than ever, attracting a worldwide television audience of more than 750 million viewers and an average of over 26,000 live spectators per match.
The Rugby World Cup 2015
For the first time in 24 years, England once again played host to the Rugby World Cup, and it was full of excitement. While there were certainly bleak points – England were the first host nation in history to be eliminated before the quarterfinals – there was plenty of high drama. The biggest surprise of the tournament was by far and away the victory of underdog Japan over established powerhouse South Africa, shocking the world and garnering attention for the 2019 Cup, to be hosted by the match’s victor. Though Japan’s win was certainly the most surprising, the most exciting match was, of course, the final, and the great showdown between bitter rivals New Zealand and Australia.
Though the All Blacks were the more recent victor, having won the World Cup just four years prior, they curiously had never won a World Cup that they had not hosted. Unfortunately for Austrailia, that curse was broken and New Zealand emerged champions. Though the match ended disappointingly for many fans in the UK, the high level of play seen from many teams throughout the tournament promises an exciting Six Nations tournament this spring and the continued excellence and expansion of rugby union going forward.
Across the Pond: Sport in the USA
The word ‘redemption’ defined 2015 for the four major sport leagues in the U.S. In the MLB, the Kansas City Royals ran rampant over the New York Mets in the 2015 World Series after losing a nail-biter so the San Francisco Giants the year prior. The Golden State Warriors proved all basketball traditionalists wrong by rolling through both the regular season and postseason, culminating in their first NBA championship in over 41 years, led by Stephen Curry, the now indisputable best shooter the game has ever seen. The Chicago Blackhawks recaptured the 2015 Stanley Cup after having their dreams of repeating in 2014 dashed by the Los Angeles Kings, the eventual 2014 champions.
And for the NFL, no player’s journey has defined the year more than that of Tom Brady, who led the Patriots to their fourth Superbowl win of the 21st century before having to endure the frankly ridiculous ‘Deflate-gate’. Of course, nothing ever really holds Brady down – the Patriots currently hold a 13-2 record and look, yet again, like a title contender.
Oxford College Sport
College sport shows the true depth of sporting talent in Oxford with no one college dominating all the sports and all leagues and cuppers contested competitively. On the pitch it was a fantastic year for Balliol and Keble who triumphed in Football and Rugby cuppers respectively.
On the river it was Oriel’s year winning blades to rise to second on the river in Torpids behind Pembroke, retaining headship in Summer VIIIs and triumphing over Downing College, Cambridge at the Henley Boat Races. Whilst for the women Wadham continued to dominate gaining the headship in Torpids and retaining it in VIIIs meaning a double headship for the girls in light blue.
Elsewhere their were successes for Somerville in Netball and Teddy Hall in Mixed Lacrosse. The award for most ‘rogue’ cuppers victory has to go to Balliol who must be congratulated for their win in Korfball Cuppers. We look forward to another exciting sporting year in Oxford.
Scandalous Sporting Stories
‘Organised sport is so fascist’, said Dave Franco in 22 Jump Street. Whilst I personally would not go that far, it’s pretty clear that there is something fundamentally wrong with organised sport, particularly with the governing bodies that are supposed to function as bastions of competitive spirit. Look no further than FIFA, with Sep Blatter and Platini both receiving 8-year bans for some very shading dealings all the way back in 2011.
Meanwhile, out came the news that the International Association of Athletics Federations was paid to allow eight athletes, whom officials recommended should be banned, to participate in the 2012 London Olympic games, leading to charges being filed agains Papa Diack, Gabreill Dolle and two former senior members of the All-Russian Athletic Federation. For the sake of sport’s integrity as well as the faith of fans, let’s hope that organisations will no longer get away with corruption and mal-intent in 2016 and beyond.
Focus on: Women in Sport
In 2015, key members of Team GB have demonstrated that Britain’s female athletes continue to perform at the highest level. Jessica Ennis-Hill, silenced her critics when in August, having only returned to training in October 2014 after the birth of her son, she won the World Championships in Beijing. July saw success in the FIFA World Cup, with the England Women’s Football Team placing third, the highest score for an English team, male or female, since 1966. There is no doubt that 2015 has been an inspirational year for women, both on and off the pitch and we are excited to see what impact our female sporting icons of today have had on the next generation.
Focus on: Disability Sport
Post-London 2012, disability sport has continued on an upwards trajectory, reflected in the success of British athletes in 2015. This year, we have seen British athletes winning Gold in events including Athletics, Sailing, Wheelchair Tennis, Para-Triathlon, Rowing and Paracanoe, as well as setting World Records in Swimming. It is certain that Britain is a force to be reckoned with in this arena and the bar has been set high for the paralympics in Rio next year.