If we can thank 2016 for anything, it is some spectacular moments in sport. As the world bemoans the celebrity deaths, wars and political upheaval that have punctuated this turbulent year, let us also remember the brilliant and unlikely that we have encountered in the world of sport. It was in the arena of sport that we arguably witnessed the triumph of kindness, passion and determination, which seemed so absent from the wider world. Here are Cherwell’s top five sporting moments of 2016:
1) Leicester City wins the British Premier League
By far the most memorable moment of in the world of British football this year was Leicester City’s Premier League win. On Monday the 2nd of May 2016, a Tottenham 2-2 draw away at Chelsea confirmed that Leicester City had won the Barclays Premier League title in one of the greatest sporting stories of all time. Despite an excellent start to the 2015/2016 campaign, the Foxes have remained underdogs for the majority of the season. Football fans across the country were convinced that they didn’t have the squad depth or quality of football to remain at the top of the table; nonetheless Ranieri’s men never stopped to impress. In December 2015, Jamie Vardy received his award for consecutive Premier League goals. The striker scored in 11 straight games to break the record previously held by Manchester United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy. An outstanding season also earned Riyad Mahrez the PFA Player of the Year award. Leicester City’s 2015/16 side cost an aggregate of £54.4 million with substitute Leonardo Ulloa being their most expensive signing (£10m). The other three teams that made the top four in the 15/16 season, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester City, had squads costing of £161.1 million, £251.9 million and £418.8 million, respectively: clearly money isn’t everything in football. Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City have cemented their place in Premier League history.
2) Euros 2016 – Portugal win, Wales reach semi-finals and Iceland Vikings conquer Europe
Second only to Leicester’s Premier League success, comes a nerve racking and eventful European Championship hosted by France. Will Grigg was on fire, Zaza’s ball yet to land, and Vicente del Bosque was fired as Spain failed to impress again. France’s Griezmann proved to be unstoppable against the German giants. Wales beat Belgium to reach the semi finals and the Viking war chant echoed in the streets of Paris.
The most striking story of the 2016 Euros was that of the Icelandic football team. In the month of July, 27,000 Icelandic fans, or roughly 8 per cent of the nation’s population, made their way to Saint-Etienne for the group stage game against Portugal. With the now world renown Viking war chant as their trademark, the Icelandic players and fans gave it their all for their tiny nation’s proud name. Iceland’s goalkeeper works as a music video director and one of their coaches is a dentist. Nonetheless, the Vikings humiliated England in the last 16 stage with a 2-1 victory, which marked an end to Roy Hodgson’s disappointing managerial career. Iceland were then defeated by the hosts in the quarterfinals.
After Iceland’s inspirational run came the final held between France and Portugal at the Stade de France, Saint Dennis on 10 July. Portuguese captain Cristiano Ronaldo tearfully abandoned the pitch with an ankle injury in the first half and handed over leadership responsibilities to former Manchester United winger Luis Nani. A goalless draw took the game to extra-time and Portuguese substitute Edér found the back of the net with a powerful 25-yard strike to earn his country the victory.
Relive the drama of the final (with Titanic music):
3) Rio Olympics- records smashed, sacrifices made and success for Oxford
In August 2016, Rio de Janeiro became the first South American city to ever host the Summer Olympic Games. The lead-up to the Games was defined by controversies including a Zika virus outbreak, a doping scandal involving Russian athletes and instabilities in Brazil’s federal government. Despite this, Rio de Janeiro came to life like never seen before and the Olympics were jammed-packed with sporting talent and memorable moments.
Two Oxford graduates, Constantine Louloudis and Tom Mitchell won medals in rowing and rugby 7s respectively. Louloudis – who is a graduate in classics from Trinity College – earned gold with the Great British 4 man rowing team. Mitchell led the Great British rugby team to the Olympic final, where the Fijians proved to be superior.
One of the moments that marked the Olympics, was Bahamian runner Shaunae Miller’s dive across the finish line to beat the seven times gold medallist Alison Felix in the women’s 400m race. In a different manner, British runner Mo Farah also found himself lying on the running tracks after being knocked down at the start of the 10000m race. Regardless of the fall, Farah still managed to defend his title.
There were some firsts. On the 12th of August, Fiji erupted with celebrations as its 7s rugby team won the country’s first ever gold medal, beating Great Britain in the final by an astonishing 43-7. On the following day, Monica Puig of Puerto Rico proudly wove her country’s flag after winning the gold medal match in the women’s tennis competition. This too, was Puerto Rico’s first ever-gold medal.
On the other end of the spectrum, Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympic athlete ever; leading the USA to victory in the 400m Medley race, he retired with his 23rd gold medal. No other Olympic athlete has ever exceeded 9 gold medals. However, for many, the sensation of Rio Olympics was US gymnast Simone Biles. Winning gold for all-round individual and team performances, the 19 year old has already been described as one of the best Olympic gymnasts ever. She also earned a gold medal for the Vault and a Bronze medal for the Beam events.
4) Kris Jenkins sinks a championship-winning buzzer 3 pointer
On the 4th of April 2016, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) basketball final was held between the Vilanova Wildcats and the University of North Carolina (UNC). Kris Jenkins sunk a championship-winning buzzer 3 pointer to earn the Vilanova’s the title, in what is referred to as “The Perfect Ending”.
UNC had recovered from a 10-point deficit in the final five minutes to tie the game with 4.7 seconds left, leaving the Wildcats one last chance to clinch a victory before overtime. Four-year team captain Ryan Arcidiacono dribbled down court and passed the ball back to assist Jenkins’ game-winning shot. Coach Jay Wright credits the play to the “Wildcat minute”, where the team practices late-game scenarios at every practice. The game has been called one of the greatest in the history of NCAA Tournament Championships.
5) Chicago Cubs win the World Series Championship
On the 2nd of November 2016, after 108 years of waiting, the Chicago Cubs ended the longest drought in American sporting history. The Cubs won the 2016 World Series with a wild 8-7 victory over the Indians at Progressive Field. The triumph completed their climb back from a 3-1 Series deficit to claim their first championship since 1908, breaking ‘The Curse of the Billy Goat’.
This curse was supposedly placed on the Chicago Cubs by the owner of Billy Goat Tavern, William Sianis. The odour of his pet goat Murphy was bothering other fans and so Sianis was asked to leave Wrigley Field, the Cubs’ home ballpark, during game 4 of the 1945 World Series. Unhappy with his dismissal, Sianis declared, “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more!”. The Cubs lost the 1945 World Series to the Detroit Tigers, and did not win a World Series championship again until 2016.
You bet Chicago Cubs fans won’t mess with the Billy Goat Tavern again.