2014 was a year full of sporting brilliance, medals and record-breaking moments. Continuing on from the first part of this review, below are my seven favourite moments from the last year:
7) Brazil’s boys battered
The 2014 World Cup saw plenty of spectacular moments, including James Rodriguez’s sensational volley and the Netherlands’ humbling of reigning champions Spain. However, there was nothing more dramatic than Brazil’s loss to Germany in the semi-finals. Being the home team, the ‘Canarinho’ were expected to win the tournament, and not reaching the final would have been enough to cause national upset. They didn’t just fail to make the final though; they were humiliated. Germany were simply in another class as they put seven – yes, seven – goals past the South Americans. Miroslav Klose adding salt to the wounds by becoming overtaking Brazilian legend Ronaldo to become the player with the most of World Cup goals. In the space of 90 minutes an entire nation was silenced and, even before a ball was kicked in the final, Germany had declared themselves World Cup winners.
6) Scotland’s favourite Child comes good
If Michael Jamieson was Scotland’s poster boy for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Eilidh Child was definitely the female equivalent. The 400m hurdle runner had really made herself known at the 2013 World Championships, putting in a strong performance in the individual final and helping Great Britain win bronze in the 4x400m relay. The pressure on her going into the event was immense, with the home fans expecting at least a repeat of the silver medal from four years earlier. Unlike Jamieson, she didn’t fail to deliver. After cruising through the heats, Child put in a superb performance in the final to claim silver behind the very impressive Jamaican Kaliese Spencer. The delight on her face was clear for all to see and those in the stadium celebrated and cheered as though she had won. It was a truly wonderful moment to witness.
5) The long-awaited win
England women’s rugby union team has long been seen as the second best in the world, behind New Zealand. Since their first Test in 1987, they have won 182 of their 217 matches, with most of their losses coming against the Kiwis. Indeed, they had been beaten by them in the previous four World Cups, including the finals of the 2002, 2006 and 2010 tournaments. However, the Black Ferns lost to Ireland in the group stages, meaning they narrowly missed out on a place in the semi-finals. England qualified as the third best team after two wins and a disappointing draw against Canada and faced the Irish in their semi. Despite their monumental upset in the group stages, Ireland were no match for England and lost 40-7. This meant English faced Canada again in the final and, this time, there was to be no disappointment. Emily Scarratt was at her absolute best as she scored 16 of 21 points as England battled their way to victory, meaning she finished as the tournament’s top points scorer. England had won their first tournament for 20 years and finally proved they could do it on the big stage.
4) Four-midable Fragapane
As previously discussed, the 2014 Commonwealth Games saw the emergence of a lot of young British athletes with huge potential. There was one youngster, though, who stole the show with four gold medals in her first major international championship; 16 year-old gymnast Claudia Fragapane. From the first moment she appeared in the Hydro arena, it was clear for all to see that here was a future star. Her composure for someone so young and inexperienced was remarkable and so were her performances. Of her four golds, the most achieved by a British woman in a single Commonwealth Games since swimmer Joyce Cooper in 1930, the one achieved in the floor event was the most spectacular. Her performance was faultless, almost superhuman, and she did not receive a single penalty on her way to winning by a huge margin of 0.708 points.
3) A special tribute
Cricket was shocked to its core in late November with the death of Australian batsman Phil Hughes, killed when a ball struck him on the neck, missing the helmet and causing a fatal injury. This happened just days before he was due to be selected in the national squad against the touring Indian side. The way in which Cricket Australia dealt with this incident was incredible, with Michael Clarke’s tear-inducing tribute to Hughes showing the class of the man. The first Test was put back a few days to allow the players to try and put themselves in the correct place mentally, but even then it seemed wrong to be playing so soon. However, David Warner and Clarke used the pain and grief caused by their team-mate’s death to spur them on to sensational performances. On his way to a magnificent 145, Warner dedicated not just his century to Hughes, but also the moment he reached 63, as this was the score Hughes was one when he died. It was Clarke, though, who really stole the show – having retired hurt on day one with a recurrence of a back injury, the captain returned next day to battle his way to a century of his own. If it was any other match, Clarke probably wouldn’t have even come back out to bat. However, his emotional pain overcame the physical and led to this super-human performance. They may not be everybody’s favourite team, but there can be nothing but the upmost praise and respect for the Australians for this.
2) Bianchi shows his worth
Despite the dominance of Mercedes, the 2014 Formula 1 season was one of the most exciting and exhilarating for a while. However, the sport also suffered double tragedy last year – firstly, seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher, arguably the greatest racer of all time, was critically injured in late December 2013 whilst skiing with his son. Secondly, young French driver Jules Bianchi was also severely injured after crashing into a recovery truck at the Japanese GP. It was a horrific moment which once again highlighted that, despite huge improvements in safety, open-cockpit racing is still very dangerous. What made it all the more tragic was the Bianchi was looking a very promising driver, highlighted by his performance at the Monaco GP. Despite being in one of the slowest cars on the grid, Bianchi has consistently pushed the car beyond what it should be capable of and this was especially the case in this race. He pulled off some incredible overtakes and drove his heart out to finish in ninth place, ahead of much quicker cars, to score his and his team’s first points in F1. It was one of the greatest drives I’ve ever seen and makes it even sadder that we may never see him race again.
1) Pave-ing the way
Many of the aforementioned events have centred around young athletes showing their potential. However, my favourite moment from the last year involves an athlete at the completely opposite end of their career. At 40 years old, Jo Pavey has had a long but largely unsuccessful career in middle and long-distance running. However, the older she has got the better she has become, winning 5000m silver at the 2006 Commonwealth Games and the same medal at the 2012 European Championships in the 10,000m. Going into the 2014 Euros, her confidence was high after winning 5000m bronze at the Commonwealths in Glasgow and, with the fields in both events not looking particularly strong, was in with a good chance of picking up a medal. However, no-one really expected her to win gold, meaning the fact that she did was deemed by many to be truly remarkable, especially given her age. By winning the 10,000m, she became the oldest European Champion ever and proved that perseverance and determination pay dividends in the end. Not only that, but just ten months earlier she had given birth to her second child! Pavey is an exceptional woman and thoroughly deserving of all the success she has had.
If this year is anything like the last, it’s going to be one hell of a ride – I can’t wait!