2014 review Pt. 3 – sporting shocks
The greatest sporting shocks of 2014
The ‘woman in the bin’ on opening day of World Cup 2014
Before the World Cup kicked off there was every reason to think that there would be major civil unrest. Demonstrations against FIFA and the Brazilian government were widespread, and as the tournament kicked off a CNN producer was left bloodied.
But it was a picture of a woman scavenging in a bin as yellow-clad fans trooped past that really captured the imagination. It highlighted Brazil’s divide between rich and poor, and brought into sharp focus the question of whether it could really afford a World Cup amid such poverty.
Rory McIlroy dumps Caroline Wozniacki
Sport’s most popular couple was adored across the world, thanks to their lovely girl-and-boy-next-door vibe. So when the pair announced their engagement at New Year, we were thrilled for them. Sadly, it didn’t last: in May, the sending out of the invitations prompted Rory’s cold feet, and he pulled the plug on their three-year relationship. One good thing came out of it: Wozniacki enjoyed her best spell in years on the court, while McIlroy won the Open and US PGA and was on the winning side in the Ryder Cup – one of golf’s greatest-ever seasons.
Atletico Madrid end the Spanish duopoly
The Spanish capital’s second side are the poor relations of La Liga, yet despite their relatively minuscule budget, and despite selling star striker Radamel Falcao before the season began, they beat both Barcelona and Real Madrid to the title. Only a freak injury-time goal by Sergio Ramos stopped them adding the Champions League as well.
Pineau De Re wins the Grand National
Plenty of other countries have flat races to rival The Derby, but when it comes to jump racing Britain’s Grand National at Aintree is still the top race in the world. All the more shocking, then, that it could be won by a 25-1 shot whose jockey came out of retirement to ride, and whose trainer was a doctor who dabbles in horses as a sideline.
Steven Gerrard lets it slip
His moment had come: Liverpool’s Captain Fantastic gathered his team around to tell them that they were on the verge of greatness as the Reds took charge of their own destiny in the title race. Just days later the Hero of Istanbul’s slip during the match against Chelsea gave away a sucker punch goal, and with it effectively ceded the upper hand in the title race to Manchester City.
Stan Wawrinka wins the Australian Open
According to all the scripts, just getting to the final was meant to be the reward for the Swiss number two at Melbourne Park – but having dispatched Novak Djokovic in a five-set classic in the quarter-finals, Wawrinka went on to beat Rafa Nadal in four sets in the final. Tennis’s Big Four – Djokovic, Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray – had failed to claim a Grand Slam for the first time since 2009.
Nico Rosberg takes out team-mate Lewis Hamilton
Friends and rivals since their early days as kids in go-kartin, Rosberg and Hamilton once shared idle dreams over ice cream and pizza about how cool it would be to race together on the same team one day in the future. Fast forward from the late 90s to 2014 and the dream had come true – but the feud between the pair means it’s unlikely they’ll be chewing the fat over a takeaway pepperoni any time soon. A season of controversy hit its peak when Rosberg, almost unbelievably, nudged Hamilton off the track during the Belgian Grand Prix. Not since the days of the feud between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna had the sport witnessed team-mates literally and deliberately taking each other out of races.
Chris Froome goes out of the Tour de France
The defending champion was supposed to have a battle royale with Alberto Contador in cycling’s biggest event, to decide who is the greatest of them all. But he crashed badly, three times in two days, ending up with a badly-injured wrist that – in tough wet and windy conditions – made it impossible to continue.
Alberto Contador crashes out of Tour de France
Five days after Chris Froome went out of cycling’s showpiece event, Contador went over his handlebars and went out of the race. He tried to pedal on – but soon became clear that his injuries were too severe. Later analysis showed that he’d broken his tibia.
Brazil 1-7 Germany
Quite simply, the most extraordinary 90 minutes of football most of us have ever seen, or will ever see, in our lifetimes.
Luis Suarez bites a fellow human being. Again.
Really Luis. Enough already with the biting of the people. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, once could be seen as misfortune, twice as carelessness, and three times a sign of a genuine taste for human flesh.
Luis Suarez denies biting Giorgio Chiellini
Just as shocking as Suarez’s bite was his appalling ‘dog ate my homework’ excuse: “I lost my balance, making my body unstable and falling on top of my opponent. At that moment I hit my face against the player leaving a small bruise on my cheek and a strong pain in my teeth.”
How on earth could a grown man deny what the world had seen so clearly? The refusal to accept responsibility for his actions tipped Suarez’s actions from a moment of hot-headedness into the realms of borderline insanity. He did eventually apologise – though his contrition only appeared to materialise when a big money move to Barcelona appeared to be in the balance.
Britain’s Elise Christie left in tears at Sochi
Being a nation of warm, wet winters, it’s not that surprising that Britain has very few genuine contenders for medals at the Winter Olympics. But Elise Christie was one: a real prospect of gold, one of the best short-track speed skaters in the world, and a serial winner on the World Cup circuit. But what happened to her over the course of a fortnight in Sochi amounted to one of the worst runs of luck in sporting history: in the 500m she was controversially disqualified for her part in a crash that seemed 50-50; and in the 1,500m she was disqualified in the early rounds when skating calmly to the finish, only to verge 1cm onto the inside of the track as she crossed the line. No matter, however – on to the 1,000m, and surely lightning couldn’t strike a third time? Shockingly, it did as Christie was once again deemed to have caused a collision, this time during the semi-finals. “Never in 100 years did I expect a penalty. I’m confused and heartbroken,” she said as tears streamed down her cheeks – a moment that, for British sports fans, became one of the defining images of the games.
Phil Mickelson tears strips of captain Tom Watson at Ryder Cup
There’s nothing wrong with a team holding a post-mortem following a big defeat. And to be effective, that post-mortem has to include honest self-criticism. But one thing it doesn’t need to be is public, at a press conference, and in the absence of the team captain. So when Phil Mickelson tore apart Tom Watson’s tactical decisions, man management and general demeanour in utterly ruthless fashion at the Ryder Cup, the world’s assembled golf media couldn’t quite believe what it was hearing. Mr Apple-Pie-Nice-Guy himself twisting the knife that defeat at Gleneagles had already plunged into Watson? Extraordinary.
Kevin Pietersen sacked by England
Yes, the Ashes were a disaster. Yes, Kevin Pietersen – as a misfiring, senior player – was as culpable as anybody in England’s capitulation. Yet it was still a total shock in Februrary that the ECB fired their star player, and England’s only genuine global cricket superstar. Ian Botham referred to the men responsible as “amateur comedians – and the manner of the sacking, with (initally at least) no explanation of the reasons behind it, was beyond belief. Even in the world of cricket, where the oak-panelled corridors of power often witness intrigue, this was beyond belief. Nearly a year on, England’s side is worse than ever while Pietersen is back in form in Australia’s Big Bash tournament – still, however, there is seemingly no chance of reconciliation. And it is England’s cricket fans who are the true victims.
Kei Nishikori takes down Novak Djokovic
Stan Wawrinka beating Djokovic at the Australian Open was one thing – after all, the Swiss star already had a track record of being able, on his day, to take down some of the best players in the world. But when Kei Nishikori repeated the feat against the world number one and recently-crowned Wimbledon champion on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows, the tennis world genuinely couldn’t believe what it was seeing.
Manchester United lost 5-3 to Leicester City
We’d become used to United failing under David Moyes, but Louis van Gaal appeared to have played every card right in the summer. A big name manager, some fine pre-season form, and a vast amount spent on players – approaching £200 million – seemed to have fixed the problems. And even the opening day defeat at Swansea, League Cup exit against MK Dons and draw at Burnley were comfortably written down to early season glitches. That all changed on September 21st when, a week after a fine 4-0 win against QPR that appeared to mark the turning of a corner, Manchester United blew a 3-1 lead to lose 5-3 to Leicester City. The most catastrophic meltdown ever seen by a Red Devils team? Absolutely, when thinking of recent history. We genuinely couldn’t believe what we were seeing.