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Top 10 Sporting Moments of 2016

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While no year is truly void of brilliant sporting moments, 2016 has been up to its eyeballs in classic memories and victories. With one of the most enthralling 12 months of sport just hours away from completion, it would only be fair to indulge in some good old reminiscing. After all, there’s plenty to look back on.

In light of this, here are the 10 most incredible and memorable sporting moments of 2016:

10. GB win women’s hockey final

The 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro were one to remember for Team GB. In fact, with an astonishing tally of 27 gold medals and 67 ribbons overall, the UK finished second in the medal table – their highest position for 108 years. One of the undoubted highlights of this though was glory in the women’s hockey final.

Having already improved upon 2012’s bronze medal by reaching the final, Britain would face reigning champions the Netherlands. An end-to-end clash finished 3-3 in normal time and sent the game rumbling onto penalties. Via the dramatic saves and little black book of Maddie Hinch however, Britain claimed a 2-0 win in the shootout.

 

The sheer ecstasy and celebrations upon Hollie Webb’s game-winning penalty were simply superb.

9. Conor McGregor exacts revenge on Nate Diaz

There are few characters in sport quite like Conor McGregor and 2016 has been a rather eventful year for the Irishman. His key moment arrived in August upon the scheduling of a rematch with Nate Diaz. The Californian had previously put an end to McGregor’s unbeaten run with a superb submission victory in March.

However, in typical fashion, the Notorious was hungry for revenge at UFC 200 and came out with vigor in a tense affair. Ultimately though, McGregor accomplished what he had set out to achieve in securing a majority decision. Moreover, he would later become the UFC’s first ever double champion by defeating Eddie Alvarez just three months later.

8. Novak Djokovic completes the career Grand Slam

With the old guard of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal stepping down from the plate, Novak Djokovic has inherited the role of tennis’ king pin. While the Serbian certainly waned late in the year, he flew out of the blocks in 2016. Perhaps his crowning moment came at Roland Garros in the capture of a previously illusive career Grand Slam.
The French Open had always been the title to evade Djokovic and he suffered the bitterest of defeats in 2015 to Stanislas Wawrinka in that very final. He wasn’t willing to suffer a repeat though as he executed a superb comeback victory over an overwhelmed Andy Murray.

With his typically ferocious forehand play and unfaultable movement across the court, Djokovic won the one trophy that had escaped him 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. In doing so, he became the first player since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously. Incredible.

7. England claim the Six Nations Grand Slam

To say England have looked a force to be reckoned with under Eddie Jones would be putting it mildly. After the ignominious outings at the home 2015 World Cup, the Roses had a lot to prove in the Six Nations. Under the management of the Australian, England started in style with a canny win over Scotland and a demolition of Italy.

Brutally tight victories over Ireland and Wales, 21-10 and 25-20 respectively, really got supporters believing though. While the latter win had wrapped up the Six Nations title, England were hungry for more and secured a first Grand Slam since 2003 with victory in Paris. English rugby union is back – watch this space.

6. Payton Manning retires with Super Bowl win

There are ways to retire and then there are ways to retire. If your name is Payton Manning you like to go about the business in quite dramatic and glorious fashion. Considered one of the greatest living quarterbacks to grace the game, the 2007 MVP galvanised the Denver Broncos to an astonishing victory at Super Bowl 50.

Despite struggling for form in his final ever season; Manning helped the Broncos put the New England Patriots to the sword in the AFC Championship Game. He went one better though under the lights of the Levi’s Stadium as the Carolina Panthers had to swallow their pride in a 24-10 defeat.

The fitting victory saw Manning become the first starting quarterback to win two Super Bowl titles with two different franchises and many more records came in tandem. What a way to bow out of the NFL.

5. Henrik Stenson’s Open final round

The final round of the 2016 Open Championship will go down as one of the most enthralling climaxes to a major in golfing history. Around the twists and turns of the Royal Troon golf course, Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson battled it out punch for punch. The records broken by Stenson on his way to a first major win are exemplification of the drama of the bout.

The Swede became only the second player to finish below 20 under par at a major championship and his score of 264 was the lowest ever in a major. Furthermore, Stenson and Mickelson’s breathtaking 11 shot lead from the rest of the pack was, you guessed it, a record.

Therefore, not only did Stenson end his long wait for a major in emphatic fashion, but he had to defeat an inspired Mickelson to do so.

4. LeBron James spearheads rally in NBA finals

Prior to 2016, the Cleveland Cavaliers had gone an astonishing 52 years without a major title in the NBA. LeBron James was out to change that this year though and did so in a finals series that seemed to have escaped his side. After all, the Cavaliers found themselves 3-1 down to an outfit, in the form of the Golden State Warriors, who had won a record 73 games across the regular season.

The Cavaliers soon began to turn the finals around though and ensured the NBA title would go down to a seventh and final game at 3-3. With less than two minutes to play in the climax, James made an astonishing defensive block from Andre Igoudala with the game tied. It proved pivotal and the Warriors eventually dissolved to a damning and history-making 93-89 defeat.


3. Usain Bolt claims the triple-triple

Had he bitten off more than he could chew? Of course not. Usain Bolt may have been far from his best in 2016 and his own world records remained relatively untouched, but you can’t argue with three gold medals. After all, it secured the Jamaican the accolade of the triple-triple, an achievement that may not ever be matched.

The 30-year-old claimed his first victory in the 100m by narrowly defeating his controversial rival, Justin Gatlin. Bolt had promised to attempt the world record in the 200m and, despite coming nowhere near the feat, still finished first. Just days later and his Jamaican teammates didn’t let him down as Bolt safely inherited the baton and burst through the line for gold.

Nine sprinting gold medals across three Olympic games, take a bow Mr. Bolt.

2. Chicago Cubs end their World Series drought

If you ask any sports fan what 2016 has been all about, most of them would talk about fairytales and underdogs. This was certainly the case in the MLB when baseball’s favourite losers, the Chicago Cubs, finally came good. Renowned for always bottling it under pressure and coming so close but so far, the Cubs finally ended their 108-year wait for the title.

Carrying a 6-3 lead into the eighth inning of the climatic seventh game, the Cubs looked to have imploded when the Indians rallied in the ninth. Nevertheless, a rain delay came to their aid and World Series MVP Ben Zobrist smashed a go-ahead double to provide some breathing space. The final out saw incredible celebrations and a mad, ecstatic sprint into the diamond.

 

It really was the fairytale story of US sport this year, unless you’re a Cleveland Indians supporter that is. After all, the Cubs’ end to a World Series drought extended the 68-year dry spot of the very team they defeated.

  1. Leicester City win the Premier League

You can call me biased to football all you like, but can Leicester’s monumental achievement really be topped? The Foxes were only promoted to the world’s most competitive league in 2014, avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth in 2015 to winning the whole thing in 2016. Yes you did read that right and that’s exactly why they came in at 5000-1 no less.

Inspired by Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy, Leicester overcame the big money spenders of Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United. In fact, the Foxes lost just three times on their charge to the title and claimed victory by a hearty 10 points. Moreover, the canny management of Claudio Ranieri was both inspired and thoroughly entertaining throughout.

2016 marked the impossible dream and Leicester rising from Championship obscurity to Premier League champions in the space of two years. You won’t see anything quite like it for decades or maybe even centuries and that’s why it tops this list. It’d be rude not to, let’s be honest.

Kobe Tong, YJA Senior Correspondent