The Top 5 Sporting Moments of 2008!
You always know it’s going to be a fantastic year of sport when major events like the Olympics and European Football Championships come out for their once every four year showing.
On top of these there have been a whole host of annual and seasonal competitions such as the numerous football league fixtures and competitions, cricket matches, boxing fights, tennis open’s, athletics grand prix’s and cycling tours. There was even a Rugby League World Cup for the first time in eight years!
As a result it is fair to say 2008 has been jam packed with sporting drama and a plethora of high’s and low’s. It’s been a fantastic year and thanks to events like the Olympics sports like athletics, swimming and cycling have really come into the public eye.
Here are my top 5 sporting moments from 2008:
Rafa Nadal vs. Roger Federer- Wimbledon Final July 2008
The 1981 Wimbledon final between tennis titan’s John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg had always been regarded as the greatest tennis match of all time. However on the 27th July 2008 Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer rewrote the history books following a colossal five set match up.
The top seed and five times defending champion Roger Federer was facing the second seed and new tennis ace Rafa Nadal in the 2008 Wimbledon final. For nearly five hours these two tennis heavyweights battled it out in a dramatic and pulsating tie which eventually saw Nadal crowned champion thanks to a 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7 victory.
Nadal began the final at an exhilarating pace and found himself two sets up and on course to exact revenge after blowing his chance at a Wimbledon title the previous year. However if he thought he was in for an easy afternoon he was very much mistaken as the clinical and ever efficient Federer fought back to draw the tie two sets a piece.
After four sets of magnificent tennis the two champions entered the fifth set exhausted and were forced to continue their duel despite the onset of darkness.
Eventually, with both stars running on pure adrenaline, Nadal edged out his rival by the closest of margins to claim the Wimbledon title for the first time in his career.
Despite losing in such an agonising manner Federer proved to be the perfect role model as he accepted his defeat with the upmost professionalism. Nadal was gracious in his victory and despite the clear jubilation of beating his closest rival to the most coveted prize in tennis he heaped great praise upon Federer.
It was an exhilarating spectacle made all the more enjoyable by the exemplary conduct of the two tennis giants.
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Watch some of this Nadal/Federer epic below:
Usain Bolt 100m and 200m 2008 Beijing Olympics!
It is hard to think of many things in 2008 outshining the exceptional achievements of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.
Bolt entered 2008 having made quite an impact on the world athletics scene thanks to a series of strong performances in 2007, most notably his 200m and 100m relay silver medals in the World Championships.
In May 2008 Bolt started to gain global recognition after breaking the 100m world record with a time of 9.72 seconds. His development into a serious contender in the 100m as well as his dominance in the 200m led to the emergence of a gripping rivalry between Bolt, Tyson Gay and fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell.
As the Olympics began Bolt-mania gripped Beijing and he soon became the main focus of the athletics. His ability was undeniable and his confidence plain for all to see but having risen so quickly in the public eye one question remained, how would he perform under the limelight?
The answer was with complete ease, and his laid back, effortless style saw him saunter into the 100m final whilst his rivals Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay crumbled by the wayside. Bolt blitzed the final, breaking the world record and finishing the race at a canter. His gold medal dream had been realised and in a distance that he had only been racing in for a short amount of time. His record for the 100m stands at 9.69 seconds and he is currently regarded as the only man likely to beat it.
However the best was yet to come as Bolt had also reached the final of the 200m. The 200m is Bolts preferred distance and he was the heavy favourite to scoop the gold medal. As with the 100m Bolt had sauntered to the final although he had not neared the world record set by Michael Johnson in 1996, which many regarded as being unbreakable.
This did not daunt the plucky Jamaican and after a faultless run Bolt sprinted across the line with a lightening time of 19.30 seconds, beating Johnson’s previous record. Bolt punched the air in jubilation fully aware of the phenomenal feat he had achieved.
Just to add to his already astronomical reputation as the greatest sprinter in history Bolt also went on to win the relay with his fellow Jamaicans, setting yet another world record in the process!
2008 will be remembered as the year Usain Bolt emerged as the greatest sprinter in the history of the Olympics and his dominance looks set to continue for many years to come.
Watch Usain Bolt win gold below:
Spain win 2008 European Championships
International football tournaments always attract a wealth of colour, vibrancy and quality and the 2008 European Championships were no different. The last Euro Championships of 2004 ended up being dubbed the year of the underdog as Greece ended up unlikely champions thanks to a series of hard fought and dogged displays.
If 2004 was the year of the underdogs than 2008 was the year of the underachievers as Spain finally ended their 44 year wait for a trophy by winning the European Championships. Spain have always been known as the perennial underachievers thanks to consistently producing start studded sides only to crumble under the pressure of expectation, leaving tournament after tournament empty handed.
The usual suspects of Italy and France entered Euro 2008 as the favourites but despite this it was the Dutch who set the early pace. Although Spain qualified just as easily from their group the Netherlands had been drawn in the proverbial ‘group of death’ facing both tournament favourites France and Italy.
Most had completely written off the Netherland’s chances, including Dutch legend Johan Cruyff, but despite this they played some incredible football soundly defeating both the Italians and the French to qualify as clear group winners.
However their joy was short lived as the Dutch were defeated in the quarter final by the impressive Russians, who had surprised many by their own attractive brand of direct, attacking football.
Spain on the other hand had faced World Cup winners Italy and defeated them on penalties, although the Italians were lucky to have made it that far. In previous years a quarter final penalty shootout would have been just the time Spain would have choked but after coming through this unscathed their fans started to believe they may finally lay their ghosts to rest.
Their semi final performance against Russia highlighted just how strong they were with a water tight back line, led by the irrepressible Carlos Puyol, and a free scoring strike force of David Villa and Fernando Torres. Spain ran out comfortable 3-0 winners ending Russia’s brief period of joy.
The final saw Spain take on Germany, who despite yet another collection of average performances had chanced their way to the final. Thankfully this average and uninspiring outfit were not to defeat a side full off footballing class and in the 33rd minute of the game Fernando Torres sprinted through on goal and deftly finished passed the helpless Jens Lehmann.
Spain managed to hold onto their 1-0 lead, partly because Germany failed to create anything worth mentioning, and they lifted the European Championship trophy to finally end their winless streak.
Watch some of Spain’s Euro 2008 highlights below:
Michael Phelps 2008 Beijing Olympics!
I was in two minds whether to include a second entry from the Olympics. However both Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps achievements were far too impressive to combine as one entry and there was no way I could leave one of them out!
Michael Phelps entered the Olympics already a certified legend. In Sydney 2004 the American swimmer won six gold medals which was just one away from equalling Mark Spitz’s record of seven at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Phelps had also entered two other disciplines but finished with bronze medals.
Needles to say as the 2008 Olympics approached Phelps had the weight of expectation firmly placed on his shoulders. He had lofty ambitions of securing the eight gold medals required to surpass Spitz and although he was almost guaranteed of winning a large proportion of them critics felt that eight was just too far.
This was partly due to the fact that some of the events were relay races and so his fate would largely be in the hands of his fellow American racers.
As the Olympics began it was business as usual for Phelps as he wrapped up the 400m IM and the 4x 100m freestyle relay, which the Americans were strong favourites to win. Securing this first relay gold medal proved to be the confidence boost Phelps needed and he battled his way through fatigue to wrap up gold medals in the 200m freestyle, 200m butterfly and the 4x 200m freestyle relay.
He next added the 200m IM to his growing collection of gold medals before tackling what many dubbed as his toughest individual challenge.
The 100m Butterfly pitted Phelps against rival Ian Crocker. Phelps, although still in good shape, had been racing constantly since the Olympics began where as current world record holder Crocker was fresh and raring to go.
However Crocker had his own problems, mainly in the form of consistency, and never really figured in the race. Phelps was instead challenged by Serbian swimmer Milorad Cavic and the race was so close they needed a video replay to prove that Phelps had won.
In his toughest race of the competition Phelps had equalled Spitz’s incredible record and just a day later he went on to win the 4x 100m medley relay to set a new record of eight gold medals in one Olympics.
In total Phelps has won 14 Olympic gold medals and currently holds 7 world records. Most amazingly is the fact he has achieved all this at the age of just 23 years old.
Watch some of Michael Phelps’s highlights below:
New Zealand Rugby League World Cup Victory.
Having complained and moaned about the ludicrous set up of the Rugby League World cup as well as the inevitability that yet again Australia would win the tournament I was pleased to be eventually proved wrong!
I still stand by the former statement regarding how poor a set up the Rugby League World Cup is.
However thanks to the heroics of the All Blacks the latter statement ended up being incorrect as the Australian dominance was finally ended.
This victory was vital for a sport struggling to expand its popularity both in terms of playing and spectating and in doing so New Zealand provided one of the biggest upsets of 2008.
Australia have a long history of dominating this competition and in truth no one believed they had any realistic rivals outside of a minor threat posed by England and New Zealand.
Since 1975 Australia had won every Rugby League World Cup and judging by their pre tournament form nobody doubted they were going to win another. Their form continued into the tournament where they inflicted heavy defeats on England, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Fiji reaching the final without really playing their best rugby.
New Zealand twice beat England, the second time in the semi final, to earn their place in the final and face their arch rivals Australia.
Few, if any, gave the All Blacks a chance and the Australians were the firm favourites. However, miraculously New Zealand pulled off a remarkable comeback in the second half to run out 34-20 winners against a shell shocked Australian outfit.
To the delight of everyone New Zealand had done the unthinkable and finally ended Australia’s stranglehold on the competition, breathing some much needed life into the sport.
Hopefully this will be the start of a resurgence for other teams like France and England so the sport can take a more competitive nature!
Watch some of New Zealand's highlights below: