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3 is the magic number
No Olympic or Paralympic Games to capture the imagination of the public. No football World Cup to live the fever from fans of every country competing. All things taken into consideration, it was expected that the year of 2017 in sport may not live up to the unforgettable moments we experienced in 2016. How wrong were we? Yes, an event with the magnitude of the Olympics may not have taken place. But, there were still a plethora of moments that fans will do well to forget in a long time. Be it the astonishing Federer-Nadal classic in Melbourne, Sir Mo Farah’s gold medal farewell or Lewis Hamilton’s magnificent fourth world title, every sport has had its time in the limelight. Despite all these options to choose from, three sporting moments stood out in 2017.
In many sports, champions are celebrated like never previously but often, the same names collect the big prizes. The other players have the lifelong ambition of winning major titles, these usually stay as unfulfilled dreams. In the rare occurrence, a player reaches the promise land after several years of heartbreak. Crowds of supporters then appreciate the struggle athletes go through to have that one “lucky” day at the office. At the Masters this year, there was nothing “lucky” about Sergio Garcia’s thrilling triumph under the fading Augusta skyline. Through his clutch golf in the play-off, he was able to pip his buddy Justin Rose to that coveted green jacket. The mental fortitude he portrayed on the green that day showed to pundits and common folk alike that all athletes have the ability to win the biggest tournaments. The thing that separates the winners from the rest is the abundant self belief they have, and the calmness they truly have when the pressure is on. Garcia gave hope to everyone that they too can have their special day, if they believe and work towards that goal.
Football is known around the world as “the beautiful game”. However, the phrase which was popularised by Pele in his book, seldom can be used more than the rare occurrence here and there. Generalisations are always frowned upon in sport but more often than not, games give joy but not in the form of beauty. 9 March at the Camp Nou. The stage was set for another one of those run of the mill games, even if Barcelona were playing. They had been annihilated 4-0 to PSG three weeks earlier and even with the most potent front trio at that time, to overturn that deficit was surely going to be beyond them. They were “only” 3-1 up in the 88th minute, they still needed a monumental three more goals to progress through. Somehow, and mainly down to a player who would swap Barcelona colours to don the blue of Paris the following season, Barcelona scored three goals in the final seven minutes. This was right up there in the upper echelons of sporting comebacks. Despite their bitter rivals Real Madrid becoming the first ever team to defend a Champions League crown successfully, Barcelona showed why they are “mes que un club”.
Over the last decade, there have been many sporting icons who have been able to woo crowds, but one name stood above them all. His larger than life character, the magnetism he possessed and the aura he had was visible to everyone. Of course, we are talking about the one and only Usain Bolt. Not since the late great Muhammad Ali were we privileged to see a person who said he would win and delivered on that promise time and again. With athletes of this stature, there is significant talk amongst fans as to how they would like the champions to finish. Without doubt, everyone would like to see a golden ending to their magnificent careers but sport is never that kind is it? Bolt suffered a staggering loss in the 100 metres World Championship final, at the venue where he masterfully defended his Olympic title five years earlier. Still, there was hope of him having a gold medal draped around his neck in the relay. It was not to be and even more heartbreaking was the way in which it unfolded. The grandstand finish was set for Bolt to come through and deliver one last victory, but his hamstring gave way and made us all wonder, whether it is destiny for champions to finish in this manner. Ali didn’t win his last fight in 1981 and the greatest batsman of all time, Sir Donald Bradman finished his career with a duck, not knowing he needed a mere four runs to end with a perfect average of 100. Some say it is coincidence, but maybe destiny does exist.
So, as we enter the final month of the year, people are already looking to what 2018 will bring. We may say that 2018 will not produce moments we saw like this year, but sporting predictions are b******t, aren’t they?