Last weekend in New York I could hear Frank Sinatra singing those immortal words, “Start spreading the news” as possibly the biggest British sporting story ever was taking place.
In fact this story had been brewing for over a month and the person involved had already made plans to return home before the story had even unfolded. I am of course talking about the new rising star of British tennis and the soon to be crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year, Emma Raducanu. Just three months ago she was ranked outside the World’s top 300, after reaching the fourth round of Wimbledon she had moved up to 179. Since her win last Sunday she is now number 23.
The question now, was this the biggest British sporting story ever?
Well firstly this is all about opinions and possibly it’s to do with the sports that you or I watch more regularly. I also think you have to split these into two parts, team sports and individual sports and I’ve picked my top 5 in each.
Firstly team sports and in the time honoured way, in reverse order.
Wimbledon beating Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup Final
Liverpool had just been crowned once again as champions of Division One and were the all-conquering giants of English football throughout the 1980s. With a team full of international star players, they were strongly expected and favoured to win the FA Cup by all the experts. Step forward unfashionable Wimbledon, who had been playing in the semi-professional Southern League just eleven years earlier, were derided by many pundits as being technically limited and dismissed as relying only on their strength, and were expected to have almost no chance of beating their illustrious opponents. They won 1-0 with a goal from Laurie Sanchez and were helped along the way with a penalty save from their goalkeeper Dave Beasant. I can still remember the quote from BBC commentator John Motson, “The Crazy Gang have beaten the Culture Club”.
England winning the Cricket World Cup 2019
England don’t win many World Cups in any sport, but 2019 delivered one in very dramatic fashion.
After struggling to chase down a pretty modest New Zealand total, two incredibly lucky late sixes from Ben Stokes tied the match and sent it to a Super Over.
Even that finished level and England won only because they had hit more boundaries over the course of the game. The rule which saw them won has since been changed.
London Olympics Super Saturday 2012
Team GB won three track-and-field golds in the space of 45 minutes at London 2012 on one famous Saturday evening.
Jessica Ennis completed her heptathlon triumph, Mo Farah won the 10,000m, and there was shock long-jump success thanks to unlikely hero Greg Rutherford. Three golds in 45 minutes were added to the three already won that day, making it six in total.
England win the Rugby World Cup 2003
England who were brilliantly coached by Clive Woodward and Captained by Martin Johnson overcame Australia in extra time on their home turf with a brilliant drop goal from Jonny Wilkinson. I remember Ian Robertson’s radio commentary “It’s coming back for Jonny Wilkinson, he drops for World Cup glory!” It still gives me goosebumps.
England win the Football World Cup in 1966
The year I was born and you’re going to be hard pushed to beat this one. Remember the song, “30 years of hurt”, well that was 1996 and to this day, 55 years later we still haven’t managed it. Best remembered for the hat-trick by Geoff Hurst and that “goal” that hit the underside of the bar and according to the goalscorer who I was lucky enough to interview once on the radio, it did cross the line! We also had that unforgettable commentary from Kenneth Wolstenholme “There’s some people on the pitch, they think it’s all over, it is now!”
Now moving onto individual Sporting achievements, once again in reverse order.
Andy Murray wins Wimbledon in 2013
Before 2013, no Brit had been crowned Wimbledon men’s singles champion in 76 years.
But that summer, Murray conquered world number one Novak Djokovic in the final on Centre Court and he did it in straight sets too.
Bradley Wiggins wins the Tour de France in 2012
Great Britain had to wait 103 years for a Tour de France triumph, so when Wiggins wore the famous Yellow Jersey up the Champs-Elysee to win the race, it was quite a massive moment.
Lennox Lewis the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World
Along with Muhammad Ali and Evander Holyfield before him, Lewis is one of three boxers in history to have won the heavyweight championship three times. Muhammad Ali famously said to Lewis, “You’re the greatest one there is, like me.” George Foreman has described Lewis as “beyond doubt, the greatest heavyweight of all time.” Lewis’ decision to retire as the reigning heavyweight champion of the world in 2004 and he continues to be the last Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion.
Lewis Hamilton wins seven F1 World Championships
In Formula 1 Hamilton has won a joint-record seven World Drivers’ Championship titles (tied with Michael Schumacher), and holds the records for the most wins (99), pole positions (101), and podium finishes (175), amongst others. From humble beginnings in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, he will, once he retires be the most successful F1 driver ever.
Emma Raducanu wins the 2021 US Open in Tennis
I think from an individual point of view this has to be the greatest British individual sporting achievement ever and the reason is because she came from absolutely nowhere. The 18-year-old Raducanu won 10 matches in a row at Flushing Meadows, three in qualifying, seven in the main draw and is the first woman to win the US Open title without dropping a set since Serena Williams in 2014.
This was the first major final between two teens since Williams, 17, beat Martina Hingis, 18, at the 1999 final and the first between two unseeded women in the professional era, which began in 1968.
Raducanu is the first British woman to win a Grand Slam trophy since Virginia Wade at Wimbledon in 1977 and Wade was in the Ashe stands on Saturday, applauding with everyone else.
They say you shouldn’t mix politics with sport and I totally agree but some people including Gary Lineker were trolling out the fact she was a migrant once and that is a hot political subject right now. The facts are she arrived in the UK legally at the age of two from Canada with her Romanian Father and Chinese Mother. Why do people want to find faults in people immediately after they do something successful? Let’s enjoy and concentrate on the fact she’s an amazing tennis player and has an opportunity for an unbelievable career.
And if I’m quoting songs then it has to be “Fairytale of New York”.
Take care everyone and enjoy your Weekend!
Richie presents the Radio One Mallorca Breakfast show Monday to Friday 07.30-11.00am on 93.8fm in Mallorca and 102fm in Calvià, online at www.radioonemallorca.com on mobile through their free App for IPhone & Android, The Tunein Radio App, iTunes, the Spanish TDT TV service and all smart speakers. If you can’t hear him on the radio then you’ll find him working at Pirates Adventure the islands number one night out and every now and again he may make an understudy appearance!
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