Year in review: sporting highlights of 2012

Wiggo win: Bradley Wiggins, Team GB Olympic cycling hero is BBC Sports Personality of the Year © BBC/Guy Levy

A sensational Olympics, the greatest comeback in golf history and the crowning of the world’s top national football team: 2012 has been a thrilling year in sport.

Not everybody loves sport. But even non-believers will accept that some of the most exciting and memorable moments of the last twelve months happened on track, pitch and field. From the London Olympics to Euro 2012, from the mountain cycle paths of France to the golf courses of Illinois, it has been a genuinely golden year.

Usain Bolt seals the deal

On the balmy evening of August 9th, London’s Olympic stadium crackled with anticipation. On the track, eight of the world’s fastest men stared fixedly ahead and jogged on the spot focusing their minds. The start gun sounded, and Usain Bolt powered ahead. Just 19.32 seconds later, he had passed the finishing line to become the first man to win back-to-back golds in both 100 and 200 metre sprints. ‘I have nothing left to prove,’ said Bolt. He is now officially the most dominant sprinter in history.

Brilliant Brits

For the British hosts, the London games brought plenty of other memorable moments. Mo Farah’s exuberant victories in the 5,000 and 10,000 metre races embedded him in the nation’s hearts; the frightening power of cyclists like Chris Hoy, Laura Trott and Bradley Wiggins, now chosen as BBC Sports Personality of the Year by the public, led to exhilarating victories in the velodrome. Cheeky and unflappable, Nicola Adams became the first female boxer to win an Olympic gold. And Jessica Ennis proved herself far more than the London 2012 poster girl with her heptathlon gold.

The triumph of Europe

But 2012 would have been an exciting year for sport even without the Games. Europe’s Ryder Cup team made one of the most astonishing comebacks of all time – in any sport. With one day remaining, America was leading 10-4 and Europe was facing humiliation. But after an almost flawless finale, the Europeans won by 14½ points to 13½. ‘I don’t know how heaven feels,’ said captain José María Olazábal, ‘but it must be close to this.’

A tale of one city

Was the finish to this year’s English Premier League the most exciting ever? Perhaps. With one game remaining, Manchester City needed only to win against relegation strugglers QPR to snatch the title from their illustrious rivals United. Simple? Not quite. QPR battled hard, and as the final whistle neared City were set for a devastating one-nil defeat. Then news filtered through that QPR would not be relegated, and in the chaotic final minutes City scored two goals. The half of Manchester supporting City exploded with joy; the other stared on in nightmarish disbelief as Man U’s hopes of the title were crushed.

Tendulkar’s super-century

Sachin Tendulkar’s crowning moment: mid-way through a one-day cricket match between India and Bangladesh, he deftly deflected a ball and jogged across for a single run. Immediately his opponents gathered around applauding. It was Tendulkar’s hundredth run in the match, completing his hundredth century in international cricket – an achievement that many would have considered impossible until he came along. England’s cricketers were also heroes this year, winning their first series in India since 1985 under captain Alastair Cook, who now has more centuries under his belt than any English batsman.

Four aces

For years, tennis has been dominated by four figures towering above their rivals: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray. This was the year their tense four-way rivalry became electric, with Djokovic cementing his place at the top of the pile, Murray winning the US Open (his first major title) and an Olympic gold, and Federer returning to form with a virtuoso Wimbledon win. Every one of them could be remembered as an all-time great.

You Decide

  1. What were your best sporting moments of 2012?
  2. Do you think spectator sports have any value other than light entertainment? And if so, what?


  1. Write an imaginary eyewitness report of one of the sporting highlights of the year for a newspaper or news website.
  2. Make a case for your sporting hero of 2012, and take a class vote.

Some People Say...

“Great sporting moments? There’s no such thing.”

What do you think?

Word Watch

2012 has one clear rival for the title of greatest ever league finish. In 1989, hot favourites Liverpool led the table heading into the final day. Their final game, however, was at home to an Arsenal side who lay just three points behind them in the table. To win the league, Arsenal had to beat Liverpool by two goals. ‘You haven’t got a prayer, Arsenal’, read one headline. But in the final minute of the final game, George Graham scored for Arsenal to make it two-nil. The Liverpool players collapsed on the turf, devastated.
Ryder Cup
One of the few major sporting events in which a whole continent competes as one, the Ryder Cup is contested once a year between Europe and the USA.


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