Almost three weeks into the new decade and already I am wondering what were the highlights of 2009. What are the big important memories of a year that was post-Olympic and pre-World Cup?
There were great achievements for lots of sportsmen and women and teams. Hey, Tiger Woods probably counts all of those in his portfolio – after all, if we are to believe the papers, he’s had more than a netball team to play with.
Seriously though, there were good things. In tennis Roger Federer won an amazing final at Wimbledon to become one of the real greats. Sadly tennis was then dragged down by Andre Agassi’s revelations – forget the drug stuff, the big thing was that he always hated tennis.
Cycling – previously the sport of the drug cheat – was proven clean. No cheating in the Tour and great stuff done by our very own Manx boy, Mark Cavendish who also won Milan-San Remo. At the first time of asking. He then went and won sprints in the Giro and then broke all records by winning six stages of the biggest sporting event of the year. Yes, that would be Le Tour de France – made even more important last year by the return of Lance Armstrong.
It’s not sure whether the race would have won as many headlines if Lance hadn’t been there, but Mark Cavendish’s achievements were top notch whatever. He is now recognized as the fastest man on two wheels over the 250 metres that count in a sprint finish. Hard to know what he will do this year to top his achievements of 2009.
The England and Wales cricket team went through hell at the start of the year – the disaster of Captain Kev and Coach Moores was widely documented and was pretty hideous but the upside was that Andrew Strauss was appointed captain and did what we really wanted. Regained the Ashes.
It was not a classic series, though nail-biting at certain times, and there were certainly no great national out-pourings of excitement at the end when Straussy and his men held the little urn in their hands.
Strauss and the boys went on to South Africa and at the time of writing, they are looking good to either draw the series or (is it cowardly to pray for rain?) win it. Whatever happens over the next few days, this England team have shown a lot of heart and guts and may be rather better prepared to take on a developing Australian side for the Ashes DownUnder in the final throes of 2010.
What else has happened? Well Beth Tweddle won a World Title in gymnastics and a couple of chaps got medals too. In athletics, Jessica Ennis became a World Champion as did hop. skip and jump chap Phillips Idowu. This was good, but not, as far as I read, hugely written about.
In motorsport we had another World Champion. Jenson Button won the first six races of the season, or something like that, then went into a bit of a down turn, but came good in the end and it was lovely, wasn’t it? Another British champ to follow in the footsteps of the greats like Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill and the more recent fellers: Nigel, Damon and Lewis. Yeah, well not a great season in my view.
Better was the ever enthralling MotoGP championship. At the start of the season, not many would have put money on the eventual title winner. Rossi, despite being the defending champion, was a bit written off. But blimey, never mind poor Casey’s health issues, Valle rode every race as though his life was on the line and when he pulled off the win at Assen, he became only the second rider in history to win more than 100 races. Rossi went on to win the Championship of 2009 – a record breaking event in itself. Valentino has now won nine World Championships and is one of those immensely charismatic sportsmen that only appear once a decade, if that.
He has made motorcycle racing sexy for the 21st century and his brio and entire being hark back to the golden era of greats such as Mike Hailwood and of course, Valle’s own hero, Giacomo Agostini.
Lots of other things went on in 2009. There was a Six Nations Rugby tournament, but because I’m Welsh and we didn’t win, I chose to forget the season.
In football, my team won nothing, so I chose to forget that too.
Now we launch into 2010 – wondering whether our sportsmen and women will even attend the big international event of the year. Scotland and Wales have said they will send teams to Delhi for the Commonwealth Games – England hesitates and prevaricates.
While football will have its summer in the sun in South Africa, track and field athletes, swimmers, gymnasts, hockey players and many others will have to wait and see what the politicians say about Delhi.
What a crying shame that is and what a damning indictment on how sport in the UK is governed.