MANY people had felt of 2013 as being the unfortunate one stuck with so much to follow and that it would baulk at such a challenge.
2012 was a momentous year for sport in Britain. The triumph that was the Olympics and Paralympics saw it defy fears it would be a totally catastrophic failure, while many British athletes romped to success.
It had been felt like it would take generations to recapture the spirit, not least given the reported failure of the Olympics ability to “inspire a generation”. But following one sporting moment from Centre Court in Wimbledon, it did feel like those glory days all over again for many British sport fans.
Andy Murray had come desperately close to victory in the Gentleman’s Singles Trophy when he was beaten by Roger Federer in 2012, and although he had won the US Open and an Olympic Gold medal, many were wondering if he could win one of tennis’ most coveted prizes. Optimism wasn’t high, given Murray’s injury woe saw him unable to play in the French Open.
But it had been a year of upsets in SW19, not least in the woman’s section, when a number of high-profile upsets eventually allowed Marion Bartoli to claim a surprise victory shortly before her retirement from tennis.
With Nadal and Federer felled, Murray took on Novak Djokovic in the final and was eventually able to get the success he and the nation craved. It was joyous scenes as a British man won the tournament for the first time since Fred Perry some 77 years previously.
This was not the only British sporting barren streak ended. It had been 1997 since the British and Irish Lions had won any of their tests, with their last win against 2013 opponents Australia having come in 1989. But 2013 was a change, as the Lions surprised their hosts with fine victory.
This was not the only sporting achievement over the folks from Down Under, with Australia’s cricketers failing in the summer Ashes in England. However, the return leg has seen the boot on the other foot, as a feeble England fell within three tests.
The Tour de France was once again won by a British athlete, with Chris Froome following the Bradley Wiggins success of 2012 with another win for Team Sky. But cycling’s dominant story remained Lance Armstrong, as the cyclist confessed on Oprah Winfrey’s show to doping, duping and an elaborate conspiracy to hide the truth.
As ever, football dominated the headlines, but the Premier League’s 2012-13 season was an underwhelming campaign. Manchester United virtually had the title sewn up by the end of January, while QPR, Reading and Wigan’s poor performances all yielded a deserved relegation.
But Wigan still had time for major success upon their Premier League exit, when they stunned the odds with a surprise underdog victory as the Latics beat Manchester City at Wembley Stadium in the FA Cup Final.
This result proved to be the end of the road for Roberto Mancini, who was fired exactly one year after winning City their first Premier League title, and he was not the only one to be jettisoned at the end of the campaign.
Retirements were the name of the game in May, with a myriad of talented players including David Beckham, Jamie Carragher, Michael Owen and Paul Scholes all retiring. But no retirement quite captured debate as much as that of Sir Alex Ferguson, with the Manchester United manager walking away after 26 years in the Old Trafford dugout.
He left shortly after winning the Red Devils their 20th title. This led to all bets being off, with David Moyes’ so far seeing his start run into defeats against West Brom, Everton and Newcastle – all teams that hadn’t won at Old Trafford in decades.
The top 3 all changed managers, with Manuel Pellegrini seeing Man City obliterate teams at home only to play terribly away, while Jose Mourinho has yet to see Chelsea truly click on his return. This has allowed the more stable Liverpool and Arsenal to lead the way for most of the Premier League season.
2013 also saw a football world record, as Gareth Bale left Spurs for £85million to join Real Madrid. Its questionable how much the Spanish giants needed Bale, although he is providing a largely useful player for them. This is in sharp contrast to Spurs, who spent £120million on new players only to be subject to maulings by Man City and Liverpool.
European football saw a potential changing of the guard, with Bayern Munich putting seven goals without reply over two legs with Barcelona on their way to the Champions League final. Bayern’s wunderteam is already far clear in their homeland, with the team going the whole of 2013 unbeaten in the Bundesliga and highly tipped to reclaim their Champions League crown.
Formula One also had a German champion, as Sebastian Vettel won his fourth Driver’s Championship title in a row. Eight race wins in a row ultimately saw him leave the field in his wake, in the a season largely dominated by spectacular tyre failures. Next year will be interesting, given that sweeping reform of car design will be implemented in 2014.
The 2012 Olympic stars had hit-and-miss years. Wiggins was unable to finish the Giro d’Italia, while Jessica Ennis spent most of the year injured with form struggles in the few events she competed in.
Mo Farah continued his excellent streak, however, with a number of fine displays including victory in the London Olympics Anniversary Games and two World Athletics Championship gold medals. Christine Ohuruogu also secured Britain gold in the games in Moscow, which were dominated by controversial anti-gay laws passed in Russia that week – a subject likely to re-appear for the Winter Olympics in January.
It may have been billed as having the unenviable task of following up one of sport’s finest years, but 2013 was certainly a year full of delightful and momentous sporting highlights. Who only knows what 2014 will bring.