Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Armstrong exposed as a fraud, SBW turns chook

Chris Rattue has a look at the highlights of the sporting year from a Kiwi perspective

A spoke in the wheels
This will forever be remembered as the year in which a sporting legend was brought down. American Lance Armstrong, cancer survivor and multiple Tour de France winner, was crushed by an inquiry into doping. The word had been out against Armstrong for some time and drugs in cycling is not exactly a shock revelation. The US Anti-doping Agency, which charged Armstrong mid-year, issued a lifetime ban and his seven French tour titles were among those stripped. Key evidence included old blood samples and former teammates' testimony which left EPO, syringes and a lot of other stuff all over his tracks. Armstrong's world quickly unravelled, although supporters who highlighted his charity work kept pedalling bravely uphill. The international cycling president Pat McQuaid said Armstrong "deserved to be forgotten". He won't be.

What's the world coming to ...
For 20 years, Holden and Ford duked it out in a famous ding-dong that drove the Australian V8 Supercars series. That glorious era came to an end at the Sydney 500 early this month. Rule changes have persuaded other makes to join the battle, watering down the old rivalry. As for the judges' scorecards - Holden were the clear winners.

Bad form
Kids' athletic days aren't the only places where the form filling goes astray.

Our beloved Olympic leaders forgot to enter Val Adams, the reigning shot put champion, into her event in London. Adams did get to go to the ball, and her gold medal was among five won by New Zealand, which also claimed two silver and five bronze. This was among the best Olympic campaigns - New Zealand finished 15th on the medal table although the statistics department, bless it, placed us fifth on a population basis.

A Nadzeya business
Nadzeya Ostapchuk beat Valerie Adams but not a drugs test after their Olympic shot put showdown - the result was overturned and the gold given to the Kiwi. Ostapchuk's coach took the rap, claiming he'd duped the poor girl by secretly sprinkling steroids on her brekkie.

Just say no ...
Who needs the limelight? Young shot put star Jacko Gill turned down an Olympic berth after being mucked about by the selectors, Tony Iro swapped the glitz of being an NRL assistant coach for the New Zealand Rugby League backroom, and Jesse Ryder ducked the New Zealand cricket team while he sorted out personal issues.

Book mark ...
Author Greg McGee won acclaim for his work on All Blacks legend Richie McCaw's book. McCaw never puts a foot wrong, even when it's broken. Sales of The Open Side are staggering, soaring past 120,000 worldwide since October.

Go Ko
The 15-year-old North Harbour golf sensation Lydia Ko beat a world class professional field at the Canadian Open to become the youngest winner of an LPGA event, the highlight of an amazing year that included victory in the US amateur. Shows you what eight hours practice a day can achieve.

Don't count your chip ins ...
The United States had one hand firmly on golf's Ryder Cup going into the final day before Europe, led by the natty dresser Ian Poulter, scored a stunning comeback win in Chicago. "All men die but not all men live and you made me feel alive again this week," said European captain Jose Maria Olazabal. We have no idea what that means, but it sounds great.

Best of British ...
Scot Andy Murray finally made his Grand Slam tennis breakthrough at the US Open. A poll discovered his victory engendered a greater sense of national pride than even Britain's Olympic triumphs ... not that Britain is actually a nation. Trust tennis tragics England to get in on Murray's act.

City united
Manchester City's high-priced superstars showed remarkable spirit by scoring two goals in extra time to beat Queens Park Rangers and clinch the 2011-12 English Premier League title in the final match of the year. In an extraordinary conclusion, Sergio Aguero's 94th minute winner maintained City's advantage on goal difference over glamour neighbours Manchester United. It was City's first title since 1968. United's legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson responded in typical style, signing Arsenal superstar Robin van Persie in the off-season.

No basket case this time
Basketball superstar LeBron James finally nailed the NBA title, securing the MVP award as Miami beat Oklahoma in the finals series. The 27-year-old James has beaten the odds to become the best player in the NBA - his high school team was the subject of a fly-on-the-wall film documentary and we all know where those kids usually end up.

Twickers light flickers
A brilliant performance in London saw England crush the previously unbeaten All Blacks in the final test of the year. For once it was easy to applaud England - it is nigh on impossible to remember them ever playing so expansively and well. Apart from that, the All Blacks were mainly very impressive in the opening season of Steve Hansen's coaching reign although on-field skulduggery from Andrew Hore and Adam Thomson during the European tour blotted the copybook.

Chiefs no longer suspect
The Hamilton-based side won their first Super 15 title under new coach Dave Rennie after years of angst which included infighting and boundary changes, numerous injury crisis claims, a habit of botching the start to campaigns and falling over in their only previous grand final appearance.

Sonny Bill Williams returns to his roots
Sydney called, and SBW answered. Having inspired the Chiefs to their first Super 15 title, nailed a spot in the All Blacks starters, and surprisingly expressed his love for rugby union, SBDub did what he does best, and buggered off. The hugely popular/controversial footballer/boxer has returned to his first love - league - with the Sydney Roosters, although minus overwhelming enthusiasm it must be said. SBDub felt compelled to honour a handshake agreement made with Roosters supremo Nick Politis, having needed only one digit to farewell the Bulldogs in 2008.

Home ground advantage
Britain didn't win the medal race but it was their Olympics. The star, for our money, was Mo Farah, the 5000-10,000m champion. The Somalian-born runner, who left his homeland aged 8 to join his English father, even has a signature hands-to-head celebration signal called the Mobot. England's heroes included veteran cycling legend Chris Hoy and new cycling legend Bradley Wiggins ... Wiggo celebrated using both traditional and modern methods, getting on the turps with his mates then posting photos of his high spirits on the internet. Even the Royals won a medal - Zara Phillips and horse claimed a silver while the Royal publicists deserved gold after the famous family was given a magic media ride.

Running hot and cold
Usain Bolt repeated his Beijing Olympics triple gold medal act in the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m relay at the London Games. The Jamaican has made track and field cool again.

Stung in the butterfly, but ...
American swim legend Michael Phelps lost his reputation of being invincible in the butterfly, beaten by South African Chad le Clos over 200m. But he still bobbed to the surface, and how. Phelps' 19th Olympic medal, a relay gold, sent him past the record set by Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina in the 1950s and 60s. Four golds and two silvers took him to a total of 22, including a record 18 golds. Arguments will always rage over who is the greatest Olympian and whether the number of swimming events skews the contest. But on numbers alone, the Flying Fish is a shark in the Olympic pool.

Off the leash ...
Australian cricket captain Michael "Pup" Clarke went on a rampage, scoring a triple century and three doubles in the year. He's in sight of the Aussie calendar year run scoring record set by former captain Ricky Ponting, the second highest run scorer in tests who called time on his 17-year career after the third test against South Africa. If Clarke is fit for the Boxing Day test against Sri Lanka, a mere 300 runs will take him past the record of 1788 set by Pakistani Mohammad Yousuf in 2006.

It's a test match Kev, not a text match
Egocentric batsman Kevin Pietersen was dumped by England after revelations his texts to South African players during a test in Leeds included advice on how to get his own captain Andrew Strauss out. The South Africa-raised Pietersen tried to describe it as "banter between close friends". That's all right then.

Taylor-gate
The captaincy baton changed hands in New Zealand cricket, then the administration had to batten down the hatches as a storm raged. Coach Mike Hesson, it was revealed, told Ross Taylor in Sri Lanka that he would be axed on returning home. Taylor subsequently refused to tour South Africa, where Brendon McCullum took charge.

Tragic consequences
An independent inquiry into the 1989 tragedy at Hillsborough Stadium - where 96 Liverpool soccer fans died during an FA Cup match - detailed a police cover up involving false evidence to shift blame on to spectators. The British Government has just ordered a fresh investigation.

Net profit
The Silver Ferns beat Australia to end an eight-year series netball drought. Captain and star Casey Williams predicted a struggle but defeated Aussie veteran Catherine Cox reckoned it was among the best Ferns sides she had played. The Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic gave New Zealand its first transtasman title, winning the final in Melbourne.

- NZ Herald

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 28 Dec 2014 23:25:46 Processing Time: 436ms