Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Sports stars we will miss this year

Richie McCaw leads the list of sports stars we will miss in 2016. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Richie McCaw leads the list of sports stars we will miss in 2016. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Some sports stars are hard to warm to because of their antics. Their feats on the fields, in the ring or on court are immense but away from their workplace they perform like prats.

We got a reminder this week with Mitchell Pearce while not so long ago Chris Gayle was the one being the boofhead.

But let's put aside that sort of unappealing behaviour and ditch any prejudice we have against badly-behaving sports stars and instead lament some who chose in 2015 to shut down their talents on the world stage.

It's easy to open this list with the close to home king of flankers Richie McCaw, who shut down his extraordinary rugby career, picked up a New Year's gong, got engaged and started climbing mountains, running and biking colossal distances for his enjoyment.

Now we've got no one to rail against during the Super rugby series then eulogise for the same work when he dons the black No 7 cape during the test rugby programme.

Kumar Sangakarra was a wizard with the willow, a handy wicket-keeper and a major reason for the rise of Sri Lankan cricket success in the last decade as he anchored himself towards the top of the individual ICC rankings.

He averaged more almost 57.5 with the bat across 134 tests with 38 centuries and a top score of 319. Top that up with an average of a tick under 42 across more than 400 ODIs and it's Sangakarra's immense contribution is apparent.

Marathon record-holder Paul Radcliffe left the international stage after the last London marathon. Her two hours 15 minutes and 25seconds is the fastest marathon run by a woman and Radcliffe is a three time winner in London and New York.

She went to four Olympics but never medalled while she suffers from asthma and anaemia and has been a strong campaigner against drugs in sport. Late last year Radcliffe denied any misuse of drugs after three suspect results were leaked.

He's mouthy and flash, a pay for view bonanza and undefeated in 49 professional fights. He is Floyd "Pretty Boy" Mayweather who was born 38 years ago as Floyd Sinclair before gliding, dancing and sashaying his way around the ring.

Mayweather beat Manny Pacquiao last May in what was to be his last fight before he retired to his glittering mansion in Las Vegas and regular vacations to Dubai.

Kobe Bryant is one of four players in NBA history with 25,000 points, 6000 rebounds and 6000 assists and the Lakers legend has announced he will finish this year.

In a 20 year career he has helped the Lakers to five rings, claimed two Olympic golds and been named in 17 All-Star teams and while his heart and mind were keen to continue, his body knew it was time to quit.

Legendary starter Ivor Robson stood down from his role at St Andrews after 41 British Opens. His simple announcements with a rising pitch in his voice and a legendary ability to stay at his post, without any breaks until the final putt is holed, contributed to the 74-year-old's legendary status.

The former golf pro's job was ironic as he hated hearing his name called on the opening tee and shook so badly with nerves he had to quit the game.

After beating Italian compatriot Roberta Vinci to win the 2015 US Open, Flavia Pennetta announced she was quitting at the end of the season. She retired with a top 10 ranking and 11 WTA titles.

She was introduced to the game by her father, idolized Monica Seles and with Vinci, won the 1999 French Open girls doubles title. Pennetta played her first WTA tour game in 2002 and reached the top 100 by the end of the season. Her only previous major final was also the US Open in 2005.

- NZ Herald

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