This year has been a strange one for the sporting world. Will 2021 be different? Christopher Reive looks at five sporting storylines to follow in the new year.
Taking flight on the water
After a few years of anticipation and plenty of off-water squabbles between the defender and challengers, the action is finally going to get underway for the 36th America's Cup in Auckland.
The regatta has generated plenty of interest already in the build-up, largely fuelled by the radical design of the 75ft foiling monohull vessels the teams will be racing. In the early exchanges in practice opportunities on the water, the defending Team New Zealand have looked like they will live up to the tag of being the team to beat.
But there are plenty of storylines to follow in this event. Who emerges from the Challenger Series and moves on to the America's Cup match? How smooth will the sailing be in these radical vessels when things turn competitive?
While the build-up to the event is often tedious and filled with petty little squabbles between management types, there's no denying that once the regatta is left to the sailors, it makes for fantastic viewing.
A dual champion?
Having all but cleared out the UFC's middleweight division in just three years, Kiwi champion Israel Adesanya has set his sights on a move up to the light heavyweight to challenge Poland's Jan Blachowicz for the 205lbs division title. UFC president Dana White has confirmed that will be the next move for Adesanya and while they have not yet set a date, Blachowicz has indicated he would like to fight in March 2021.
The decision to make the fight happen was met by mixed reactions among fans. While many back the move, others believe Kiwi-born former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker has done enough to earn a rematch with Adesanya. Whittaker, who suffered a second-round knockout loss against Adesanya in October last year, and his wife Sofia are expecting to welcome a baby boy into the world early in the new year, and Whittaker has indicated he probably won't be back before April – leaving the opening quarter of the year free of a deserving challenger at middleweight.
Against Blachowicz, Adesanya will have the chance to become just the fourth dual-division champion in UFC history, after Conor McGregor (featherweight and lightweight), Daniel Cormier (light heavyweight and heavyweight), Henry Cejudo (flyweight and bantamweight) and Amanda Nunes (bantamweight and featherweight).
How free will transtasman travel be in 2021? In Australia, moves have already been made to allow New Zealanders to travel in – with Queensland's borders now open to New Zealand. However, there has been little concrete indication as to when New Zealand might open its borders to Australia, which impacts sports in various capacities.
In the NRL, the Warriors have already committed to spending at least the first four rounds of the 2021 NRL season based in Australia, with the hope of returning to Auckland by round five in early April. Transtasman travel is a necessity for the Warriors to have home games, as the only New Zealand-based club in the NRL. There are also plans for a six-week transtasman Super Rugby competition, scheduled to get underway in mid-May.
For both of these competitions, a two-week quarantine period on arrival into New Zealand simply cannot work with teams required to play matches each week.
For as long as the borders remain shut off to Australia, the movements and reactions of both the NRL and Super Rugby will be worth paying attention to.
An Olympic Games like no other
The Covid-19 pandemic ruined a lot of things in 2020; the Tokyo Olympic Games being one of them. The Games were deferred a year as the world tried to get the virus under control, and will now be held from late July to early August in 2021.
While the pandemic is far from being under control, it is understood the organisers of the Tokyo Olympics are confident the event will go ahead as planned.
In an interview with the Guardian, World Athletics president Lord Sebastian Coe said there was a real "cast-iron will" to deliver these games.
"There will probably be adaptations and changes but they are absolutely determined to stage these Games so I have a pretty high level of confidence we will be there."
What procedures will be put in place to limit potential spread of the virus? Will athlete proximity to monitored and limited? Will they be at a point where fans can attend?
There is plenty to keep an eye on heading into the Games.
Black Ferns eye world title number six
The Black Ferns will be on home soil in 2021 when they try to secure their sixth Rugby World Cup title, and second in a row.
This will be the first time the women's edition of the Rugby World Cup has been held in the Southern Hemisphere, and follows the 2017 edition in Ireland which received record attendance and viewership numbers.
The competition will be played across Auckland and Whangārei, with Eden Park, Waitakere Stadium and Semenoff Stadium the designated venues.
Scheduled to be held between mid-September and mid-October, the hope is attendance at the tournament in New Zealand will be just as popular as it was in 2017, with Kiwi rugby fans taking advantage of another World Cup on home soil.
The 2021 edition will be the ninth edition of the tournament. While the Black Ferns have won five titles, the United States, England and France also have a title.