1 Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador at Astana
The Texan Alpha Male meets the Proud Spaniard. Armstrong, the cancer survivor and comeback king, says he, like the rest of the team, would be working for leader Contador. Then, on a flat stage in the first week of the tour, he clings to a Team Columbia breakaway and convinces a team–mate, Yaroslav Popyvych, to abandon Contador to come with him.
Contador got his own back in the first day in the Pyrenees, flying off the front of the peloton on the final ascent into Andorra, leaving Armstrong to lament it hadn't been part of the team's plans. From the start, this seemed a marriage of convenience. Packed full of cycling's elite, Astana certainly didn't need Armstrong to be the most dominant team on Le Tour but who's going to lose the opportunity for the sort of publicity the seven–times champion would inevitably generate?
Now things are so bad, they can't even agree whether there is tension in the team. Armstrong says there is, Contador says there isn't. I know who I'd tend to believe. – Dylan Cleaver
2 John Hart and Alex Wyllie
Nick Faldo once said of one of his brides: "We were happily married for four months. Unfortunately, we were married for eight years." The forced marriage between All Black coaches John Hart and Alex Wyllie ahead of the 1991 World Cup could have been said to be similar, although it's debatable the happiness lasted even that long.
Wyllie got the job of coach after serving, with Hart, under New Zealand's one and only World Cup–winning coach, Brian Lochore, in 1987. Their pairing worked well under Lochore, who picked up on Hart's vision and selectorial skills, while Wyllie helped turn the All Black scrum into a powerful unit. Wyllie won the job as head coach in 1988 and embarked on a terrific period of dominance during which the All Blacks were light years ahead of the rest. However, after years of outstanding results, the team went off the boil. Hart was whistled in to be joint coach with Wyllie for the World Cup; the team stuttering to its eventual semifinal loss to Australia. Many said the team split into Auckland and Canterbury factions and the two coaches were archetypal chalk and cheese – Wyllie, the bluff, gruff, hard–drinking, fist–into–palm–thumping traditionalist coach who had been a 'hard man' All Black and who inspired those moved by such things; and Hart, the visionary, organised selector, strategist, man–manager and communicator.
While 'enmity' was too strong a word, the two coaches never successfully implemented the old matrimonial dictum that "opposites attract". Wyllie resigned after 1991, Hart pitched for the main job but was beaten by Laurie Mains. He had to wait until later in the 1990s to get sole charge and then distinguished himself by coaching the one and only All Black team to win a test series in South Africa in 1996 before he too perished on the World Cup altar in 1999, undone again at the semifinals. – Paul Lewis
3 Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal at the Los Angeles Lakers
What more could you ask for than the most dominant big man of his era paired up with the sport's most talented pointscorer at basketball's most glamorous franchise? Maybe a little civility.
Together, Kobe and Shaq won three NBA titles together (2000, '01 and '02) and reached the finals in 2004. They did so in an entertaining but ultimately ugly personal feud. The war of words seemed to have no bounds, ranging from the way each other played the game, the shape they were in, to whether they "paid for love" or not. After Shaq moved on from the Lakers, they reportedly patched things up, though the seven–foot man–child did a public rap after the Celtics beat the Lakers in 2008 which, among other lines, said: "Kobe couldn't do it without me" and, more dubiously, "Kobe, tell me how my ass tastes." – DC
4 Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost at McLaren
People who knew Prost well claimed he was a warm, likeable person but on the track, he came across as an almost bloodless champion. Senna, on the other hand, was portrayed as the hot–blooded Brazilian who drove on the edge to thrill the fans. In fact, both were gifted, calculating racers with personalities too large to be on one team, as they were at McLaren in 1988 and '89.
In their first year, the rivalry heated up when Prost believed Senna tried to squeeze him into the wall during the Portuguese GP at Estoril. The following year Prost felt Senna had breached a team agreement to let the driver with the best start through the tricky first corner without a challenge. Prost did this on lap one but a crash meant the race was restarted on lap four. This time Prost was first away but Senna dived through under braking, angering Prost. The feud continued through to the Japanese GP at Suzuka when, to many eyes, Prost intentionally collided with Senna. If both cars failed to finish, then the championship was Prost's. Senna got back in the race but was later disqualified. Prost left for Ferrari the following year.
They patched things up before Senna's death, when both realised their rivalry was what drove them to such heights. Prost was a pallbearer at Senna's funeral. – DC
5 Romario and Bebeto
Bebeto famously rocked the cradle when he scored a crucial goal against the Netherlands in the 1994 World Cup quarter–final. Joining him in that celebration was fellow striker partner Romario, generally better known for rocking the boat. Romario and Bebeto went out of their way not to speak to each other but they were fluent in the language of football.
In 1994, when Brazil won their fourth World Cup and first in 24 years, the Seleção scored only 11 goals in seven games. Romario scored five of these, Bebeto three, and it was often the other who laid on the last pass. It was a remarkable record considering what was happening behind the scenes. It was Romario who gave Bebeto the nickname Chorao, or Crybaby, for his predilection for pouting at referees. It was Romario who called a press conference before the World Cup to announce he wouldn't sit next to Bebeto on the flight to California. "The only thing we have in common is that we both score goals," said Romario, who would have scored more than his 71 goals in 85 games for Brazil if he wasn't left out of national squads in 1993, 1998 and 2002 because of his attitude and lack of discipline.
Ironically, Romario was arrested last week for allegedly failing to make child support payments to his former wife. It is not known if he sat next to her on planes. – Michael Brown
6 Tawera Nikau and Richie Blackmore
Nikau and Blackmore were once best mates. They played together at Otahuhu before teaming up again at Castleford in the early 1990s. Nikau was a powerful, ball–playing back–rower, while Blackmore was a strong–running back who scored 15 tries in 25 tests. But something happened that changed their relationship beyond repair.
Rumours constantly circulated about the reason but the official line was that a family feud flared from a falling out between their partners while in England. Nikau's international career came to an abrupt end in 1994, when he was in brilliant form for Cronulla, after he refused to play in the same Kiwis side as Blackmore. He played one more test, in 1997, when Blackmore wasn't available and it was the sport's loss that he didn't play more than 19 tests. Nikau was to experience personal tragedy when his wife and manager, Letitia, committed suicide in 2001. In 2003, he lost the lower half of his right leg after he crashed his Harley Davidson. – MB
7 Sally Robbins and Catriona Sens
Lay Down Sally and 'Slappy' Sens were the two prime protagonists in the national scandal that was the Australian women's rowing eight at the 2004 Athens Olympics. With Australia running fifth in the final, Robbins stopped rowing and lay back on a team–mate, helping send the Australian boat back to last and igniting national outrage and debate.
Her rowing colleagues led the charge against her, saying they'd never row with her again. Half of a great sporting nation recoiled at a notion foreign to it: quitting. The other half recoiled at the ugliness of the reaction and the lack of sportsmanship, even from top Australian figures outside the rowing team. It got worse.
This 'marriage' moved from internal dispute to public displays – when Sens slapped Robbins across the shoulder at a welcome home function from Athens, Robbins pursuing Sens into the toilets to continue the dispute. Eventually matters were patched up but the row simmered for the next four years. Robbins said she wanted to compete at Beijing in 2008 and so did Sens. They were even forced to row together once in a double sculls trial, during which no words were exchanged and they split up as soon as the race was run (they finished last). In the end, Robbins did not make the Olympic team. Sens did – but could make only the B final in the double sculls at Beijing (the gold won by New Zealand's Caroline and Georgina Evers–Swindell in the A final).
The Australian eight, which had vowed to make amends for Athens, finished last once again in the final. – PL
8 Terrell Owens and his quarterbacks
Nothing is so important in American football as the symbiosis between the quarterback and his star receiver. Nobody appears to have told all–star receiver Terrell Owens, who has a well– deserved reputation as a quarterback killer. First there was San Francisco, 2003, when he insinuated that Jeff Garcia was a homosexual in an interview with Playboy – "Like my boy tells me: 'If it looks like a rat and smells like a rat, by golly, it is a rat'," he said when asked whether Garcia was gay.
The following year took him to Philadelphia where an impressive season and a miracle comeback from a broken leg resulted in a Super Bowl appearance. After the game, he said he "wasn't the guy who got tired in the Super Bowl" – thought to be directed at star quarterback Donovan McNabb. If that was subtle, telling ESPN that the Eagles would have gone undefeated if Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre was playing, wasn't. So Owens was shipped off to the Dallas Cowboys, where he got along just fine with Tony Romo... until he thought the quarterback was drawing up too many plays for his good buddy Jason Witten while ignoring Owens. So Owens is now at the Buffalo Bills. Bet starting quarterback Trent Edwards is thrilled about that. – DC
9 Martin Crowe and John Bracewell
A clash of cultures as much as personality. Crowe was the elegant Aucklander who made cricket look ridiculously easy, while Braces was a gravedigger from the provinces who turned cricket into pitched warfare. A classic lounge bar vs public bar, wine–and–cheese vs pie–and–a–pint sort of spat. Both would probably confess that they went through stages when they were not the easiest blokes to get along with (some would say Bracewell's 'stage' started about age three and has continued into his 50s) but while they were able to mould relationships with most of their team–mates, these two simply butted heads.
Bracewell's retirement was precipitated by a letter Crowe slipped under his hotel door that effectively said, "I'm captain next year, you won't be playing". The enmity even spread to their recent incarnations as Sky executive producer of cricket and Black Caps coach, when Crowe said he would no longer be screening interviews with Bracewell. His parting gift to Bracewell when he left to rejoin Gloucestershire were these words: "The last five years have probably been the most destructive to our game in the history of our game." – DC
10 Martina Navratilova and Judy Nelson
In 1990, after winning her historic ninth Wimbledon crown, Martina Navratilova fought her way through the crowd to embrace partner Judy Nelson, to enormous media interest. This was one of the most publicised of all sports "marriages" and one of the ugliest divorces.
Nelson was the former beauty queen and mother of two who left her marriage in 1984 to be with Navratilova. That was in a time when women living together as a couple was barely spoken of, let alone played out in public. Navratilova and Nelson were together for seven years but Wimbledon in 1990 was also the end of the golden weather. Navratilova and Nelson quarrelled over a reported fling Navratilova had with a female ski instructor and the tennis ace left Nelson, supposedly in a fit of pique.
Nelson thought Navratilova would return – but she didn't, sparking Nelson's celebrated 'galimony' court case. That was played out in the full, relentless glare of a public searchlight far more revealing and demanding than any pressure–filled, nerve–janging tournaments Navratilova won. Nelson said she was entitled to the same rights as any heterosexual wife, having parked her own career (she was running a restaurant) to help run Navratilova's. Navratilova said she was a gold–digger. The claim by Nelson – for about $20 million – was settled out of court and never disclosed and Nelson did not speak to Navratilova again for 17 years. – PL