Part 2: When 2012 made us believe in sport
13:22, 20 Dec 2012
John Kelly and Shane Stapleton
There are times when a sporting event or a moment within will send goosebumps marching down your spine, stand your hairs on end, and make you smile. We took a look back through the year that was to see what moments in 2012 made us believe in sport.
*This list does not purport to be definitive, it is merely a selection that we agreed upon. Feel free to let us know what sporting moment made you smile this year.
Alex Zanardi wins Paralympics handcycling gold
The full horror of Alex Zanardi’s 2001 IndyCar crash was realised only when the extent of his injuries were documented.
Although a desperate attempt to save his life on the track was successful — he arrived at the hospital with just a litre of blood left in his body — he lost both legs after being T-boned at 200mph.
Surviving the accident was extraordinary; his legs were literally blown off and the impact was compared with what happens to a soldier who steps on a land mine. He was given his last rites before being placed in the helicopter that would take him to a specialist trauma centre more than half an hour away from the track.
After 15 operations and just a few months after the accident, Zanardi was looking to the future with typical vigour: “My never-say-never attitude has helped me a lot,” he said. “That's why after a short period after the accident, I'm capable of doing almost everything on my own. For me just the fact to be alive is sufficient motivation to want to improve my life quality.”
He spoke of walking and swimming again and re-learned how to drive, feeling, once again, “like the head of the family”.
That question was answered — as if it needed to be — when he helped a competitor
at the Venice marathon in October.
Quite simply, an extraordinary human being. (John Kelly)
Farah does the double
Consider the pressure of a home Olympic Games. A sportsperson will only ever once get the pleasure of trying to win gold in front of their own fans. What Mo Farah did, in winning the 5000m and 10,000m within a week at the Olympic Stadium, was truly awesome.
He became the seventh man ever to do this distance double and joined a marquee list that includes Emile Zatopek, Lasse Viren (who did it in 1972 and 1976) and Kenenisa Bekele. Many would argue that Farah’s was the most impressive of all when you consider the quality of the field he outran.
Amazing enough to win the 10,000m, to come back a week later with the strength to win a very tactical 5000m was sensational. Farah took his time and made his move from a way out. He had the strength to hold on and the look in his eyes
as he crossed the line was bare and powerful.
The BBC commentators (never prone to hyperbole, of course) described it as the single greatest moment in British athletics. No video
could sum up the emotion better than that of their commentary team, not to mention Denise Lewis and Colin Jackson, roaring the Mobot across the line. (Shane Stapleton)
Michael McKillop’s mum presenting him with gold
Apart from empty seats at some venues in its early days and an ill-conceived closing ceremony that felt more like a parody of the opening one, the London Olympics were an outstanding success.
Team GB’s heroes Jessica Ennis, Bradley Wiggins and Mo Farah delivered even more than was expected, leaving Tim Jonze of the Guardian to memorably remark after the Spice Girls turned up at the closing ceremony: “Just think: Two weeks ago the world thought we were rubbish at sport and great at music.”
In the Paralympics that followed, Ireland’s Jason Smyth replicated Usain Bolt in achieving the 100/200m sprint double. He set three world marks and pulled off the Bolt pose on the podium before setting his mind to achieving the ‘treble double’ in Rio in 2016.
But maybe the most joyful image of all was Ireland’s Michael McKillop — having won the 1,500m T37 category — standing on the podium looking adoringly at his mum
, Catherine, who had just placed the gold medal around his neck. (JK)
Attar becomes first female Saudi track and field Olympian
Not every Olympian is of the standard required, but then that’s not what sport is all about. Sometimes an athlete will fall well below what it takes to qualify but is admitted with the aim of broadening Olympic participation.
Eric ‘The Eel’ Moussambani famously competed at the 2000 Games in Sydney in the 100m freestyle, finishing in a time of 1:52.72 — which was actually outside the 200m record time. It was enough to win his heat though as the other two men were both disqualified. "The last 15 metres were very difficult", Moussambani said after setting a new personal a national Equatorial Guinea record.
Sarah Attar was another to be given a wildcard. She was born and raised in California but has dual citizenship as her father is Saudi Arabian. Attar competed in the 800m at the London Games wearing long-sleeved green training top, long jogging bottoms and a white hijab to comply with Saudi female modesty and, like Moussambani, she was well off the pace.
Her time of 2:44.95 seconds was a long way behind Kenya's Janeth Jepkosgei Busienei who won in 2:01.04 seconds. Still, that was hardly the point as Attar became the first ever female Saudi track and field athlete, and was cheered over the line
by an appreciative crowd. (SS)
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Feel free to add some of your favourite moments below