Sport

Best sporting moments of the decade: Underdogs, legends, swagger and more

This decade had it all in sport. Here’s a selection of ten most memorable moments, in no particular order.

Leicester City wins Premier League

Captain Wes Morgan and manager Claudio Ranieri of Leicester City lift the Premier League Trophy after the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Everton at The King Power Stadium on May 7, 2016 in Leicester, United Kingdom.

Captain Wes Morgan and manager Claudio Ranieri of Leicester City lift the Premier League Trophy after the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Everton at The King Power Stadium on May 7, 2016 in Leicester, United Kingdom.   | Photo Credit: Getty Images

What’s sport without an underdog story? Leicester City FC, previously never among English football’s elite clubs, began the Premier League 2015-16 season at 5000 to 1 odds. They entered the PL the previous season, but languished at the bottom, thereby costing their manager Nigel Pearson his job. His replacement, Claudio Ranieri, was a surprise choice given that he hadn’t previously tasted much success as a manager. But the gamble paid off, thanks to the stellar efforts of striker Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez in particular, under the eyes of Ranieri, as Leicester City managed 23 wins out of 38 games. On May 2, 2016, they were confirmed champions, and a few days later they got to celebrate it in front of their home fans at King Power Stadium after a 3-1 victory against Everton.

Ben Stokes stuns Australia in The Ashes 2019

Ben Stokes of England celebrates hitting the winning runs to win the 3rd Specsavers Ashes Test match between England and Australia at Headingley on August 25, 2019 in Leeds, England.

Ben Stokes of England celebrates hitting the winning runs to win the 3rd Specsavers Ashes Test match between England and Australia at Headingley on August 25, 2019 in Leeds, England.   | Photo Credit: Getty Images

If Ben Stokes’s heroics in the 2019 World Cup final weren’t enough, he had more coming later in the Ashes. Stokes was the difference between England staying alive in the series, and Australia securing the urn during the third Test at Headingley with two Tests still to play. Chasing 362, England looked all but out of it at 286 for 9, with Stokes at the crease and No. 11 Jack Leach for company. Stokes bossed the partnership, hitting eight sixes in all. England was aided by some awful Australian fielding and a wasted review in the dying moments. Stokes finished on 135 as England squared the series 1-1. This win drew parallels with the Headingley Ashes miracle of 1981.

Usain Bolt at the 2016 Olympics

Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles as he looks back at his competition, whilst winning the 100-meter semi-final sprint, at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles as he looks back at his competition, whilst winning the 100-meter semi-final sprint, at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

As one of the greatest sprinters of all time, Usain Bolt was expected to run away with gold medals in the marquee track and field events at the 2016 Rio Olympics. He became the first athlete to secure three Olympic 100m titles when he edged out American Justin Gatlin in 9.81 seconds, to top his gold medals at the same event in the 2008 and 2016 Olympics. He also secured gold medals in the 4x100m relay and 200m events, just like he had done in 2012. When he received his 200m gold at Rio, he said, “I am trying to be one of the greatest, to be among Ali and Pelé.”

 

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Federer defies critics to win 2017 Australian Open

Switzerland's Roger Federer holds his trophy aloft after defeating Spain's Rafael Nadal during their men's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia on January 29, 2017.

Switzerland's Roger Federer holds his trophy aloft after defeating Spain's Rafael Nadal during their men's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia on January 29, 2017.   | Photo Credit: AP

Roger Federer wins a Grand Slam title. Nothing unusual about that, but what made his 2017 Australian Open singles triumph – his 18th slam – special is that it came after his longest injury layoff, prompting talk of whether he was finally over the hill. Much wasn’t expected either of his opponent Rafael Nadal, who hadn’t won a Slam singles since the 2014 French Open. The two ageing warriors became surprise finalists and they ensured a thriller for their fans. The game see-sawed till the fifth set and Federer’s attention seemed to slip when he trailed 1-3 in the fifth set. He fought back to take 5 games in a row to win his first Slam singles since 2012. He also became the first man to win at least five singles at three different Slams.

Tiger Woods breaks hiatus to win 2019 Augusta Masters

Tiger Woods reacts as he wins the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia.

Tiger Woods reacts as he wins the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia.   | Photo Credit: AP

What’s sport without a remarkable comeback story? Tiger Woods had not won a Masters championship since 2005, or a PGA Championship since 2009. In the intervening years, Woods’s personal life, scandals and injuries threatened to finish off his career. That included accusations of infidelity, divorce, surgeries and even a booking for driving under the influence of alcohol. At Augusta 2019, trailing Italy’s Francesco Molinari, he fired 2-under-par 70 and finished at 13-under 275. He claimed his fifth Green jacket after perhaps his most emotional celebration yet.

PV Sindhu wins gold at 2019 BWF World Championships

P.V. Sindhu cheers after winning her women's singles final match against Japan's Nozomi Okuhara at the BWF Badminton World Championships in Basel, Switzerland on August 25, 2019.

P.V. Sindhu cheers after winning her women's singles final match against Japan's Nozomi Okuhara at the BWF Badminton World Championships in Basel, Switzerland on August 25, 2019.   | Photo Credit: AP

PV Sindhu’s career has been one of a series of near-misses in the finals of tournaments. The 2016 Olympic silver medallist however ensured there would be none of that stage fright in the finals of the 2019 BWF World Championships in Basel, running over Nozomi Okuhara 21-7 21-7 in straight games and making history as the first Indian gold medallist at the championships. She avenged her loss to Okuhara in the 2017 finals and to arch rival Carolina Marin in the 2018 final. It was not going to be a hat-trick of chokes.

Megan Rapinoe and USA’s dream run at 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup

Think of a team, in any sport, that has bossed a World Cup from start to finish in this decade and you will struggle to look beyond USA at the 2019 FIFA.

United States' Megan Rapinoe, right, celebrates after scoring the opening goal from the penalty spot during the Women's World Cup final soccer match between U.S. and The Netherlands at the Stade de Lyon in Decines, outside Lyon, France, July 7, 2019.

United States' Megan Rapinoe, right, celebrates after scoring the opening goal from the penalty spot during the Women's World Cup final soccer match between U.S. and The Netherlands at the Stade de Lyon in Decines, outside Lyon, France, July 7, 2019.   | Photo Credit: AP

Women’s World Cup. They lived up to their tag of favourites, thrashing Thailand 13-0 – the highest margin of victory in a single match in both women’s and men’s World Cup football history, before ending the tournament with outright wins in all games. They defeated Netherlands 2-0 in the final, securing their record fourth title. Their talismanic striker Megan Rapinoe took the Golden Boot, Golden Ball and the Player of the Match in the final. But aside from her on-field magic, the flamboyant Rapinoe won hearts for fearlessly speaking up on issues close to her heart, such as LGBTQ rights and gender pay inequality. She also showed her dislike for President Donald Trump and his policies, saying, “I’m not going to the f*****g White House. No f*****g way will we be invited to the White House.”

Simone Biles at the 2016 Olympics

United States' Simone Biles performs on the balance beam during the artistic gymnastics women's team final at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

United States' Simone Biles performs on the balance beam during the artistic gymnastics women's team final at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.   | Photo Credit: AP

At Rio 2016, what Boult was to track and field, Simone Biles was to gymnastics. The American, then 19, claimed four gold medals, in the Vault (where India’s Deepa Karmakar came close to claiming a medal), Floor Exercise, All Round, and Team events. Her performance in the All Round event was most astonishing with a margin of 2.1 points between her and the second place. She set an American record for the most gold in women’s gymnastics in a single Games edition. Two years later, she made history by being the first woman to win four Individual All-Around titles at the gymnastics World Championships. Come Tokyo 2020, she will still be the one to beat.

Hima Das is India’s first track-and-field gold medallist at the World Championships

Hima Das, of India, celebrates her victory in women's 400 meter race at the 2018 IAAF World U20 Championships in Tampere, Finland on July 12, 2018.

Hima Das, of India, celebrates her victory in women's 400 meter race at the 2018 IAAF World U20 Championships in Tampere, Finland on July 12, 2018.   | Photo Credit: AP

Come-from-behind moments in sport are most compelling. At the IAAF under-20 World Championships in Finland in 2018, Assamese sprinter Hima Das didn’t look like she would clinch a medal in the women’s 400m when she set off. Her competitors ahead of her had no inkling what was coming. At the 300m mark, Hima suddenly stepped on the gas, gained a massive lead over her opponents, and finished in 51.46s. The clipping of her jaw-dropping race made her an Internet sensation of sorts. At least temporarily, India’s previous near-misses by Milkha Singh and PT Usha were forgotten, and the country had a new teen sensation to celebrate. Not bad for an athlete, who when growing up couldn’t afford shoes to train.

LeBron James delivers Cleveland Cavaliers’s first NBA Championship

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) dribbles against Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry during the first half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals in Oakland, California

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) dribbles against Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry during the first half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals in Oakland, California   | Photo Credit: AP

Another come-from-behind win, this time by the Cleveland Cavaliers over Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Championship to end Cleveland’s 52-year professional sports title drought with a 93-89 win. Cleveland also became the first team to overcome a 3-1 series deficit in the best-of-seven NBA Finals and win the title. The celebrated James was the star scoring 27 points, with 11 rebounds and 11 assists to bag the Most Valuable Player of the Finals. James’s block of Andre Iguodala was the turning point as it prevented Warriors from taking a lead in the dying moments. The win was delivered by Ohio’s very own James, who returned after a stint with Miami Heat.

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