This year has seen plenty of highs and lows and today will unmask the epic moments that just missed out on being my top sporting moment of 2016.
4. 2016 Brazilian GP
This race saw a F1 stalwart say his farewells to home fans whilst the up and coming Max Verstappen proved that he is a threat in any conditions.
The race was ran in torrential conditions but that didn’t stop Verstappen making bold moves on parts of the track that nobody dared to use as an overtaking opportunity. His move on eventual world champion, Nico Rosberg around the outside of turn three was exceptional in such tricky conditions and demonstrated that he is the real deal.
The Dutchman then produced a strong comeback when Red Bull switched him to the intermediates mid race only to discover that the rain was falling heavier and heavier forcing them to revert back to the wet compound. Verstappen then produced a comeback through the field on a fresher set to finish on the podium after tightly forcing Vettel onto the runoff strip at turn 12.
Marcus Ericsson and Kimi Raikkonen fell foul of conditions but when Felipe Massa crashed at the final corner on lap 46, we saw a moment of true sportsmanship. Mercedes and Ferrari came out to applaud the Brazilian as he walked back to the Williams garage as he bade a fond farewell to his home fans. It’s rare that rival teams step out of their garages mid race to applaud those retiring from their last home race but was a beautiful moment for all to cherish
It would be a shame if he does a U turn and returns to Williams, allowing Vatteri Bottas to move to Mercedes after such a beautiful farewell at his home race before bringing the curtain down at Abu Dhabi, a fortnight later.
If he does however return for a proper full swansong season, hopefully he will finish his home race on the top step of the podium instead.
I’ve put this fourth because my top three moments are more momentous and impressive.
3. Andy Murray becomes Tennis world no.1
To become the world no.1 in tennis is something very special but to overturn a huge points difference is something entirely different.
Novak Djokovic looked set to dominate the sport again after a blistering start to the year with wins in Australia, Miami and Indian Wells amongst others. He then showed signs of slipping up in the clay court season before finally completing the career grand slam at the French Open.
Wimbledon was when the cracks started to open with a shock third round defeat to American, Sam Querrey opening the door for Andy Murray to claim a second SW19 crown. He then got back to winning ways with victory in the Toronto Masters.
The Rio Olympics saw the wheels start to fly off Djokovic’s campaign with a shock first round defeat to Juan Martin Del Potro. Murray however defended his gold medal from 2012 and made the final of the Cincinnati Open a week later.
The US Open saw Murray fall to Kei Nishikori in a tight quarter final whereas Djokovic cruised through to the final, having played only three full matches only to lose the final to Stan Wawrinka.
Autumn saw the Asian swing where Djokovic was aiming to defend his points and avoid relinquishing his no.1 spot. Murray cleaned up in Beijing before heading to Shanghai where 1000 ranking points was on offer to the champion. Murray cruised through to the final whereas the Serbian struggled to find a way past Mischa Zverev in the quarters before a shock semi-final loss to Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut. The Spaniard then lost the final to Murray leaving the Scotsman close to Djokovic.
Murray then swept through Vienna to leave him closer to his long-time foe than ever before. Both might be friends off court but there is no way that Djokovic was going down without a fight.
The Paris Masters saw Marin Cilic rise to the occasion and dump the reigning no.1 out in the quarter finals. All Murray had to do was reach the final to succeed Djokovic as no.1, which was achieved when Milos Raonic withdrew from their semi-final clash. This meant that he would spend at least two weeks as the world’s number one in men’s tennis.
A fortnight later saw Djokovic eying up an immediate return to the top ranking at the World Tour Finals. Murray battled his way through his group and a marathon semi against Raonic whereas the now world no.2 strolled to the final after a first match slip against debutant, Dominic Thiem.
Both players went into the final knowing that the winner would enter 2017 and the Australian Open as the world number one. Instead of struggling against his mate like in the past, Murray rose to the plate on home soil and confirmed himself as the new end of year no.1 in tennis.
Nobody has mounted such a charge in second half of the year and finished as the top male tennis player like Murray did. There are two massive moments which nudged this down to third for me.
2. Leicester winning the Premier League
After narrowly staying up at the end of the 2014-15 season and replacing Nigel Pearson with Claudio Ranieri, nobody expected Leicester City to become Premier League champions.
After an impressive start to the 2015-16 campaign which saw them suffer just two defeats before January, people still doubted that the Foxes could push on with their title challenge after being top at Christmas.
A month later, they were still up there with a tricky run of Liverpool (H), Manchester City (A) and Arsenal (A) in quick succession and managed to grab two wins from that run. At the Etihad, Ranieri’s men outclassed City to win 3-1. That win made the world sit up and take note with odds quickly tumbling. They ended the month with a late winner against Norwich that caused such a noise, it created a minor quake.
A strong March saw them eek out 1-0 wins like true champions do. The final full month of Premier League action saw Leicester and Tottenham Hotspur in contention for the title. Both sides went unbeaten throughout the month but a late draw at home for Spurs against West Brom ultimately proved decisive in the title battle.
May saw Leicester head to Old Trafford and snatch a point leaving it all to do for Tottenham, who played the following night.
Monday 2nd May saw Mauricio Pochettino take his side to Stamford Bridge. Only a win would do but Chelsea wanted to win Leicester the title for their former manager.
The north Londoners were well on their way to keeping the battle alive at half time with a 2-0 lead. Tempers soon boiled over with players starting to clash and Pochettino stepped onto the pitch to diffuse an argument between Danny Rose and Willian, thus triggering a mass brawl. What happened after half time however changed everything
Chelsea managed to get back into the match just before the hour mark when Gary Cahill fired in from a corner kick. Chelsea then gained momentum which proved momentous in the 83rd minute when Eden Hazard curled in the goal that broke Spurs’ hearts but sent Leicester and the world into ecstasy. At full time, the team who were rated at 5000-1 to be champions were officially confirmed as the Premier League winners of 2015-16.
The Foxes might be struggling this season but everyone won’t forget the 2nd May 2016 for decades to come. The day when the big teams finally got undone by a team that were the bookies’ favourite to be relegated.
If haven’t already done so, check out those moments that are ranked 5-10th place;
Come back tomorrow to discover which sporting moment is my favourite of 2016.