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British sport looking good after fine year
8:00am Tuesday 24th December 2013 in Sport By Steve Carley - Midlands Sports Journalist of the Year 2013, @stevecarleyWN
COMING after a year in which the London Olympics took centre stage, 2013 had a tough act to follow for British sport.
Like being next on the bill after the previous performer has received a standing ovation and is lapping up the plaudits.
But the past 12 months have certainly given 2012 a run for its money and, with a new year about to dawn, we can look back at the past sporting year with immense satisfaction.
Andy Murray winning Wimbledon, the Lions conquering Down Under and the summer Ashes series lead the way in things to celebrate.
Chris Froome’s Tour de France triumph, Sir Ben Ainslie’s success in the America’s Cup, Mo Farah claiming both 10,000-metre and 5,000m world gold medals and a US Open victory for Justin Rose provided the supporting cast.
So let’s marvel at these achievements and realise that, for the moment at least, British sport is in a very good place.
It would also be wrong not to mention jockey Tony McCoy reaching the milestone of 4,000 career winners and, as a snooker fan, I’m going to chuck in Ronnie O’Sullivan defending his world title after a year’s sabbatical into the mix as well.
But football won’t figure on the highlights because, in my opinion, British teams have not got the juices flowing in 2013.
So we move on to things that have.
Murray’s historic victory to become the first homegrown men’s singles champion at Wimbledon in 77 years was nothing short of Herculean.
No matter what people’s opinion of him may be, the Scot carried the weight of a public who have suffered the trials and tribulations of British tennis players for decades.
Suddenly, we had somebody genuinely in with a chance of succeeding at SW19 and, having fallen at the final hurdle 12 months previously, his effort was even more incredible.
The scenes on centre court when Novak Djokovic fired the ball into the net on match-point will live long in the memory.
It wasn’t a fluke, either, given that Murray was already the US Open and Olympic champion. Now he had the title he most cherished.
While the wait for a Lions triumph in Australia was significantly shorter, at 16 years, the achievement of Warren Gatland and his men was no less remarkable.
Their 41-16 demolition of the Aussies in the deciding Sydney Test underlined the quality of the team and elevated Wales fly-half Leigh Halfpenny to legendary status.
Even though their cricketing counterparts have capitulated in the same country in recent weeks, their summer Ashes success was another highlight.
Although arguably not quite up there with the 2005 and 2009 exploits, it was the first time England had held the Urn for a third consecutive time for more than 30 years.
Returning to individual accolades, Froome following in the footsteps of Sir Bradley Wiggins to win the Tour de France almost went unnoticed.
Having been nothing more than also-rans in the competition for generations, to have two British winners of the yellow jersey in as many years deserved more adulation.
As, perhaps, did Rose’s maiden major at Merion, the first English golfer to win the US Open for 43 years, and O’Sullivan’s world title defence at the Crucible.
But they, and many others, played their part in another sporting year to remember.
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