This year has been a rollercoaster for British sports fans. They have veered from the highs of the Tokyo Olympics to the lows of the summer’s penalty shootout and the controversy of Lewis Hamilton’s defeat in Abu Dhabi, yet there has rarely been a dull moment. This are the most memorable sporting events of 2021:
Emma Raducanu Wins the US Open
Teenage prodigy Emma Raducanu defied the odds by surging to victory at the US Open in September. She ended Britain’s 44-year wait for women’s Grand Slam singles champion in one fell swoop by beating fellow teenager Leylah Fernandez 6-4 6-3 at Flushing Meadows. She had only just finished her A Levels. Raducanu’s remarkable journey began in the first qualifying round against Bibiane Shoofs on August 25, and she went on to win 10 consecutive matches without dropping a set. She only lost 34 games throughout the entire tournament. The final was a pulsating affair, and Raducanu had to rebuff a spirited fightback from Fernandez in the second set. She sealed the trophy with an ace, sparking jubilation among British tennis fans. Raducanu would go on to be named BBC Sports Personality of the Year, and she is among the favourites in the spread betting for further Grand Slam glory in 2022.
Jason and Laura Kenny Becomes Britain’s Most Decorated Olympians
Jason Kenny became the most decorated Olympian in British history by seizing gold in the men’s keirin back in August. It was his seventh gold – one more than fellow keirin specialist Sir Chris Hoy – and he also has two silvers, which took him past Sir Bradley Wiggins’ tally of eight Olympic golds. His wife, Laura Kenny, became the most successful female cyclist in Olympic history at the Games, winning a fifth gold medal. That made her the first British woman to win gold at three successful Olympics. She now has five golds and one silver, meaning husband and wife have won a combined 12 gold medals and three silver medals. Charlotte Dujardin briefly became the most decorated British female Olympian of all time by winning a bronze in the individual dressage, and Kenny equalled her tally the following week.
Rachel Blackmore Makes Grand National History
Irish rider Rachel Blackmore capped a sensational season by winning the Grand National aboard Minella Times in April. She was the first female rider to secure victory in the 182-year history of the famous race. “I don’t feel male or female right now – I don’t even feel human,” she said in her post-race interview. Blackmore was poise personified as she guided 11/1 hopeful Minella Times over 30 fences for 4 miles and 514 yards. Any Second Now was the runner-up, giving trainer Henry de Bromhead a 1-2, after having won the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and Gold Cup at Cheltenham. It capped a fantastic year for Blackmore, who claimed six wins at Cheltenham, including the Champion Hurdle on Honeysuckle.
Tyson Fury Clinches a Thrilling Trilogy Bout
Tyson Fury delivered another towering performance to beat Deontay Wilder in a trilogy bout in Las Vegas back in October. The first fight between them ended in a controversial draw, as Fury felt he had done enough to win. He dominated the rematch, knocking Wilder out in the seventh round of their February 2020 showdown. Fury promised to repeat the feat in their third fight. He delivered upon that promise, but not before Wilder had sent him sprawling to the canvas twice in an exhilarating heavyweight clash. It ultimately ended with a powerful right hook from Fury in the 10th, ensuring he kept hold of his belt. At the time of the stoppage, Fury was ahead on all three judges’ scorecards – 95–91, 94–92, and 95–92 – and he knocked Wilder down twice throughout the fight. His dreams of an all-British unification bout are on ice after Anthony Joshua lost to Oleksandr Usyk, but Fury is poised for another big year in 2022.
Three Lions Fall Just Short in Bid for Glory
There was heartbreak for English football fans as the Three Lions lost to Italy in a penalty shootout in the final of the European Championship. The team did not lose a single game at the tournament, and they can count themselves unfortunate to have lost. They beat Germany 2-0 in the Round of 16, before sweeping aside Ukraine and Denmark en route to the final. Luke Shaw handed England an early lead, but Italy hit back through Leonard Bonucci, and Roberto Mancini’s men held their nerve in the subsequent shootout. Yet England’s players can look back with pride at their performances, and they have a great chance of finally winning a major trophy at next year’ World Cup.
A Defensive Masterclass from Chelsea
Chelsea produced an extremely disciplined and organised performance to beat Man City in the Champions League final. Pep Guardiola’s men were the heavy favourites after winning the Premier League title and beating PSG in the Champions League semi-finals, but they could not find a way past Thomas Tuchel’s blue wall. N’Golo Kante delivered a masterclass in midfield play to drive his team to victory, sealed by a Kai Havertz goal on the stroke of half-time.