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First Part Of The 2013 Sports Review Of The Year

posted 18 Dec 2013, 04:41 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 18 Dec 2013, 04:41 ]

First part of four of the 2013 Sports Review of the Year

 MUNICHGERMANY (AUGUST 22, 2012) (REUTERS) - There were differing fortunes for two of the stars of the 2012 Olympics: Usain Bolt continued his dominance of men's sprinting with three more gold medals at the World Championships, although his task was made easier when two of his main rivals were among a cluster of athletes who were given doping bans.

It was a bad year however for Oscar Pistorius, the South African Olympic and Paralympic sprinter is preparing to stand trial in 2014 for premeditated murder after admitting to shooting his girlfriendReeva Steenkamp through a bathroom door at his Pretoria home on February 14, Valentine's Day. Pistorius claims he was acting in self-defence.

An attack on the Boston Marathon in April left three people dead however later in the year the Red Sox baseball team brought celebrations to the city with an emotional win in the World Series.

In soccer there was a managerial merry-go-round in Europe as teams play catch up with rampant Bayern Munich, while Jupp HeynckesAlex Ferguson and David Beckham all retired.

Rafael Nadal and Tiger Woods regained their number one spots in tennis and golf respectively, Nadal capping an incredible return from injury with grand slam wins in France and the U.S..

Sebastian Vettel once again took the Formula One world championship title, driving his Red Bull to victory for the fourth successive year.

SOCCER:

Bayern Munich gave departing manager Jupp Heynckes the perfect present, leaving all challengers in their wake as they sealed a treble of Champions League, Bundesliga title and German Cup.

Heynckes retired at the end of the season having become only the fourth manager to have lifted the European Cup with two different clubs having also won with Real Madrid in 1998.

Arjen Robben's 89th minute goal sealed a 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund in the first all-German final in Europe's top club competition and wiped away bitter Bayern memories of showpiece defeats in 2010 and 2012.

Both clubs had beaten Spanish opposition in the semi-finals, Dortmund edging Real Madrid 4-3 on aggregate while Bayern sent shock waves around Europe with a 7-0 drubbing of Barcelona over two legs.

Bayern show no signs of letting up with the appointment of ultra successful former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola, fresh from a year's sabbatical, to succeed Heynckes, and the signings of German international Mario Goetze from Borussia Dortmund and Spaniard Thiago Alcantara fromBarcelona.

In Spain Tito Vilanova led Barcelona to their 22nd league title, their fourth in the past five years, before stepping aside to continue treatment for throat cancer. His replacement Argentine Gerardo Martino is known as a disciple of the club's possession-based style.

Barca's other significant acquisition of the summer was the 21-year-old Brazilian Neymar, the South American Footballer of the Year signing from Santos for around 57 million euros.

There were off-field problems for World Player of the Year Lionel Messi who had to appear in aSpanish court alongside his father as part of a tax fraud investigation, the Argentine denied any wrong-doing.

The Catalan side let David Villa leave, Spain's all time leading goalscorer joining Atletico Madrid in a cut-price deal.

Real Madrid finished second in La Liga to Barcelona, trailing their arch-rivals by a massive 15 points.

The response from the Bernabeu was immediate, coach Jose Mourinho departed by mutual consent to be replaced by Carlo Ancelotti who moved from Paris Saint Germain, while on the playing front young Spaniards Isco and Asier Illarramendi were signed for a combined fee of around 62 million euros.

The money paid for the Spanish duo was then dwarfed when the summer's most protracted deal was finally completed at the end of the August transfer window, Wales winger Gareth Bale signing from Tottenham Hotspur for a world record transfer fee in the region of 100 million euros.

Mourinho did not have to wait long for alternative employment, the Portuguese returned to his former club Chelsea, signing a four year contract to replace interim manager Rafael Benitez.

The Spaniard had suffered a troubled time at Stamford Bridge where sections of the crowd did not take well to a former Liverpool manager who had criticised the club in the past taking charge.

Benitez responded by leading the London side to the Europa League title after they had become the first defending Champions League winners to go out at the group stage of the following year's competition.

Mourinho's first signings as he looks to re-build Chelsea were Germany's Andre Schurrle, Samuel Eto'o of the Cameroon and Brazilian Willian.

The English Premier League was won by Manchester United where Alex Ferguson, Britain's longest-serving and most successful football manager, retired at the end of the season after more than 26 years spent decorating the Old Trafford trophy room with silverware.

The 71-year-old Scot stepped aside after champions United's last game of the season at West Bromwich Albion - his 1,500th in charge.

His decision brought the curtain down on a glittering era for the country's best-supported club which included 13 English league titles, two European Cups, five FA Cups and four League Cups as well as the FIFA Club World Cup.

Everton boss David Moyes, a Glaswegian like Ferguson, took the helm at Old Trafford bringing with him Belgian international Marouane Fellaini.

Manchester City reacted to losing their title and not making it through the group stage of theChampions League by sacking coach Roberto Mancini and spending heavily.

Manuel Pellegrini became the latest coach charged with bringing trophies to the Etihad Stadium, the Chilean, who joined from Malaga, will be able to call on the services of a quartet of new signings, Brazilian Fernandinho, Stevan Jovetic of Montenegro and Spaniards Alvaro Negredo andJesus Navas.

Arsenal finished the season without a trophy for the eighth successive season, forcing manager Arsene Wenger to answer many fans long-term wishes by dipping into the transfer market with the 50 million euro signing of German international Mesut Ozil.

David Beckham was another British icon heading into retirement, the former England captain going out in style helping Ancelotti's Paris Saint Germain win the French title for the first time since 1994.

PSG's triumph meant that Beckham became the first Englishman to win the championship in four different countries having already collected medals at Manchester United, Real Madrid and Los Angeles Galaxy. He also spent two loan spells with AC Milan in Italy.

His 115 appearances for his country are an English record for an outfield player.

Following Ancelotti's departure from PSG former France coach Laurent Blanc took charge, signing Uruguayan international Edinson Cavani from Napoli for a French record 64 million euros.

Promoted Monaco signalled their intent to challenge for the Ligue 1 title, taking advantage of the principalities tax haven status to help lure much sought after Colombian striker Radamael Falcaofrom Atletico Madrid for 60 million euros.

Portuguese playmaker Joao Moutinho and Colombian James Rodriguez were signed from Portofor a combined fee in the region of 70 million euros as the club, backed by an investment group led by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, seek to get back among Europe's elite.

Juventus retained the Italian title, the 'Old Lady' finishing nine points ahead of Napoli, who lost coach Walter Mazzarri to Inter and Serie A top scorer Cavani to Monaco.

Mazzarri was replaced by Benitez and Gonzalo Higuain was bought from Real Madrid to try to fill the gap left by Cavani's departure.

AC Milan's major move in the transfer market came in the January window when they signed controversial striker Mario Balotelli for a fee around 20 million euros from Manchester City.

Roberto Mancini took charge of Galatasaray following his departure from Manchester City, the Turkish champions having already signed Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder and Ivory Coast strikerDidier Drogba in January.

There was little change in the Netherlands and Portugal where Ajax Amsterdam and Portorespectively both won titles for the third consecutive year.

On the international front a Sunday Mba goal was enough to see Nigeria end almost two decades without success at the African Cup of Nations, beating Bukina Faso 1-0 in Johannesburg, the same scoreline by which the German women's team beat Norway to take the UEFA Euro 2013 title.

Brazil won the Confederations Cup, beating Spain 3-0 at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro in a tournament where the action on the pitch was overshadowed by protests off of it.

Tear gas and baton charges by police became common sights at venues throughout the vast country, many Brazilians taking to the streets to have their say about what they see as broken promises by their government over the amount of public money being spent to enable the hosting of next year's FIFA World Cup.

The initial demonstrations were sparked by increased ticket prices on public transport but grew to encompass deeper dissatisfaction with the government's financial management of the country.

Atletico Mineiro won the Libertadores Cup for the first time by beating three times champions Olimpia 4-3 in a shootout after their two-leg final ended 2-2 on aggregate.

Central defender Leonardo Silva scored once in normal time and netted the Brazilian side's fourth penalty before midfielder Matias Gimenez shot Olimpia's fifth against the post to spark wild celebrations by a 60,000 crowd at the Mineirao in Belo Horizonte. Victor had saved Olimpia's first kick.

Trailing 2-0 from the first leg defeat in Asuncion last week, Atletico pulled a goal back through Jo in the 46th minute then levelled the aggregate score when Leonardo Silva headed home three minutes from the end of normal time.

Olimpia's Julio Manzur was sent off in the 85th minute, leaving the Paraguayan side a man short for the whole of extra time, but neither team could deliver another goal.

Guangzhou Evergrande became the first Chinese winners of the Asian Football Confederation(AFC) Champions League, beating FC Seoul on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate tie.

Guangzhou's victory meant that Italian World Cup winner Marcello Lippi became the first coach to win both the European and Asian Champions League titles.

FIFA's decision in 2010 to award the hosting of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar continued to come under fire from many sides.

The extreme heat during the tournament's traditional summer time-frame led FIFA into suggesting that the event may take place in the Northern Hemisphere winter, an idea which was not met by wholesale enthusiasm by European leagues who would have their seasons disrupted.

Labour rights of construction workers was brought into the spotlight, with Amnesty International publishing a scathing report on the treatment of migrant workers in the country.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter described the labour rights situation as unacceptable.

Among the less savoury incidents of the year were the racist chants aimed at AC Milan players during a mid-season friendly against Italian Liga Pro 2 side Pro Patria.

Milan's Kevin-Prince Boateng's response was to kick the ball into the stands and walk off the pitch followed by his team mates, a decision widely backed by other players.

Luis Suarez of Liverpool also made headlines for the wrong reason, the Uruguayan international was handed a 10 game ban by the English Football Association for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic during a match in April.

ATHLETICS:

South African Olympic and Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius will stand trial in 2014 after being accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, if convicted he could face up to life in prison.

Double-amputee Pistorius, 26, admitted to shooting Steenkamp through a bathroom door at hisPretoria home on February 14, Valentine's Day.

Pistorius, who was released on bail, claims he was acting in self-defence against what he thought was an intruder and had reached for a pistol under his bed because he felt vulnerable without his prosthetic limbs.

In South Africa, his triumph over adversity had made him a hero for both blacks and whites, transcending the racial divides that persist 19 years after the end of apartheid.

His arrest and upcoming trial has riveted the nation and made headlines around the world. Endorsement deals for the likes of sports giant Nike have been either suspended or canceled.

Steenkamp, a fashion model and aspiring TV star, was shot in the head, arm and hip and died at the residence.

In an affidavit previously presented at court, Pistorius said he was "deeply in love" with Steenkamp and had no reason to kill her.

Two bombs ripped through the crowd at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in April.

Many runners were heading for the finish when a fireball and smoke rose from behind cheering spectators and a row of flags representing the countries of participants.

Two siblings, both ethnic Chechens, are suspected of planting two pressure-cooker bombs that detonated at the finish line killing three people and injuring over 250 others.

After allegedly shooting a police officer to death in an ambush three days later, the pair went on to engage in a late-night gun battle with police in nearby Watertown that ended with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, dead, and 20-year-old brother, Dzhokhar, escaping.

Police later captured the younger Tsarnaev after a daylong manhunt in which most of the Bostonarea was placed on a security lockdown.

Dzhokhar has since pleaded not guilty to charges related to the bombing and the policeman's slaying.

September's Berlin Marathon will be remembered for happier reasons, Kenya's Wilson Kipsangmade the most of the notoriously flat and fast streets to smash the marathon world record by 15 seconds en route to taking the title.

The 31-year-old Kipsang clocked a time of two hours, three minutes and 23 seconds to better the previous mark set two years ago in the same race by compatriot Patrick Makau, who was forced to pull out through injury two weeks ago.

Kipsang, who won the 2012 London Marathon and also took bronze at the Olympics, produced a storming finish to leave compatriot Eliud Kipchoge a distant second almost a minute behind.

The only other athletics world record set during the year was by Olympic champion Jenn Suhr of the U.S., who set a new women's indoor pole vault world record of 5.02 metres, eclipsing Yelena Isinbayeva's mark of 5.01m set in 2012.

Toppling Usain Bolt from his sprint throne could take a while yet with the untouchable Jamaican star of track and field still looking down on those who seek to challenge his reign.

While his jet engine still roars, others toil, with the fastest man on earth heading home from theMoscow world championships with another three golds, despite never needing to be at his peerless best.

Bolt duly completed a 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay treble to match his feats of the last two Olympics to become the most successful athlete in world championship history - and left promising his goal was more Games glory in Rio in 2016.

Jamaican sprinters lauding it over waning powerhouses the United States was evident again in theLuzhniki Stadium, the twinkle-toed Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce powering to her own treble.

In truth, it was far from a vintage championships, the buzz of last year's Olympics long gone, with some notable London champions absent, a doping cloud hanging over the sport and not a world record in sight.

Like Bolt and Fraser-Pryce, an ever-smiling Mo Farah shone bright. The Briton confirmed his place among the long-distance greats by brilliantly repeating his Olympic 5,000 and 10,000 double.

Farah took 10,000 gold on the opening night of the championships and made light of a stitch during the 5,000 final six days later with another supreme final lap.

Russia topped the United States in the medals table, by seven golds to six, helped by strong performances in the field events and walks.

Popular drama queen Yelena Isinbayeva was roared to victory by an ecstatic crowd in the pole vault, taking an emotional third world title after a difficult season then announcing she planned to return to action in the future once she has had a baby.

However, she suffered a backlash for her subsequent anti-gay comments, convincing nobody when she said later she had been misunderstood.

Among those missing from Moscow was former world sprint champion Tyson Gay who failed an out-of-competition drugs test in May, testing positive for a banned substance.

A tearful Gay said that he had never knowingly taken a performance-enhancing drug.

The confirmation of Gay's positive test came on the same day that Jamaican athletics was plunged into crisis.

Former world 100 metres record holder Asafa Powell and Olympic 4x100 metres relay silver medallist Sherone Simpson said they had both tested positive for the stimulant oxilophrine during the Jamaican championships.

Three other athletes failed tests at those championships while two-time Olympic 200 metres champion Veronica Campbell-Brown had earlier tested positive for a banned diuretic at a May meeting in Kingston.

The country's problems with drug-testing culminated in November with the resignation of the entire board of the controversial Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO).

The commission had been under fire since former senior JADCO official Renee Anne Shirley toldSports Illustrated in August the authority had carried out just one out-of-competition test from February 2012 to the start of the London Olympics in July.

Japan won the race to host the 2020 Olympic Games, anticipating an economic boost to spur its revival from two decades of stagnation and help it recover from the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Germany's Thomas Bach was elected president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) succeeding Belgian Jacques Rogge and maintaining a European stranglehold on the most powerful position in world sport.

Bach, 59, the first Olympic champion to head the IOC, is the ninth president only in the body's 119-year history and the eighth European IOC leader.

GOLF

Tiger Woods returned to the number one ranking in March, the 37-year-old won five tournaments in the year but was not able to add to his 14 major titles, the last of which he won in 2008.

Adam Scott's dramatic playoff victory provided a perfect exclamation point to the 77th Masters which had endured moments of imperfection while also offering a tantalising glimpse into golf's future.

The quality of shot-making produced by Scott and Argentina's Angel Cabrera at the business end of the tournament was extraordinarily good, and perhaps even more impressive was the high level of sportsmanship they extended to one another.

Double major winner Cabrera gave Scott a thumbs-up after they each hit the green with their approach shots at the second extra hole, and the pair walked off arm-in-arm after Australian Scott had stunningly sealed the win with a 15-foot birdie putt.

The two Presidents Cup team mates gave fans around the world a breathtaking reminder of how clutch golf can be played with integrity and honour, even during the white-knuckle intensity of a major championship down the stretch.

Scott's victory was notable for his use of an anchored, or belly, putter, which golf's rule-makers announced in May would be banned from January 1, 2016.

China's 14-year-old Guan Tianlang, the feel-good story of the tournament, incurred the wrath of Masters officials during the second round when he received a rare penalty for slow play that almost ended his amazing debut at Augusta National.

Rules officials imposed a one-stroke penalty on the prodigy, a decision panned by Guan's playing partner, twice former Masters champion Ben Crenshaw, but the Chinese narrowly survived to make the cut and seal the award for the best amateur player.

The youngest competitor ever at the Masters, Asia-Pacific Amateur champion Guan commanded much of the spotlight during the week with his poise, demeanour and superb short game as he became the youngest player to make the cut at a major championship.

England's Justin Rose clinched his first major title with a nerve-jangling two-shot victory at the 113th U.S. Open after overhauling 54-hole leader Phil Mickelson in the final round.

Rose closed with a level-par 70 in difficult scoring conditions at Merion Golf Club, posting a one-over total of 281 to become the first Englishman to win the year's second major since Tony Jacklinat Hazeltine in 1970.

After huffing and puffing at the British Open so often in the past, Phil Mickelson finally blew the house down by romping to a three-shot victory over Swede Henrik Stenson in golf's oldest major.

The American left-hander took advantage of a jittery last round from overnight leader Lee Westwood by firing a five-under-par 66 for a three-under tally of 281 on a cool and breezy day on the east coast of Scotland.

It was Mickelson's 20th appearance at the British Open and only the third time he had finished in the top 10.

American Jason Dufner erased memories of his stunning late collapse two years ago when he clinched his first major title by two shots in the 95th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club.

One stroke behind playing partner Jim Furyk overnight, the ultra-laidback Dufner produced some scintillating approach play on the way to a two-under-par 68 and a 10-under total of 268 on the challenging East Course.

TENNIS

Rafael Nadal capped a remarkable return to the game after missing seven months through injury to reclaim the world number one ranking from Novak Djokovic.

Nadal, who boosted his grand slam singles tally to 13 this year by winning the French and U.S. Opens, had not been ranked number one since July 2011 but produced a stunning run after returning from a long injury layoff in February.

The Spaniard won 10 tournaments and came runner-up in four others, adding over $12 million in prize money during the year.

In the women's game Serena Williams clinched the year-end women's world number one ranking for the third time in her career after winning two grand slam titles during an excellent year.

The American won 11 singles titles on the WTA Tour, including the French Open and the US Open crowns and the WTA Championship in Istanbul, in the process becoming the first woman to win more money than the top men's player in a single year.

The 32-year-old also became the oldest women's player to clinch the top ranking when she returned to number one in February.

Novak Djokovic won the first men's singles title of the year, coming up with his best tennis when it mattered to beat Andy Murray and become the first man to win three successive Australian Open titles in the professional era.

The Serbian played 171 minutes of cat and mouse with his British rival before pouncing when the Scot blinked and racing away to a 6-7 7-6 6-3 6-2 victory.

There was no ripping off of the shirt and no victory roar like Rod Laver Arena witnessed last year, but there was no disguising Djokovic's delight at claiming a fourth title at Melbourne Park.

His three successive titles were a first since Roy Emerson won his fifth straight in 1967, while a quartet of crowns matches Roger Federer and Andre Agassi, the latter being on hand to present him with the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup.

Victoria Azarenka kept her eye firmly on the prize despite a host of distractions to rally from a set down and retain her title with victory over Li Na in the women's final.

The Belarusian had to block out an often blatantly hostile crowd, sit through two lengthy timeouts for Li's injuries and bide her time as a firework display lit up Melbourne's skyline before she finally extinguished her Chinese rival's hopes with a 4-6 6-4 6-3 victory.

Li twice needed treatment after heavy falls - the second time blacking out momentarily after banging her head on the court.

Azarenka looked stunned and then relieved at the end of the 160-minute contest when she realised had won her second grand slam title.

Even in her moment of triumph, however, the lukewarm response of the crowd on Rod Laver Arenawas a reminder of the controversy surrounding her semi-final win over Sloane Stephens.

Azarenka's controversial medical timeout in her victory over American Sloane Stephens - which left the Belarusian fending off allegations of gamesmanship - clearly won her few friends in Melbourneand there was no doubt who was the crowd favourite.

In June Nadal continued his extraordinary run on the clay of Roland Garros, beating fellow Spaniard David Ferrer at a protest-interrupted French Open final 6-3 6-2 6-3 to become the first man to win eight singles titles at the same tournament.

Third seed Nadal, with a jaw-dropping 59-1 record at Roland Garros, collapsed on to the red clay after ending the contest on his first match point.

The match was briefly interrupted in the second set when a bare-chested protester ran onto Court Philippe Chatrier after letting off a flare before being dragged out by security.

The incident failed to derail Nadal, who prevailed after two hours 16 minutes in a one-sided final.

The look in her eyes said "don't mess with me" and no one dared to cross Serena Williams during an unforgettable French Open fortnight when the American proved she "really, really wanted" the title "more than anyone else".

Just how much she wanted it was clear for all to see when the world number one fired a lethal 198-kph ace, tossed her racket, sunk to her knees and arched back to let out a primal roar that went on and on and on.

The guttural howl that marked her 6-4 6-4 win over 2012 champion Maria Sharapova was so loud that perhaps even her 71-year-old father Richard could hear it back in the United States.

Andy Murray wiped out 77 years of pain and hurt as he became the first British man since 1936 to win the men's title at Wimbledon with a 6-4 7-5 6-4 victory over Novak Djokovic.

Just why Britain had to wait almost eight decades to witness such scenes of unbridled patriotic joy at the spiritual home of lawn tennis was summed up by an astonishing final game when Murray won and lost three match points, leaving 15,000 fans gasping in disbelief.

The pulses were racing even faster as Djokovic displayed his own survival instincts to earn three break points before a wondrous volley winner gave Murray another championship point.

This time Djokovic could not deny him and when the Serb dragged a backhand into the net after yet another lengthy exchange, 60 million Britons leapt up and Murray tossed his racket to the famous turf.

Murray took three hours and nine minutes to finally lay Fred Perry's ghost.

In a blur of explosive motion, Marion Bartoli launched into a 101 mph serve and waited for the furry yellow sphere to hurtle back to her side of the court - except it did not and with it came the sudden realisation that she was the women's Wimbledon champion.

So unexpected was the ace, on her fourth match point, a wide-eyed Bartoli could scarcely believe that the final was over as she collapsed to her knees almost in slow motion.

But the distraught tears flowing down Sabine Lisicki's cheeks and the raised fist pumps and joyful hugs in the French half of the players' box confirmed to Bartoli that she had just become Wimbledon champion with a 6-1 6-4 victory.

Just six weeks after winning the Wimbledon title Bartoli shocked the tennis world by announcing her retirement from the sport at the age of 28.

After a second round loss to Romanian Simona Halep at the Western and Southern Open, the Frenchwoman, ranked seventh in the world, walked into the media room and told stunned reporters: "I just can't do it anymore".

Nadal crowned his brilliant year by defeating Novak Djokovic to win the US Open title at Arthur Ashe Stadium and earn his 13th grand slam singles crown.

The Spaniard earned his second major championship this season following his French Open triumph, sealing the 6-2 3-6 6-4 6-1 win when Djokovic dumped a forehand into the net, sending Nadal down onto his back before rolling face down and sobbing in joy.

Nadal's career total of 13 grand slam wins moves him one ahead of Australian Roy Emerson and into third on the all-time list behind Roger Federer (17) and Pete Sampras (14).

Serena Williams repeated as U.S. Open women's champion by holding off a battling Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 7-5 6-7(6) 6-1 in a windblown final.

Williams bounded in a series of jumping jack leaps after Azarenka's backhand sailed long on the second match point of the thrilling, two-hour 45-minute final.

In winning the title rematch against second-seeded Azarenka, world number one Williams claimed her fifth U.S. Open crown and 17th career grand slam singles title.

The big-hitting American, who turns 32 later this month, became the oldest U.S. Open women's winner since tennis turned professional 45 years ago, eclipsing Australian Margaret Court, who was 31 years and 55 days when she won the title in 1973.

MOTOR SPORT

Germany's Sebastian Vettel roared into the record books as Formula One's youngest four-times world champion.

The 26-year-old's Red Bull team also took the constructors' world championship for the fourth successive year.

Vettel becomes the fourth quadruple champion and only the third driver to land four titles in a row after Germany's seven-times winner Michael Schumacher and the late Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio.

He is also the the only one to have won his first four consecutively.

"Phenomenal" is the favourite word of team principal Christian Horner in his regard.

Sebastien Ogier of France celebrated his maiden World Rally Championship title by winning his home race as nine-times champion Sebastien Loeb's swansong season ended on a disappointing note.

Ogier, driving a Volkswagen Polo, won the event in the Alsace region by 12.2 seconds from Spain'sDani Sordo (Citroen) while Finn Jari-Matti Latvala took third place 7.3 seconds further behind.

On the first stage of the final day, Loeb's Citroen slid off the road and ended up on its roof in a ditch, according to the world rally championships' website (www.wrc.com).

Loeb, who won a record nine world titles from 2004-12, and co-driver Daniel Elena escaped unhurt.

Loeb competed in only four rallies this season after deciding not to defend his world title. He won the Monte Carlo Rally and Rally Argentina and finished second in Rally Sweden.

Spanish rookie Marc Marquez became the youngest MotoGP world champion at the age of 20.

The Honda rider secured the title with 334 championship points, four ahead of twice former winner and Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo, and 34 in front of Dani Pedrosa.

He passed Freddie Spencer's 30-year-old record from when the American won his maiden crown at the age of 21, also on a Honda, pipping compatriot Kenny Roberts in the final race of the year at Imola in 1983.

The Catalan-born Marquez also became only the fourth rider in the 65-year history of Grand Prix racing to win world titles in three different categories, along with Mike Hailwood, Phil Read andValentino Rossi.

CYCLING

Lance Armstrong's fall from grace was complete in January when the seven-times Tour de Francewinner ended years of denials and admitted to systematic doping in a televised interview withOprah Winfrey.

Incredulous, attentive and direct, Winfrey dug into the psyche of disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, calling him out as a bully and a brazen liar.

Chris Froome crossed the Champs Elysees finish line arm in arm with his beaming Team Sky team mates to win the 100th Tour de France and hand Britain a second successive triumph in cycling's biggest race.

In three weeks of racing, the Kenyan-born rider dominated in the mountains and time trials and fought off the inevitable innuendo that has long accompanied an event tainted by a string of doping scandals.

Froome was untroubled on the 21st and final stage, a 133.5-km ride from Versailles which ended in an evening sprint giving German Marcel Kittel his fourth stage win as the sun set on Paris.

The Briton led Colombia's Nairo Quintana by four minutes and 20 seconds in the overall standings, with Spain's Joaquim Rodriguez third, a further 44 seconds back.

"This is one yellow jersey that will stand the test of time," Froome said in his podium speech, in a reference to the many doping scandals the sport has struggled with.

Froome is the first Tour champion to be crowned since Armstrong was stripped of his seven titles for doping.

US SPORT

The Baltimore Ravens reclaimed the greatest prize in North American sports after a dramatic, nail-biting 34-31 National Football League (NFL) Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

Inspired by their power-packed quarterback Joe Flacco, the Ravens survived a ferocious comeback from the 49ers and a bizarre power outage that stopped the game for more than half an hour to win their second Super Bowl.

John Harbaugh, the head coach of the Ravens, won the most anticipated sibling rivalry in American team sports against his younger brother Jim, who holds the equivalent job with the 49ers.

The Miami Heat retained their National Basketball Association (NBA) title with a 95-88 win over theSan Antonio Spurs in the decisive seventh game of an epic series.

Miami's LeBron James had a game-high 37 points and pulled in 12 rebounds in a dominant performance while Dwyane Wade had 23 points. James shot 12-of-23 from the floor, including 5-of-10 three-pointers to lead Miami to their third NBA title and his second just two nights after the Heat's championship defence almost ended abruptly.

San Antonio, chasing a fifth NBA title, were just seconds away from clinching the championship in game six before Miami staged an extraordinary comeback to win in overtime and force a decisive seventh game.

The Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals four games to two to win the Major League Baseball (MLB) World Series.

The title was their first at home since 1918, the last year Babe Ruth was with the team before being traded to the New York Yankees. The team went 86 years between World Series victories before breaking its drought in 2004.

Revelers packed the streets of Boston to celebrate the triumph that came just six months after deadly bombings at the Boston Marathon tested the city's resolve.

Players and officials boarded duck boats - amphibious vehicles normally used to ferry tourists - at historic Fenway Park for a "rolling rally" that would wind its way along city streets and into the Charles River.

Jubilant fans wearing Red Sox hats, sweatshirts and jackets turned out in droves along the route, which included the stretch of Boylston Street where two homemade pressure-cooker bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, killing three people and injuring 264.

At the site of the marathon tragedy, Jonny Gomes and other players climbed out of their duck boat and placed the team's World Series trophy at the finish line. They also presented Red Sox jerseys to owners of businesses devastated by the attack, one of the worst on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001.

The Chicago Blackhawks won their second Stanley Cup in four seasons by defeating the Boston Bruins 4-2 in a best-of-seven series, capping a National Hockey League season shortened by a labor dispute between players and owners.

The Blackhawks are led by a pair of young skating stars - Patrick Kane, 24, a speedy sniper who won the Most Valuable Player award in the championship series, and Jonathan Toews, 25, the skilled and steady team captain.

Only six years ago the Blackhawks franchise, one of the six founding members of the NHL, was floundering with a losing record, poor home attendance and little exposure on television.

In 2007, the death of longtime Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz - reviled in Chicago as a penny-pincher who refused to broadcast the team's games on local television - opened the way for his son Rocky Wirtz to revive the franchise.

The team drafted Kane and Toews, who immediately shone. The Blackhawks gradually improved and won the 2010 Stanley Cup, defeating the Philadelphia Flyers.

The team swept through the regular season, setting an NHL record of 24 regular season games without a regulation loss to start the year, but very nearly bombed out of the playoffs by falling behind the rival Detroit Red Wings before rallying to win in seven games.

OTHER SPORTS

CRICKET

Sachin Tendulkar bid an emotional farewell to the sport at his home Wankhede Stadium against theWest Indies, signing off as cricket's most prolific run-scorer after a sparkling career that spanned almost a quarter of a century.

Speaking to reporters in a packed conference hall at a hotel overlooking the Arabian Sea, Tendulkar said the fact he would never play competitive cricket again was yet to sink in for him.

"When I went on the wicket and stood between those 22 yards, I realised that this is the last time I am standing in front of a packed stadium, actually being part of an Indian team. This will never happen again. So then I was really emotional and I couldn't control my tears," said the 40-year-old.

"Knowing the fact that I would never have a cricket bat in my hand, while you're playing for Indiawas really-really emotional. There have been some wonderful moments and I could think of all those things. It happened very fast."

Tendulkar left the game after playing more test matches (200), scoring the most test (15,921) and one-day international (18,426) runs, and compiling more test (51) and one-day (49) hundreds than any other player in cricket history.

AMERICAS CUP

Oracle Team USA prevailed in a dramatic winner-take-all showdown with Emirates Team New Zealand to win the 34th America's Cup, completing a stirring comeback that helped make the once-troubled event among the most exciting in sailing history.

For Oracle and its hard-charging skipper, Australian Jimmy Spithill, the win was an extraordinary sporting triumph, one that saw the team climb back from a seemingly insurmountable 8-1 deficit in the best-of-17 series to keep the trophy it won three years ago.

The turnaround came with the decision to replace team tactician American John Kostecki with Britain's Ben Ainslie, the four-times Olympic champion guiding Oracle to an unlikely victory.

The thrilling final races were also a ringing vindication of Oracle owner Larry Ellison's controversial decision to transform a once-staid yachting event into a TV-friendly, extreme-sports spectacle featuring huge high-speed catamarans that might draw a new generation of enthusiasts to sailing.

Emirates Team New Zealand, a plucky challenger that lacked a billionaire sponsor but nonetheless sailed to the brink of Cup victory, must now endure the ignominy of having let the prize slip from its grasp after a grueling two-year campaign of boat development and training that unfolded almost exactly as planned until the final days.

EURO BASKETBALL

An inspired France won their maiden basketball title in any major competition after overwhelmingLithuania 80-66 in an enthralling European basketball championship final.

Thriving on long-range shooting and effervescent performances by the tournament's most valuable player Tony ParkerPortland Trailblazers guard Nicolas Batum and forward Boris Diaw, the French finally touched the pinnacle after finishing as runners-up in 1949 and 2011.

DEATHS

KEN NORTON

Ken Norton, the former heavyweight boxing champion who broke Muhammad Ali's jaw in a 1973 bout, died at an Arizona hospital at age 70.

Norton had been suffering from congestive heart failure.

Norton took up boxing as a heavyweight when he was serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, and turned professional after his discharge in 1967, according to ESPN.

A power puncher, he burst on the scene in 1973 when he broke Ali's jaw during their first fight, claiming the North American Boxing Federation heavyweight title in a split decision over 12 rounds.

Ali's camp said his jaw broke early in the fight, but Norton told a Reuters correspondent at a boxing convention in CancunMexico, more than three decades later, that a punch thrown in the 11th round caused the fracture.

Ali narrowly won a split decision in a rematch nearly six months later, and held on to his heavyweight title in a bruising third encounter in 1976.

Norton won a heavyweight title elimination tournament the following year, and was subsequently declared champion by the World Boxing Council. He lost the title in 1978 in an epic 15-round fight with Larry Holmes.

Norton retired from the ring in 1981. He ended his career with a record of 42 wins, seven losses and a draw. He had 33 knockouts.

He took on a second career as an actor, making more than a dozen television and film appearances, including the 1975 movie "Mandingo."

BERT TRAUTMANN

Former Manchester City goalkeeper Bert Trautmann, who famously broke his neck in the 1956 FA Cup final, died at the age of 89.

Trautmann was born and raised in Germany, captured by the British during World War Two and turned down an offer of repatriation in 1948.

He went on to play for City from 1949 to 1964, winning the FA Cup when he broke his neck in the final against Birmingham City and managed to play on.

He was named England's Footballer of the Year at the end of that season.

PIETRO MENNEA

Former 200 metres world-record holder and Olympic gold medallist Pietro Mennea died in Rome at the age of 60

Mennea won gold at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, as well as a 4x400 relay bronze.

The 200 metres world record of 19.72 seconds that he set in Mexico City in 1979 remained unbeaten for nearly 17 years and is still the European record.

MARIA DE VILLOTA

Former Spanish Formula One test driver Maria de Villota, one of the few women to come close to the top of the sport but whose career was cut short by an horrific accident last year, was found dead in a hotel in Seville.

De Villota, who lost her right eye and fractured her skull at a test in England in July 2012, had apparently died of 'natural' causes.

Although the 33-year-old recovered from the life-threatening injuries sustained in the crash, she no longer competed and had instead become an inspirational figure for aspiring female drivers.

The daughter of former F1 racer Emilio De Villota, she was appointed test driver for Anglo-Russian team Marussia a few months before her crash.

She never took part in a general test with other drivers but was one of only a handful of women to have driven Formula One cars in the last decade. None, though, have come near to racing one in competition.

SEAN EDWARDS

British racing driver Sean Edwards was killed in a crash at the Queensland Raceway in Australia.

The 26-year-old, the son of former Formula One driver Guy Edwards, died when the Porsche in which he was a passenger instructing a 20-year-old male, slammed into a wall and caught fire.

Monaco-based Edwards, who was leading the drivers' championship in the 2013 Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup season with one race to go, was taking part in a private training day at the time.

SORAYA JIMENEZ

Mexican weightlifter Soraya Jimenez, a gold medalist at the Sydney games in 2000, died at age 35 from a heart attack.

Jimenez, who was battling various health problems and had just one lung, became a national hero as Mexico's first woman to win an Olympic gold medal.

The athlete surprised many by retiring from the sport shortly after the Athens games in 2004. In 2002, she was accused of doping, but was later exonerated.

Jimenez won her gold medal in Sydney in the women's 58 kg weightlifting category after lifting a total of 225.5 kilograms (497 pounds).

The athlete told a Mexican magazine in 2010 that she had a weakened immune system after contracting the flu several times and also had problems with her left knee, which had been operated on 14 times.

THOMAS BOURGIN

French motorcyclist Thomas Bourgin died after colliding with a police car in northern Chile as he was driving to the start of a special stage of the Dakar rally.



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