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Part one of the sports round-up of the year

posted 7 Dec 2012, 05:10 by Mpelembe   [ updated 7 Dec 2012, 05:11 ]

Part one of the sports round-up of the year



Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life on October 20 after the International Cycling Union (UCI) ratified the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) sanctions against the American.

"Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling," UCI President Pat McQuaid told a news conference as he outlined how cycling would have to start again.

Ten days earlier, USADA published a report into Armstrong which alleged the now retired American rider had been involved in the "most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme sport has ever seen".

Armstrong, 41, elected not to contest USADA charges.

Former Armstrong team mates at his U.S. Postal and Discovery Channel outfits, where he won his seven straight Tour titles from 1999 to 2005, testified against him and themselves, and were given reduced bans by the American authorities.

Armstrong, once widely accepted as one of the greatest cyclists of all time given he fought back from cancer to dominate the sport, has always denied doping and says he has never failed a doping test.

He said he had stopped contesting the charges after years of probes and rumours because "there comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, 'Enough is enough'".

In May, Andy Schleck received the 2010 Tour de France winner's yellow jersey almost four months afterAlberto Contador lost the title following a doping ban.

Luxembourg's Schleck had finished the race in second place overall, only for Spaniard Contador to be stripped of the title for failing a test for the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol and being handed a two-year retroactive ban.

Schleck was handed the yellow jersey by Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during a ceremony in Luxembourg.

With Schleck absent through injury and Contador still under suspension, Bradley Wiggins claimed the 2012 Tour de France title to become Britain's first winner.

Wiggins snatched the yellow jersey in the seventh stage at the end of the brutal climb to La Planche des Belles Filles.

The Briton then finished safe in the bunch on the 20th and last section of the race, a 120-km ride fromRambouillet to Paris.

Overall, Wiggins led compatriot and Sky team mate Chris Froome by three minutes 21 seconds, with Italian Vincenzo Nibali third.

The Briton went on to win his fourth Olympic gold in the London time trial, making him the only cyclist in history to win the Tour de France and an Olympic gold in the same year.


European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal rode a wave of emotion as his team fought back from 10-4 down to conjure a spectacular victory over the United States at the end of September.

Martin Kaymer struck the putt that retained the cup for Europe and Italian Francesco Molinari halved the final singles game against former world number one Tiger Woods to seal a dramatic 14-1/2 to 13-1/2 win over the shell-shocked hosts.

Ian Poulter was the star player for the Europeans. The Englishman won all his four games in Medinahwith his five closing birdies for a late point in the fourballs sparking his teams stunning comeback.

Olazabal's great friend Severiano Ballesteros, with whom he formed a formidable pairing in many previous Ryder Cups, passed away in 2011 but his influence was still felt by the players and Olazabal, especially as Europe began their fightback on the last day, when they won the first five singles matches.

Rory McIlroy, a key member of Europe's winning team, finished the year as the world's top golfer.

The 23-year-old Northern Irishman also cruised to his second major by a record eight shots at the PGA Championship.

McIlroy, who started the final round with a three-shot lead, needed only 23 putts as he carded a flawless six-under-par 66 that gave him a 13-under total of 275 in the year's last major at Kiawah Island Golf Resort.

Fellow Briton David Lynn finished second.

American Bubba Watson became only the third left-hander to win the Masters with a gripping playoff victory over South African Louis Oosthuizen at Augusta National in April.

Watson clinched his first major title with a two-putt par four on the second extra hole where Oosthuizen bogeyed after ending up just short of the green in two and failing to get up and down.

Four-times winner Tiger Woods made a humbling exit from the tournament after ending on a five-over total of 293, his worst Masters finish as a professional.

Woods finished level with McIlroy in a tie for 40th despite the pair being labelled by some media as tournament favourites in a "two-horse race".

American Webb Simpson clinched his first major title with a nerve-jangling one-shot victory at the 112th U.S. Open after overhauling overnight leaders Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell.

The 26-year-old Simpson charged into contention with four birdies in five holes around the turn on the way to a two-under-par 68.

On a foggy afternoon at the brutally difficult Olympic Club, Simpson coolly parred his last eight holes to finish at one-over 281 as the other main contenders faded over the closing stretch.

Northern Irishman McDowell closed with a six-bogey 73 to finish joint second with little known AmericanMichael Thompson .

South African Ernie Els won the British Open by one stroke from Adam Scott after the Australian suffered an extraordinary late collapse on an incident-packed final day.

Scott, chasing his first major championship, started the last round with a four-shot lead and seemed to be cruising to victory as he maintained that cushion with six holes to play.

But a late attack of the jitters caused him to drop strokes at each of the last four holes, allowing Els to slip in through the back door and lift the Claret Jug with a two-under-par 68 and a seven-under total of 273.

Despite failing to win a major in 2012, Taiwanese golfer Yani Tseng will still end the year as she started it on top of the women's world rankings. The 23-year-old is not expected to play again until the new year after sustaining elbow and shoulder injuries playing in the LPGA season-ending tournament in mid-November.


A weary Novak Djokovic stared down a ferocious challenge from Rafael Nadal to retain his Australian Open singles title in the longest grand slam final played.

The Serbian, who started and ended the year as world number one, captured the decisive break at 5-5 in the fifth and, in a frenzied atmosphere at Rod Laver Arena, served out the match to win 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 7-5.

Crossing himself and muttering prayers, Djokovic slammed a cross-court forehand winner on his first match point in the fifth and collapsed to the ground in ecstasy after the five-hour 53 minute tussle.

The length of the match smashed the previous record for a grand slam final of four hours and 54 minutes set when Mats Wilander defeated Ivan Lendl for the 1988 U.S. Open title.

Nadal took some revenge as he beat Djokovic 6-4 6-3 2-6 7-5 to win a record seventh French Open title.

The number two seed overtook Sweden's Bjorn Borg, who won six Roland Garros titles, and ended Djokovic's hopes of becoming the third man to win four consecutive grand slams.

Play had been suspended on the Sunday, because of rain, with the Spaniard a break down in the fourth set, but he broke back in the first game after the resumption, having rediscovered the penetrating fizz that had deserted him in the damp conditions of the previous evening.

After Monday's early break, Djokovic did all he could to resist the Mallorcan's charge, holding serve until the 12th game when Nadal conjured up a forehand winner after a 10-shot rally to set up match point.

Djokovic's dream ended with a double fault, leaving Nadal to hoist aloft the trophy in front of a packed crowd.

At Wimbledon, Nadal lost to Czech Lukas Rosol in the second round in one of the the biggest ever upsets.

The world number 100, making his Wimbledon debut, overpowered the Spanish second seed 6-7 6-4 6-4 2-6 6-4 with an inspired display on Centre Court.

Nadal looked on course to reach the third round in routine fashion when he came through a marathon first-set tiebreak 11-9.

It was the first time Nadal had lost before the third round of a grand slam since he was beaten by Gilles Mueller in the second round at Wimbledon in 2005.

In his next match, Rosel lost in straight sets to Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Nadal, suffering from a knee injury, has not competed since. He recently returned to the practice courts and hopes to be back to full fitness in time for the Australian Open in January.

Roger Federer's 4-6 7-5 6-3 6-4 win over Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final left the Scot sobbing and 60 million Britons wondering if, and when, the agonizing search for a men's champion at one of the four majors would ever end.

Since Fred Perry won the last of his eight grand slams at the 1936 U.S. Championships, 286 majors had come and gone without a British men's champion in sight.

After dropping the first set, Federer teased Murray with break points in the second, tortured him during a tension-soaked 21-minute game in the third before trampling him in the fourth.

It was no wonder that Murray was a tearful wreck at the end of the contest which left Federer celebrating a 17th grand slam triumph and the Briton being consoled by 15,000 sympathetic fans.

After grabbing some encouragement with victory over Federer in the Olympic final, Murray finally ended British heartache with victory over Djokovic in the US Open final to become the first British man in 76 years to win a grand slam singles title.

Murray, beaten in his four previous grand slam finals, made it fifth time lucky with a nerve-jangling 7-6 7-5 2-6 3-6 6-2 victory at a windy Arthur Ashe Stadium where the players had to battle the elements as much as each other.

With both men struggling to control the ball in the gusting winds, and battling exhaustion in a final that tied the record as the longest at Flushing Meadows, the match became a test of courage and stamina and it was Murray who handled the decisive moments better.

After Djokovic had levelled from two sets down, the Olympic champion regained his composure and jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the final set with two service breaks. Murray then hung on to seal an emotional and historic victory.

Victoria Azarenka became the first Belarusian to win a grand slam singles title when she claimed the Australian Open with a crushing 6-3 6-0 victory over Maria Sharapova.

Attacking at every opportunity, Azarenka used her better speed and footwork to absorb and negate the Russian's power game and bashed her about the baseline at will.

A disappointing Sharapova was back to her best by the time the French Open came around as she kept her poise to outwit and outpower diminutive Italian Sara Errani with a 6-3 6-2 victory in the final.

With Errani standing at just 1.64 metres, the statuesque Russian used her 24 cms advantage and wider wingspan to great effect as she chased down everything the Italian could throw at her.

Sharapova wrapped up victory when Errani ended a prolonged rally by dumping a backhand into the net, allowing the Russian to become the 10th woman to complete a career grand slam.

Seventeen months after a life-threatening blood clot in her lungs almost ended her glittering tennis career and just over a month after losing in the first round of the French Open, Serena Williams blotted out the mental and physical scars to climb back into the grand slam winner's circle by snuffing out Agnieszka Radwanska 6-1 5-7 6-2 in the Wimbledon final.

As many had started writing William's tennis obituary, she roared back to stop Radwanska from becoming the first Polish grand slam singles winner.

The American blew her nervous opponent off court in the first set, spraying countless winners off both flanks, but was then forced to go toe-to-toe before winning the last five games to match her sisterVenus's haul of five Wimbledon singles trophies.

Serena's rehabilitation continued with victory in the U.S. Open final, beating world number one Azarenka 6-2 2-6 7-5 in a dramatic final to capture her 15th career grand slam title.

Through sheer force of will as much as her unquestionable skill, the American showed all her great fighting qualities to claw her way back from the brink of defeat to become the oldest women's champion at Flushing Meadows in nearly four decades.

Against the odds after losing the first set, Azarenka got within two points of winning the championship but was unable to prevent Williams reeling off the last four games in a row to seal her fourth U.S. Open title and enhance her status as one of the greatest players the game has seen.


Two American men set world outdoor marks in track and field in 2012.

Ashton Eaton posted a glittering decathlon world record at the U.S. Olympic trials, stealing the limelight from a star-studded cast of athletes in cold and wet conditions in EugeneOregon.

The 24-year-old's total of 9,039 points bettered the 2001 mark held by Czech great Roman Sebrle by 13 points and capped an extraordinary performance which included decathlon records for the 100 metres and long jump.

Eaton went on to take gold at the London Olympics.

A month after winning Olympic gold, Aries Merritt broke the 110 m hurdles world record in a Diamond League meeting in Brussels.

Merritt's time of 12.80 seconds shattered the old world record of 12.87 held by Dayron Robles.