AFP Sport picks out 15 moments in sport during an extraordinary, coronavirus-disrupted 2020:
Bayern sweep to Champions League title
When the pandemic forced UEFA to transform the final stages of the Champions League into a mini-tournament in Lisbon, Bayern looked the best team from the start.
Hansi Flick’s accomplished side won their sixth European crown thanks to Kingsley Coman’s header against Paris Saint-Germain.
Hamilton joins the F1 legends
When Michael Schumacher bowed out of Formula One, few thought his record of 91 Grand Prix wins and seven world championships would ever be matched. In 2020, Lewis Hamilton did just that, winning 11 of the 17 races to take his tally beyond Schumacher’s record to 95, and equalling the German’s seven titles.
Hamilton hailed for making race part of F1 racing
The 35-year-old Briton certainly benefitted from the outstanding Mercedes car at his disposal but there is little doubt he has etched his name firmly among the greatest of his sport.
DQ for Djoko
World number one Novak Djokovic went into the US Open looking for an 18th major triumph in the knowledge that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were absent. Going into his fourth round match against 20th seed Pablo Carreno Busta, the Serb had not lost a singles match in 2020.
It all went wrong though when the 33-year-old vented his frustration after dropping his service by hitting a ball behind him, striking a female line judge in the throat. Djokovic immediately apologised but after a lengthy discussion, he was disqualified, leaving the field open for Dominic Thiem.
Lucky 13 for Nadal
Rafael Nadal skipped the US Open but there was no way the Spaniard was going to miss his signature event, the French Open which took place at a blustery Roland Garros in a rearranged late September/early October slot.
Inevitably, and without dropping a set on the way, Nadal bulldozed his way to the final where he met Djokovic who was keen to atone for his mishap at Flushing Meadows. It was barely a contest with Nadal winning 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 to claim a 13th French Open title and match Federer’s record of 20 major wins.
Swiatek takes Pole position at Roland Garros
Iga Swiatek was ranked 54th in the world when she travelled to Roland Garros. Two weeks later, after seeing off Sofia Kenin in the final, the 19-year-old had risen to number 17 and had become the first Pole to win a Grand Slam singles title.
Five things on French Open champion Iga Swiatek
It was a breathtaking fortnight for Swiatek who capitalised on the absence of world number one Ashleigh Barty and the early exit through injury of Serena Williams to become the youngest female singles winner since Monica Seles in 1992.
Liverpool end 30-year wait
Under Jurgen Klopp, the Reds had threatened for two years to finally land their first domestic title since 1990. Strengthened by the addition of goalkeeper Alisson and centre-back Virgil van Dijk, in 2019-20 they galloped to an almost unassailable lead, only for the pandemic to halt football. When the season resumed, they didn’t miss a Mersey beat and lifted the trophy on an empty Kop as their supporters defied coronavirus warnings to gather in a haze of red flares outside.
Pogacar’s power pedalling
A virus-delayed Tour de France took place in September, which was in itself a massive achievement. That it produced an incredible race, and saw Slovenian Tadej Pogacar come from nowhere to become just the seventh man to win it at his first attempt, raised it to a higher plane.
Pogacar finds Tour de France glory in old-fashioned antic of cycling fast
The then 21-year-old had won two stages but was 57 seconds behind countryman Primoz Roglic going into the penultimate stage time trial. As Roglic choked, Pogacar burned up the road to win his third stage and take the yellow jersey for the first time.
Cricket in the time of corona
When coronavirus first struck it looked as though all summer sport would be written off but on July 8 at the Rose Bowl in Southampton, England and the West Indies, who had been in a bio-secure bubble for a month, emerged to play a thrilling Test behind closed doors.
West Indies edged the opener thanks to fine performances by Shannon Gabriel and Jermaine Blackwood but England came back to take the three-Test series. The real winner, though, was the England and Wales Cricket Board who managed this and further series against Pakistan, as well as ODI series against Ireland and Australia, impeccably.
36 all out
Any cricket team can have a bad day at the office but few have suffered a batting meltdown to compare with India, captained by the great Virat Kohli, when they were bowled out for just 36 by Australia in the first Test in Adelaide in December.
India had been in a decent position after the first innings but Josh Hazlewood (5-8) and Pat Cummins (4-21) ripped through them. It was the fifth lowest score in Test history and India’s lowest ever.
Mourning Kobe Bryant
The helicopter crash outside Los Angeles on January 26 that claimed the life of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others sent shockwaves through basketball and the US.
A five-time NBA champion, Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers throughout his 20-year career before retiring in April 2016. His death prompted a tempest of tributes. “When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died,” said Michael Jordan.
Athletics finds a new star
When pole vaulter Armand Duplantis set a new world record of 6.18m in an indoor meet in Glasgow in February a week after clearing 6.17m, the sport of track and field had a new star. The US-based Swede with the teen movie looks then produced the highest outdoor vault of all time (6.15m) and finished the year undefeated in 16 competitions.
Not quite so Iron Mike
Mike Tyson, once the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world and one of the most feared fighters ever to step into a ring, retired from boxing in 2005. But 15 years later, and aged 54, he clambered back through the ropes to take on Roy Jones Jnr, 51, in an exhibition fight.
The two gave glimpses of their former glories as they battled to a draw, although sceptics were quick to remind them of the ravages of time. “This is like two of my uncles fighting at the barbecue!” pronounced hip hop star Snoop Dogg in his TV commentary.
Mahomes leads the Chiefs to Super Bowl glory
Patrick Mahomes led the Kansas City Chiefs to 21 straight points in the final 6min 13sec to beat the San Francisco 49ers 31-20 in the Super Bowl.
The charismatic quarterback was named Super Bowl MVP for landing the Chiefs’ first NFL title for half a century.
The match that never should have been played
Liverpool’s defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last 16 on March 11 was notable less for the result than for the fact that 50,000 people gathered at Anfield at a time when coronavirus was already rampant.
Scientists have pinpointed the match as one of the key superspreader events in England.
A message of hope
Francesco Caputo, a forward for Italian football club Sassuolo, spoke for the whole world when he lifted his shirt to reveal the message: “It will all be fine, stay at home” as Covid-19 ravaged Italy on its way to taking hold in Europe.
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