Sportsmen and women who dazzled in 2012

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Sportsmen-and-women-who-dazzled-in-2012-360x262The year 2012 saw several stars in different sports exhibiting amazing displays and making their marks along the way. ’TANA AIYEJINA brings to you some of these major stars who held the world spell-bound

Usain Bolt (Jamaica)

This year was a special one for Jamaican Bolt. He retained his 100m and 200m Olympic titles shrugging off his rival and close friend Yohan Blake in both races. Blake had beaten Bolt prior to the Olympics, setting up a potentially explosive Olympic confrontation.

But Bolt once again weaved his magic, outwitting his training partner in both races as well as also retaining the 4×100m gold medal with the Jamaican team.

Serena Williams (USA)

The Williams sisters have dominated women’s tennis in recent times but this year Serena was the star of the two. She won the most WTA titles for any player this year, and won Wimbledon for the fifth time, the US Open the fourth time, taking her total Grand Slam titles to 15. At only 31, she still has a few years at the top of the women’s game, and was recently described by John McEnroe as the greatest female tennis player in history, which is a heck of a recommendation.

Williams also won the Wimbledon doubles with her sister Venus, but she capped a wonderful year with two gold medals at the 2012 Olympics; one alongside her sister in the doubles and the other in the women’s singles event demolishing Maria Sharapova 6-0, 6-1 in the final.

Lionel Messi (Argentina)

There is no doubt about who the best footballer on earth is. Messi is the quintessential modern day footballer, no doubt about that too.

However in 2012, the Argentine’s performances have been astronomical; it’s been a record-breaking year for the player. He made UEFA Champions League history by becoming the first player to score five goals in one match and also matched José Altafini’s record of 14 goals in a single Champions League season.

Messi also emerged as the first player to top-score in four successive Champions League campaigns; he set the world record for most goals scored in a season during the 2011/12 season with 73 goals.

He surpassed German Gerd Müller’s record of 85 goals scored in a calendar year in 1972. He now has 90 goals with matches still to be played in 2012.

 Nicola Adams (Great Britain)

Take it or leave it, Nicola Adams has etched her name in the record books. She is the first ever female boxing gold medalist at the Olympics, a feat she achieved in London. Her rise to World No.2 in the Flyweight division, behind current world champion Ren Cancan, has made her a favourite for the amateur title in 2014, after her comprehensive defeat of the World No.1 in the 2012 Olympic final.

Are Feyisetan (Nigeria)

Nigerians would rather forget the 2012 Olympics in a hurry but they are still relishing the country’s feat at the Paralympics, no thanks to the powertlifting team coached by Are Feyisetan.

The lifters powered the country to six gold, five silver and one bronze medals under the guidance of Feyisetan, himself an ex-Paralympian in the sport.

He was recently named as The Coach of The Year at the Nigerian Sports Awards held in Lagos.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

With Euro 2012 and the Olympics both taking place over the summer, it was a big year for soccer—and in particular, for Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo is one of football’s biggest stars at the moment, but this year was an especially spectacular one for him. He hit the 100-goal mark in La Liga in March—in just three seasons with Real Madrid and averaging just over a goal per game in the process. In May, he also established himself as the only player—ever—to score against every team in the league.

At Euro 2012, he led Portugal to the semifinals, where they fell to eventual champions Spain but his most memorable moment at the tournament was his header against the Czech Republic which gave Portugal a crucial 1-0 win. He also scored twice against the Netherlands earlier in the tournament, helping his team to erase a 2-0 deficit and advance to the quarterfinals.

Roger Federer (Switzerland)

Switzerland’s tennis legend Roger Federer was phenomenal, winning his seventh Wimbledon title and equaling Pete Sampras’ the record with Pete Sampras for most wins.

Not many people thought Federer could win a seventh Wimbledon title this year but the master of the grass courts proved everybody wrong, taking down Andy Murray en route to his 76th career title.

In an epic-battle to the finish, the 30-year-old beat Great Britain’s hopeful Murray 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 at the All England Club in London in July.

Alex Morgan (USA)

The US women’s soccer team are known to churn out amazing talents year-in-year-out and in 2012 it was Alex Morgan who took centre stage.

The Americans defeated Japan to win the gold medal in the women’s football at the London Olympics, exacting revenge for their loss to the Asians in the 2011 World Cup final. There were plenty of star moments along the way, and one of the biggest ones belonged to Morgan, who scored the game-winning goal in extra time in the semi-final against Canada to send the US to the final.

Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland)

McIlroy is already touted as the next Tiger Woods after recovering from a poor start to win the PGA Championship with a dominating performance.

He became a household name in 2011, when he dominated the rest of the field at the U.S. Open, winning by a whopping eight shots and setting a tournament record with a collective score of 268.

But  McIlroy struggled throughout much of 2012: he tied for 40th at the Masters, he missed the cut at The Players Championship, he missed the cut at the U.S. Open and he tied for 60th at the British Open.

But he ended all that with a touch of genius on the way to capturing the PGA Championship.

Tao Zheng (China)

Despite only able to use his legs, Chinese swimmer Zheng was one of the star attractions at the Paralympics, winning a gold, silver and two bronze medals. The highlight of his performance was when he set the 100m backstroke S6 world record in 1:13.56.

Jessica Ennis (Great Britain)

One of the most difficult medals to win in sports is in heptathlon. It consists of seven sports: 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m, long jump, javelin throw and 800m.

Ennis has been a force in the sport but after an injury-forced absence from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, she knew London was the right setting for her to win the gold.

 At the 2012 Olympics, she was under severe pressure to perform, appearing in almost every advert of the Olympics.

Ennis didn’t disappoint as she led from the first day, running the fastest ever 100m hurdles in heptathlon, before winning the final event-800m- and winning gold. In winning gold, she became the British record holder in Heptathlon with a score of 6,955 points.

Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain)

The man with the sideburns became the first British man to win Tour de France after the country’s 99th attempt.

Wiggins became the only man in history to win Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie, the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Tour de France in a single season. He also won a gold medal at London 2012 in the Time Trial event, becoming the most decorated British Olympian of all time. Furthermore, he is the only cyclist in history to win both a gold medal and Tour de France in the same year. This remarkable year meant that Wiggins won the Velo d’Or trophy for Best Rider of The Year and more importantly earned him fourth place on this list.

David Weir (Great Britain)

It’s been an unforgettable year for the man with arms the size of most people’s legs. Born unable to use his limb

Born unable to use his legs, Weir chose to become an athlete from childhood. He has won the London Marathon for wheelchair-bound participants six times since 2002, including this year.

But his most outstanding moment of the year was at the Paralympics, where he won a remarkable four gold medals. The powerful athlete won the T54 categories of the 800m, 1500m, 5000m and marathon.

Michael Phelps (USA)

Some say fishes look at him with envy. Really, hardly does a sport witness the dominance exhibited by Phelps in swimming.

The highlight of the 2012 Olympics was definitely Phelps. Competing in his last games, Phelps etched his name in the history books as the most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 medals. After winning eight gold medals four years ago in Beijing, he still managed four gold and two silver medals in six events in London to become the greatest athlete in Olympics’ 116-year history.

Phelps also holds the all-time records for Olympic gold medals (18), Olympic gold medals in individual events (11) and Olympic medals in individual events for a male (13).

David Rudisha (Kenya)

It’s been a year of award after award for Kenyan Rudisha after the 800m Olympic champion and world record holder’s feat in London, where he was the only athlete to break a world in the track events.

The Kenyan Sports Personality of the Year Award stormed to the finishing line in an amazing world record time of 1:40.91 in what was acclaimed “The Greatest 800 Meter Race Ever”. The 22-year-old became the first runner to break the 1:41 barrier for 800m.

Rudisha also became the first reigning 800m world champion to win Olympic gold at that distance. Sebastian Coe, organiser of the London Olympics described Rudisha’s feat thus, “It was the performance of the Games, not just of track and field but of the Games.”

Ye Shiwen (China)

Youngster Ye won gold medals in the 400m and 200m individual medley, setting the world record in the 400m event and the Olympic record in the 200m event.

The 16-year-old superstar started swimming at age six and was in the Chinese national team by 2008 when she was 12.

Due to her startling performance, she was accused of using drugs but The British Olympic Association stated that Ye had passed drug tests and “deserved recognition for her talent.”

 Iker Casillas (Spain)

This year was a big one for Spain’s national football team- they won three major international tournaments in a row. Spain won Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, and with another Euro title in 2012, it had the chance it became the first team ever to accomplish the feat.

And Spain had captain Iker Casillas to thank. The formidable goaltender was almost invincible as La Roja and Casillas made history.

Casillas earned his 100th international win, becoming the first player to do so. He also set a new record for the most consecutive minutes without allowing a goal (817).

Andy Murray (Scotland)

Tennis player, Murray got his chance this year and he grabbed it with both hands. He had been regarded as tennis’ nearly man after finishing as runner-up in four previous singles Grand Slam finals: the 2008 US Open, the 2010 Australian Open, the 2011 Australian Open, and 2012 Wimbledon, losing three of these to Roger Federer and one to Novak Djokovic.

But at the 2012 US Open, he became the first British player since 1977, and the first British man since 1936, to win a Grand Slam singles tournament, when he defeated Djokovic in five sets. It makes him the only British man to become a Grand Slam champion during the Open Era.

At the Olympic Games, Murray defeated Federer in straight sets to win the gold medal in men’s singles, becoming the first British champion in over 100 years to do so. He also won a silver medal in the mixed doubles. He is the only man to win the Olympic gold and the US Open back-to-back.

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