After a series of Cold War setbacks in the late 1970s, American self-confidence was at an all time low. When the U.S. men’s Olympic ice hockey team – made up of amateur, college age players – faced off against the four-time defending gold medallists, the Soviet Union, nobody expected them to win. But they did, 4-3, and it became much more than a hockey game. It united American society behind a common cause at the moment it was needed the most, and as a result was forever enshrined as one of the greatest underdog victories in modern Olympic history.
A fairly recent one, Ben Stokes’ remarkable innings in the third Ashes test at Headingly. For me, this is one of my favourite sporting moments as it is the perfect advert for test cricket and getting people interested in it. On a hot summer Sunday afternoon in Leeds, Stokes proved why he is one of the best cricketers on the planet. With Australia having bowled England out for a humiliating 67, and racking up a couple of decent scores- England needed 359 runs to stop the Aussies from winning the Ashes, a record run chase for any English side. As batsmen fell down the order, it was Ben Stokes who held his ground, adding runs to the board. England quickly made their way down the order until tail-ender, Jack Leach, came in to help Stokes win the game. With 73 runs needed, Stokes and Leach developed a system whereby Stokes would take the first four balls, Leach would defend the final two balls of the over then switch.
The Aussies made crucial errors, reviewing a “not out” decision that was clearly not out, spinner Nathan Lyon fumbling a run out and in the final couple of overs, a clearly plumb out was given as “not out”- yet the away side had used up all their reviews. With this luck and sheer passion and determination on their side, Ben Stokes hit 135 runs to lead England to victory and tie the Ashes, finishing with a perfect boundary and producing that iconic image of him cheering amongst a jubilant Leeds crowd. Leach also contributed with what has been dubbed the most important single of all-time. This was a game like no other, action-packed, tense and an underdog win in this game- I definitely needed a beer after this one!
Growing up as a keen ice skater, deciding on my favourite sporting moment of all time was a no brainer. Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean's iconic Bolero performance at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo was a sporting moment unlike anything that had happened before. Watched by a staggering 24 million UK viewers, every time I watch the footage I get shivers at how unbelievably breathtaking it is. In a performance that remains totally unique to this day, Torvill and Dean curated an artistic routine that earned them a row of perfect 6.0s, a feat that has never since been repeated. What made the programme so special was that it totally reinvented the definition of a gold medal winning performance. Unlike the jazzy, show-off routines of skaters before them, their dance told a story: one of ill-fated lovers climbing an erupting volcano, destined to perish. After 4 and a half mesmerising minutes, the routine's crashing crescendo sees the pair slide to the ice, leaving the world in awe as they lay oblivious to the history they had just created.
"Oh it's a terrible penalty and Liverpool against all odds have won the Champions League!"
That line still gives me goosebumps. If there was one game in history and that's all you had- one game in history to turn someone into a football fan, show them the Miracle of Istanbul in 2005. A true David versus Goliath battle- the Milan of 2005 was loaded with stars every which way you look at it and we had Djimi Traore in our starting lineup. No disrespect to Djimi but there was no way we should even be on the same planet as Milan that year with the teams as they were. And the Italians proved that to be the case - going up three goals to the good in the first half. But led by an inspirational Steven Gerrard and some otherworldly saves from Jerzy Dudek, three goals in about ten minutes from Stevie, Xabi Alonso and Vladimir Smicer turned the tie on its head. And when it came time for penalties Dudek channeled the inner Bruce Grobbelaar and won the shootout for us and brought home the biggest trophy in club football - this time for keeps.
Ask any rugby fan what the greatest game of the 2015 World Cup was, and without a doubt they'll bring this one up. In perhaps the greatest turn around in the modern game, the Japanese rugby side managed to trump South Africa in the dying embers of the game. The Springboks only just held the Brave Blossoms back after the first half, leading 12-10, but after an emphatic effort from both sides, and Japan knocking on S.A's door for 18 minutes, they managed to nab a try, with the game ending 34-32. The stadium erupted into cheers as Eddie Jones' Japan secured their second only RWC win of all time, and kick started a rise in form for the Asian side. The video below shows the pride, determination and grit of the Japanese more than my words ever could...