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16 of the greatest sporting moments of all time

Sport has a magical way of uniting people from every corner of the globe. Every now and then, people congregate in stadiums filled with thousands of people, while millions watch from their homes, all with the hope of experiencing a moment of true sporting greatness.

From time to time, the stars align perfectly, giving us a shocking upset, a flash of brilliance, or a moment of sportsmanship that inspires people for generations to come.

Some of these moments are considered great due to the true skill and mastery of the athlete performing it. Others signify moments where sports have transcended from a mere spectacle to become a catalyst for revolutionizing the very fabric of our society and culture.

So sit back, and soak in the sporting greatness.

Greatest sporting moments of all time

Roger Bannister Breaks the 4 Minute Mile

When: 1954
Where: Oxford, UK

What better way to start off our list than with one of the most famous moments in the history of athletics? Back in 1954, Roger Bannister defied the odds by achieving what once was considered to be an impossible task by breaking the 4-minute mile barrier.

At the time, scientists and running experts alike had deemed a sub-4-minute mile to be a humanly impossible task, yet that didn’t stop Bannister. He set his mind on his task and pushed his body to the absolute limit with rigorous training sessions and relentless perseverance until he eventually achieved the feat in conditions that can be considered far less than perfect.

It was cold, the track was wet, and with only a relatively small crowd to cheer him on, he managed to run the mile in just three minutes, fifty-nine and four-tenths of a second.

It’s believed that runners had been actively attempting to break the record since 1886, yet when Roger Bannister shattered the record, it only took a further 46 days before it was broken by another runner and Bannister rival John Landy.

Conor McGregor 14 second KO over Jose Aldo

When: 2015
Where: Las Vegas, USA

There is no doubt that Jose Aldo is one of the greatest UFC fighters that has ever lived. Back in 2015, Aldo was unbeaten for over a decade, recording 18 straight wins and shattering all kinds of records along the way.

His opponent, Conor McGregor, won the UFC Interim Featherweight Championship after his impressive KO of Chad Mendes at UFC 189, the event in which the original Aldo v Mcgregor fight was scheduled to happen. After a 12-city global tour, the hype was at an all-time high until Aldo had to pull out with a fractured rib.

After McGregor Vs Mendes, it only stoked the flames of one of the most highly anticipated bouts in UFC history. The build-up to the fight was intense, with McGregor taking the term “trash-talking” to a whole other level. When the fight finally came, the atmosphere was electric.

What was expected to be a long and drawn out scrap ended up being the fastest UFC title finish of all time, with a 14 second KO from a left hook that caught Aldo right on the chin. After falling to the canvas and a few hammer fists later, Conor was crowned as the undisputed champion and his legacy was born.

John Isner and Nicholas Mahut Play the longest tennis match of all time

When: 2010
Where: Wimbledon, England

The first-round match at Wimbledon in 2010 between John Isner and Nicholas Mahut ended up being the longest tennis match in the sport’s history. The official start time was 6:13 pm on the 22nd June and didn’t finish until Thursday 24th at 4:47 pm.

Both players served over 100 aces with a final score of 6–4, 3–6, 6–7(7–9), 7–6(7–3), 70–68 and a total playing time of 11 hours 5 minutes. Both players had squandered match points until Isner was the one that eventually brought home the win after three days of gruelling tennis.

Interesting fact: The final set alone would have broken the record for the longest ever tennis match.

Kipchoge Runs a Sub 2 Hour Marathon

When: 2019
Where: Vienna, Austria

Another mammoth athletic achievement happened back in October 2019. Eliud Kipchoge did the unthinkable and blitzed his way through a 26.2-mile course to achieve an unbelievable time of one hour 59 minutes 40 seconds.

Before this attempt, he was already the world record holder for the fastest ever marathon and had previously missed out on the sub-2-hour marathon by just 25 seconds. Similar to Roger Bannister’s achievements, there was no shortage of naysayers and doubters proclaiming that a sub-2-hour marathon was an impossible task. Kipchoge had other ideas.

“I’m feeling good. After Roger Bannister made history, it took me another 65 years. I’ve tried but I’ve done it. This shows no-one is limited,” Kipchoge said after the race.

Ronnie O’Sullivan fastest 147 break

When: 1997
Where: Sheffield, UK

Snooker might not be the most popular sport, but Ronnie O’Sullivan deserves a mention as one of the most naturally gifted players of that particular sport.

If you’re not familiar with snooker, the most difficult feat in the game is to achieve a break of 147, potting the black after every red ball, and then cleaning up the table in a flawless fashion. There is no room for error, and only a few people in history have been able to achieve it.

Some people argue the 147 is in fact the most difficult in-game sporting achievement of all time, and in the first round of the 1997 World Championship, Ronnie ‘The Rocket’ O’Sullivan managed it in just five minutes and eight seconds. Unsurprisingly, he also holds the record for all of the top five fastest times as well.

Interesting fact: O’Sullivan won £147,000 in prize money for hitting the 147, averaging 8.8 seconds per shot.

Alex Honnold Free Solos El Capitán

When: 2016
Where: California, USA

To this date, Alex Honnold is the only person to ever free solo El Capitán, and nobody would be surprised if he remained so for the rest of human history. If you aren’t already aware, ‘free soloing’ is when you ascend up a mountain without any safety gear.

There is absolutely nothing to catch you if you fall, making it one of the most dangerous activities you could ever perform.

He scrambled up the 3,000-ft (914.4m) granite wall known as El Capitán, in less than four hours. An astonishing feat when you consider that back in 1958, the world believed Yosemite’s El Capitán was unclimbable.

Tommy Caldwell, a world-famous climber in his own right had this to say about the climb: “This is the ‘moon landing’ of free soloing.”

Nadal vs. Federer – The Greatest Tennis Final of All Time

When: 2008
Where: Wimbledon, England

It’s almost impossible to try and name which match would be considered the greatest tennis match of all time, but most people seem to be in agreement that this Wimbledon Final is definitely up there. And how couldn’t it be? Two absolute legends of the game thrashing it at the peak of their powers in the final of one of the worlds biggest tournaments.

The top-ranked Federer was to face the second-ranked Nadal, in what turned out to be a match for the ages. The game was so legendary that L. Jon Wertheim wrote a book called Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played.

As the author described it, their captivating match was “essentially a four-hour forty-eight-minute infomercial for everything that is right about tennis – a festival of skill, accuracy, grace, strength, speed, endurance, determination, and sportsmanship.”

After 4 hours and 48 minutes of play, Nadal defeated Federer 6–4, 6–4, 6–7(5–7), 6–7(8–10), 9–7 to take home the Wimbledon Championship.

Fabrice Muamba – The Miracle Man

When: 2012
Where: London, England

Sometimes great sporting moments aren’t just about amazing skill or finesse. They’re about amazing tales of sportsmanship, comeback stories, or sometimes, just downright miracles.

In this instance, the Fabrice Muamba story falls into the last two of the boxes. During an FA Cup Quarter Final between Bolton Wanderers and  Tottenham Hotspur that was a tied game, Muamba suddenly collapsed on the pitch. It was later discovered that he’d suffered a cardiac arrest, fans, players and officials watched on in horror as the lifeless Muamba was worked on by medical staff.

Muamba was ‘in effect dead’ for 78 minutes following his on-field collapse, according to the Bolton Wanderers club doctor Jonathan Tobin. His heart had stopped and he was presumed dead until after 15 defibrillator shocks he was brought back to life and his heart started beating again.

Following medical advice, he announced his retirement from professional football in August 2012, but he remains forever grateful that he still lives to tell the tale.

Michael van Gerwen throws 17 perfect darts

When: 2018
Where: London, England

Throwing a 9 darter is right up there with one of the hardest things you can do in sports. The level of skill and accuracy needed is simply mind-blowing, and on this night, Micheal Van Gerwen almost threw two in a row.

In what is most likely the best sequence of dart-throwing in history, he nails 17 shots in a row and agonizingly misses the last dart to narrowly miss out on a back to back 9 darter. Nevertheless, it’s an unbelievable achievement and certainly goes down as one of the greatest darts moments of all time.

For full disclosure, MVG actually hit 18 perfect darts once (which also included one 9 darter), however, it was over three legs which made it somewhat not as great (or as agonizing) as this moment.

Tiger Woods Comes Back to Win The Masters

When: 2019
Where: Augusta, USA

It’s safe to say that Tiger Woods’ fall from grace was a dramatic one and an extremely public one at that. After four back surgeries and personal scandals that headlined media outlets for many years, Tiger finally put all of that behind him when he completed one of the sports best and most improbable comebacks of all time.

Woods had to rebuild his body, his game, and his mind to come back and win his 5th Masters title, 14 years after his previous green jacket win. Amazing stuff. This was Wood’s 15th Major Championship title, just three shy of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships.

Ward v Gatti I – The Fight of The Century

When: 2002
Where: Connecticut, USA

Sporting rivalries don’t get much greater, nor more intense than the one between Micky Ward and Arturo Gatti. These guys fought three times in the space of 13 months, but it is their first meeting in 2002 that goes down as the ‘Fight Of The Century.’ In fact, during the same fight, there is a wide consensus that round nine could be considered as the ‘Round Of The Century.’

The fight was one of the greatest spectacles in boxing history, with both boxers giving everything they had, leaving it all in the ring. On the day, Ward won the fight, but both boxers go down in boxing history as two absolute warriors.

Interesting fact: The rivalry between these two became a Hollywood Blockbuster called The Fighter, starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale.

The Thrilla in Manila

When: 1975
Where: Manilla, Philippines

Another boxing entry in our list that could be argued as one of the greatest fights of all time. At the very least, it’s certainly the most famous. This was to be the third and final fight between two heavyweight legends, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. The match was an enthralling one, with both boxers having their ebbs and flows, with each of them having many chances to put the other away.

Eddie Futch, Frazier’s trainer, decided to stop the fight between the 14th and 15th rounds, as it later turned out that Frazier became blind due to the punches he took to the head.

Experts say that this fight was the last straw for both of the boxers, as they both took extreme damage and came away even more bitter than before the bout. Talk about bad blood.

Tiger Woods – Greatest Golf Shot Ever

When: 2005
Where: Augusta, USA

When you ask a golf fan what the greatest golf shot ever is, many of them will recall Tiger Woods unbelievable chip at the 16th hole in the 2005 US Masters. After a poor tee shot, Woods found himself in the second cut facing an extremely difficult shot.

The commentators said it would be near impossible for Woods to even land it anywhere near the pin, let alone sink it. But that he did!

Woods chipped the ball with superhuman precision, aiming far past the hole in the hope that it would run back towards the cup. The ball then ran ever so slowly back towards the hole and seemed absolutely perfectly weighted.

The ball stopped just before the cup, completing one final revolution to reveal the Nike logo before it fell into the hole. This was quite possibly Nike’s best ever bit of advertisement.

Mike Tyson Becomes The Youngest Heavyweight Boxing Champion

When: 1986
Where: Las Vegas, USA

No list of the greatest sporting moments would ever be complete without the inclusion of the legendary ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson. He is world-famous for his immense boxing skills, insane antics in and outside the ring, and his cameos in movies such as The Hangover. Beyond all of this fame and some might say infamy Tyson still holds one of the most amazing records of all time he is the youngest ever Heavyweight Champion of The World.

On November 22, 1986, Tyson dismantled the champion at the time Trevor Berbick in five minutes and 35 seconds, claiming the championship belt at the tender age of 20 years old. Berbick was 33 at the time.

His dominance that night was to be the trademark of his career, blowing away his opponents in a matter of minutes, sometimes just seconds, as he became one of the most feared and respected boxers the world has ever seen.

Oracle Team’s Incredible Comeback

When: 2013
Where: San Francisco, California

America’s Cup is the absolute pinnacle competition in the world of yachting. Amazingly, it was first contested in 1851 which makes it older than the modern Olympics and is the oldest international sporting trophy in the world. A pretty significant trophy then.

Well, back in 2013, this revered trophy was being battled over by two teams, the USA Oracle Team and the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.

The American team was on the brink of a catastrophic defeat as they were down 8-1 in a best of 17 formats. The odds were stacked against them, in an order of magnitude beyond comprehension. For them to win, they had to win 8 races in a row.

As improbable as it may seem, the Americans managed the most amazing comeback and won every single race from that moment, turning the contest on its head and completely flipping the momentum. This has to be a contender for the greatest comebacks in sporting history.

Paul Lawrie’s British Open Comeback

When: 1999
Where: Carnoustie, Scotland

If you love a good comeback, this one might just take the cake as it involves one of the worst sporting “chokes” of all time. In 1999, at the British Open, Paul Lawrie completed the biggest final-round comeback in a major championship and PGA Tour history. It was a true sight to behold, although it was at the rather unfortunate expense of Jean van de Velde.

Lawrie was 10 strokes back from the lead in the final round but eventually made a herculean comeback to tie it all up at the 18th and then win the three-man playoff that was to decide the winner.

However, the memorable moment from the tournament came from van de Velde, who threw away a three-stroke lead on the 18th hole. His name was all but written on the trophy, only for disaster to strike.

A double-bogey would have sufficed, yet van de Velde had somewhat of a breakdown under the pressure. He hit the ball into the water, then rolled up his pants to try and hit the ball out (which was about half a meter deep), he then smashed a ball into the grandstand, all before sinking a tough 6-footer to take it to a tie break. Truly bizarre.

Nevertheless, van de Velde lost the match and Lawrie took home the trophy, albeit it is slightly bemused about the whole event!

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