Tag Archives: memories

Track Cycling World Championship gold for Laura Trott, Dani King and Elinor Barker

Olympic hero Trott at full pelt to lead Britain to their first gold of World Championships

By
Sam Cunningham

PUBLISHED:

17:45 GMT, 21 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

02:58 GMT, 22 February 2013

Great Britain's women brought golden memories of last summer’s Olympic Games flooding back by successfully defending their world team pursuit title.

Laura Trott and Dani King, who won Olympic gold with Joanna Rowsell, teamed up with A-level student Elinor Barker to clinch gold in the Track Cycling world championships in Minsk.

They completed the 3km race in 3min 18.140sec to beat Australia’s Annette Edmondson, Ashlee Ankudinoff and Melissa Hoskins by 1.773sec.

Wheely good: Laura Trott, Dani King and Elinor Barker won women's team pursuit gold in Minsk

Wheely good: Laura Trott, Dani King and Elinor Barker won women's team pursuit gold in Minsk

This is the last time the women’s
team pursuit will feature in its current format. It is set to be
extended to four kilometres and an extra rider added.

Trott said: ‘It seemed to flow nicely
and we changed a few things from qualifying and it came off. If someone
thought they couldn’t cope on the front they came off. It tops it off
for us. To win the race the last time it will be as a 3km is amazing.’

Barker added: ‘I feel really
overwhelmed. I thought I was just riding round the Manchester Velodrome
in a training ride and then we won. I just feel shocked. It is above and
beyond what I’ve dreamed of.’

King said: ‘It means everything.
We’ve worked so hard since the Olympic Games and although Jo Rowsell
will come back, it’s great to have Elinor on the team.’

Wheely good: Laura Trott, Dani King and Elinor Barker won women's team pursuit gold in Minsk

Wheely good: Laura Trott, Dani King and Elinor Barker won women's team pursuit gold in Minsk

Wheely good: Laura Trott, Dani King and Elinor Barker won women's team pursuit gold in Minsk

Becky James, who is one of
Sportsmail’s Magnificent Seven who we are tracking to the Rio Olympics,
won her second bronze of the championships in the 500m time trial.

Martyn Irvine became the first
Irishman to win a medal at the championships in 117 years when he won
gold and silver within an hour of each other.

‘I’m not sure it’s hit me yet,’ said Irvine. ‘I just can’t believe I’m standing here with a rainbow jersey.’

Irvine came second in the individual
pursuit, beaten by reigning champion Michael Hepburn, and won gold in
the 15km scratch race.

Gold standard: The girls celebrate with their hard-fought medals

Gold standard: The girls celebrate with their hard-fought medals

In a dramatic finish, Irvine accelerated away with 10 laps to go and managed to hold off his rivals.

He added: ‘I just stuck to what I know, just committed 100 per cent and it paid off.

‘I just stayed near the front, stayed out of trouble. Once I went, it was all or nothing. I didn’t look back. It was full gas.’

Lee Westwood paired with Vijay Singh at AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-am

Westwood paired with Singh in Pebble Beach… should former world No 1 play

/02_02/bn_golfblog_308x76.jpg” alt=”Golf blog” width=”308″ height=”76″ title=”” />

Harrington came joint seventh in the
individual event and is back now to try to improve on that in a line-up
headed by defending champion and last week’s winner Phil Mickelson.

The left-hander almost broke 60 last
Thursday, but he has fond memories too of the closing 64 last year
because it came as playing partner Tiger Woods was taking 75.

Woods, who won at Torrey Pines a fortnight ago, is not back to attempt revenge.

Harrington plays the opening round at
Spyglass Hill – three courses are used – with Spaniard Rafael Cabrera
Bello, another to make the long journey from Dubai, while Mickelson,
seeking a record-equalling fifth victory in the tournament, is at
Monterey Peninsular with fellow Australian Rod Pampling.

Mo Farah will run at the Birmingham indoor Grand Prix in February

Farah to run indoor 3,000m in Birmingham to thank British fans who flocked to see Olympics

By
Mike Dawes

PUBLISHED:

20:10 GMT, 17 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

20:10 GMT, 17 January 2013

Mo Farah will run the 3,000 metres at the British Athletics Grand Prix in Birmingham on February 16, his only indoor race in 2013.

The Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m champion finished fourth in the 3,000m at the World Indoor Championships last March and has twice won European indoor championship gold over the distance.

‘I always love running in Birmingham and have fond memories of celebrating my Olympic success with the British fans at Alexander Stadium last August,’ Farah said.

Mo Farah is now one of Britain's all-time leading long-distance runners

Class act: Mo Farah is now one of Britain's all-time leading long-distance runners

‘I always run well at the National Indoor Arena. I won this meet in 2007, 2009 and 2011 and that’s what I’ll be aiming to do for next month.’

Looking ahead to the defence of his world outdoor 5,000m title in Moscow August, Farah believes that competing in Birmingham is an important part of his preparations.

‘The big focus this year is the world championships. I’ve had a good winter training block and the British Athletics Grand Prix will be the first time that I compete this year, so I’m looking forward to getting back on the track in front of a home crowd.’

Farah has not forgotten all his British fans

World famous: Farah has not forgotten all his British fans

Arsene Wenger praises Pat Rice after MBE

Wenger heaps praise on Rice after former Arsenal assistant is awarded MBE

|

UPDATED:

00:02 GMT, 29 December 2012

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger paid tribute to former assistant Pat Rice as 'someone you could go to war with' after it was announced the long-serving Gunner has been awarded an MBE.

Rice made more than 400 appearances for Arsenal, helping the club win their first league and FA Cup double in 1970-71, while he also won 49 caps for Northern Ireland.

Following his retirement from playing after a spell at Watford in 1984, Rice became a coach with the Gunners and then assistant to Wenger when he was appointed manager in 1996.

Pat Rice

Pat Rice

From player to coach: Pat Rice has a rich history with Arsenal

Rice, 63, played a part in two more doubles and the unbeaten league season of 2003-04 before announcing his retirement at the end of last season 48 years after first joining Arsenal.

Wenger said: 'I am absolutely delighted because if someone deserves it, it's Pat Rice.

'He had 100 per cent genuine commitment every day and you respect that when you see that from somebody, and he is someone you could go to war with. You would love to be in the trenches with Pat and those are very difficult qualities to find in modern society.'

Rice greeted the news with shock and joy, saying: 'I'm delighted and honoured to be receiving an MBE. The news of the award came as a complete surprise and I'm just so flattered to be included in the Queen's New Year's Honours List.

'Football and Arsenal have been my life and I have so many fantastic memories during my career. I have been lucky to have played and worked with so many great individuals, and through hard work I have enjoyed some success along the way.

Team work: Arsene Wenger (left) with Pat Rice at Arsenal

Team work: Arsene Wenger (left) with Pat Rice at Arsenal

'I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped me throughout my career, and importantly, a special thank you to all my family, who have always been there for me and supported me throughout my career.'

Sports honours were dominated by athletes, coaches and administrators involved in the London Olympic and Paralympic Games, but St George's Park chairman David Sheepshanks led the way among other sporting figures, receiving a CBE for services to football.

He oversaw the building of the National Football Centre near Burton-upon-Trent, which opened in October, while he was chairman of Ipswich for 13 years from 1995 to 2008.

Sheepshanks, who is also honoured for charitable services in Suffolk, was appointed chairman of the Football League in 1997 and has been involved with the Football Association, UEFA and FIFA.

Recognised: David Sheepshanks

Recognised: David Sheepshanks

Former England cricket captain and Kent president Mike Denness is awarded an OBE for services to sport 37 and a half years after his last Test match.

The 72-year-old, the only Scotsman to captain England, played 28 Test matches, scoring four centuries, and led his country on 19 occasions.

Denness, who later became an International Cricket Council match referee, was named president of the county for which he played for 14 years last December.

Among those to receive MBEs are two more recent England cricketers, Mark Ramprakash and Robert Croft.

Both men retired this summer after long careers in county cricket, with Croft playing for Glamorgan for 23 seasons and Ramprakash representing Middlesex and Surrey.

'This honour eclipses anything I have done in my career,' Ramprakash said.

David Collier, the chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board, welcomed the honours for the trio.

He said: 'The award to Mike Denness is fitting recognition for a long and distinguished career in cricket which has seen him fulfil a variety of key roles.

'Mark Ramprakash was among the most supremely gifted batsmen of his generation and can be justifiably proud of being one of an elite band of cricketers who have scored 100 first-class hundreds.

'Very few cricketers achieve the feat of scoring more than 10,000 first-class runs and taking more than 1,000 first-class wickets as Robert Croft did for Glamorgan during a 23-year career. His honour is richly deserved.'

Also awarded OBEs are Catherine Caithness, president of the World Curling Federation, and John Sanderson for services to the horseracing industry.

All out: Mark Ramprakash retired this summer after a long career in cricket

All out: Mark Ramprakash retired this summer after a long career in cricket

The same honour goes to Amanda Reddin, the head national coach for British Gymnastics and personal coach to Beth Tweddle, Britain's most successful female gymnast.

Former Wales and Lions wing JJ Williams receives an MBE for services to rugby and charitable services in Wales.

The 64-year-old won 30 caps for his country between 1973 and 1979 and was selected for the iconic Lions tours in 1974 and 1977, playing in seven Tests.

Former St Helens and Great Britain star Paul Sculthorpe is recognised for his rugby league career and charity work while Colin Appleyard and Elizabeth Littler are also awarded MBEs for services to motorcycle sport and ice skating respectively.

Honoured: John James Williams

Honoured: John James Williams

Former Great Britain hockey player Tina Cullen receives the same award as does Andrew Thomson for services to bowls and James Gundill for services to horseracing.

Finally, Andrew Gairdner is also awarded an MBE following his retirement this summer as voluntary chief steward at Wimbledon after 34 years working at the All England Club.

Sheepshanks was pleased to receive his award in a year he helped oversee the opening of St George's Park.

'I feel both humbled and proud,' he said.

'Of course, it is a wonderful honour to receive personally, but I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for all the special people that I have been privileged to work with along the way, both in the world of football and locally in Suffolk, not least thanks to my wonderful wife and family, whose support is unwavering.

'The year 2012 has been magnificent for all of us at the FA with the opening of St George's Park.

'I feel that I receive this award in recognition of the combined efforts of the fabulous team that I have been fortunate to lead who have designed, built, and now operate St George's Park.'

Marcus Townend: Broadcast challenge for new kings Channel 4

Marcus Townend: Channel 4 face one helluva broadcast challenge in replacing the BBC

|

UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 25 December 2012

How ironic that the final BBC racing broadcast at abandoned Chepstow will not even manage to make it out of the starting stalls.

Leaving the sport with not even a whimper seems appropriate for an organisation whose divorce from racing has been coming for a long time.

The faces in front of camera soldiered on but the BBC television executives above them steadily lost interest, their mood not helped by the period when they were paying for their dwindling rights and Channel 4 was being handed cheques by the sport to keep its cameras rolling.

Changing of the guard: Clare Balding will be the new face of Channel 4 racing

Changing of the guard: Clare Balding will be the new face of Channel 4 racing

The landscape was transformed when bookmakers were allowed to start advertising on television and suddenly a live broadcast from Sandown became much more than merely an expensive, work-intensive option to another repeat of The Sound of Music.

Channel 4’s interest surged. Make no mistake, they have not signed a four-year deal for the terrestrial racing rights simply because they are in love with the sport.
It would be easy to drift away on sentimental memories but the truth is that the new

Channel 4 racing coverage has the potential to innovate and excite.

When cricket took the same journey from BBC to Channel 4, the station impressed with its refreshing new approach.

No show: Chepstow races which was due to the the last meet shown on the BBC has been postponed due to the weather

No show: Chepstow races which was due to the the last meet shown on the BBC has been postponed due to the weather

A re-jigged team of pundits line up under the leadership of the BBC’s transferred Clare Balding —not a bad signing given her current standing in the post-Olympics world of sports broadcasting. The new squad could have been more radical but it will be the attitude and tone set by their masters that is all important and early mission statements look promising.

Channel 4 looks enthused by their new venture and that, in contrast to the BBC’s attitude, has the capacity to shine through on screen.
Of course, adverts for the first time during the Grand National or at Royal Ascot will grate but longer programmes and less races will make the shows feel less like a mad dash through betting opportunities.

The BBC has a huge archive of racing memories — Red Rum at the 1977 Sports Personality of the Year show; Bing Crosby appearing on Grandstand on the day in the 1970s when the chaser Uncle Bing won and Frankie Dettori’s magnificent seven at Ascot in 1996.

But the baton has been passed on and it might not be a bad thing. A challenge has been set Channel 4. We will see in the coming weeks and months how well it does.

Michael Owen out to end drought against Liverppol

Owen wants the monkey off his back as he targets first ever goal against Liverpool on Boxing Day

|

UPDATED:

19:39 GMT, 25 December 2012

Stoke striker Michael Owen has plenty of happy memories from his time at Liverpool, but does not look back too fondly on the occasions he has played against them.

The former England international enjoyed the most prolific days of his career at Liverpool, where he came through the youth ranks.

Since leaving the Reds in 2004 though, he has failed to score a single goal against them and Owen admits he has rarely had much fun when being on the opposing team.

Man on a mission: Michael Owen is desperate for the chance to get at his old team Liverpool

Man on a mission: Michael Owen is desperate for the chance to get at his old team Liverpool

The 33-year-old will be hoping the trend changes on Boxing Day when the Potters host Liverpool in the Barclays Premier League, a game in which he could make his first Stoke appearance since October 27 having overcome a hamstring problem.

Owen – who departed Anfield for Real Madrid and moved on to Newcastle and Manchester United before joining Stoke this season – told Independent Sports News: 'It is a strange feeling really playing against your old club, especially one where you were there for around 15 years.

'Liverpool are a big part of my life and career and I had some of the best times of my life at the club.

'So certainly I have happy memories. I have not been so happy playing against them since; I have never scored and not particularly enjoyed it.'

Stoke, currently ninth in the table, head into the clash with eighth-placed Liverpool in fine form.

Where the heart is: Owen was lethal at Liverpool but has struggled since leaving

Where the heart is: Owen was lethal at Liverpool but has struggled since leaving

Where the heart is: Owen was lethal at Liverpool but has struggled since leaving

Tony Pulis' men are unbeaten in their last eight matches and Owen is optimistic they can keep the run going.

'I don't see any reason why not,' Owen said. 'We had a really tough start to the season and we picked up points against some of the big teams.

'Then we went into a period of games where you would look at them on paper and say we had a chance of picking up points, and we have duly done that.

'We are on a nice run of form. Every game is tough in the Premier League, but there is no reason why we can't continue it.'

Boxing Day football memories: Sportsmail remembers the festive fun from past years

Boxing Day football memories: Sportsmail remembers the festive fun from past years

PUBLISHED:

21:00 GMT, 24 December 2012

|

UPDATED:

10:12 GMT, 25 December 2012

While most of Europe sits back and enjoys a winter break, the English football season cranks up into overdrive over the festive period. Here, Sportsmail reflects on Boxing Day brilliance from the past.

Christmas cheer: Boxing Day traditionally throws up some classic encounters

Christmas cheer: Boxing Day traditionally throws up some classic encounters

Neil Ashton
Crystal Palace 2 Brighton 0, 1986

Alan Mullery was returning to Selhurst Park with his beloved Brighton – two years after he was fired as Palace manager.

This time he couldn't turn the south coast club's fortunes around and they ran into an upwardly mobile Palace team managed by Steve Coppell at the age of just 31.

The Eagles, playing in their legendary red and blue sash strip – this one produced by Hummel – went ahead through winger Alan Irvine, who is now David Moyes' academy director at Everton.

In front of just over 8,000 supporters Palace scored a second through former Aylesbury striker Phil Barber.

Matt Barlow
Sheffield Wednesday 3 Manchester United 3, 1992

Two of the best teams in the country produced a Boxing Day classic with 37,000 inside Hillsborough.

Boxing on Boxing Day: Manchester United and Sheffield Wednesday played out a thriller in 1992

Boxing on Boxing Day: Manchester United and Sheffield Wednesday played out a thriller in 1992

Boxing on Boxing Day: Manchester United and Sheffield Wednesday played out a thriller in 1992

A David Hirst-inspired Wednesday were three up by half-time but United fought back with Cantona, whose legend was in its infancy, grabbing the equaliser six minutes from time.

United went on to win the Premier League and Wednesday suffered double cup final heartache to Arsenal.

Chris Wheeler
Everton 2 Man United 6, Boxing Day 1977

An Everton team going for the title were favourites at home to a United side languishing in 14th place in the First Division table – even more so because Paddy Roche was deputising in goal for the injured Alex Stepney.

It was asking too much for Roche to keep a clean sheet, and Martin Dobson and Bob Latchford scored for Gordon Lee’s side. But goals from Lou Macari (2), Steve Coppell, Jimmy Greenhoff, Gordon Hill and Sammy McIlroy gave United a comprehensive win in front of nearly 50,000 at Goodison and a Boxing Day to remember.

Dominic King
Liverpool 5 West Brom 0, 2004

Boxing Day is curious with regards football. There is always a crackle in the atmosphere at games and the mood is generally good but despite racking my brains, I'm struggling to remember one humdinger of a game that stands out above everything else.

Captain marvel: Steven Gerrard was on the scoresheet as Liverpool ran riot in 2004

Captain marvel: Steven Gerrard was on the scoresheet as Liverpool ran riot in 2004

Saying that, Boxing Day 2004 was pretty good. Harchibald won the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, Kicking obliged half an hour later in the King George and Liverpool then demolished West Brom in the evening kick-off, winning 5-0 with Jon Arne Riise nearly ripping the net apart with one thunderbolt.

Laura Williamson
Lincoln City 1-2 Grimsby Town, 2011

One of the genuinely good things about playing in the Blue Square Premier has been the emphasis on holding local derbies over the festive period.

It’s a fantastic way to increase attendances and attention while people are at home with their families over Christmas, which is why the programme is dominated by derbies again in 2012.

Grimsby's 2-1 win at Lincoln last year was a highlight (although not quite as sweet as the 3-1 in the ‘return leg’ on New Year’s Day): let’s have the same again this time around, please.

Neil Moxley
Birmingham City 3 Aston Villa 0, 1982

Looking at the record books, it was 24 hours after Boxing Day, but I think every Birmingham City supporter worth his salt remembers what took place in 1982 in the Second City derby.

Aston Villa were, after all, the reigning European Champions. Birmingham City were rooted to the foot of the old First Division.

However, that didn't stop over 40,000 supporters packing out the ground, including 6-7,000 Villa fans housed in the Tilton Road End of the ground. It made for a cracking atmosphere.

Goals from Noel Blake, the late Ian Handysides and a scrambled effort from Mick Ferguson unexpectedly lifted the Blues from the foot of the table.

Birmingham City had taught the reigning European Champions a lesson. It's not a sentence they hear too often at St Andrew's…

Janine Self
Blackburn 2 Aston Villa 1, 1998

Brash, cocky, utterly confident, John Gregory brought second-placed Aston Villa to Blackburn on Boxing Day 1998.

Upsetting the odds: Blackburn turned the tables on John Gregory's Aston Villa in 1998

Upsetting the odds: Blackburn turned the tables on John Gregory's Aston Villa in 1998

Upsetting the odds: Blackburn turned the tables on John Gregory's Aston Villa in 1998

Struggling Rovers had just
sacked Roy Hodgson and recruited Brian Kidd, who had made a decent start
although the appointment would turn out to be disastrous.

At
the time I was working in the north-west and Blackburn were one of 'my'
teams. In a season of unmitigating lows, this was a rare high.

Kevin
Gallacher and Tim Sherwood got the goals in a 2-1 win, aided by the
sending-off of Michael Oakes. Riccardo Scimeca scored for Villa.

My
memory Gregory was superbly entertaining in the post-match press
conference. And one year later, I had moved to the Midlands and Villa
had become one of 'my' teams. Strange world.

Sami Mokbel
Coventry 0 Crystal Palace 2, 2007

This is a bit of an obscure one, but it sticks in my mind because it was my first Boxing Day game as a working journalist.

It wasn't memorable, Palace cruising to a 2-0 win at the Ricoh Arena thanks to goals from Clinton Morrison and Paul Ifill.

Handily, I was covering the Eagles for a local newspaper which means post-match player interviews were a hell of a lot easier to come by. A pretty Merry Christmas all round.

Laurie Whitwell
Stoke City 0 Manchester United 1, 2008

A personal rather than professional memory for me, given I have yet to work a Boxing Day fixture.

Argy bargy: Carlos Tevez was the hero in the closing stages for Manchester United at Stoke

Argy bargy: Carlos Tevez was the hero in the closing stages for Manchester United at Stoke

The Britannia Stadium on 2008 was the setting and another stubborn performance from Stoke the context. United had just returned from winning the Club World Cup in Japan and were showing signs of jet-lag, with the score 0-0 into the final ten minutes.

No hangovers from Christmas indulgence in the stands though, with the atmosphere in both home and away sections particularly lively. A reminder of football’s raw pleasure.

When it seemed United would let two points slip, Carlos Tevez struck to send visiting bodies sprawling. A vital win on the way to a record-equalling 18th title.

Ian Ladyman
Everywhere

It’s
hard to be specific but part of my love of English football stems from
Boxing Days visits with my Dad to any one of the grounds in the
north-west close to where I grew up.

Deepdale,
Ewood Park, Turf Moor, Goodison, Anfield and Maine Road all got a visit
at one stage or another over the years. Turn up, pay on the gate, stand
(on tiptoes) on the terrace and go home again. Not quite as easy these
days.

Heather Watson aiming to stay top Brit

Looking after No 1… Ambitious Watson aiming to stay top Brit

|

UPDATED:

23:23 GMT, 21 December 2012

To gain an appreciation of how Heather Watson has become such a nuggety tennis player it helps to visit her at the place where it all started.

The IMG/Nick Bollettieri Academy on Florida's Gulf Coast is a very long way from her native Guernsey, but it was here that she arrived as a 12-year-old armed with a racket bag, a few mementoes of home and dreams inside her head.

'That's where I first stayed, it's actually a classroom now but it used to house several dorms,' says Britain's No 1 as she points at a whitewashed block of buildings in the middle of the campus.

Green machine: Watson at the IMG Academy

Green machine: Watson at the IMG Academy

'It brings back a lot of good memories.' She looks almost surprised when you ask if she suffered any homesickness, but then not for nothing has the 20-year-old already acquired a reputation as one of the WTA Tour's most durable and resourceful newcomers. And it helps that her three roommates back in those days, aspiring young golfers from South Korea and America – and another called Nicola Reynolds from Guildford – turned out to be friends for life.

'It was too much fun in the dorms to be homesick and those three were great, I think they would be the bridesmaids at my wedding if I ever got married. I just found the whole thing very exciting and I can't remember anything negative about it at all.'

Watson's parents Ian and Michelle had decided that if she was to be serious about her tennis she had to leave Guernsey and head for a place with a track record of producing good players and they plumped for Bradenton.

After three years her mother came to live there part-time and she moved out of the dorms to focus more professionally. Michelle no longer travels that much with her after a request this summer from her daughter that she have a bit more space.

Bathed in year-round sunshine and with an on-site high school, the academy turned out to be a decent choice, which is why Watson heads into the new season exuding such optimism, even by her own sunny standards.

Delight: Watson after her memorable victory in Osaka in October

Delight: Watson after her memorable victory in Osaka in October

When she flies to Auckland on
Christmas night it will be as the world No 49, with a very particular
plan as to how she will build on the success of the past two seasons
that has come quicker than anyone expected.

Watson
approaches each campaign with military precision and every December
holds what might be termed an Annual General Meeting with her father,
which can last three hours and features a devastatingly honest appraisal
of the season just gone.

'We
have to be absolutely clear about things and not hold back. It can get
quite heated although this year's took only two hours because I reached
my main target, which was to get into the world's top 50,' she says.

'For the coming season the soft target is to get into the top 30 and the ultimate one is to make the top 25. It would be great to be seeded for a Grand Slam, which sounds a lot but I believe in setting quite tough goals.'

There is also the incentive to ward off the rising challenge of Laura Robson, although she places that in a wider context. 'I would want to finish the year British No 1, not No 2, but I am focussed far more on what happens in the world rankings in general.'

Brit of all right: Watson in action at the London Olympics

Brit of all right: Watson in action at the London Olympics

Watson is currently ending her offseason training block in the company of her Colombian coach Mauricio Hadad and her fitness trainer Flo Pietzsch. On the day we meet she is practising with Alexander Sendegeya, a 16-year-old Liverpudlian based there who is trying a similar route to the top of the game.

After a festive visit from her mother Michelle, the three of them will take off for New Zealand knowing a big opportunity for ranking improvement presents itself. This is because she had a poor start to a season that ended with her becoming the first British player in 24 years to win a title on the main WTA Tour, the HP Open in Osaka.

'I went to Australia last year with half a sprained ankle that I did playing football and it was never going to be good in hindsight. The victory in Japan has really helped my confidence.'

Watson is relatively diminutive at 5ft 7in, but points out that Martina Hingis was no powerhouse either. 'The really positive thing is I've got to where I am with still so much that I can work on. I know I've got to get bigger shots and I'm using doubles to work on coming to the net, which is something I love. I know I am not that big but I have certain advantages with my speed and agility, and my mental toughness.'

Watson believes she is still three to four years off her best and will not rest until she becomes a factor more at the business end of Grand Slam tournaments.

Away from the court her ambition is to buy a flat close to Wimbledon and Roehampton's National Tennis Centre. 'London's expensive so I'm having to save up,' she says. 'I drove past those One Hyde Park apartments the other day. I might have to win a Grand Slam to afford one.

Tottenham goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini set for LA Galaxy

Yanks for the memories! Cudicini set for Spurs exit as stopper closes in on LA Galaxy deal

PUBLISHED:

22:15 GMT, 20 December 2012

|

UPDATED:

22:15 GMT, 20 December 2012

Carlo Cudicini is close to agreeing a two-year deal to join MLS side LA Galaxy.

Sportsmail revealed the interest last month and talks are at an advanced stage for the 39-year-old.

Moving on: Goalkeeper Cudicini is poised to leave Tottenham next month

Moving on: Goalkeeper Cudicini is poised to leave Tottenham next month

Cudicini is eager to play after falling behind Brad Friedel and Hugo Lloris.

Although 41-year-old Friedel is set
to join Blackburn in January, Cudicini is interested in the idea of
going to Los Angeles and following former teammate Robbie Keane.

Sports Personality: Andy Murray deserves the award – Martin Samuel

It's been the greatest sporting year we've seen, but there can be only one winner, so… It must be Murray

|

UPDATED:

00:39 GMT, 15 December 2012

It is what you have to leave out that tells you what a year it has been. There is no room, for instance, to tell the story about standing at the back of the 16th green at Royal Lytham and St Annes, chatting amiably with course marshals about what a disappointing day of golf it had been.

There isn’t time to recount that we agreed Adam Scott had been given the easiest ride of any Open champion because the pursuing pack had not put him under pressure at all; or how, 15 minutes later, coming off the back of the 17th, Scott was a broken man and Ernie Els on the brink of one of the most astonishing victories in the history of major golf.

There is no space for such details because, at the very moment Els was profiting from one of the most spectacular implosions in a sport that rather specialises in them, Bradley Wiggins was successfully completing his own procession along the Champs-Elysees, to be the first British winner of the Tour de France.

Le Gentleman called for the excited throng, tens of thousands deep and hanging on his every word, to be quiet. ‘We’re just going to draw the raffle now,’ he told them. Yes, it was that sort of year.

Enlarge

The best of the lot: Andy Murray memorably won the US Open title in November

The best of the lot: Andy Murray memorably won the US Open title in November

In British sport, 2012 will be talked
about like a 1990 Burgundy or a 1959 Bordeaux. We will drink this
cellar of special memories dry. 2012 was the year it came together; a
home Olympics and so many moments in orbit around it, that the year in
review seems almost mythical or magical, like Brigadoon, the mysterious
Scottish village that appears one day in every 100 years.

And
there was a night, a very special night in the Olympic Stadium when, in
the time it takes to play the first half of a football match, Britain
won more track-and-field gold medals than in the previous two Olympics
combined.

Glorious: Bradley Wiggins celebrates his Tour de France success in Paris

Glorious: Bradley Wiggins celebrates his Tour de France success in Paris

Greg Rutherford won the men’s long jump, Jessica Ennis the heptathlon and Mo Farah the 10,000 metres, each victory tearing the traditional narrative of plucky failure apart. A week later, Farah returned to do it again in the 5,000m.

Usain Bolt, the most famous athlete on the planet, celebrated his own victories by doing the Mobot, Farah’s M-shaped celebration invented by Clare Balding and christened by James Corden during a knockabout appearance on the sports quiz A League Of Their Own. Like Wiggo’s raffle joke, there seemed something very British about a gold medallist whose trademark was cooked up irreverently on the hoof.

It felt like us. It felt like modern Britain. The public go to the polls this weekend to decide the Sports Personality of the Year and the shortlist is a perfect cross-section of male and female, black and white, dis- and abled, yet there is not a hint of pre-determined correctness about it. This really was that sort of year.

Unforgettable: Mo Farah crosses the line to win the 5,000m at the London Olympics, and later Usain Bolt copied his famous celebration

Unforgettable: Mo Farah crosses the line to win the 5,000m at the London Olympics, and later Usain Bolt copied his famous celebration

Mo Farah and Usain Bolt at London Olympics

It was a coming together year, an
I-was-there year, a year for cliches about telling the grandkids and
remembering where you were when and keeping little scrapbooks, or
souvenirs, or at the very least crystallising memories, and it was a
year so good that sometimes we slip and forget how good it has been.

Football,
for instance, has had a terrible year, what with the racism and the
coin-throwing and the greatest finish to a title race in recent memory,
and the first London side winning the European Cup against
insurmountable odds on a penalty shootout and then Spain played the best
football anyone had seen for the first half of the European
Championship final and Chelsea are now one game from being world
champions and . . . and . . .

I’m
sorry, I’ll rephrase that. Football has had a great year, despite the
racism and the coin-throwing, because — well, like I said: Manchester
City, Chelsea in Munich, Spain and then there was this chap Lionel
Messi, who some of you might know.

What drama: Sergio Aguero scores the goal that won Manchester City the title

What drama: Sergio Aguero scores the goal that won Manchester City the title

And
Andy Murray! Hell’s bells, we nearly forgot Andy Murray, who came
closer to winning a Wimbledon men’s singles final than any British man
since the nation was represented in tennis by people called Bunny. Then
he won the gold medal at the Olympics, but we barely mention that now
because on September 10, Murray won the US Open, so we no longer have to
pretend Olympic gold is the pinnacle of his career and neither does he.

We
can return Olympic tennis to its rightful place and remember the
extremes of physical endurance that were required to overcome Novak
Djokovic in New York in Britain’s first men’s singles Grand Slam win in
76 years.

That an opponent who was believed to
have taken the sport to a new level of relentless, brutal athleticism
simply could not take any more remains arguably the sporting achievement
of the year.
Yet nothing
illustrates the pain and determination it took Murray to get there more
perfectly than a 20-minute vignette in defeat several months earlier.

It
went like this: Murray’s serve 15-0, 30-0, 40-0, 40-15, 40-30, deuce,
advantage Murray, deuce, advantage Federer, deuce, advantage Federer,
deuce, advantage Federer, deuce, advantage Murray, deuce, advantage
Murray, deuce, advantage Federer, deuce, advantage Federer, deuce,
advantage Murray, deuce, advantage Federer, game Federer. Third set, game six, Wimbledon final. Federer breaks Murray’s serve. But look what he had to do.

Finest hour: Murray in action during his US Open final showdown against Novak Djokovic in September

Finest hour: Murray in action during his US Open final showdown against Novak Djokovic in September

Revisited with hindsight, it truly was a matter of time before Murray won a Slam. Seeing what he put Federer through, of course he would later survive, victorious, the longest US Open final in history.

Is Murray the Sports Personality of the Year He’s mine. Wiggins would be a worthy winner, too, so would Farah and Ennis and Sir Chris Hoy and David Weir and, well just about any name on the shortlist and then some. The coward’s way out, a special 2012 award each, certainly had appeal. Yet it was not a matter of national debate that no Briton had won the Tour de France.

Nobody was button-holing Farah in the
street, asking urgently when the dominance of east Africans in
long-distance running would be at an end. Every
time Ennis lost it was not held up as symbolic of wider British failure
in modern life. That is what makes Murray different. He was dragging 76
years of British sporting gloom everywhere he went. No wonder those
shoulders occasionally slumped.

Hero: Ian Poulter was brilliant at the Ryder Cup at Medinah in September

Hero: Ian Poulter was brilliant at the Ryder Cup at Medinah in September

To
be there in New York when he finally cut that burden loose, to see
Murray on the balcony of the British Residence, the newly crowned king
of New York, felt like being present at the audiences granted by
heavyweight champions of the world in presidential suites in Las Vegas.
Murray, a boxing obsessive, would enjoy the comparison.

Like Wiggins, he is a man apart. Road cyclists from Kilburn High Road do not beat the French at their own game. What makes Wiggins unique is also what separates Murray, originating from a part of the world in which the weather is more conducive to bad chests than good tennis.

It applies to Farah, too. He is
Somali by birth, which is presumed to make him good at distance running;
except Somalia has no pedigree in the sport. What Farah has achieved
comes from growing up distance running in his miserable, wet, cold
northern hemisphere country, pounding the track when every human urge
must have been ordering him to get inside and into the warm. These are
remarkable people: champions and more.

What
else, what else in 2012 There was a horse, and what a horse. You can’t
give the SPOTY award to an equine candidate, so Frankel is not on the
BBC’s list, but by any measure of pure achievement, he should be. He
had personality, he had class, he had 14 wins in 14 races and nine of
those were Group Ones. He was the greatest quadruped athlete of his time
and some would say of any time. Cheering him home was a privilege for
more than just his supporters in the betting ring.

Memorable: Tom Queally celebrates after Frankel won his final race at Ascot

Memorable: Tom Queally celebrates after Frankel won his final race at Ascot

As was being in Medinah the night Europe’s golfers retained the Ryder Cup against all presumption, logic and gambling instinct. It was a win that defied explanation — like Liverpool in Istanbul in 2005 — except to say that in Ian Poulter, European golf has its Steven Gerrard figure. For AC Milan’s 3-0 half-time lead, read United States 10-4 up by Saturday afternoon on home soil. Poulter made five birdies to give Europe a chink of light that evening and the rest is history.

Except this time it truly is history.
All of it. All of them. The Olympians, the Paralympians, the golfers,
the horse, the footballers, watching Alastair Cook make another
subcontinent ton, watching England thump the All Blacks, watching West
Ham United win promotion on a tiny television screen erected by the nice
people from Sky in the lot outside the Allianz Arena before the
Champions League final, watching Hoy become Britain’s greatest Olympian,
and a personal favourite: that mad, mad look when Katherine Copeland
knew she had won rowing gold for Britain, and turned to her partner
Sophie Hosking.

‘We’re going to be on a stamp,’ she said.

It was that kind of year. Very special. Very British.

Special: Katherine Copeland and Sophie Hoskins celebrate Olympic rowing gold

Special: Katherine Copeland and Sophie Hoskins celebrate Olympic rowing gold


The contenders for Sports Personality