Don’t you just love it when out of nowhere, teams or individuals churn out results against all odds? Whether because of the limitless reserves of mental energy of the protagonists, the fighting spirit put on show, or even the pure luck that contributed to the result, each of the moments mentioned in this list made us shed tears of joy, tears of being precariously close, and upon revisiting them, makes us feel honored that we were around to witness such moments of pure emotion.
It was a story waiting to happen. He had been the golden boy of Argentine soccer for a couple of years prior to his inspiring exploits. Diego Maradona was Argentina’s captain at the tournament in Mexico, where they were one of the pre-tournament favourites.
Maradona scripted his own fairytale as he almost single-handedly carried his team past the finish line. His breath-taking goal against England in the quarterfinals where he left six opposition players in a heap, was aptly named the “Goal of the Century” by FIFA, and is still viewed by millions across the world in awe. However, being the bad boy of football that he always has been, he is also credited to have scored the infamous “Hand of God” goal, in the same match, a goal which was scored by an illegal but unpenalised handball. Maradona notched up a total of five goals and five assists in the tournament to walk away with the World Cup and the Golden Ball.
People to this day, even in nations as tiny and distant as Bangladesh, hold him in the highest regard, and even reverence, for his contributions to sport.
Check out the famous goal for yourself:
9) Brian Lara’s 400 not out – Antigua, 2004
The same venue. The same opposition. Exactly ten years apart. It was a classic case of deja vu. Brian Charles Lara (as Tony Grieg likes to call him), batting on 374, lifted the ball high into the skies, and over the stands, to tie the record for the highest individual score in a Test match. The 34-year-old then went on to reclaim the record that he had set a decade earlier by becoming the first ever batsman to score a quadruple century in Test matches. It’s one of those moments you look back upon and wonder – Gee, destiny, is that stuff really true?
Lara, incidentally is also the only batsman ever to have scored a quintuple century (501) in first class cricket, which beyond doubt puts the West Indian legend in the category of absolute, unadulterated genius.
Some of the highlights from that innings, including a couple of his majestic, patented sixes against spinners.
8) Michael Phelps – Beijing Olympics (2008)
Upon being asked about his chances, all he had to say was, “I am going to prepare for that meet just like I do every other meet”. We didn’t see it coming. We wonder if he saw it coming. But it came. In fact they all came. 8 of them came. The American swimmer did the unthinkable by winning 8 gold medals out of a possible 8. At the world’s biggest and most competitive stage. They tested him for steroids, they couldn’t find a thing. They said he was a freak of nature with a unique body constitution. He didn’t care. By the end of it all, Michael Phelps had recorded a truly great story in the history of sports.
He swept opponents away and collected heaps of golds along the way, a process wherein records tumbled all around, and when that eighth and final medal came his way in the men’s 4×100 m medley relay, he had not only broken Mark Spitz’s jaw-dropping record of seven golds at Munich ’72, but also ensured that his 100 % record could only be matched at best, but never surpassed.