Best forgettable sporting moments of 2012
Memorable sporting achievements of this past year included a successfully held London Olympics, Chelsea’s ultimate David-beats-Goliath feat in the UEFA Champions League, Roger Federer’s albeit short-lived return to the top of the pile in men’s tennis, Bradley Wiggins’ conquest of the world’s toughest sporting test in the Tour de France, the Miami Heat’s Big Three finally delivering an NBA championship ring at the second time of asking and another successful Formula 1 title defence by Sebastian Vettel. However, there were enough doping scandals, ego clashes and miserable performances around to make this selection of the worst five sporting moments of the year, extremely contentious. Still, here goes the best forgotten sports images of the year that was.
India’s Olympic shame
In a way, this had been a long time coming. Embroiled in controversy since one can remember, the mishandling of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) finally resulted in the nation being dumped out of the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. Ever quick to slam the political wrangling between governing bodies in sports like hockey and vocally demanding that the profitable Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is brought under the auspices of either or both the Sports Ministry and the Right to Information Act, the IOA never cared to set their own house in order.
Exasperated at the lack of will on part of the IOA to ensure zero governmental control in its administration, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) finally ensured that the proud tricolor would not adorn the Games venues in Brazil. If only things changed now.
The Lance Armstrong ‘witch hunt’
Seven years since Lance Armstrong won the last of his seven Tour de France titles, the United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA) launched yet another doping trial against the Texan. Having battled his way through numerous trials earlier, the cancer survivor decided to finally lay down his guard, well into his 40’s. Even while granting USADA jurisdiction over the case, the American judicial system raised a question as to the ‘motives’ behind USADA’s latest case.
Why now after all these years? Weren’t there doping offences going on everyday in numerous sports which the USADA themselves were finding difficult to cope up with? The USADA based their case on ‘new evidence and testimony’ by a string of Armstrong’s former teammates at US Postal Services and the Discovery Channel teams. Despite an initial attempt by Armstrong’s lawyers to get USADA to reveal these testimonies, the agency contentiously refused. If they were indeed serious about attaining justice, why withhold statements which they had on record?
The USADA could only test Armstrong’s urine samples for a period dating back eight years, meaning only the 2004 and 2005 Tour titles of the American were called into question. But Armstrong’s decision to not fight proceedings resulted in calls to strip him off all seven of his Tour titles as well as his Olympic bronze medal in the individual time trial from the 2000 Sydney Olympics. But considering that 10 of the next 12 finishers behind Armstrong in many of his Tour victories, including some of his former teammates who testified against him (according to media reports), had all tested positive for banned substances at various points in their careers, who would be awarded those titles?
Indeed, isn’t it possible that just as Armstrong is rumoured to have bought loyalty from the international cycling federation (UCI) and his trainers and teammates, the USADA could have bought testimony from his former teammates, who themselves are dope tainted, by promising amnesty? A very murky business indeed.
Slow down Schumi
The man who was continuously the fastest man in the world behind the wheels of a Ferrari, ended his second coming with little more than a whimper. Michael Schumacher may have left the rest of the world trailing behind his exhaust fumes during the 90’s and early 2000’s, but his three-year comeback from retirement ended without a single victory or podium finish.
Consistently outdone by his younger German counterpart Nico Rosberg, Schumi managed only a handful of outstanding drives that reminded one and all of the champion he once was. But overall, the notoriously methodical racer, with the characteristic leap on the podium, found out just as another legend in Michael Jordan did before him, that the game changes faster than Steve Slater can say, “the five lights illuminate and they’re off…”
Oz harvest and home Cooking
If the 2011 World Cup success softened the 4-0 Test whitewash in England, there was no corresponding achievement in limited overs cricket to balance the ignominy of the similar roasting Down Under. MS Dhoni’s men headed to Australia in December of that year, dreaming of a historic series victory against a host side adjusting to life under a new captain and the passing of guard from Glen McGrath, Shane Warne and co. to a much younger and inexperienced bowling department.
But while Rahul Dravid’s wall was constantly breached, forcing the legend into retirement, the seeds of discontent in the Indian dressing room were sown and the visitor’s bowling unit ripped to shreds, the Aussies kick started a real revival in fortunes, reminiscent of what was begun by Allan Border’s 1987 World Cup winning side. The Oz harvest campaign, which uses leftover food from hotels to feed the poor, aptly describes India’s plummeting in fortunes – from world champions to whipping boys feeding on scraps.
When Alastair Cook’s England, who had defeated the Aussies in Australia earlier in 2011, beat the Indians 2-1 on their own spinning graveyards of pitches last month, this fall from grace was complete. England became the first country to come back from a deficit to twice win a Test series on India soil. What more is left to be seen? A Test series whitewash by Bangladesh?
Saina’s bronze-sized ego
While India rejoiced as one at Saina Nehwal’s bronze medal winning feat at the London Olympics, the manner of that success was extremely disappointing. While the 22-year-old Hyderabadi lass has the ability to beat any other female singles player in the world, she looked well short of her best in the semifinals against Wang Yihan and the bronze-medal playoff against Wang Xin, both of China.
At the Wembley Arena, Saina had no answer for the reach, movement and power of then world No.1 Yihan in the semis and would surely have returned without a medal had it not been for Xin’s ankle injury that forced her to retire early into the second game, having won the first. The look on Xin’s face when she had to pull out of the game was easily the most endearingly sad moment of the year, whatever your nationality.
China did of course work their devious ways by removing the other Wang, Shixian (against whom Saina has a formidable record), and sending world No.4 Li Xuerui in her place. But when you have four of the best five shuttlers in the world, I guess you are allowed to make that call. Another disgrace from the same venue was the game throwing scandal in the women’s doubles as teams tried to fashion a satisfactory draw for themselves in the quarterfinals.
But the biggest disaster for Indian badminton resulting from Saina’s bronze is the way it has fuelled her ego. While the Badminton Association of India (BAI) is by no means an innocent, model sporting body, they are surely justified in requesting the presence of top stars at the National Championships and the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold event. But Saina’s short-lived appearance, where she retired a point from match point in her opening game of the latter event, having already booked her flight for Hyderabad for the afternoon, is nothing short of sheer impudence. A recurrence of an old ankle injury? Really, who are you trying to fool?