Review of the Sporting Year 2014: Part II

Our sports writers reveal what stood out for them in 2014

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Part Two: What made us laugh, gasp, cry and clap

Part One here

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Sam Wallace - Chief Football Correspondent

Live moment of the year

Nothing beats the World Cup Final for the sense of history. It transforms forever the standing of the players who win it. The game at the Maracana was intriguing, if lacking in the spectacular moments that had been so plentiful in the first two rounds. It was fitting that the great German generation won it, although Lionel Messi deciding the game with a moment of brilliance would have been the Hollywood ending.

Worst disappointment 

Easy: England’s World Cup. Having low expectations is one thing, fulfilling them is another. For all the sense that has been spoken and the progress of a few young players since, you fear nothing changes and a familiar narrative will unfold at Euro 2016.

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England players after the defeat Uruguay knocked them out of the World Cup

Shock of the Year

I still find it hard to believe that San Marino got a point against Estonia in Euro 2016 qualifying in November. It was only the second game in their history that did not end in defeat, and from what I have seen of them against England they are getting worse.

Favourite interviewee

I enjoyed the insight and honesty of Ronald Koeman and Franny Jeffers. Interviewing Fernando Torres in April, however, was the best. Nato treaties have been agreed in less time than it took to get to see him but when we finally met, he was open and frank. An insight into the kind of mentality required to survive football’s highs, and lows.

Newcomer of the year

Harry Kane has exceeded expectations and become the kind of striker that Tottenham hoped Roberto Soldado might be. The curious thing about Kane is that he does not have an obvious quality in abundance – speed, strength, finishing – but the whole package is impressive. He scores goals, has self-belief and has a chance of becoming an international by Euro 2016.

Footballer of the year

Thomas Müller. The most effective footballer in a World Cup-winning side. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but the kind of player that few defences ever get a handle on. Unorthodox and supremely confident.

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Thomas Muller scores in the 7-1 win against Germany

Funniest moment of year

The Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez’s lengthy denouncement of Fifa for having the temerity to ban Luis Suarez for his third biting offence. It felt a bit like a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel with one of those South American generals rallying his men in a dusty town square. The Uruguayan press loved it though, and broke into applause.

Best Press conference

For the drama it was hard to beat Luiz Felipe Scolari’s grave address to the nation after his team’s 7-1 mauling by Germany in the World Cup. This was a man who had won the World Cup for Brazil and now had to accept that his legacy had changed forever. He admitted as much.

Villain of the year

Isn’t this supposed to be Sepp Blatter’s title every year? He has probably won it enough times to keep the trophy. He can have it again for the Michael Garcia farrago and his decision to stand for a fifth term as Fifa president.

Saddest moment

The account of the lives – and deaths – of some of the immigrant workers on Qatar’s 2022 World Cup final infrastructure, revealed by the reporter Pete Pattisson, was appalling.

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Steve Bunce - Boxing Correspondent

Live moment of the year

The moment George Groves dropped to the canvas for a full count of 10 in front of 80,000 at Wembley. Carl Froch connected cleanly in round eight and the sickening knockout silenced the booing from a restless crowd on an extraordinary night under the stars.

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George Groves is knocked out by a perfect Carl Froch punch

Worst disappointment 

The increasingly blurred lines between amateur boxing and professional boxing. The men in charge of what was known as amateur boxing now have two tournaments where their boxers compete without head guards and over as many as 10 rounds. It will end in tears at the Rio Olympics.

Shock of the Year

The return of heavyweight boxing in America. Bermane Stiverne, a Haitian based in Las Vegas, won the WBC heavyweight title, next year he fights Alabama’s Deontay Wilder, who is unbeaten in 32 with 32 knockouts. The big boys are back and that is good news for boxing.

Favourite interviewee

In 1997 Dave Radford had four days’ notice to travel to South Africa for 10 rounds with Roberto Duran. “I was just a plasterer from Yorkshire and he was Roberto Duran. He was dirty, but I gave him back a bit of it. It was a bloody good scrap.” The pair were reunited in Cannock in September.

Newcomer of the year

Kid Galahad from Brendan Ingle’s Sheffield gym won the European super-bantamweight title. He is the free antidote in a business driven by hype.

Person of the year

Easy. He fought as an amateur, trained amateurs, trained and promoted professionals and then managed one of the great heavyweights. He made enemies of boxing’s rulers, never stopped searching for a new champion and in the summer declared he was a woman. Step forward, mind those heels, Kellie Maloney.

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Kellie Maloney

Funniest moment

Any of the glorious cameos by Chris Eubank in the life and fighting times of his son, Chris Jnr. The father played a blinder by removing pressure from his son’s shoulders. However, his corner antics and outfits of sleeveless jackets and purple winklepickers were fabulous.   

Best press conference

Any of those that Shannon Briggs invaded. He was world heavyweight champion in 2007, lost to Lennox Lewis in 1998 but this year he pursued Wladimir Klitschko relentlessly; his abuse moved him to the top of Wlad’s list for a March fight in New York.

Villain of the year

Tyson Fury was the pantomime villain again. A second seven-figure fight with David Haye collapsed, his showdown with Dereck Chisora was postponed at five days’ notice and he had to pay a £15,000 fine for ranting and raving.

Saddest moment

The painful twilight, obscure fights of Danny Williams who is now 41. This year he fought five times in four countries and won once. He is fighting to put his children through school. “I have to do it,” he said. He’s probably right, but it’s still wrong.

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Paul Newman - Tennis  Correspondent 

Favourite live moment

Gaël Monfils is a wonderful showman but a winner against Alejandro Gonzalez at the US Open was outrageous. Gonzalez played a ball deep to the middle of the court and Monfils leapt into the air and smacked an unstoppable forehand cross-court winner.

Disappointment of the year

Andy Murray worked desperately hard to reach the World Tour Finals but seemed a spent force by the time he got there. He started with a lame defeat to Kei Nishikori and was crushed in just 56 minutes by Roger Federer.

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Andy Murray struggles at the O2 Arena

Shock of the year

A modest upturn in Marin Cilic’s form in the summer gave little indication of the devastation he would wreak when he won the US Open with three successive straight-sets victories. Tomas Berdych, Roger Federer and Kei Nishikori were blown off the court by an awesome display of power.

Favourite interviewee

Maria Sharapova must have discussed it a million times but she looked back on her 2004 Wimbledon triumph with the joy of someone doing so for the first time. The Russian is the game’s ultimate professional, whether on the court, in the boardroom, on the catwalk – or in the interview room.

Newcomer of the year

Nick Kyrgios was ranked No 226 in March but ended the season at No 52. At Wimbledon the 19-year-old Australian saved nine match points before beating Richard Gasquet and then produced one of the shocks of the year with his defeat of Rafael Nadal.

Player of the year

Rory McIlroy called off their wedding after the invitations had gone out, but Caroline Wozniacki’s response showed great strength of character. She played her best tennis for years to reach the US Open final, rejoined the world’s top 10 and ran the New York Marathon.

Funniest moment

After winning the Australian Open Li Na thanked her agent:  “He made me rich – thanks a lot”. And her husband: “He’s my hitting partner, fixes the drinks, fixes the rackets. You do a lot of jobs. Thanks a lot. You are a nice guy. You were lucky to find me.”

Best press conference

Ernests Gulbis was asked at Wimbledon what he thought of John McEnroe’s idea to get rid of umpires. “Get rid of vampires?” Gulbis said. “I completely agree.” The bemused Latvian spent the next two minutes talking about hangers-on who were like vampires, “sucking the energy out of players”.

Villain of the year

Fabio Fognini was fined $27,500 (£17,600), a Wimbledon record, after his victory over Alex Kuznetsov. Having been deducted a point for throwing his racket, the Italian argued at length with officials. He was given two fines ($20,000 and $5,000) for unsportsmanlike conduct and a third of $2,500 for a “visible obscenity”.

Saddest moment of the year

Elena Baltacha, who died from liver cancer at 30, had the warmest smile in tennis. She had defied illness and injury throughout her career, but was always positive, never more so than when working at the academy she had set up for under-privileged children.

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Elena Baltacha died of liver cancer in May, less than six months after retiring

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David Tremayne - Formula One  Correspondent

Favourite live moment

Nothing beats a World Championship showdown, and Abu Dhabi provided the perfect venue as Lewis Hamilton’s date with destiny saw him rise from defeat by title rival Nico Rosberg in qualifying to make the best start, then win both the race and the title in devastating style.

Disappointment of the Year

F1’s engineers created cars which used 30 per cent less fuel. It was a major environmental success story that went completely untold by the FIA’s feeble communications department.

Shock of the Year

As he celebrated victory in America during his string of nine consecutive successes in 2013 Sebastian Vettel told his Red Bull crew: “We have to remember these days, there’s no guarantee they’ll last forever.” In 2014 Mercedes put a stop to them, but who would have foreseen Vettel’s failure to even look like winning?

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Lewis Hamilton celebrates his second world title

Favourite interviewee

Daniel Ricciardo, he of the amazing smile. This is a guy who is just happy with his life and what he does. He’s funny, polite, engaged.

Newcomer of the year

The performance of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, 17, in Brazilian Friday morning practice holds the promise of great excitement next season.

Person of the Year

Susie Wolff did a fine job with Williams, especially in her free practice run in Germany when she was two 10ths off Felipe Massa. But besides underlining her credibility as F1’s first woman driver since 1992, she demonstrated tremendous class off the track.

Funniest moment of year

In Abu Dhabi a reporter from Saabrucker Zeitung launched into one of those multi-layer questions including a Niki Lauda quote about monkeys capable of driving F1 cars, seeking to know whether it’s now too complicated. When he was finally done after five minutes, Vettel asked with his impish smirk: “Can you repeat the question?”

Best press conference

In Sochi the FIA bared its soul in candid fashion when president Jean Todt and race director Charlie Whiting faced the media for 90 minutes as every question relating to Jules Bianchi’s horrible accident in Suzuka the previous weekend was asked – and answered.

Villain of the year

It served former Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo right that he raged against the new technical regulations (“taxi cab racing”) at the very event in which the 2014 battle between Hamilton and Rosberg exploded into brilliant on-track-drama – and his red cars were a feeble ninth and 10th.

Saddest moment of the year

In October, the cruel accident that befell Jules Bianchi in Suzuka left a future Ferrari driver trapped in a netherworld from which everyone in F1 continues to pray he will return safely.

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Matt Majendie - Athletics  Correspondent

Favourite live moment

Jo Pavey at 40 and still breastfeeding daughter Emily earlier in the year winning European gold over 10,000m. “Supermum” did that just 10 days after winning Commonwealth Games bronze.

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Jo Pavey celebrates after winning European gold

Disappointment of the year

The injury to Katarina Johnson-Thompson denied fans the chance to see how capable a successor she may yet prove to be to Jessica Ennis-Hill.

Shock of the year

That Olympic champion David Rudisha is a mere mortal after all. The favourite to win Commonwealth gold, he was well clear before Nijel Amos, a part-time Botswanan DJ, picked his way through the field to pip Rudisha.

Favourite interviewee

David Rudisha at his Stuttgart training base. It was bizarre to find the great 800m runner living in what was akin to student accommodation. He covered every subject before making chai and inviting me to watch Star Trek with him.

Newcomer of the year

Matthew Hudson-Smith was a breath of fresh air as he made the shift from the 200m to 400m. The ever-smiling Midlander won double relay gold at the Commonwealth Games and then the European Championships, winning individual silver in Zurich as well.

Athlete of the year

A share between Pavey and Greg Rutherford who became Commonwealth and European champion in the space of a few days.

Funniest moment

France’s Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad had just swept the floor with his rivals in the 3,000m steeplechase at the European Championships and, in the home straight, whipped off his top and swung it over his head. The outrage at his actions were laughable.

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Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad sparked anger after taking off his shirt in celebration

Best press conference

Usain Bolt – again. At a Commonwealth Games press conference he took questions on everything from the Arab-Israeli conflict to Scottish Independence – then posed for a selfie with an Australian television reporter.

Villain of the year

Justin Gatlin who professes his innocence despite having served two doping bans.

Saddest moment

Lynsey Sharp’s disappointment after “only” winning silver in the Europeans when she collapsed into her mum’s arms and burst into tears.

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