We take a look back on British Sport over the past year, reflecting on the sporting highs and lows of 2015.
Three years on from London’s Olympics, its centrepiece stadium finally began regular operation in preparation for West Ham United’s impending tenancy, playing host to five Rugby World Cup games, a rugby league clash between England and New Zealand, and England triumphing in the Race of Champions. The athletics world, meanwhile, headed to Beijing’s Bird’s Nest for the IAAF World Championships, where Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis-Hill, and Greg Rutherford all added world titles to their 2012 gold medal collections. London, which had bid for those very games, will welcome them in 2017.
Perhaps the greatest triumph of all was saved for the end of the year, as Andy Murray defeated David Goffin of Belgium in straight sets to seal Great Britain’s first Davis Cup title since 1936. Having almost single-handedly guided the side to the title, winning all eight of his possible singles ties and the three doubles rubbers alongside brother Jamie (the pair becoming the first siblings to secure the three points to win a Cup encounter since 1998), Andy lifted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year trophy for the second time. Sure, the Davis Cup may no longer hold its previous lustre, but as recently as 2010 the side were one lost tie away from the bottom rung of the pyramid. A staggering achievement.
Tyson Fury, who seized most of the hubbub approaching the gala with his did-he-didn’t-he-oh-yes-he-did homophobia and sexism after defeating Wladimir Klitschko in their WBA/IBF/WBO/IBO/The Ring heavyweight bout, argued that he had more personality in his little toe than the other shortlisted candidates put together. Despite his continued pantomime, the public disagreed. A rematch awaits later this year, with a pair of British contenders in Anthony Joshua and David Haye both eager to fight furiously for the belts.
Another multi-title winner with an upcoming defence is Lewis Hamilton, who sealed a dominant third Formula One crown. His Mercedes package, built in Northamptonshire, once again proved dominant, with Hamilton and Nico Rosberg combining for 16 of a possible 19 race wins. Jenson Button, the only teammate who has ever beaten Hamilton in the championship, had a torrid year with the McLaren Honda, picking up fewer points in the entire season than Hamilton averaged per outing.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a summary of British sport without some underwhelming performances to boot. The main culprits were the World Cups of cricket and rugby union, where no British sides progressed even past the quarter-final stages. Ireland in the cricket and Scotland in the rugby came closest to glory, falling agonisingly short of progressing to the next rounds. England’s rugby team, however, reached the low ebb of becoming the first World Cup hosts to fail to escape the pools, launching countless inquests and leading to the appointment of former Japan coach Eddie Jones.
Some British teams did, however, truly capture the imagination with their success over the summer. Cycling outfit Team Sky, though saying goodbye to Bradley Wiggins in preparation for the upcoming Rio Olympics, shone yellow on the Champs-Élysées as Chris Froome won his second Tour de France – the success was Sky (and Britain’s) third in their history and all came in the last four years. This came in the face of persistent allegations in the French media (and golden showers on the mountains) surrounding his integrity, which continue to lack substantial supporting evidence.
England’s women did not suffer the same fate as their male counterparts in recent World Cup competition, actually managing to progress from their group stages. Furthermore, they began to win and attract the attention of a nation. Ultimately they fell in the dying light of the semi-final, as a 92nd minute own goal saw Japan through to face (and lose to) the United States in the final. Third place, however, belonged to England thanks to an extra-time penalty in the playoff against Germany in Edmonton.
The cricketing men were ultimately able to salvage something from the year. After the second dismissal of coach Peter Moores in barely over six years, Australia’s Trevor Bayliss led the developing English to victory in the most outstandingly mediocre Ashes series in history. Though the 3-2 scoreline may suggest otherwise, not a moment of it bore any real competitiveness, as the sides hit their highest and lowest points in parallel throughout. Not a single test went to a fifth day, and the main outcome of it all was an excuse for a clearout of the Australian ‘Dad’s Army’ ranks.
Certainly, there were some moments of magic. Stuart Broad segmenting Australia with eight wickets in an hour at Trent Bridge was nothing short of mesmerising and, by the end of the series, Joe Root had become the top test batsman in the world according to ICC rankings. As the Bayliss regime develops, so too it seems does the team, with subsequent performances against Pakistan and South Africa hinting at a somewhat triumphant national stride being met.