2 months Eurosport
It’s safe to say that when it comes to the greatest sporting nations on earth, Australia and New Zealand are right up there. In fact, last year Melbourne was officially declared the Ultimate Sport City of the Decade. And who can forget that feeling of national pride during the Sydney Olympics? I don’t think anyone even found ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi’ annoying during that two-week period. Here are some of our all-time favourite Aussie and NZ sporting moments, that, even after all these years, still evoke the happy feels. Carn sports!
We all remember the green, alien-like skin suit Cathy wore in the Sydney 2000 Olympics; aerodynamically designed for maximum wind resistance, if not for style. She needn’t have worried – Cathy was always going to win the 400m. She had to, after all: she lit the opening ceremony flame, and a nation fully-expected her to win. It was tooth and nail until the final stretch when she shot off in a way that made it seem like she had only been jogging up until then. The greatest moment was still to come: when she celebrated with both the Aboriginal and Australian flags – uniting the country in a way we haven’t quite managed to do since
Cadel Evans is the finest cyclist Australia has ever produced. He competed in the Sydney 2000 Olympics, and had showed great promise in his 20s, but bungled two previous Tour de Frances. Against the odds (and how else do we want our victories to come, but “against the odds”?) he took out the most prestigious racing prize in the game, in 2011, at age 34. He is in the top five oldest winners in the race’s history, and one of only two people from outside of Europe to ever take first place in the Tour de France. He retired in 2015, in the most amazing way possible – with one final ride, competing in a race named after him. That’s how to make an exit.
Undoubtedly the two most dominant netball teams in the world, New Zealand’s Silver Ferns and Australia’s Diamonds, found themselves once again facing off for Commonwealth Games glory in the 2006 Gold Medal game in Melbourne. And this time, the Kiwis had a score to settle. After devastating losses against Australia in the past two Commonwealth Games, by a total of just 5 goals, New Zealand were determined that history was not going repeat itself. Captained by Adine Wilson, the Silver Ferns dominated the game from the beginning, eventually winning 60-55, and finally securing the gold. Making the victory all the more satisfying? It was on the Diamonds’ home turf.
On the flip side of Cathy Freeman’s glorious victory, but still as “Aussie” an experience – Steven Bradbury was a speed skater in a land when speed skating is prized slightly above frisbee when it comes to legitimate sports. Yet, when Bradbury raced at the Winter Olympics, at Salt Lake City in 2002, he became a national sporting hero and a symbol of the lucky country: when a collision wiped out the leading four finalists on the final turn, he sailed past them to score Australia its very first individual Winter Olympic Gold medal. Never forget how often luck plays a leading role in the world of sports.
New Zealand is a rugby-mad nation, which may be why they’re so bloody good at the game. Or perhaps it’s because they’re so good that New Zealanders love it so. Regardless, the Kiwis reign dominant in the sport – currently holding the Cup, having won it the most times ever (three), and being the most fearsome nation in the history of the sport. But NZ’s finest hour was in 1987, when they walloped France 29-9 to take out the first ever Rugby World Cup. The country had long assumed they were the best in the world, and now they had the proof – and a beautiful golden cup to boot.
132 years is quite a long time. In fact, it’s long enough that not one living soul can remember all of it. So, that simplistic explanation goes some way in describing the relief and glee felt in 1983 when the mighty vessel Australia II won the America’s Cup – ending the 132-year run of US victories in the world-famous race. You’ll still see footage of that victory at the dock on regular Best Ever montages still, and it inspired Bob Hawke’s most-loved and oft-quoted line: “Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum!” If the PM says that, it’s a national holiday!
Don Bradman | Wikipedia / Mark Taylor | Cricket Australia
Sir Donald Bradman was such an amazing cricketer that they knighted him, purely based on how good at it he was at hitting a ball. You don’t see that happening often, nor do you see a batsman dominating to the extent that Bradman ever did. His 334 runs, not out, against England in 1930 at Headingley was the purest example of Bradman in beast mode, smashing the ball around the park to score 309 runs during the opening day of play. It was a record that many experts simply assumed was unbreakable, until 1998, when Mark Taylor notched up 334 runs against Pakistan. Taylor was a dead cert. to break Sir Don’s longstanding record, but he was much classier than that. As captain, he declared for the day, opting not to break Don’s record, but to match it – keeping both batsmen at the top of the Test record book. What a guy!
At the 2016 Olympic Games, New Zealand rower, Mahe Drysdale, was back to defend the men’s single scull gold medal he’d won in London four years earlier. In a race that will go down in Olympic history, Drysdale and Croatia’s Damir Martin appeared to cross the finish line in unison, with the official clock showing they’d both completed the race in six minutes 41.34 seconds. After studying a photo of the finish, officials declared Drysdale the gold medalist, with a winning margin of just 5,000ths of a second. Giving the Kiwi’s their 2nd gold medal in Rio, 37 year old Drysdale’s victory also gave him the title of New Zealand’s oldest Olympic champion ever.
Australians love Rod Laver so much, that there’s a massive arena named after him. He is arguably the greatest ever Aussie tennis player, proving this beyond argument – although, as long as there’s sport, there will be arguments over who’s the greatest ever – in 1969, when he won all four Grand Slam single titles, for the second time in his career (the first being in 1962). This remains the last time a male player has done so. He won a mammoth 11 Grand Slam singles titles throughout his career, and like Bradman, Lionel Rose, or Wally Lewis, his legend has only increased with time.
– Posted by Nathan Jolly
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From Saturday 19 August
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