BRAZIL V ITALY, WORLD CUP, 1982
Brazil were stylish and skilful, yet were sunk 3-2 by a Paolo Rossi hat-trick in the second group stage. Captain Socrates never had the courage to watch a replay, but over a decade later in Japan – as he recounted in Andrew Downie’s book Doctor Socrates – the match came on while he was in a bar. “I was transfixed,” he said. “I thought it was brilliant, an amazing game, fantastic.”
Watch at: bit.ly/2TSOKsi
USAIN BOLT, 9.58 SECONDS, BERLIN, 2009
In the clip, Michael Johnson, then a commentator, looks stunned. This is too fast even for him. As the World Championships 100m race concludes, Bolt looks to his left, not searching for a rival but looking at the clock. That is what he runs against: Time. As Johnson says: “I don’t know that we ever will see anything like him ever again.”
NADIA COMANECI, PERFECT 10, 1976; SIMONE BILES, TRIPLE DOUBLE, 2019
It is instructive to watch both gymnasts one after the other, the first elegant, the second explosive. The Romanian produced the first perfect 10 and then added six more at the Montreal Olympics. Now the American has taken gymnastics to another level of perfection. Last year, she unveiled her triple double which is a double backflip with three twists. It requires multiple viewings to completely believe it.
Watch: bit.ly/33mzR4I & bit.ly/2Qkbe3A
JOSEPH SCHOOLING, OLYMPIC 100M BUTTERFLY, 2016
Because I was lucky to be there, because I remember my younger Singaporean colleague crying during the anthem in Rio, because Schooling was so poised, because of all that I watch this race every few months.
His dad, Colin, sometimes watched it a few times a day. “Initially, for the first two years, I watched it nearly every day,” he said yesterday. “Sometimes three times a day. In my perception it was the most perfect race he ever had. Now I watch it once in a while.”
ALI-FRAZIER, MANILA, 1975
How did this Ali guy hypnotise your dads, what is this Thrilla in Manila your granddads mention? Watch to find out. This masterpiece between two warriors, who did not care for each other, is so remorseless that their words described it best. Frazier said: “I hit him with punches that’d bring down the walls of a city. Lawdy, lawdy, he’s a great champion.” Ali admitted: “It was like death. Closest thing to dying that I know of.”
GABRIELA ANDERSEN-SCHIESS, OLYMPIC MARATHON, 1984
Victory is not the only way to measure success in sport. Sometimes it just lies in finishing, in beating the heat and conquering pain. At the end of the race in Los Angeles, Andersen-Schiess is dehydrated, wobbling, limping, staggering. Medical personnel shadow her but she waves them off. It is awful to watch and yet astonishing. She is 39, this is her last chance, and she said: “I’m in the Olympics, I wanna finish this race.”
And so, incredibly, she did.
TIGER WOODS, US OPEN, 2008
This is a limping, grimacing, club-chucking, epic Woods. At one point he wrenches his knee and caddie Steve Williams suggests he should quit, to which Woods swears and says: “I am winning this tournament.” This short film is masterful not just due to the golf but because of the brilliant, human quotes from Rocco Mediate, who lost to Woods.
BRANDI CHASTAIN, WOMEN’S WORLD CUP, 1999
In Sports Illustrated the headline said “Yes!”, in Newsweek it said “Girls Rule”. Both used the same cover picture, the iconic, joyous image of Chastain in her black sports bra. Her penalty went in, her shirt was exuberantly whipped off.
The 15-minute clip focuses on the penalty shoot-out at the Rose Bowl in the World Cup final and it represents all the waiting, uncertainty and tension of that moment. Eventually Chastain, 30, seals it with a left-footer and pandemonium breaks loose. Years later she reveals that she sees that bra every day. It’s framed in her house.
MATTHIAS STEINER, OLYMPIC WEIGHTLIFTING 105+KG, 2008
Sport is not just about the famous star, but also the unknown human producing the famous act. Steiner’s story is worth watching if only for the way he reacts to his victory in Beijing. It tells you what the Olympics mean. But his tale is also a poignant one, for the German is not just lifting for himself but for his wife, who died the year before.
TESSA VIRTUE AND SCOTT MOIR, OLYMPIC ICE DANCE, 2018
Chemistry in sport cannot always be explained but you know it when you see it. This is what Moir and Virtue display at Pyeongchang, a oneness of spirit and movement which has the world swooning. Were they dating? Surely? No, they were just pals and partners, doing on ice what the Bolshoi does on a ballet stage.
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