That’s where my vote went. Cyclist supreme. First ever British winner of the Tour de France – the ultimate endurance test – and olympic Gold medallist in the men’s cycling time trial. And a personality and a very cool dresser – in a Mod style.
There was fantastic competition though. Mainly through the great feats in this summer’s Olympics and Paralympics. Jessica Ennis, Mo Farrah, David Weir, Sarah Storey and so many others. I waxed lyrical on my Sportsthoughts posts at the time. It was the most uplifting summer of sport ever. And the two events brought people together in an unprecedented way. Barriers – national, racial, able bodied/disabled , the daily surliness of London – all dissolved. We were united in admiration of all the athletes. And cheered up by all those volunteers – the Games Makers. And, of course, all those victories of our British athletes. There were so many medals we barely knew how to cope!
Reserve and cynicism was out. Celebration was in.
The best of times.
Looking back, there are other great moments for me, as a sports lover in 2012. My football team, West Ham, got promoted back into the Premier League. My rugby team, Harlequins, won the Premiership – top of the league and winners of the play offs. The elation of that day at Twickenham when we triumphed over Leicester in the play off final was as good as any single moment the Olympics. Well, OK, not quite as moving as Jess’s tears … but close.
In football it was good to have a new winner of the Premier League in Man City. Especially with the way that they snatched victory in the last minutes of the last game of the season against QPR, with Man Utd thinking they’d done it up at Sunderland. City are bankrolled by an oil sheikh, so aren’t really lovable anymore, but there’s still a bit of an affection for them, from when cityitis was a synonym for implosion and farce.
And while I’m no fan of Chelsea, they have to be given credit for winning the Champions’ League against the odds. Those back-to-the-wall victories, against Barcelona in the semis and Bayern Munich in the final, were extraordinary.
Then there is Andy Murray in the tennis. Runner up at Wimbledon to the brilliant Roger Federer, winner of the US Open against Djokovic (his first major) and winner of Olympic Gold. I’ve never been a big fan, partly because of his anyone-but-England attitude to other sports (a healthy Scottish trait!), but really, this was a magnificent year for him – the breakthrough year. Winning a major – that is seriously good.
And the European golfers at the Ryder Cup in the US. What was that all about? The comeback of all time! Ian Poulter leading from the front. Pure passion.
And then, just recently, the England cricket team excelling in India, poised to win a test series over there for the first time in 28 years (as long as they don’t collapse tomorrow!). And in rugby, that amazing England performance against New Zealand. Winning with style and gusto. New hope for the future.
The footballers were predictably disappointing in the European Championships in Ukraine and Poland, but that aside, I think we have to mark 2012 as just about the best year of sport, ever, in Britain.
At the heart of it, the Olympics of course.
We did it!