The best and worst sporting moments of 2021

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It has been another astonishing year of sporting drama, featuring Champions League glory for Chelsea, a stunning tennis triumph for Emma Raducanu, the most dramatic F1 season in living memory and on-field agony combined with off-field shame at the Euro 2020 final.

Here, the PA news agency looks back on five of the best and worst sporting moments of 2021.

Best moments

Raducanu’s fairytale in New York

Emma Raducanu
Emma Raducanu reacts after winning the women’s singles final on day 12 of the US Open (Michael Nagle/Xinhua via PA)

Emma Raducanu was ranked 150th in the world when she entered US Open qualifying, yet 10 matches later she was clutching the trophy after becoming the first British woman to win a grand slam singles title since Virginia Wade in 1977. Wade was watching from the stands at Flushing Meadows as the 18-year-old Raducanu defeated fellow teenager Leylah Fernandez 6-4 6-3 in the final, just three months after completing her A-levels.

Olympic high jumpers decide to share gold

The delayed Tokyo Olympics provided many memorable moments from a British perspective, with Tom Dean and Adam Peaty both winning two gold medals in the pool and team-mate Duncan Scott becoming the first British athlete to win four Olympic medals in a single Games. However, arguably the most joyous moment came when high jumpers Gianmarco Tamberi and Mutaz Essa Barshim decided to share the Olympic title rather than face a jump-off. Tamberi was thrilled with Barshim’s offer and instantly accepted before jumping into his rival’s arms.

Verstappen snatches controversial F1 title

Max Verstappen
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen celebrates alongside team principal Christian Horner after winning his first Formula One world championship title (PA Wire)

After an incident-packed season, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton amazingly went into the final race in Abu Dhabi level on points in pursuit of a first and record eighth drivers’ title respectively. Verstappen started from pole but was beaten off the line by Hamilton and the British driver appeared to be cruising to victory until a safety car was required with five laps remaining. Verstappen pitted for fresh tyres and, with the lapped cars between the Dutchman and Hamilton controversially allowed to get out of the way, Verstappen surged past his rival on the final lap to seal an extraordinary victory.

Chelsea win the Champions League

Chelsea
Chelsea players celebrate after beating Manchester City in the Champions League final in Porto as City’s Sergio Aguero (right) appears dejected (Adam Davy/PA)

Chelsea turned a season of turmoil into the ultimate triumph as Kai Havertz’s ice-cool finish sunk Manchester City 1-0 to swipe Champions League glory in Porto. Mason Mount’s inch-perfect assist stunned domestic double-winners City at the Estadio do Dragao, as Chelsea claimed their second Champions League title to etch boss Thomas Tuchel’s name into the Stamford Bridge annals, just 124 days after he had taken over following the departure of Frank Lampard.

Mickelson makes history

Nine days after accepting a special exemption for the US Open, Phil Mickelson rendered it unnecessary in amazing fashion by becoming the oldest winner in major championship history. Mickelson held his nerve during a pulsating final round at Kiawah Island to win his sixth major title in the 103rd US PGA Championship, 16 years on from lifting the Wanamaker Trophy for the first time. The 50-year-old was a 280-1 outsider at the start of the week but a closing 73 was enough to finish two shots ahead of Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen. Julius Boros had been the previous oldest major champion, claiming the US PGA title in 1968 at the age of 48.

Worst moments

Euro 2020 final

Euro 2020 final
There were chaotic scenes at Wembley (Handout photo provided by Baroness Casey Review)

As if losing to Italy on penalties was not bad enough, the racism directed at some of England’s players and the chaotic scenes in and around Wembley ensured the Euro 2020 final will go down as a shameful moment in English football history. Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were bombarded with racist abuse on social media after their misses in the shootout, while more than 20 “near-misses” which could have resulted in serious injury or death were identified in a review of the reckless behaviour of ticketless individuals who tried, and in some cases succeeded, to gain entry to the stadium.

Christian Eriksen

Earlier in the tournament, Denmark’s Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest during the first half of his side’s opening game against Finland. The distressing scenes of Eriksen suddenly collapsing and receiving treatment on the pitch were seen around the world and Denmark’s team doctor Morten Boesen later confirmed that the former Tottenham player “was gone” prior to being resuscitated. Denmark’s captain Simon Kjaer was one of the first players on the scene and appeared to clear Eriksen’s airways before his anxious team-mates formed a protective ring around him as he received treatment.

Ryder Cup defeat

Ryder Cup
Team USA celebrate with the Ryder Cup after their record 19-9 victory over Europe at Whistling Straits (Anthony Behar/PA)

Europe went into their defence of the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits as underdogs given the strength of the United States team, but few could have imagined the result proving so overwhelmingly one-sided. Padraig Harrington’s side slumped to a record 19-9 defeat as a US team boasting 12 players all ranked inside the world’s top 21 lived up to their reputations and laid down a worrying marker for future contests.

Rahm suffers double Covid-19 blow

Jon Rahm looked set to make a successful defence of his title in the prestigious Memorial Tournament after completing his third round with a six-shot lead, only to be told before he left the 18th green that he had tested positive for Covid-19 and had to withdraw. The world number one bounced back brilliantly to win his first major title in the US Open 15 days later, only to test positive again shortly before the Olympics and have to miss the Games in Tokyo.

Tiger Woods’ car accident

Tiger Woods car accident
The vehicle driven by Tiger Woods on the back of a truck in Los Angeles after he suffered leg injuries when the vehicle rolled over (Keiran Southern/PA)

Woods was travelling at almost twice the legal speed limit of 45mph when he crashed his car in Los Angeles in February, the 15-time major winner surviving “what would otherwise have been a fatal crash” because the interior of his vehicle remained largely intact, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. Woods required surgery on open fractures to his lower right leg and further injuries to his foot and ankle and said at one point he feared that his right leg could be amputated.

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