PalSport’s Moments of 2023


Tears, headbands, and delerium
The point of this exercise is often to pick the moment that pulled on our heartstrings; made you tear up a little. After all, that’s the beauty of sport- it’s ability to make you feel ways few other things can. And perhaps the most emotional moment this year was the final day of the last test of the Ashes. The night before, Stuart Broad had announced his retirement from his 17 year career. A sea of headband-wearing fans had filled the stands to say goodbye but as the final day drew to a close England still needed two wickets to rescue a draw in the Ashes on home soil. Fear not though as the script writers had really outdone themselves this time as, in what was his final over ever, Broad took the final two wickets! A send-off truly worthy of the legend he is and the best sporting moment of the year.


Squirming like a worm in the Wimbledon grass

I squirmed, I squealed, and I sat restlessly. These three actions encapsulate my body movement as I watched a young Spaniard and an old Serb drift and glide across Wimbledon grass on my TV screen. It was mesmerising and beautiful yet so agonising and emotionally draining. The battle between Alcaraz and Djokovic in the English sun was the best sporting moment of 2023 for this very reason that I am alluding to; our emotions were dragged through the mud (in a good way), like never before. Only until the very conclusion of the match did we know the outcome and it is this lack of certainty that turns a select group of sporting events into a spectacle.


Underdogs Portugal stun at the Rugby World Cup
When the Rugby World Cup started, Portugal were by no means a team which was really being talked about. Fast forward a month into the tournament and the chant ‘POR-TU-GAL’ was being shouted by everyone at the stadium for the team’s final match against Fiji. With Fiji ahead by six points and only four minutes left on the clock, it was looking as though Portugal had put up a good fight, but it just wasn’t going to be enough. Os Lobos clearly had different thoughts and a bit of magic from Raffaele Storti down the right wing led to a try by Rodrigo Marta, which was then converted by Samuel Marques. Now one point ahead, Portugal were one minute away from their first ever World Cup victory. When the clock ticked over 80 minutes, and the ball was booted into touch, the players’ emotions were clear. While South Africa won the whole tournament, I think it is undoubtable that Portugal went home as one of the teams happiest with their performance in the tournament, and rightly so.


Wesley’s Worldie
Albeit a rather rogue choice, Watford centre-back Wesley Hoedt’s Beckham-esque strike at Hull secures its place as my Sporting Moment of 2023. On a bitterly cold day in early December, Edo Kayembe’s early goal warmed the away contingent up by breaking the deadlock in the 8th minute. Only for Scott Twine to respond immediately in the 10th minute after Liam Delap ran straight through the Hornets’ slack defensive spine. It seemed inevitable that Hull would go on to take all three points, missing some guilt-edge chances, including a Jaden Philogene penalty which was saved by Watford’s stand-in goalkeeper (and former Premier League title winner with Leicester would you believe?), Ben Hamer. But it was not to be Hull’s day. Step forward Wesley Hoedt – stealing the ball on the halfway line, and unleashing an audacious 50-yard lob over Hull City goalkeeper Ryan Allsop to send the travelling contingent into raptures. By the time the final whistle blew, Hull City’s famous chant “You’re being mauled by the Tigers” had become “You’re being stung by the Hornets” whilst the rest of the stadium emptied out. An enthralling away day!


Derrick delivers a dagger to ice the heat and force game seven for the Celtics
My favourite basketball team, the Boston Celtics, were one game from a Conference Finals loss to the Miami Heat. From 3-0 to 3-2, it was 4am when Marcus Smart missed the game winning shot. I sank to my knees in despair before Derrick White, the man with the greatest hairline of all time, came flying in to crash the glass. He released the ball with 0.2 seconds remaining for the buzzer beater lay-up, stunning the Miami crowd. I must have woken all of Gilesgate when the replay showed the basket was good. It doesn’t get more dramatic than that. We won’t talk about game seven.


Broad bullies Baggy Green again
Stuart Broad gets the mind games going. Re-arranges the bails. Todd Murphy panics, flummoxed by Broad’s seemingly magic powers. Next ball he nicks off. Carey goes soon after, Broad’s 604th and final victim, another leftie. Australia are in shock. England have won the Ashes (morally). This was the perfect way for Broady to sign off his career. With 8-15 at Trent Bridge, the torture of David Warner in 2019, refusing to walk when clearly out 2013 and so many other iconic moments, Australia’s most hated man (2013) always brought his best to the Ashes, and always got in Aussie heads. And so the way it all ended could not have been more perfect. It brought tears to my eyes.


You must be Djoking
My favourite sporting moment of 2023 comes in the 186th minute of the Cincinnati Masters final in August, on Novak Djokovic’s match point in the final set against Carlos Alcaraz. The two best players in the world traded backhands, until Alcaraz shovelled a dropshot over the net. Starting from a mile behind the baseline, Djokovic retrieved it, then leapt across the court to place a volley out of Alcaraz’s reach. Except it wasn’t. The Spaniard steered his forehand past the Serb to claim the point, and the match would continue for another 40 minutes, when Djokovic would eventually have his way and collapse to the floor. This game represents the highest standard of tennis I have ever seen, along with impeccable sportsmanship.


Queen Kat back on top of the world again in Budapest
Just hours after the Lionesses were defeated in the World Cup Final in Australia, closer to home, Katarina Johnson-Thompson delivered my sporting moment of 2023. This assertion may be borne from my Scouse bias, but the performance of KJT in the mid-August Hungarian heat, to seal her second Heptathlon world title, is worthy of infinite praise. A solid start on Saturday was capped off with a quick 200m, leaving Kat top of the standings after four events. Sunday dissipated after she smashed her Javelin personal best, meaning she only had to keep American Anna Hall in her sights in the final event, the 800m. She did, with another new PB, crossing the line as a two-time World Champion. On her lap of honour, an enthusiastic British fan greeted her with a crown, as the National Athletics Centre stood in awe of ‘Queen Kat’. After previous heartbreak, including a mid- competition withdrawal in the Tokyo Olympics, the 30-year-old was on top of the world again. From uncertainty over ever competing again, KJT delivered a sensational gold, and is back to her best ahead of the forthcoming Paris Olympics. Denise Lewis, 2000. Jessica Ennis, 2012. Katarina Johnson-Thompson, 2024? It could be the defining year for this great of British Athletics, but for now, we should all marvel at her gold last August, which earned her third place at BBC Sports Personality of the Year a few weeks ago. How she failed to win the top prize, as the only individual champion on the shortlist, is beyond me. Again, perhaps that is just my Scouse bias.

Images:

Sports Fan via Wikimedia Commons

Daniel Cooper via Wikimedia Commons

Touam via Wikimedia Commons

Boston Celtics via Wikimedia Commons

Filip Bossuyt via Wikimedia Commons

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