By Palatinate Sport
Kieran Moriarty – Palatinate Sport Editor – Bolt putting athletics on the long road to redemption
In the aftermath of the disgraceful doping scandal which is still sending shockwaves through athletics four months later, the 100m final at the Beijing World Championships was billed as the last stand for athletics. Never had ten seconds been so pivotal for the future of one sport.
Despite the other competitors on the start line, this race was only about two men. In one lane was the convicted drug cheat and fastest man of the season, Justin Gatlin. In another was the people’s champion and athletics’ reluctant saviour, Usain Bolt.
However this was not the same Bolt who exploded into the public consciousness with his record breaking and medal winning feats on his previous appearance in Beijing. This was an athlete whose aura of invincibility was beginning to fade, a combination of injury and age finally beginning to take its toll. Regardless of personal disposition towards him, Gatlin served his time and had been the fastest man on track in 2015 before this race. The odds seemed stacked against the sprinter on the side of the angels.
Yet as the very best sportsmen do on the biggest occasions, Bolt produced something magnificent. It was not a record breaking race and yet Bolt’s victory symbolised so much more. It represented a watershed moment for athletics. It signalled the beginning of the exorcism process of the ugly doping scandal that has plagued the sport for years and the potential dawn of a new era of clean athletics
Considering this, the snapshot of Bolt straining across the finish line ahead of Gatlin in the 100m sprint is my favourite sporting moment of 2015.
Charlie Richardson – Palatinate Sport Deputy Editor – Japan
In a year which delivered one of the finest Rugby World Cups in history, it seemed only fitting that my sporting highlight of 2015 came from that fantastic competition.
In one of the greatest upsets in the history of sport – let alone Rugby Union – bastions South Africa were taught a lesson by the Cherry Blossoms of Japan in Brighton. The knock-on effect of that result has already been of significant magnitude; after England’s disastrous campaign brought the curtain down on the reign of Stuart Lancaster et al, Japan’s two head honchos – Eddie Jones and Steve Borthwick – have recently been appointed to rebuild England’s national side, thanks in part to their sterling work with Japan.
There were heroes all around Brighton’s Community Stadium in September but who could forget the outrageous chutzpah of captain Michael Leitch during the closing moments of the match.
With a penalty in front of the posts, an easy three points beckoned to secure the unlikeliest of draws. However Leitch had other ideas. Against the will of his coach and most people watching on, the captain decided to opt for the scrum and go for broke. The rapturous euphoria which followed Karne Hesketh’s frantic evasion of JP Pietersen to score the match-winning try will be remembered by all 30,000 in attendance and the millions watching at home.
More of the same in 2016 please, Japan. And you, Eddie.
Nick Friend – Former Palatinate Sport Editor – Jose Mourinho’s downfall
From the moment that Eden Hazard went down, Eva Carneiro was in trouble. He rolled, he rolled and then he rolled some more. And with every roll, so rolled Carneiro closer to an exit.
Not, of course, that anything looked out of place. In fact, Carneiro was following both FA and medical guidelines. Jose Mourinho, though, needed a scapegoat. Having exhausted every one of those goats from ballboy to Benitez in the previous twelve months, the physio was next.
Now indeed, neither party is a Chelsea employee; one unceremoniously sacked against the will of the players, the other shown the door amid much controversy.
Some will say that the incident was overblown. Those few will forever sing the name of he who who hung his loyal lieutenant out to dry, alienating an entire dressing room.
As Lance Armstrong’s former soigneur, Emma O’Reilly, explained in her book The Race To Truth, the physio (or masseur in cycling) has the closest bond of any staff member with the player. They spend the most time together; one places his health in the other’s hands. Mourinho lost the players the moment they lost their physio.
It was the day that Special One was accused of becoming Sexist One. “Naïve”, “impulsive” and “doesn’t understand the game” were just three of the veiled jibes levelled at a woman doing her job.
The FA’s pitiful investigation followed and, without bothering to interview any of the prime witnesses, found Mourinho not guilty of any sexist inclination. It was an inquiry so scarce in detail that it’s somewhat surprising not to find Sepp Blatter’s scrawl somewhere near its bottom.
If her manager’s comments were a stab in the back of a highly respected medical doctor, the FA report added insult to the wound – a real two-fingered salute in the direction of women in football – that, regardless of qualifications, regardless of how correctly they clearly acted, they were free to be used as little more than cannon fodder for tactless and treacherous bosses.
Harry Littlehales – Palatinate Sport contributor – Pearson’s Partridge moment
Forget the England Women’s team finishing third at the World Cup, Bournemouth’s promotion to the top flight for the first time in their history or Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini getting banned from football for eight years.
In a sport which usually takes itself too seriously, we should be thankful for this one such brilliant moment of 2015; an incident of surreal comedy which reminded us all why we fell in love with the game as well as highlighting the stress of top flight management.
There is something immensely satisfying about watching an obnoxious manager well and truly lose his head in a press conference. After Leicester lost to Chelsea in April, Nigel Pearson duly obliged in his furious response towards the media over apparent criticism of his players. When a journalist questioned Pearson on what criticism he was referring to, Pearson went full Alan Partridge and delivered the now infamous line: “If you don’t know the answer to that question, then I think you are an ostrich. Your head must be in the sand. Is your head in the sand? Are you flexible enough to get your head in the sand? My suspicion would be no. I can, you can’t”.
Featured photograph: Steven Zwerink via Wikimedia Commons