12 Lists of Christmas: Top 10 Sporting Moments of 2021

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17 December 2021

By Aisha Sembhi

The sporting world was put on hold following global Covid-19 restrictions last year – it’s no surprise that athletes were hungry to return to victory in 2021. The postponed events provided the perfect backdrops for what are to become infamous instances of bravery, heartbreak, and aggression.

It’s difficult to highlight only 10 moments, but we gave it our best go!

10. Pakistani victory against India

For Pakistan and India, cricket is more than a sport – it is almost a vehicle of expression. Therefore, it is no surprise that Pakistanis worldwide erupted in celebration during the 2021 T20 World Cup, which saw their team end a 12-years long loss-streak against their South Asian neighbour. The performance was acclaimed and is indicative of a brighter future for the team.

9. Oleksandr Usyk beats Anthony Joshua

September saw Briton Anthony Joshua bested by the undefeated Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk. The judges unanimously decided in the latter’s favour, resulting in the loss of Joshua’s three world heavyweight titles. Initial plans to unify all four world titles by pursuing WBC champion Tyson Fury have been left compromised, leaving fans hungry for further arrangements.

8. Azeem Rafiq cricket scandal

The world of British cricket was rocked after former Yorkshire County player, Azeem Rafiq, alleged years of racist abuse at the hands of colleagues and managers. Rafiq’s bravery will certainly define the sporting bureaucracy going forward, providing hope for a safer, more inclusive environment within the world of cricket.

7. Simone Biles withdraws from Olympics

As the most decorated gymnast of all time, Simone Biles shocked spectators when announcing her withdrawal from multiple events during the 2020 Olympic Games. She bravely cited the prioritisation of her mental health, setting an example to young athletic hopefuls. Biles still managed to secure bronze in the individual beam event, alongside the USA’s silver in the team event. 

6. Messi and Ronaldo make moves

The 2021 transfer window saw two football greats, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, change teams. Ronaldo made a historic return to Manchester United, 12 years after his initial departure; meanwhile, Messi emotionally separated from Barcelona after 21 years as financial regulations left the club unable to afford his talents. With 69 trophies between the two, their moves could define the remainder of the season.

5. Valentino Rossi retires

After achieving 89 wins and 7 world championships within the most elite level motorcycle road racing, MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi announced his retirement after 21 years. Rossi has served as an inspiration to the current generation of motorsport athletes, and will certainly leave a gaping hole in the field of road racing.

4. Joshua Cavallo comes out

Adelaide United player Joshua Cavallo made headlines as the first openly-LGBTQ+ identifying male elite footballer. Cavallo’s announcement made waves in the sport, being met with unprecedented support throughout the football community. He undoubtedly paved the way for a future of football that is more accepting and diverse.

3. Hamilton-Verstappen crashes

The 2021 F1 season has been defined by the rivalry between Lewis Hamilton, the defending seven-time World Champion, and Max Verstappen, who is hungry for his first title. Crashes between the two at Silverstone and Monza were defining moments in the season, being followed by public spats between team principles. However, it was Verstappen that topped the podium this year in what has to be have been one of the most nail-biting finales in F1 history.

2. Emma Raducanu wins US Open

At the age of 18, Emma Raducanu made history as she won the US Open Series. She is the first ‘qualifier’ (i.e., not automatically enrolled by virtue of world ranking position), to win a Grand Slam singles title, ever. Only three months into her professional career, Raducanu has drawn unprecedented attention to both herself and her sport.

1. England dominate the EUROs

Not necessarily a moment, but rather a phenomenon – England road to near-victory at the Euros was something special. The squad, featuring the next generation of sporting talent fought their way to England’s first final of a major international tournament since 1966. Despite losing out during penalties, the squad have left fans feeling optimistic for the 2022 World Cup.

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