AS the final hours of 2017 count down it’s time to reflect. This year there were thousands of plays, hundreds of games and dozens of athletes that will be forever remembered for their heroics. None more so than the 17 below though.
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Honourable Mention: Joey Chestnut’s 10th Mustard Belt
WITH Federer, Tom Brady and Usain Bolt dominating the headlines this year many of you may have missed Joey Chestnut’s memorable 4th of July. For the 10th time, Chestnut won the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest chewing through an event record 72 hot dogs and buns. Not all athlete’s wear cleats and jerseys.
17. Sergio Garcia Finally Breaks Through
IT took 74 tries, but finally, Sergio Garcia had a win in a major tournament under his belt. In dramatic, sudden-death playoff style, Garcia beat out Justin Rose to earn a desperately coveted green jacket. The win signalled the end of nearly two decades of heartache for the Spaniard who had 22 top-10 finishes leading up to his Master’s victory.
16. The ‘King Of Clay’
WE may never see an athlete dominate a single event the way that Rafa has dominated the French Open. Nadal claimed his 10th title at Roland Garros this year, becoming the first male to win a single Grand Slam event 10+ times. He now owns a 79-2 record at the French Open and won his first title since 2014 without dropping a single set.
15. World Cup Fails
WHILE the FIFA World Cup won’t be played until June next year, 2017 still had a part to play in writing the plot for soccer’s greatest tournament. Notable nations Italy, Netherlands, USA and Chile will all be watching the 2018 festivities from their couches after all four of them failed to qualify for the World Cup. It is the first time since 1958 that Italy (a four-time winner at the World Cup) has missed out on qualifying.
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14. Joshua vs. Klitschko
IT was the fight that had it all. Two fighters at different ends of their career, a changing-of-the-guard style fight and back and forth drama from start to finish. Breathing life into the heavyweight division was the Wembley Stadium bout between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko in April with the IBFand the vacant WBA (Super) and IBO heavyweight titles on the line. An 11th round TKO from Johnson saw him improve to 19-0 while Klitschko retired shortly after the epic bout. Not only will it be remembered in 2017, boxing fans will be talking about this fight for decades to come.
13. Protest Season
2017 will go down as one of the most polarizing NFL seasons in history. The return of the touchdown celebration brought joy to many fans, but the main talking point had nothing to do with the actual game. Ever since Colin Kaepernick gave birth to protesting during the anthem more and more players have joined in the chorus. Things escalated dramatically in Week 3 of the season with over 200 players kneeling or sitting during the anthem following Donald Trump’s hostile tweets regarding those players who were ‘disrespecting’ the flag. We haven’t seen the last of these protests.
12. Serena Has No Boundaries
IT’S no secret that Serena Williams defies logic. Arguably the greatest women’s tennis player of all-time, Serena won her 23rd Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open moving her into outright second and now trailing Margaret Court’s record of 24 by just one. What made the feat all that more incredible was that Williams won that title while she was eight weeks pregnant! Her status for the upcoming Aus Open is uncertain, but given what she completed earlier this year, she can take as much time off as she wants.
11. Richmond’s Drought-Breaking Win
FROM an Australian perspective there is no bigger day on the sporting calendar than AFL Grand Final day. The perennial laughing stock of the league Richmond found themselves surging towards the Finals, finishing inside the top four for the first time since 2001. They rode that momentum all the way to the big dance, where they demolished the favourites Adelaide by 48 points. Tigers superstar Dustin Martin completed a rare treble by winning the Norm Smith medal (best on ground in the GF) in the same season as the Brownlow and ALFPA MVP award.
10. Russia Banned From Winter Olympics
THE International Olympic Committee handed down one of the biggest punishments in history this year when they banned Russia from competing in the Winter Games. The event to held in South Korea will allow Russian athletes who can ‘prove’ they are clean to compete, but Vitaly Mutko (former Russian minister of sport) and his former deputy, Yuri Nagornykh have been banned from attending any future Olympic Games.
9. J.J. Watt’s Off-Field Win
HE was targeting $200,000 and he raised an astonishing $37,097,298. J.J. Watt may have had a forgetful season on the field, but his efforts to help fundraise money for Hurrican Harvey victims was his greatest accomplishment this year by far. A number of celebrities including Chris Paul, Drake and Jimmy Fallon helped get behind the cause as Watt provided aid and relief for thousands. Take a bow J.J.
8. Usain Bolt Calls It A Day
FOR the last time ever Usain Bolt graced the athletic track this year as the world’s fastest man retired following the 2017 World Athletics Championships. He didn’t get to go out a hero with a bronze medal in his final solo sprint and an injury in his final relay event, but Bolt retires as the greatest track athlete of our generation and perhaps the greatest of all-time.
7. Neymar: The Record Breaking Man
NO one in the history of football has been transferred for more money than Neymar was in August. For the small price of €222 million euros ($266.5mil USD), the Brazilian superstar made his way from Barcelona to Paris Saint Germain in one of the biggest transfer’s the sport has ever seen. He proved his worth immediately by netting a goal for himself and also set up another in a 3-0 win.
6. The Warriors Build A Dynasty
AFTER 67 regular season wins and a 12-0 sweep of the West, the Golden State Warriors were more than ready for the Cleveland Cavaliers. A herculean Lebron James performance was the only reason that they failed to end the playoffs with a 16-0 record as Kevin Durant led ‘Dub Nation’ to their second title in three seasons, capturing MVP honours in the process.
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5. Roger Is The G.O.A.T
THERE was a time when Roger Federer looked like his best days were behind him. Now we aren’t so sure. At the tender age of 36, Federer had one of the best seasons of his career this year, with two Grand Slam titles (Australian Open and Wimbledon) and an 18-1 record in Grand Slam events. With 19 major wins to his name now there is no debating that Federer is the greatest men’s tennis player of all-time and perhaps the greatest athlete of the 21st century.
4. Clemson 1, Alabama 1
IN 2016 Alabama defeated Clemson in the second College Football Playoff. The 2017 edition saw the same two teams square off, but the script was different this time around. In one of the greatest championship decider’s ever the Clemson Tigers took the lead for the first time in the game via a Hunter Renfroe touchdown with just one second left on the clock. In one of the great modern-day rivalries in college football, this may just be the greatest chapter in the story.
3. World Series Game 2 = Best World Series Game Ever?
EVERYONE expected a classic in the 2017 MLB decider, but we weren’t ready for what the Astros and Dodgers unleashed in Game 2. The fifth game of the series was special too, but Game 2 will live on in folklore as one of the finest games of baseball you will ever see. Multiple lead changes, high octane offense, extra innings, it was the game of the year and then some.
2. Patriots Comeback For The Ages
NEVER, ever, ever doubt Tom Brady. Not even if your team is down 28-3 entering the last quarter. Not even if you need a miraculous catch from Julian Edelman to keep the potential game-tying drive alive. Not even if you need a successful 2-pt conversion to tie the game and force overtime. And not even if you win the coin toss and need to march down the field and put six on the board to end the game. And if you still doubt Brady, then just re-watch the tape.
1. Floyd vs. Connor
NO one on Earth didn’t hear about the boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor. It was the sporting event that stopped the globe in 2017 with the outspoken, brash Conor McGregor taking his talents out of the octagon and into the boxing ring against the 49-0 Floyd Mayweather. Of course, the fight panned out as many expected with McGregor coming out swinging and eventually tiring as Floyd took the win, but the circus and the hysteria of the lead up to this epic fight is something that we will never forget and was the greatest moment in sport for 2017.
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