It’s officially autumn even though the Vuelta a Espana continues apace and there is a third and decisive Test against the West Indies at Lord’s this week. Which has set me wondering, what was the single-most enjoyable, remarkable and memorable sporting moment of a very considerable sporting summer?
The British & Irish Lions try in the First Test at Eden Park is a strong contender. Liam Williams, Elliot Daly and Jonathan Davies paved the way for Sean O’Brien and, although ultimately it was in a losing cause, the manner of the try’s scoring illustrated the that the battle would continue in the remaining Tests. Did it ever.
Adam Peaty dismissing the swimming world from his presence was very special, especially the consummate ease with which he broke the 50m breaststroke world record twice in a day en route to the final at the World Aquatics Championships. What Peaty is doing in the breaststroke is Beamonesque. He dominates his events like no other current British competitor in the world.
Hand on heart though, the moment from those championships that made me sit bolt upright was Britain’s gold medal in the 4x200m freestyle with Duncan Scott and James Guy sensationally overhauling the rest of the world in the final two legs. There is something about relays – team efforts against the odds – that are deeply appealing to the British psyche.
Ditto the World Athletics Championships. The heavyweight writers, pundits and indeed some old athletes insist that relay medals don’t really count and certainly don’t compare with individual golds. Possibly, but for me the ‘moment’ of London 2017 was Britain’s 4x100m gold medal. It ticked every conceivable box
Both Women’s World Cup Finals this summer – cricket and rugby – have been cracking occasions and matches, and I loved the way the West Indies turned form on its head in the recent Test against Joe Root’s men. After due consideration, however, my most enduring memory from the summer of 2017 is, with apologies to the Bermuda Tourist Board, a day at the America’s Cup borrowed from a British winter.
The wind was howling around a grey, cold Hamilton Sound, the sort of day you fear for sturdy cross channel ferries let alone sleek, fragile, Formula One wonder machines designed to sail at 20 knots in almost no breeze at all. The crews should have been on shore drinking hot chocolate with a nip of rum. Instead they were out there, eyeballs out, hitting speeds of 48 knots, skimming off the waves with incredible skill and precision. The wind through the ‘sails’ and yachts’ superstructures made an extraordinary banshee like wail, which only added to the drama and seemed to foretell doom.
Ben Ainslie of course loved it. “Skiing on ice” he called it. Courtesy of the on-board cameras it was exhilarating and compelling to watch, there was a tangible sense of danger, and it came as no surprise when Emirates New Zealand – the eventual winners – pitch poled at the start and capsized spectacularly. Sport at its rawest and most memorable.