Top 10 Sporting Highlights of 2022

Other Tuesday January 3, 2023 By: James Bayley

After two years of interruption due to the pandemic, 2022 promised much with its packed roster of sporting events and capacity crowds.

Elite-level competition will always be compelling to watch, from Wimbledon to Silverstone, The Grand National to the Premier League. However, 2022 produced much more than notable sporting triumphs and jaw-dropping statistics.

It was the year that sport became about storytelling again, whether it be honouring a tennis legend in one final match or celebrating England’s Lionesses ending 56 years of hurt.

Skill and technique can be admired in the moment, but witnessing the final act of a sporting drama is what elevates a great fan experience to one of those, ‘I was there’, once in a lifetime moments. So, without further ado, here are the Top 10 sporting highlights of 2022.

Winter Olympics – Curling to glory

It seems like a long time ago now but this year began with the 2022 Winter Olympic games in Beijing.

There wasn’t much to shout about from a Team GB perspective, as they fell below the 3-7 medal target set by UK Sport. In total, the team won two medals, both in curling, a Silver for the men’s team and a Gold for the women’s event.

It was the first time in 20 years that Great Britain had claimed Gold in the women’s curling. Captain Eve Muirhead led Team GB in her fourth Winter Olympics and, in doing so, has become Scotland’s most decorated curler; achieving medal successes at the World Championships, European Championships and, of course, the Olympic Games.

Italy shock Six Nations

Every Six Nations Italy always provides bravado, passion and a jaw-dropping national anthem, but their performances on the pitch always leave something to be desired. That was until the 2022 Six Nations in March, when the Azzurri defeated defending champions Wales at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff. The victory ended a seven-year losing streak for the Italians and was claimed in dramatic fashion with a last-gasp try from fullback Edoardo Padovani before Paolo Garbisi converted the decisive kick, sending the Italian fans into raptures.

The 21-22 defeat for Wales was their first against the Italians on home soil in the Six Nations and their third in total, after losing in the 2003 and 2007 tournaments respectively.

2023 Guinness Six Nations

Twickenham Stadium

First Female Cheltenham Gold Cup Winner

Never in its 200 years has the Cheltenham Gold Cup celebrated a female winner. However, in March 2022, jockey Rachael Blackmore rewrote the history books as she claimed first place riding A Plus Tard to claim the Gold Cup.

The victory follows her triumphs in the Champion Hurdle and the Grand National in 2021, where she became the only female to claim those titles as well.

Her triumph at the Cheltenham Racecourse, which comprises 22 fences over three miles, was made even sweeter as Blackmore finished second the previous year riding A Plus Tard.

The 150th Open Championship

Originally scheduled for 2021, the 150th Open Championship was delayed by a year to ensure it could be played at the “home of golf,” on the Old Course at St Andrews, Scotland. The 2020 event had been cancelled due to Covid, which meant the 149th edition was played in 2021, at Royal St George’s, Kent.

The occasion celebrated winners from past and present, as the likes of Tom Watson, Sir Nick Faldo and Bill Rogers participated in a Celebration of Champions event before the official tournament teed off.

In the end, the Claret Jug was claimed by 28-year-old Australian Cameron Smith, in one of the great final rounds in Majors history, an unequalled eight-under par to defeat Cameron Young by one and former champion Rory Mcllroy by two.

The landmark Open was particularly poignant for Tiger Woods, as he walked down the fairway of the 18th hole to rapturous applause. This will most likely be the last time Woods contests The Open at St Andrews, a course he has mastered like few else.

St Andrews Golf course
St Andrew’s Golf Course

Ronnie O’Sullivan wins record-equalling 7th World Championship

“I thought at 35 I was done,” said a typically frank Ronnie O’Sullivan after winning his 7th World Snooker Championship, a feat that puts him joint-first with Stephen Hendry on the all-time winners list.

Frequently considered the sport’s most gifted player, O’Sullivan considered retirement in 2011 after losing in the second round to Judd Trump at the UK Championship. Following defeat he stated, “I thought I applied myself today, I feel in a good place and I don’t want to take the shine off Judd but I seriously can’t see me having much longer playing.”

O’Sullivan has been a box office attraction in the world of snooker since he burst onto the scene in 1993, where he won the UK Championship aged 17; the youngest player to achieve this feat to this day.

Fast-forward to May 2022 and O’Sullivan claimed his 7th World Title, defeating Judd Trump 18-13 and The Crucible in Sheffield. The win makes him the oldest World Champion at 46 and brings his total of ‘Triple Crown’ titles to 21, the most prestigious prizes in snooker.

The Lionesses bring football home

After England’s men came so close to claiming Euros glory the previous summer, the Lionesses went one step further, defeating rivals Germany no less, to win England’s first major trophy since 1966, ending 56 years of hurt.

The setting was Wembley, just as it was in 1966, in front of 87,192 fans; a record for a European Championship Final.

The majority of those fans were in good voice for England, especially when Chloe Kelly scored what turned out to be the winning goal, wheeling away in celebration as she removed her jersey proudly displaying her sports bra in a now iconic image for the women’s game.

Germany are eight times champions of this competition and presented England’s toughest test of the tournament. One of the defining moments of the final was Ella Toone’s second half chip over the German keeper Merle Frohms to make it 1-0, a goal deserving to win any final. However, when Germany equalised to make it 1-1 on the 79th minute, the narrative seemed all too familiar.

Unlike tournaments of the past, England held their nerve as Kelly scored the winner in extra time, changing the history of women’s football in this country forever.

Womens Football, England
Womens Football, England

Tour de France

It was a thrilling Tour de France this year which began in Copenhagen, Denmark, a befitting venue as the world’s most prestigious cycling event was eventually won by Dane, Jonas Vingegaard.

He did so by defeating pre-tour favourite and reigning champion Tadej Pogacar, who carried with him an aura of invincibility into the 2022 race. In third place was Tour veteran Gerraint Thomas, who claimed the Yellow Jersey in 2018 but had to settle for third on this occasion.

There were several defining moments throughout the Tour but chief among them in 2022 was Fabio Jakobsen’s epic comeback, from a coma in 2020 to a Tour de France stage winner in 2022.

In the Tour of Poland in 2020 the Dutchman almost lost his life after a horror crash, but on the biggest stage of them all he claimed victory by a whisker, narrowly beating Mads Pedersen and Wout van Aert to the Stage 2 finish line.

England win the T20 World Cup

In November England became the first team in white-ball cricket history to hold both the 50-over World Cup and the T20 World Cup.

The remarkable achievement was once again defined by the heroic exploits of all-rounder Ben Stokes, who scored an unbeaten 52 from 49 balls during the most intense overs of the match.

When history looks back on this era of white-ball dominance from England, which is now ladened with trophies, the clutch batting of Ben Stokes will stand out as a long-lasting memory.

In front of 80,000 fans at the MCG in Melbourne, Australia, England defeated Pakistan to cap off a remarkable year in one day and Test cricket. In doing so, they banished the demons of 2016, when England lost the T20 final to the West Indies, after Stokes was hit for four consecutive sixes in one devastating over.

Since then, however, Stokes’ redemption arc has been the stuff of Hollywood legend, capped off by the T20 World Cup last month.

Federer Farewell

The Swiss maestro finally brought his tennis career to a close, playing in tandem with his great rival and friend Rafael Nadal, at the O2 in London.

Friendly rivals may seem like an oxymoron but that’s what Federer and Nadal are, to see their opposing styles of play on the same side of the net, Nadal, a leftie with grit and determination and Federer, a rightie, with grace and guile, was a sight to behold for the London crowd.

The pair may have lost their doubles encounter in the Laver Cup vs Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe, but in truth, the result was an irrelevance as the world of tennis paid tribute to arguably its greatest ever player.

Federer finished his career with 20 Grand Slam Titles, one behind Novak Djokovic and two behind Rafael Nadal. He won a record eight men’s singles titles at Wimbledon and a record-tying five US Open titles. In 2009 he completed the career Grand Slam after winning the French Open; a tournament that had eluded him because of the imperious Nadal.

Federer’s farewell marked an end of an era for tennis, for many he is tennis, and that is why his rivals hold him in such high regard, as without Federer, there would be no Novak, no Rafa, no Murray.

The defining image of the occasion was when Federer and Nadal briefly held hands, struggling to hold back the tears as the reality set in that the most important player in the history of the game, would hang up his racket for good.

The World Cup – Messi’s crowning glory

This year’s winter World Cup in Qatar will forever be marred by controversy, before the tournament it was hard to imagine how a positive story could be gleaned from the competition. However, when you invite the world’s greatest players to compete for football’s most prestigious prize, moments of magic are bound to ensue, in spite of major issues away from the pitch.

Morocco’s back-to-back knockout victories against Spain and Portugal stands out, as they made history by becoming the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup.

Japan caused a shock in their group by defeating Spain and Germany, eliminating the latter from the group stage for a second World Cup in a row.

England would predictably falter at the quarter final stage, losing 2-1 to holders France, who went on to face Messi and Argentina in the final.

The tournament undeniably belonged to Lionel Messi, as the little magician from Rosario scored two in the final  to lead his Argentina side to a third World Cup triumph, arguably cementing his pace as the greatest footballer of all-time.

It was a truly epic final which saw France stage an unlikely comeback courtesy of Kylian Mbappe, who scored two goals to draw the sides level with just 10 minutes remaining of normal time.

The match finished 3-3 after extra time, with Mbappe, Messi’s teammate at PSG, scoring a hat trick. Both star players converted their penalties but it was Argentina who came out on top, solidifying Messi’s legacy as the greatest player of all time.

Lionel Messi, Argentina

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