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The year of Bayern Munich, Usain Bolt and ‘god’ retiring

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South African Oscar Pistorius could have brought his hitherto glittering career  to a premature end after shooting to death girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in February.

South African Oscar Pistorius could have brought his hitherto glittering career to a premature end after shooting to death girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in February. PHOTO BY AGENCIES 

By ISMAIL DHAKABA KIGONGO

Posted  Thursday, January 2  2014 at  02:00
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From Bayern Munich to Usain Bolt and Sebastian Vettel, sport had its fair share of thrills in 2013 which equaled the ‘surprise’ of Lance Armstrong and the passing of Nelson Mandela. Here are the 13 moments that made the past 12 months unforgettable.

Curtain calls
Which of these retirements left an inedible mark on 2013? Is it Sir Alex Ferguson stepping down as manager of Manchester United after two decades worth 38 trophies?
Could it be Sachin Tendulkar waving goodbye to his adoring cricket fans following a stellar career which lasted 24 years with 15, 921 test runs and 18, 426 in ODIs? The ‘god of cricket left for good. These, and other retirements like South Africa’s Jacques Kallis’, will be debated for generations as they are regarded as the best of all time.

‘Greatest’ Bayern Munich
Bayern finally got their hands on the European Champions League trophy to become only the seventh club to complete a treble of league, cup and continental glory. At a time when Barcelona won all six trophies in 2009, the debate shifted from the Spanish side being the best to being the greatest and Bayern deserve the same conversation as they won five in 2013. Keep the superlatives coming. Coach Jupp Heynckes left Bayern at the end of the season to be replaced by former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola.

Ring that Bale
Real Madrid broke the world transfer record to sign forward Gareth Bale from Tottenham Hotspur.
The Wales signed a £300,000 per week, six-year deal after sealing an £85.3m (100m euros) move which eclipses the £80m Real paid Manchester United for Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009. Bale joined Spurs for £10m from Southampton in 2007.

Brazil prepare
Brazil’s readiness for the 2014 World Cup was always going to be the story of 2013. The hosts of the biggest event in sport have not covered themselves in glory yet. While they hosted and won the Confederations Cup despite protests, battering world champions Spain, many of the stadiums failed to meet the December 31st deadline set by Fifa. Deaths too have occurred at the venues as workers’ safety came into question.

History for Vettel
Sebastian Vettel claimed a fourth successive Formula One drivers’ title following another stunning season. The German, who won the final nine races of the season to take his tally to 13 overall, a record, is still only 26. Vettel must be among the millions praying for Michael Schumacher after the seven-time F1 champion suffered an accident while skiing in France as, to many, he only remains ‘Baby Schumie’.

LBJ MVP
In the best-of-seven NBA Finals, the wily San Antonio Spurs were just seconds away from clinching a 4-2 series victory when Ray Allen of the defending champions Miami Heat hit one of the all-time greatest clutch shots. The Heat were three down in the final moments and went to their global superstar LeBron James to tie the game.

His three-pointer rimmed out but the rebound was collected by Chris Bosh and fed to Allen, who kept his composure to sink it in from the corner. James scored 37 points, including five 3-pointers, and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead Miami to a 95–88 victory in Game 7. With the win, the Heat captured their second consecutive NBA title and for LBJ, a second MVP gong as well and you cannot bet against him collecting a third.

All Blacks, Lions and Wales
The 2013 British and Irish Lions and Australia contested a three-test series, with the Lions winning 2–1. The first test was won by the Lions 23–21, the second by Australia 16–15, and the final test by the Lions 41–16. Welsh fullback Leigh Halfpenny kicked four penalties and was amazing as Wales beat England 30-3 in the Six Nations decider. No wonder he was nominated for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award. New Zealand’s All Blacks converted an injury-time try to beat hosts Ireland 22-17 in Dublin as the world champions ended 2013 with a perfect 14 victories.

Ashes turnaround
The 2013 series is the first of two back-to-back Ashes series between England and Australia.
England won the home series 3–0, with wins at Trent Bridge, Lord’s and the Riverside Ground; the matches at Old Trafford and The Oval finished as draws. They travelled to Australia as favourites. There is such a turnaround now in Australia as the hosts lead the five-match series 4-0 after winning in Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne with Sydney to come in the New Year for a sweep.

Murray, Nadal and Serena
Andy Murray’s triumph at Wimbledon ended a 77-year wait for a British male champion. The Scot, who had lost in the final 12 months earlier, defeated Novak Djokovic in straight sets following a titanic tussle.

Two weeks prior to the 2013 Australian Open, Rafael Nadal officially withdrew from the tournament citing a stomach virus. In absentia, Nadal dropped out of the top four for the first time since 2005 and didn’t play for seven months.

He returned to win the French Open for the eighth time, add a US Open and Nadal finished the year as number one, unthinkable at the start of the 2013. Nadal’s equivalent among women is Serena Williams though there is no fairytale as the American is so dominant even at the age of 32. She won 11 titles including the French and US Open tournaments.

Bolt, Farah and Fraser
The 2013 World Athletics Championships may be remembered as much for the empty seats as the stunning performances of Mo Farah, Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. Bolt confirmed his dominance of the men’s sprints. He was joined in sprinting supremacy by Jamaican compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who completed her own 100m-200m double. Both also helped Jamaica win the 4X100m relays. Briton Farah became only the second man in history to achieve the ‘double-double’ to win both long-distance crowns (5, 000 and 10, 000m) at the Olympics and worlds.

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