Image: Wikimedia Commons / Peter Menzel
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Peter Menzel

2021: a summer of sport

While we’ve been away from Warwick, it’s been a busy summer of sport – here’s a round-up of some of the major events.

The summer began with Euro 2020. 24 European teams faced off, and there were some surprise results – both France and Germany were knocked out early, and Portugal suffered a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Belgium. In the end, however, it was Italy’s competition – it was Italy that opened the tournament and Italy that ultimately won, facing off against England in their first major final since 1966. The England team had played superbly, uniting the nation behind them as they stormed to the final, but they fell at the final hurdle, a penalty shootout that unleashed a depressing amount of racial abuse.

After being cancelled in 2020, it was a triumphant return to Wimbledon at the end of June. World number one Ashleigh Barty won her maiden title, becoming the first Australian women’s champion for 41 years, while Novak Djokovic won a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam title, putting him level with rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. It was an event that saw old icons struggle – Federer saw one of his worst defeats ever – and new heroes emerge, as Emma Raducanu had an incredible run until being forced to withdraw.

Mid-July, the Lewis Hamilton-Max Verstappen rivalry hit breaking point at the British Grand Prix as the two collided on the first lap. Verstappen smashed into the barriers and was then taken to hospital, while Hamilton was awarded a ten-second time penalty, from which he recovered to win the race. Whereas previous years have seen Hamilton breeze to victory, this year, he is facing a genuine battle – the lead of the championship has changed hands multiple times, and the incident at Silverstone shows how serious each man is about winning. As to whose fault it was, the debate is still ongoing.

In the summer of 2021, it’s safe to say that sports fans have been spoiled

After many delays and speculation about whether it could go ahead at all, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics kicked off at the end of July. Despite the city being in a state of emergency due to Covid, the Games were a success, and Team GB picked up 65 medals, 22 of which were gold. Golden couple Laura and Tom Kenny expanded their medal haul, each winning a gold and a silver. Tom Daley won his first gold, Max Whitlock defended his pommel title with aplomb, and Britain picked up its first-ever medals in BMX and skateboarding. The US gymnast Simone Biles also kick-started a conversation about mental health after withdrawing from all but one of her events.

Two weeks later, it was time for the Paralympics. ParalympicsGB were on fire, smashing world records and winning medal after medal – they eventually finished second in the medal table with 124 medals (and 41 golds). Dame Sarah Storey became the most successful British Paralympian ever after winning three golds, taking her gold total to 17, and there were impressive wins for husband and wife Neil and Lora Fachie in Para-cycling, David Smith in the boccia and Sir Lee Pearson in Para-equestrianism. It was also a great Games for Warwick student Kare Adenegan, who won two silvers in the T34 100m and 800m.

Tennis again, and the US Open has just finished – Djokovic was hoping to complete the Calendar Slam and looked in good form to do so, but the pressure of the occasion got to him at long last, and he was defeated in the final by Daniil Medvedev. The women’s game opened up after the surprise defeats of Barty and Naomi Osaka, and Raducanu again emerged as one of the players to watch, completing a fairytale run to the title without dropping a single set all tournament. Her dominance in the final, defeating Leylah Fernandez with ease, cements her as a star of the women’s game.

This is only a fraction of the major sporting stories this summer. I don’t have space to talk about Tadej Pogačar’s Tour de France win, the inaugural season of The Hundred, the Challenge Cup final, the Diamond Leagues: Anniversary Games, The Open, and the list goes on. This has been a summer of sporting triumph and disappointment, in which old heroes reasserted their dominance and new heroes were created. In the summer of 2021, it’s safe to say that sports fans have been spoiled.

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