sports and games


sports and games
Recreational or competitive activities that involve physical skill, intellectual acumen, and often luck (especially in the case of games of chance).

Play is an integral part of human nature. Throughout history, humans have invented sporting and gaming activities as a means to socialize, to display skills and prowess, and to entertain or offer excitement. The earliest games may have been based on hunting and gathering activities. In modern times, with the emergence of professional sports, games continue to serve as physical and emotional outlets, as diversions, and as enrichments to daily life while also playing a pronounced economic role.

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▪ 2007

Introduction

Automobile Racing

Grand Prix Racing.
      Measured by any objective standards, the battle in 2006 between Fernando Alonso of Spain and Germany's Michael Schumacher for Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) Formula One (F1) world drivers' championship honours was rich in variety, competition, and turbulent controversy. In the event, it was Alonso, driving a formidable Renault R26, who took his second straight title, leaving seven-time champion driver Schumacher—at 37 the oldest driver in the field—to bring down the checkered flag on an epic Grand Prix career. Although the German star fell short of delivering his eighth crown, he consolidated his reputation as the defining star of his generation. Alonso triumphed in 7 of the 18 Grand Prix events in 2006 and was runner-up in 7 others. Schumacher also won seven races but finished behind Alonso in the final standings on points. Schumacher's Ferrari teammate, Felipe Massa of Brazil, with victories in Turkey and Brazil, was third in the standings, followed by Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella of Italy, who edged out Alonso by 4.5 seconds in Malaysia.

      Alonso demonstrated on-track consistency and the mental firepower needed to retain his championship, despite the fact that he was leaving the Renault squad at the end of the year. Like Alonso's, Schumacher's 2006 campaign was shaded by the fact that sooner or later he would have to make a decision about his professional future. At the end of the season, there was some speculation as to whether Schumacher was discreetly encouraged to retire.

      Renault and Ferrari totally dominated the manufacturers' scene in 2006, the first season of the new 2.4-litre F1 regulations. Only British driver Jenson Button's welcome, but long overdue, triumph for Honda in Hungary put a different manufacturer on the rostrum. Under normal circumstances Williams and McLaren-Mercedes would have been expected to put up a challenge, but those two top-line British F1 teams underperformed. Toyota, another potential big gun, was disappointed because neither of its drivers (Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher) managed to deliver the Japanese carmaker's maiden Grand Prix win.

      No F1 season would be complete without controversy, and 2006 was no exception. The superb on-track competition was played out against a backdrop of simmering strife and bad feeling as the FIA pushed through its new philosophy for the long-term evolution of F1. The most contentious element of this was the introduction of fixed-specification “homologated” engines for a four-year period from the start of the 2007 season. This was generally perceived as the personal crusade of the FIA president, Max Mosley, driven by his deep concern that the spending levels existing within F1 teams were not sustainable in the longer term. Perhaps inevitably, the uncompromising zeal with which Mosley espoused his cause prompted accusations from some competing teams that he seemed determined to reduce technology in F1 for no good reason and that the FIA was effectively operating outside its authority.

      Ironically, some insiders concluded that FIA cost-cutting measures designed to aid the smaller, less-well-financed teams would, in fact, offer bigger benefits to the richer teams, which had big-money sponsors in place for the longer term. The profit margins of the richer teams—and therefore their financial ability to invest in sophisticated off-track simulation systems—would ensure that the gap between the haves and the have-nots in the business was more likely to expand rather than contract.

      Beyond F1 there was a huge reservoir of emergent talent jostling to be admitted to the sport's senior category. For the second straight season, the fledgling GP2 category offered closer and more spectacular racing than just about any other category in recent memory. McLaren protégé Lewis Hamilton emerged as the man of the moment, taking the title after a succession of brilliant drives that virtually guaranteed him a fast-track ride into F1. Hamilton edged out Nelson Piquet, Jr., to take the GP2 crown, but there were several other names (including Timo Glock, Alexandre Prémat, and Ernesto Viso) who had moments of promise that suggested bright futures.

      In North America, F1 racing survived the embarrassment of the fiasco at the 2005 U.S. Grand Prix, and the 2006 race (won by Schumacher) duly took place against an optimistic backdrop of speculation that there might be other venues on the continent interested in applying for an F1 fixture. Stock-car racing continued to thrive as motorsport's biggest attraction in North America, and the two national single-seater categories—represented by the Indy Racing League and the Champ Car World Series—seemed destined to be consigned to a supporting role. Having a top American driver in F1 would unquestionably brighten the sport's commercial future in North America, however, and the first step toward realizing that ambition came in early December 2006. Marco Andretti, representing the third generation of the famous American racing dynasty, was to test a Honda RA106 at the Jerez circuit in southern Spain. This prompted speculation that the grandson of 1978 world champion Mario Andretti had his eyes set on a Grand Prix racing future. The youngest Andretti was contracted to IndyCar racing for the near future, but Mario, eager that his grandson commit to racing in Europe as soon as possible, remarked, “He is a quick learner and never makes the same mistake twice. … I think he has all the qualities to make it in formula one.”

Alan Henry

U.S. Auto Racing.
      More than ever before, in 2006 auto racing for the top professionals in the United States was as much a case of “show me the money” as it was about the thrill of competition. American and foreign stars frequently switched their allegiances and even types of racing.

 The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing ( NASCAR) Nextel Cup—the richest racing series in the world (its top 26 drivers each earned more than a million dollars) and the one with the most championship events (36)—was the magnet. Juan Pablo Montoya, a former Formula One Grand Prix superstar from Colombia, committed to a season-long NASCAR ride for Dodge, while other drivers from sports-car and open-wheel racing began stock-car careers. The season went down to its final race, the Ford 400 in Homestead, Fla., before crowning as champion 31-year-old Jimmie Johnson of the Hendrick Chevrolet team. Johnson won 4 of the 26 point-gathering races, including two NASCAR classics, the $12 million Daytona 500 in February and the $11 million Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Speedway in August. After the first race in the 10-event season-ending Chase for the Cup, however, he had to rally from ninth place in the standings. Johnson's ninth-place finish in the Ford 400 earned him his first Nextel title, finishing 56 points ahead of Matt Kenseth, driving for DeWalt Ford. Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, both in Chevrolets, were third and fourth, respectively, in the standings.

      Chevrolet, which earned its fourth straight manufacturers' crown over Ford and Dodge, also prevailed in the companion Busch Series. Harvick, of Richard Childress Racing, won nine times, completing a record 6,758 of 6,759 laps raced in 25 events. It was not as competitive in the Craftsman Truck Series, where Tod Bodine and Johnny Benson finished one-two in Toyotas. Toyota, which would be eligible for Nextel Cup competition in 2007, already had lured stars such as Dale Jarrett and Michael Waltrip to its Camry teams.

      Indianapolis Speedway staged the 90th Indianapolis 500 as part of the Indy Racing League (IRL) series. Team Penske's veteran driver Sam Hornish, Jr., nipped Marco Andretti of Andretti Green Racing (AGR) by 15 feet in the final straight to win by 0.0635 second. Marco's father, Michael Andretti, who had come out of retirement for the event, finished third. All three drove Honda-powered Dallaras. Hornish's qualifying speed of 228.985 mph won the pole, and he finished the $10.5 million classic in 3 hr 10 min 58.759 sec, with an average speed of 157.085 mph. This was an unprecedented 14th victory in the race for team owner Roger Penske. Hornish subsequently won the IRL national championship. Dan Wheldon, the British 2005 IRL titlist, who drove in 2006 for Chip Ganassi, was tied in the final standings but lost the title to Hornish, who had more victories. Danica Patrick, the world's most famous female race driver, also signed with AGR, postponing plans to try NASCAR.

      Champ Car World Series racing sites ranged from Long Beach, Calif., to Edmonton, Alta., to Surfer's Paradise, Australia, where a car driven by Nelson Philippe and owned by Cedric the Entertainer won. Frenchman Sébastien Bourdais, driving a Newman-Haas team Lola, dominated the open-wheel series and captured his third straight crown, ahead of British driver Justin Wilson and A.J. Allmendinger, the only American in the series.

Robert J. Fendell

Rallies and Other Races.
       Sébastien Loeb (Citroën) of France did not even have to compete in the last four world rally championship (WRC) events in 2006 to clinch his third consecutive driver's title. The season began as a two-man competition; Marcus Grönholm (Ford) of Finland won the opening Monte Carlo Rally in January and the subsequent Rally of Sweden, and then Loeb took the next five races (Mexico, Spain, France, Argentina, and Italy). Loeb finished second behind Grönholm in Greece and Finland and won in Germany, Japan, and Cyprus. By the time Loeb broke his arm in a mountain-biking accident in late September, he held a 35-point lead over his Finnish rival. Grönholm prevailed in three of the remaining four events, including the season-ending Rally of Great Britain. His fifth-place finish in the Rally of Australia (won by Ford teammate and fellow Finn Mikko Hirvonen), however, left him a single point short of overtaking Loeb for the driver's title. Grönholm did rack up enough points to secure the WRC manufacturers' title for Ford with one race to go.

      Casey Mears of NASCAR teamed with the IRL's Wheldon and Scott Dixon to win the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, the crown jewel in Grand American Sports Car Series endurance competition. Their Lexus-powered Riley prototype covered 4,205 km (2,613 mi) and won by more than a lap, despite having stopped to have the brakes, gearbox, and engine belts repaired and having collided with a Porsche Fabcar in the final 15 minutes. The season champion was Jörg Bergmeister (Riley Ford).

      The diesel-powered Audi R10 totally dominated endurance road-racing competition in 2006. Audi's Frank Biela, Emanuele Pirro, and Marco Werner prevailed in the 24-Hour Le Mans Grand Prix d'Endurance, with Rinaldo Capello, Allan McNish, and seven-time winner Tom Kristensen in third place. In American Le Mans racing, Capello, McNish, and Kristensen captured the 54th 12 Hours of Sebring, and Capello and McNish triumphed in the 9-hour Petit Le Mans in Atlanta. Capello edged teammate McNish for top prototype driver in the American series, but Kristensen was reassigned by Audi to the European series. Corvette repeated as the Grand Touring 1 champion over Aston Martin.

Robert J. Fendell; Melinda C. Shepherd

▪ 2002

      In 2001 the year in sports was divided into two—the events held prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. and those that occurred afterward, many of which were postponed or went on without American athletes.

      In the wake of the attacks, the sporting world paused momentarily to pay its respects. Stadiums across North America stood empty and silent as professional football, ice hockey, and baseball and college sports games were postponed or canceled. The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing's (NASCAR's) mighty race cars were similarly silenced, and Major League Soccer's regular season came to a premature close. The world wrestling championships that were scheduled for September 26–29 in New York City were relocated to Bulgaria for the freestyle and Greece for the Greco-Roman competition. The Ryder Cup in golf was postponed until 2002, and though the world archery championships took place as scheduled at the end of September in Beijing, the Americans stayed home.

      At the start of the year, football fans witnessed a blowout in the Super Bowl, the National Football League championship, held in Tampa Bay, Fla., on Jan. 28, 2001. Quarterback Trent Dilfer, aided by standout middle linebacker Ray Lewis (see Biographies (Lewis, Ray Anthony )), led the American Football Conference champion Baltimore Ravens to a 34–7 romp over the National Football Conference New York Giants.

      Auto-racing fans mourned the death in February of seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt, Sr., who perished in a fatal car accident in the final moments of the Daytona 500. (See Obituaries (Earnhardt, Dale, Sr. ).)

      American tennis player Jennifer Capriati made an impressive comeback, winning the Australian Open and the French Open, her first Grand Slam singles titles (see Biographies (Capriati, Jennifer )), and National Basketball Association superstar Michael Jordan made headlines in October when he abandoned retirement to play for the Washington Wizards.

      In baseball the final game of the World Series drew the largest viewership in years as the New York Yankees faced the Arizona Diamondbacks, who won their first World Series in a thrilling seven-game finish and ended the Yankees' streak of three straight titles. San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds (see Biographies (Bonds, Barry )) notched 73 home runs to break the record set just three seasons earlier by Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals.

      An outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Europe led to the postponement in April of the last games of the Rugby Union Six Nations championship, which was finally won by England in October. In steeplechasing the disease forced the cancellation of racing in Great Britain for 10 days in March, and in Ireland no events were held between February 25 and April 16.

      Preparations continued for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, under new International Olympic Committee (IOC) chairman Jacques Rogge of Belgium. (See Biographies (Rogge, Jacques ).) Meanwhile, China rejoiced when the IOC awarded Beijing the 2008 Summer Games, the country's first-ever Olympics. In association football (soccer), 32 nations qualified for the upcoming World Cup finals, scheduled to take place in June 2002 in South Korea and Japan.

Gavin Forbes Ehringer

▪ 2001

      The Summer Olympic Games were at the centre of attention in the world of sports in 2000, but in non-Olympic sports, standouts such as golfers Tiger Woods and Karrie Webb and football quarterback Kurt Warner also attracted worldwide interest.

      Scandals involving the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its site-selection process gave way to goodwill as the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, focused attention on the athletes themselves. Among the more heartening stories was that of Australian Cathy Freeman, the Aboriginal track star who lit the Olympic flame in the opening ceremony. Freeman came to symbolize the island nation's hopes while at the same time bringing to the fore historical injustices levied on its indigenous people. She triumphed in the 400-m race, her specialty event, winning gold with a time of 49.11 sec.

      Allegations of improprieties and outright misconduct in the selection of Salt Lake City, Utah, as the site of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games led the IOC to revamp its host city selection procedure radically. A two-phase process was created to winnow candidates down to six cities that demonstrated the highest ability in meeting a broad spectrum of criteria. A selection college was created to vet applicants and determine the final winner in the bid process. Visits by IOC members to the host city and the acceptance of “gifts” to IOC members were explicitly prohibited under the new rules. The new procedures were approved by the IOC in December 1999 and would be used in the selection of sites for 2008 and beyond.

      The IOC also took steps to master the sports doping problem, a perennial issue in international sports that proved especially troublesome in the wake of drug raids that had taken place prior to and during the 1998 Tour de France cycling race. The IOC convened the World Conference on Doping in Sport in Lausanne, Switz., in February 1999. That conference resulted in the creation of the World Anti-Doping Agency, which was charged with implementing more stringent drug testing of international athletes. At the 2000 Tour, won by American Lance Armstrong for the second successive year, three cyclists were expelled. Prior to the Sydney Olympics, athletes in 27 different sports in 82 nations were subjected to random out-of-competition testing. All told, 70 athletes tested positive for banned drugs before or during the Games.

      Second only to the Olympics among the year's sports stories was the domination of American golfer Tiger Woods, who solidified his reputation as one of the greatest golfers ever by winning the U.S. Open in June, the British Open in July, and the Professional Golfers' Association of America (PGA) championship in August. Woods joined Ben Hogan as one of only two professional golfers to win three majors in a season. Australian Karrie Webb (see Biographies (Webb, Karrie )) had similar success on the Ladies' Professional Golf Association tour.

      American football fans were treated to an exceptionally competitive championship game as the St. Louis (Mo.) Rams, led by quarterback Kurt Warner, defeated the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV in January 2000. Warner earned the Most Valuable Player award after passing for 414 yd in the game. (See Biographies (Warner, Kurt ).)

Gavin Forbes Ehringer

▪ 2000

      Women's association football (soccer) made front-page news worldwide with the triumph of the United States, anchored by world-record scorer Mia Hamm (see Biographies (Hamm, Mia )), at the Women's World Cup tournament, held in the U.S. in June–July. Matched against China in a scoreless final, the American women gained the upper hand in the best-of-five penalty shoot-out when goalie Brianna Scurry fended off the third-round penalty kick of China's Liu Ying. Defender Brandi Chastain kicked the fifth-and-final goal for the U.S. squad to clinch the match in overtime.

      American sportswriters heralded the victory as a validation of Title IX of the 1972 Federal Education Amendments, which barred gender discrimination in academics and sports. In 1971 fewer than 300,000 American high-school girls participated in interscholastic sports; by 1999 an estimated 2.4 million competed. Title IX was also credited, in part, for the emergence of women's professional basketball in the 1990s.

      In June the International Olympic Committee (IOC) unexpectedly awarded the 2006 Winter Games to Turin, Italy, over the favourite, Sion, Switz. Some observers opined that Sion, twice before a finalist, had been rejected because allegations by a Swiss IOC member had triggered an ongoing investigation into corruption in the bidding process. (See Sidebar (An Olympic-Sized Scandal ).)

      The National Basketball Association season was delayed, owing to a lockout of players by team owners. When the league finally returned to play on February 5, it did so without superstar Michael Jordan, who had announced his retirement from the Chicago Bulls on January 13.

      Jordan led a parade of sports superstars who quit during the year. In April National Hockey League all-time scoring leader Wayne Gretzky retired from the New York Rangers at the age of 38. (See Biographies (Gretzky, Wayne ).) Tennis star Steffi Graf of Germany captured her 22nd Grand Slam title with a win at the French Open in April, but she abruptly announced her retirement on August 13, little more than a month after losing the All-England (Wimbledon) final to American Lindsay Davenport.

      National Football League quarterback John Elway, who led the Denver Broncos to five Super Bowl appearances and back-to-back NFL championships in 1998–99, also announced his retirement. He was joined by running back Barry Sanders of the Detroit Lions, who left the league just 1,457 yd short of matching the record set by Walter Payton (see Obituaries (Payton, Walter Jerry )) as the NFL's all-time rushing leader.

      In a spectacular comeback, cyclist Lance Armstrong (see Biographies (Armstrong, Lance )) overcame testicular cancer to win the Tour de France in July. With the win, Armstrong became only the second American rider to have won the race.

      In what might be called the “Tour de World,” Bertrand Piccard of Switzerland and Brian Jones of the U.K. touched down in Egypt on March 21 aboard Breitling Orbiter 3, ending their nearly 48,000-km (30,000-mi) circumnavigation of the globe—the first successful nonstop round-the-world flight in ballooning history. (See Biographies: Jones, Brian, and Piccard, Bertrand .)

Gavin Forbes Ehringer

▪ 1999

      St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire (see BIOGRAPHIES (McGwire, Mark David )), who set major league baseball's new single-season record by belting 70 home runs in 1998, pumped life into a sport suffering from waning popularity, but his exploits also fueled the debate over the use of performance-enhancing drugs. McGwire admitted he had been using androstenedione—a testosterone-boosting compound—for more than a year. Chicago Cubs right fielder Sammy Sosa (see BIOGRAPHIES (Sosa, Sammy )), whose 66 home runs also broke the previous record, admitted to using creatine, a popular amino-acid powder used to build muscle. Although neither substance was prohibited and both were available for over-the-counter purchase since being deregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1994, questions abounded about their long-term effects on the human body. Androstenedione had been banned by the National Football League, the International Olympic Committee, and the National Collegiate Athletics Association. Additional concerns arose regarding the influence national heroes such as McGwire and Sosa had on young people, who could come to view such risky practices as acceptable or even necessary to succeed.

      In cycling one Tour de France team, Festina, was expelled from the 1998 race following the discovery of drugs in its possession. Two American track-and-field athletes, Olympic gold medalists shotputter Randy Barnes and sprinter Dennis Mitchell, were suspended by the sport's governing body for suspected drug use. Irish swimmer Michelle Smith-de Bruin, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, and members of the Chinese national swim team were banned from competition on the basis of drug-related matters. The U.S., Canada, and Australia entered into an agreement that allowed for reciprocal drug testing of athletes from any of the three nations, along with cooperative research into banned substances.

      Australia was the big winner at the Commonwealth Games, held September 11-21 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Led by its swimmers, who won 23 gold medals in their events, Australia won 198 medals, 62 more than the English, their closest competitors. New Zealand took the gold in the games' first-ever rugby competition, and South Africa prevailed in the inaugural cricket competition. At the made-for-television Goodwill Games, held in New York City July 19-August 2, tragedy overshadowed a field of big-name winners as Chinese gymnast Sang Lan was paralyzed when she suffered a neck injury during a practice vault.

      American balloonist Steve Fossett broke his own distance record during a fourth failed attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Fossett had traveled two-thirds of the way around the world when a storm ripped his balloon and sent him plunging into the Coral Sea off the coast of Australia. He was rescued in good condition by a passing yacht. Fossett's 1996 attempt had failed after just 36 hours; his 1997 attempt set the previous long-distance record before a fuel shortage forced him to land in India; and his third attempt ended after five days and 9,337 km (5,802 mi).

ANTHONY G. CRAINE

▪ 1998

      In 1997 Athens, the city where the modern Olympic Games began in 1896, learned that in 2004 it would play host to its first Olympics in more than a century. A bid to play host to the 1996 Games had failed, which led the city's representatives to admit that they had campaigned on the assumption that the Greek capital deserved the Centennial Games on the basis of history alone. For its 2004 bid the Athens committee demonstrated a realistic approach toward solving problems that might stand in the way of such an event's being held there. Attorney Gianna Angelopoulos headed the group that made the bid, and Stratis Stratigis, a lawyer, was appointed to chair the city's Olympic organizing committee.

      In November the last of 32 finalists qualified for the 1998 association football (soccer) World Cup. Four countries (South Africa, Jamaica, Croatia, and Japan) reached the finals for the first time, and five others (Tunisia, Iran, Nigeria, Denmark, and Saudi Arabia) made only their second appearance. Defending champion Brazil, led by its 1994 hero, Romário, was considered the early favourite.

      In the U.S. two women's professional basketball leagues completed their inaugural seasons during the year. In March the Columbus Quest won the championship of the American Basketball League (ABL); in August the Houston Comets prevailed in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). The ABL, which comprised teams playing in smaller markets, had an average attendance of 3,536, whereas the WNBA averaged 9,669 per game. The level of play in the ABL was generally regarded as superior, but the WNBA had the public-relations muscle of the National Basketball Association behind it. Observers believed that the ABL's only hope of long-term survival was to merge with its more popular rival, but the league began its second season in the fall amid reports of increased attendance.

      A change of rules in open-wheel automobile racing signaled a step toward compromise in a dispute that had emerged in recent years. The Indy Racing League (IRL) removed its guarantee of 25 of the 33 starting spots for its own cars in the Indianapolis 500. This increased the chances of the star drivers of the rival Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) circuit to compete in the event, which had lost some of its allure after the IRL invoked the rule in 1996. Cars in the race were still required to abide by the IRL's unique equipment standards, however, which meant that CART teams would have to maintain IRL-approved cars for only one race per year.

ANTHONY G. CRAINE

      This article updates sports.

▪ 1997

      In 1996 the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta, Ga. (see Special Report (Centennial Olympic Games )), overshadowed most professional sports, but for some it was a banner year. U.S. major league baseball players and owners finally ended a four-year feud and approved a five-year, no-strike labour contract that promised, among other things, experimental interleague play in 1997. It remained to be seen whether the deal would bring back fan support lost during and after the prolonged 1994 strike. In the cricket World Cup, Sri Lanka, which was prevented from sharing duties as host with India and Pakistan when Australia and West Indies refused to play games scheduled there, redeemed itself and the quadrennial one-day tournament with a seven-wicket victory over Australia. (See Sidebar (CRICKET: World Cup ).)

      The much-anticipated return of professional association football (soccer) to the U.S. arrived with major league soccer (MLS). Most of the 10 MLS teams attracted fairly good crowds, and the first-ever final was an exciting match that ended with the Washington, D.C., United defeating the Los Angeles Galaxy 3-2 in overtime. Women's professional basketball also debuted in the U.S. with the creation of the American Basketball League, which began playing in October, and the Women's National Basketball Association, scheduled to start in June 1997.

      In Canada the 20-event Women's Curling Tour opened in late 1996 in preparation for the 1997 qualification bonspiel for the 1998 Winter Olympic Games. Although the tour would consist only of preexisting spiels at first, it was expected to provide a framework for future growth in the sport.

      In several sports 1996 was the year of the rookie, as young, newly professional athletes came to the fore. Chief among them was Eldrick ("Tiger") Woods, the 20-year-old U.S. golf phenomenon who turned pro after winning his third U.S. Amateur title and then won 2 of the 11 tournaments in which he played. At age 21, rookie pro golfer Karrie Webb of Australia won four events (having captured the 1995 Women's British Open as an amateur) and ended the season as the first woman golfer to earn over $1 million in a single season. Czech-born Martina Hingis (age 16), representing Switzerland on the professional tennis circuit, achieved two singles victories, the women's doubles title at Wimbledon, and a fourth-place ranking in the world. In basketball two 18-year-olds—Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers and Jermaine O'Neal of the Portland Trail Blazers—were drafted into the National Basketball Association out of high school.

      (MELINDA C. SHEPHERD)

▪ 1996

      After the huge success of the association football (soccer) World Cup in 1994, the spotlight in 1995 turned to rugby, with the Union World Cup won by South Africa, the host, and the League World Cup, staged in Britain, confirming the supremacy of Australia. If there was an image to be treasured from all the sporting achievements of the year, it was the sight of Nelson Mandela, in his South African number 6 rugby jersey, handing the Webb Ellis Trophy to the real number 6, François Pienaar, the captain of South Africa, after his team had pulled off the surprise of the tournament by beating heavily favoured New Zealand in the final in Johannesburg. After three decades of sporting isolation of South Africa, the moment captured the triumphant fusion of sport and politics. The Rugby League World Cup was a more sedate affair marked by the joyous play of the Pacific Island teams of Tonga, Fiji, Western Samoa, and Papua New Guinea but lacking the individual brilliance that Jonah Lomu (see BIOGRAPHIES (Lomu, Jonah )) brought to Rugby Union.

      Another outsize performer, John Daly, produced the biggest shock in golf by winning the British Open. The controversial American, though, deserved his victory, earned in a play-off with Costantino Rocca of Italy. Daly was left off the U.S. team for the Ryder Cup, which was won by Europe amid scenes of high emotion at Rochester, N.Y. With Corey Pavin winning the U.S. Open and Ben Crenshaw the Masters, only Steve Elkington of Australia, with his victory in the U.S. Professional Golfers' Association Championship, broke the American stranglehold on the four major tournaments.

      In tennis Pete Sampras won his third consecutive Wimbledon title, and Andre Agassi briefly defied all predictions by gaining the top ranking in the world. Of individual feats, though, none could match that of baseball player Cal Ripken, Jr. (see BIOGRAPHIES (Ripken, Cal, Jr. )), whose 2,131st consecutive game for the Baltimore Orioles, on September 6, beat the record set in 1939 by Lou Gehrig. Ripken said modestly that he had just gone to the office every day just like most of his countrymen. He could not quite understand the fuss, but baseball, still desperately trying to recover its balance after the 1994 major league strike, was thankful for his achievement. (ANDREW LONGMORE)

▪ 1995

      The sporting year in 1994 was dominated by Brazil, both in triumph and in tragedy. On May 1 the country was plunged into despair by the death of the three-time Formula One automobile racing world champion Ayrton Senna, a man who symbolized the heroism and struggle of a proud people (see OBITUARIES (Senna, Ayrton )); then, on July 17, the mood was pure joy as the Brazilian soccer team beat Italy after a penalty shootout to win the World Cup for the first time since 1970.

      In truth, the Cup final was a disappointment, but the success of the tournament had already been assured by the enthusiasm of the crowds, the strength of the organization, and the open, imaginative soccer played by the 24 finalists, including the host nation, the U.S., which surprised everyone, not least itself, by qualifying for the second stage of the competition. With referees ordered to punish foul play severely, such players as Romario of Brazil (see BIOGRAPHIES (Romario )), Hristo Stoichkov of Bulgaria, and Gheorghe Hagi of Romania were able to express themselves to the full without the fear of physical injury that had been so prevalent in Italy four years earlier.

      The only blemish on the tournament was the expulsion of Diego Maradona for taking drugs. The Argentine was subsequently banned from soccer for 18 months, effectively ending his career. The issue of drug taking also arose at the Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, B.C., in August, when five athletes, including two from England, were suspended, and later at the Asian Games, where positive tests on eight Chinese swimmers confirmed suspicions that the sudden emergence of a host of world-class swimmers and athletes from that nation had been based on a system of drug use similar to that employed by East Germany in the 1970s and '80s.

      The baseball strike in the U.S., which began in mid-August and caused the cancellation of the World Series for the first time since 1904, showed no sign of ending as the year ended, with the players still refusing to accept the salary cap imposed on them by the club owners. In boxing, George Foreman's victory over Michael Moorer to become—at the age of 45—the oldest world heavyweight champion gave hope to everyone heading into middle age. Pete Sampras dominated the world of tennis, defending his Wimbledon title on the way, and Nick Price (see BIOGRAPHIES (Price, Nick )) of Zimbabwe was the year's supreme golfer, winning the British Open and the PGA championship, while Laura Davies of Britain was easily the outstanding woman golfer of the year. (ANDREW LONGMORE)

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Universalium. 2010.

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