The Nosebleed Section #9
What a year of sport it's been! There have been ups and downs, but definitely more highs than lows. I'd look back and say that with a sporting calendar bursting at the seams it's been a big year and one that has once again left sports fans with lasting memories. I've picked out my highlights and make no mistake, I'm sure many will disagree, but that's the beauty of sport - it's often subjective and always debatable.
First up for me is Hashim Amla's triple century against England. What a moment in cricket - the first South African to pass 300 runs and he did it in such style. At the height of his powers 'The Mighty #' remains majestic and humble at the same time - a feat not many can muster. I will argue that South Africa's success and rise to the number one position in Test is due to a fearsome bowling attack and Hashim Amla's influence on the batting order. Without his calmness, maturity and focus I fear the Proteas may have fallen short.
My next 'moment' of 2012 is Chad le Clos' sensational gold medal in the 100m Butterfly in London. It's one of those unbelievable and unexpected moments in sport that leave you euphoric on national pride. He beat Michael Phelps, the greatest Olympian ever! Sure Phelps made a mistake, but he was also leading the race and looked certain to clinch victory. Comeback victories are sweeter and this was the comeback of the year in my opinion.
A close second for me in terms of comeback of the year is the European victory at golf's Ryder Cup. I'll admit that I didn't get up to watch the final matches and that I went to bed believing the US had sewn up another title. I mean Jose Maria Olazabal's men needed to win eight matches and tie a ninth out of 12 to win - and they did! How they managed that, I don't know, but I can tell you one of the key ingredients was belief. Fans may have given them a 50 percent chance of pulling off a near miracle, but the team would've needed the audacity to know they can and the humility to go out and focus on the task at hand.
Western Province winning the Currie Cup has to feature on this list, because it's the culmination of so much hard work and effort from a team that had the odds stacked against it all year. Injuries kept mounting and made Coach Allister Coetzee's job of selecting an experienced team a nightmare. In the end it was just reward for a team that put in the hard yards and celebrated youth and the exuberance that came along with it. WP did not adopt an overly defensive approach in the Currie Cup. Fans had seen enough of that in previous years. There was a new lust for the game it seemed and although performances were never perfect, the will to win was unquestionable from men who were determined to restore pride in a union that last won the coveted trophy in 2001.
And finally, the negative, which is undoubtedly Lance Armstrong's fall from grace. The deck of cards finally came tumbling down and even then he had fans questioning whether it was all a plot against him. Armstrong being stripped of his 7 Tour de France titles is an event which will go down as one of the most memorable events in sporting history. He was so loved by fans and so celebrated in the sport of cycling, that the tragic reality will leave a scar that will be there for decades. Perhaps that's not a bad thing at all. Perhaps cycling and sport in general needs the reminder that cheating is the antithesis of sport.
Every 'moment' mentioned above has withstood the threat of cheating, although it could be so different. Sport fans nowadays have to silence a subconscious voice that questions whether a result is untainted and not the will of cheats. Tour de France results will never be the same, cricket matches in any form are unfortunately questionable thanks to the existence of bookmakers and now with Bafana Bafana embroiled in match fixing as well, it becomes hard not to think that things are getting worse.
I want to encourage sport fans to relive the euphoric moments and have the hope displayed by their sporting heroes. It's the only thing we can do. Cynicism is futile and true supporters and lovers of sport must believe that the good far outweighs the bad. Where there is an attack on the legitimacy of sport, let's knock it out, the way Juan Manuel Marquez did Manny Pacquiao, but watch we must, because without it something will be missing - something fans cannot live without.
Wesley Petersen is the EWN Sport Editor.