Britain and sport are becoming ever more synonymous. Year on year the sporting exploits that Brits achieve never ceases to amaze; this year has been no different.
With success coming in nearly all corners of the British sporting spectrum it has been a truly memorable 2014. So who are Britain’s greatest sporting stars of the last 12 months?
Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy has arguably been the greatest sportsman in the world these past 12 months. After enduring the worst year in his career in 2013, McIlroy battled back to win two of golf’s four Majors.
His victory at The Open was impressive, but the fact that he followed up this success at the US PGA was incredible. McIlroy became the first man since Padraig Harrington in 2008 to win back-to-back majors. What makes his success at The Open more extraordinary is that McIlroy called off his engagement to tennis’ Caroline Wozniacki not long before the start date. Many expected his head to be in the wrong place. Instead, McIlroy just ploughed through the competition to claim a third major.
Last year AP McCoy won his 4,000th race at Towcester. Did he rest on his laurels? No, he just carried on with business as usual. Every year you think that there is going to be an upstart that is going to usurp McCoy on his jump racing throne.
Many have tried over the last 19 years but not one has managed that feat. The fact that at 40-years-old McCoy is still the best in his sport is staggering, as is his bravery and natural skill. The jockey will be hoping for an even better 2015 and he will most definitely be targeting a second victory at the Grand National with Double Seven, who came close last year and is favoured in the ante-post betting.
Although the Formula One championship was just between the two Mercedes drivers it does not take away from Lewis Hamilton’s fantastic achievement in winning his second Drivers’ Championship.
His battle with team-mate Nico Rosberg was engrossing, pulsating and seemingly never ending. After having to retire in Spa, Belgium, due to a coming together with Rosberg – an incident that left Lewis seething – it seemed that Hamilton’s title challenge was practically over.
What transpired after is the sign of a true sporting great. With six victories and a second in the final seven races of the calendar, Hamilton ended up victorious – winning with a points margin greater than 60.
When Gareth Bale moved from Tottenham to Real Madrid for a world-record fee all eyes in the footballing world were firmly paying attention. How would the world’s most expensive player cope with this new club and this alien league? After tentatively returning from injury it was time for Bale to show the world just what he can do, and boy he did.
Bale is revered by the Madrid faithful due to his prominent role in aiding Real in their quest for their tenth European Cup success. His goal against Atletico in the final was not only key to Madrid winning in Europe, ending an 11-year wait, it also saw him become the first Welshman to score in a European Cup final. The 25-year-old has also grown on the international stage.
With a world ranking of 34, Wales are not far from surpassing their highest ever ranking of 27, and they are very well placed to qualify for the 2016 European Championships in France, something they haven’t been able to do for quite some time.