Sport in 2019: Top twelve moments in pictures

The action was spectacular, exciting and colourful for 12 months around the globe, but the thrilling and sometimes surprising images also caught the wider significance of modern sport.

Megan Rapinoe lapped up the rapturous reception when the US women’s football team appeared in New York on July 2 two days after winning the World Cup. Rapinoe stood out on and off the field in France. She talked eloquently with her boots as she captained the United States and finished as the tournament’s joint top scorer. Off the field, Rapinoe, a campaigner for LGBT rights and gender equality, spoke out, attracting even wider attention as she stood up to President Donald Trump which did not diminish the reception she received when the team returned home.

In this file photo taken on July 10, 2019 USA women’s captain Megan Rapinoe (right) celebrates next to NY Mayor Bill de Blasio in front of the City Hall after the ticker tape parade for the women’s World Cup Football champions in New York. Amid chants of “equal pay,” “USA” and streams of confetti, the World Cup-winning US women’s football team was feted by tens of thousands of adoring fans with a ticker-tape parade in New York on Wednesday. PHOTO | JOHANNES EISELE | AFP
Siya Kolisi stood tall as he showed off the Rugby World Cup trophy at a victory parade in Soweto on November 7. Kolisi, South Africa’s first black captain, had led the Springboks to victory five days earlier in Yokohama. Less than a month after Chester Williams, the sole non-white in South Africa’s first World Cup triumph in 1995 died at 49, Kolisi, prop Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira and wingers Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi were key members of the team.

South Africa’s flanker Siya Kolisi (centre) lifts the Webb Ellis Cup as they celebrate winning the Rugby World Cup final match against England at the International Stadium Yokohama in Yokohama on November 2, 2019. PHOTO | CHARLY TRIBALLEAU |

Liverpool did not walk alone as they won Europe’s top club competition for the sixth time. A tepid final in Madid was effectively settled by a controversial penalty award in the second minute. After that Tottenham were powerless against a defence martialled by the magisterial Virgil van Dijk. The most memorable moment came at home at Anfield in the semi-final on May 1 when the Reds, trailing 3-0 from the first leg deficit, beat mighty Barcelona 4-0. The Kop roared and their team responded.

Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah (centre) raises the trophy after winning their Uefa Champions League final match against Tottenham Hotspur at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid on June 1, 2019. PHOTO | BEN STANSALL |

Lewis Hamilton had something to spare as he clinched his sixth Formula One driver’s title at the US Grand Prix with two races left in the season. Mercedes started strongly, winning the first six races, with Hamilton taking four of them. Even when the Ferraris were faster and their 21-year-old starlet Charles Leclerc collected four straight pole positions, Hamilton kept finding a way to win. He ended the season with 11 victories in the 21 races to collect a third straight title. He is now just one world title behind the all-time mark of Michael Schumacher.

Formula One World Drivers Champion Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of USA at Circuit of The Americas on November 03, 2019 in Austin, Texas. PHOTO | MARK THOMPSON |

Eliud Kipchoge’s run on October 12 in a Vienna park might have been carefully stage managed, yet it was still a momentous and emblematic feat. The Kenyan became the first person to complete a timed run over the marathon distance in under two hours. After narrowly missing in 2017, he beat the symbolic mark by almost 20 seconds. He also bettered the world record by two minutes but did not break it. Because he ran behind a pace car, was escorted by a rotating phalanx of pace makers and had no competition, the official record remains a relatively leisurely 2:01:39, set by Kipchoge in Berlin 2018.

Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge celebrates after busting the mythical two-hour barrier for the marathon on October 12 2019 in Vienna. Kipchoge on Saturday made history, busting the mythical two-hour barrier for the marathon on a specially prepared course at Prater park with an unofficial time of 1:59:40.2. PHOTO | ALEX HALADA |

Simone Biles sparkled again at the gymnastics world championships in Stuttgart in October. She won five more golds to take her tally to a record 25. Biles unveiled two fresh and complex elements, sparking debate after the international gymnastics federation assigned the moves relatively low values arguing that they did not want other gymnasts to endanger themselves imitating the American. The triumph came in a tough year which saw Biles speak about being abused by former US team doctor Larry Nassar. The 22-year-old American has suggested that she will retire after the Tokyo Olympics next year.

USA’s Simone Biles celebrates wnning the gold medal on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Women’s vault after the apparatus finals at the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships at the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle in Stuttgart, southern Germany, on October 12, 2019. PHOTO | MARIJAN MURAT | AFP

Tiger Woods showed he still has claws as he tore through the field on the final round at the Masters on April 14 to win his first major in 11 years. The 43-year-old Woods started the final day clad in his famous Sunday red and two shots behind Francesco Molinari. Over the last seven holes, five other men held or shared the lead. Only Woods held his nerve as he won his 15th major and fifth Masters. The rest of the season was more of the struggle, but Woods had proved he can still perform on the biggest Sundays.

Tiger Woods of the United States celebrates with the Masters Trophy during the Green Jacket Ceremony after winning the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. PHOTO | ANDREW REDINGTON |

Ben Stokes stooped to conquer. Returning to the England team after a ban following a brawl in 2017, he started the World Cup with runs, wickets and an astonishing catch to win man of the match. From there, his year just got better. In the final against New Zealand, he made 84 not out to earn England a tie, helped by a bizarre incident when he was hit by a fielder’s throw as he dived for a run, deflecting the ball for four overthrows. England won on tiebreak. Stokes was man of the match. In the Ashes, he clobbered an unbeaten 135, to claw England back from the brink in the third Test at Headingley.

England’s Ben Stokes (centre) celebrates with teammates after taking the last wicket of South Africa’s Imran Tahir as England won by 104 runs in their 2019 Cricket World Cup group stage match at The Oval in London on May 30, 2019. PHOTO | IAN KINGTON |

Steve Smith climbed off the canvas to eclipse even Stokes in the Ashes. The former Australian captain, also returning from a ban, was flattened by England fastest bowler Jofra Archer in the second Test and missed the third, the ‘Stokes Test’. But he still finished the series with 774 runs in four Tests – 333 more than the next highest scorer, Stokes – at an average of 110.57 as he ground down England’s bowlers and ensured Australia drew the series and retained the Ashes.

Australian fieldsman Steve Smith (second left) is watched by teammates Marnus Labuschagne (left), Joe Burns (second right) and Tim Paine (right) after he takes a catch to dismiss Pakistan batsman Azhar Ali on the second day of their second Test match in Adelaide on November 30, 2019. PHOTO | WILLIAM WEST |

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer pushed the limits as they fought out a dazzling heavyweight men’s final at Wimbledon. At 4 hours, 57 minutes it was the longest Wimbledon final. It only ended as soon as it did because of the first ever fifth-set tie-break in a Wimbledon final. Djokovic retained his title, 7-6, 1-6, 7-6, 4-6, 13-12, after saving two championship points. It was his 16th Grand Slam title. Only Federer (20) and Rafael Nadal (19) have more. Between them the three have now won the last 12 Grand Slams.

Rafael Nadal (right) of Spain poses with Novak Djokovic of Serbia after winning the ATP Masters tournament final tennis match at the Foro Italico in Rome on May 19, 2019. PHOTO | FILIPPO MONTEFORTE | AFP

Japan were refreshing hosts at the World Cup. They brightened the competition with their high-energy running rugby, upsetting both Ireland and Scotland to reach the last eight for the first time before bowing out to eventual winners South Africa in the quarter-finals. Indeed, their bowing also attracted attention. Japanese teams and fans have acquired a reputation for tidying up after them selves when they play away. As hosts, they also set a good example, as other teams copied their habit of bowing to fans.

Japan’s wing Kotaro Matsushima (left) dives and scores a try past Russia’s wing Vladislav Sozonov during their Rugby World Cup Pool A match against Russia at the Tokyo Stadium in Tokyo on September 20, 2019. PHOTO | TOSHIFUMU KITAMURA |

Lindsey Vonn finished her career by collecting yet another medal. The American speed queen said her body was too battered to continue her pursuit of Ingemar Stenmark’s record of World Cup victories, but at the end of another injury-hit season she was still quick enough at 34 to claim an eighth World Championship medal in the downhill in Are, Sweden. She skied 19 seasons and won 82 World Cup races, both records for women. She won races in five disciplines and she always brought style and elan to events.

US skier Lindsey Vonn, winner of the Laureus Spirt of Sport Award 2019 kisses her award at the 2019 Laureus World Sports Awards ceremony at the Sporting Monte-Carlo complex in Monaco on February 18, 2019. PHOTO | VALERY HACHE |

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