Alex takes one last look at 2016 covering the Rio Olympics, England’s Rugby team unbeaten all year, Wales’s success at the Euros and other stories of the year before concluding with those that we lost this year.
Team GB in Rio
The greatest show on earth returned and was being hosted in Rio amongst political crisis as well as financial and safety woes. Alongside this a doping scandal in Russia threatened the athletes in both the Olympics and Paralympics. The governing body of the Paralympics chose to ban all Russian athletes whilst the Olympic governing body banned individuals on a case by case basis. Still the Rio Olympic Games will go down in history. The fastest man on earth, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt retired after the games having completed the Triple Triple, Gold in the 100m, 200m sprints and 4x100m relay across three consecutive Olympic Games, Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016. In the water America’s Michael Phelps came out of retirement following a turbulent few years after London 2012 and cemented his position as greatest ever Olympian adding 5 Golds and a Silver to his tally of 18 Golds 2 Silvers and 2 Bronze across four Olympic Games, Athens 2004 through to Rio 2016. Phelps now retires with 28 Olympic medals to his name becoming the most decorated Olympian in history. Rio 2016 wasn’t just about celebrating the existing greats, we saw the new stars emerge. American Gymnast Simone Biles entered her first Olympic Games aged just 19. Biles swept up the medals claiming 4 Golds in the Team event, Individual All-around, Vault and floor Biles also took Bronze on the Balance beam, taking an Olympic medal in all her competitions. Rio 2016 saw Fiji take their first ever Olympic medal, a Gold in the Men’s Rugby 7s, edging out Team GB in the maiden outing for the sport in the Olympics.
Enough about other successes within the games, Rio 2016 was the beast games ever for Team GB & Paralympic GB. They did the unthinkable by beating the medal totals gained at the home games of London 2012, something never done by a former host nation. Team GB took 67 medals away with them, 27 Gold, 23 Silver and 17 Bronze, beating the 65 totalled in London. Paralympics GB took 147 medals, 64 Gold, 39 Silver and 44 Bronze beating the 120 from London. The Rio velodrome was dominated by Team GB. Jason Kenny became the second British athlete since 1908 to win three Golds at a single games and now joins Sir Chris Hoy as the most Successful British Olympian with six Golds and a Silver to his name. Sir Bradly Wiggins became the most decorated British Olympian after winning Gold in the Team Pursuit adding to the 7 other medals 5 of them Gold. Kenny’s fiancé Laura Trott also won two Golds at Rio and became Britain’s most successful female Olympian with a total of four Golds to her name. Kenny and Trott later married in the year. Dame Sarah Storey participated in her seventh Paralympics and became Brtiains most successful Paralympian when she took Gold in the individual pursuit as well as Gold in the time trial and road race. Kadeena Cox won Gold in the Women’s time trial as well as taking Gold on the Athletics track in the Women’s 400m and Bronze in the 100 meters being the first British Paralympian to win medals in two different sports in the same games for 28 years.
Max Whitlock won Britain’s first ever Gold in Gymnastics, he took the first on the floor and within the hour took his second Gold on the pommel. British Gymnastics took a record seven medals for the team including Silver for Louis Smith on the Pommel, Bronze for Nile Wilson on the horizontal bar. Amy Tinkler took Bronze on the floor whilst Bryony Page took Silver on the trampoline.
Out on the water in Rowing Britain took Gold in both the men’s coxless four and men’s eight for the first time since Sydney 2000 as well as the first ever medal for the women’s eight who took Silver. Katheryn Grainger became Britain’s most decorated female Olympian when she and partner Vicky Thornley took Silver in the double sculls. Helen Glover and Heather Stanning defended their Gold from 2012 taking Gold in the Coxless pairs. Joe Clarke and Liam Heath both took Golds in the Men’s K-1 events whilst David Florance and Richard Hounslow took Silver in the C-2 alongside Liam Heath and Jon Schofield. In Sailing Giles Scott took Gold with a day to spare in the Finn Whilst Saskia Clark & Hannah Mills took Gold in the 470.
In the pool Team GB had their most successful year. Adam Peaty kicked off Team GB’s Gold Rush with a win in the 100m breaststoke, an event where he kept breaking world records. Peaty also took Silver in the 4x100m medley relay alongside James Guy, Stephen Milne, Duncan Scott and Daniel Wallace. Guy and Scott took Silvers in their individual events alongside Jazz Carlin who took two Silvers. Ellie Simmons won a further four Paralympic medals including 1 Gold, 1 Silver and 2 Bronze to add to her 4 Golds from previous games.
British Diving saw the return of Tom Daley who with new 10m synchro partner Dan Goodfellow took Bronze, making Daley a double Olympic Bronze medallist in the two out of three games he’s entered. Heartbreakingly after recording an Olympic Record score in the individual 10m platform heats Daley was knocked out in the semi-final. Jack Laugher and Chris Mears took a fantastic Gold in the 3m springboard synchro competition, later Lauger took Silver in the 3m individual.
On the pitch Team GB’s women’s Hockey team took Gold. The first Gold in a team sport since 1988 after beating the Netherlands on penalties. Andy Murray became the first Male Tennis player to win back to back Olympic titles, later in the year Murray would secure his position as Tennis number one knocking of Novak Djokovic. On the track in the repeat of London’s Super Saturday, Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Greg Rutherford were out to defend their Olympic titles. Farah Took Gold in the 10,000 meters and would later defend his 5,000 meter title also. Ennis-Hill took Silver in the Heptathlon and would later announce her retirement whilst Greg Rutherford took Bronze in the Long Jump. Alistair Brownlee became the first Triathlete to defend his Olympic title whilst brother Jonathan upgraded his Bronze from London to a Silver. In Badminton Marcus Ellis and Chris Longridge took Bronze in the men’s doubles, the first medal in the event since Athens 2004 and we have to mention the emotive Gold that was Nick Skelton in the individual jumping event. Skelton became the Britain’s oldest Olympic Gold medallist since 1908 and was attending his 7th Olympics. Jonnie Peacock defended his Paralympic title, taking Gold in the 100 meters T44. Hannah Cockroft took 3 Golds on the track in the 100, 400 and 800 meter T34 events.
All in all Team GB came Second in the Olympics medal table behind the USA on 121 (46 Gold, 37 Silver and 38 Bronze) and ahead of China’s 70 (26 Golds, 18 Silver and 26 Bronze). In the Paralympics, Paralympics GB came second behind China’s 239 Medals (107 Gold, 81 Silver and 51 Bronze) and above Ukraine’s 117 (41 Gold, 37 Silver and 39 Bronze).
Wales in Euro 2016
2016 brought us the Icelandic Thunder Clap as well as good Sporting news for Wales in Euro 2016. Wales had qualified for their first international tournament since the 1958 World Cup. With England proving useless home nation hopes rested on Wales. Wales came top of their group above England, Slovakia and Russia who were knocked out. Wales won two out of their three games losing only to England. In the Knock out stages they beat fellow home Nation Northern Ireland 1-0 whilst England lost 2-1 against Iceland. Wales then went on to beat one of the bookies favourites, Belgium 3-0 to face Portugal in the quarter finals. This is where their remarkable progression would stop as Portugal beat Wales 2-0. The Final was between Portugal and host nation France. It all looked hopeless for Portugal when in the eighth minute Portuguese captain Christiano Ronaldo suffered an injury to the knee following a tackle by Dimitri Payet. Ronaldo attempted to play on coming off for medical treatment before eventually being substituted in the 25th minute. After a once over from the medical team Ronaldo return pitchside to coach his team alongside the manager. The 90 minutes ended in a 0-0 draw with France having more possession and more chances at scoring. Eder scored what turned out to be the winning goal for Portugal in the 109th minute. Portugal had won their first major trophy, a great success considering the lack of their best player.
Rugby Union: Unbeaten England
There was some good news for English sport in Rugby Union. Following the disaster that was the Rugby Union world Cup towards the end of 2015, where the host nation were knocked out of their own contest in the group stages. England’s rugby team was under the new management of Australian Eddie Jones who had led the Japanese team in the World Cup. Jones came in stating that England hadn’t produced any world-class players since Johnny Wilkinson but as the year progressed he revised this statement saying there were a few players that were nearly there. The year opened with the Six Nations tournament. England needed to redeem themselves after the disaster of the home World Cup. Their first match was against Scotland. With Tries in both halves of the game England won 15-9. The team went on to Italy who frustrated England in the first half of the game with England only leading by two points, 11-9. In the second half Jonathan Joseph scored a hat-trick of tries with George Ford and Owen Farrell also touching down. England took the game 40-9. Against Ireland on home soil. Ireland led the game in the second half with England creating too many errors, however England came back with two tries in five minutes from Anthony Watson and Mike Brown ending the game 21-10. Next up was Wales, the team that secured England’s exit from the World Cup. After the first half England were 16-0 up and 12 minutes from finishing had secured a score of 25-7 however Wales hit back with George North and Taulupe Faletau but it wasn’t enough. England had won the Triple Crown 25-21 and with Scotland beating France England had won the Six Nations with a game to spare. The bullish performance against France led to a 31-21 victory and with an unbeaten stint in the tournament England took their first Grand Slam since 2003. The summer brought with it Test matches winning 27-13 over Wales. The repeated victories over Australia, 39-28, 23-7, 44-40 then back to Twickenham where England beat South Africa 37-21, Fiji 58-15 and Argentina 27-14. 2016 Would end with one final match against Australia. Could England finish the year unbeaten and match the record 14 successive wins from 2003? Things didn’t look good to start with Australia taking a 10-0 lead early on, but England came back fighting with two tries from Jonathan Joseph, a try each from Marland Yarde and Ben Youngs alongside Farrell and Ford’s conversions secured a 37-21 victory at home. An unbeaten year with one noticeable absence from the fixtures. England hadn’t taken on New Zealand’s All Blacks. The team will be looking to retain their Six Nations title in February of 2017.
In Other News
Let’s take a quick look at some of the other stories of 2016.
Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Oscar this year in an Academy Awards ceremony branded the ‘Lillywhites’ due to the lack of diversity in the nominees. DiCaprio won Best Actor for his role in the Revenant (Bound to be a pub quiz question at some point) whilst Best Actress went to Brie Larson for Room. Best Picture went to Spotlight a film about the expose of the Catholic Church by the Boston Globe into the child abuse scandals.
Former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba was found guilty by the International Criminal Courts for War Crimes, Crimes against humanity and for the first time the ICC convicted someone of sexual offences. Ex Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić was sentenced to 40 years in prison for acts of genocide and crimes against humanity committed during the Bosnian War.
EgyptAir Flight 804 crashes with 66 lives lost en route to Paris from Cairo. Later EgyptAir would suffer another disaster when Flight 181 is hijacked en route from Alexandria to Cairo and rerouted to Larnaca Airport in Cyprus. The Hijacker demanded to see his estranged wife who was now living in Cyprus. The standoff came to an end peacefully but will be remembered for two things, firstly the Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades laughing off the hijacking stating “Always there is a woman in the middle” and secondly the viral selfie of Ben Innes with the hijacker.
In other aviation news. An investigation into Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 that was shot down in 2015 concluded the shot was from a Buk missile that came from Pro Russian rebels.
The Philippines wins an arbitration case regarding the legality of China’s “Nine-Dash Line” in the South China Sea. China choses to ignore this ruling.
The USA and China who are both responsible for 40% of the world’s carbon emissions both ratify the Paris Global agreement in a pledge to lower carbon emissions by 2020.
The World Health Organisation announces an outbreak of the Zika Virus which has led to the birth of children with abnormally small heads. The announcement caused a couple of Olympic Athletes to pull out of the Rio Games for concerns over their families future health.
North Korea conducts it’s 5th and biggest nuclear test following a long-range missile firing earlier in the year. The actions are condemned by the international community with South Korea calling it “Maniacal recklessness”.
Technology giant Samsung had to withdraw the Galaxy Note 7 just months after its release due to numerous phones sold exploding. Initially all Note 7s were recalled and replaced with an upgraded model, however the fault persisted in the replacement phones. All production was stopped and existing models recalled.
The Maldives withdraws from the Commonwealth with an aim to focus on its international commitments. The Maldives were disappointed with the level of support from the Commonwealth.
French President Francois Hollande anounced that he will not seek a second term in the elections to be held next year. Hollande has suffered terrible poll ratings and was the rank outsider in the electoral polls. Former President Nicholas Sarkozy launches his bid for his party’s nomination. He is eliminated in the first round. Elsewhere National Front leader Mariane Le Pen is polling strongly and looks like she’ll make the Presidential run off.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is to seek a fourth term in office when Germany goes to the polls in October, running on experience and stability she could be the only big EU leader left to deal with Brexit negotiations.
The United Nations adopts Resolution 2334 condemning the building of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is disappointed with the United States for not vetoing it and accuses them of orchestrating the motion. Netanyahu also tells New Zealand they have committed an act of war in voting for the motion. President-Elect Trump sides with Israel via twitter and says the UN needs to be changed.
Bob Dylan is awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and becomes the first musician to win the award. The committee honoured his “new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. It was later announced that Dylan would not travel to Stockholm to receive the award due to “pre-existing commitments”. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos won the Nobel Peace prize for his resolute efforts to bring to an end the 50 years+ of civil war with FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. A conflict that has cost the lives of at least 220,000 people and displaced close to six million. Columbia held a referendum on a peace deal between the government and FARC which covered rural reform, political participation and a ceasefire. The deal was brokered in Havana. 50.2% voted against the agreement with 49.8% in favour. The President vowed to continue for peace.
Lastly we have the people we’ve lost this year. 2016 has been a brutal year with what seems like a high number of celebrities and well-known figures passing away. The video below mentions a few but we should draw attention to the murder of backbench Labour MP Jo Cox. The MP for Yorkshire’s Batley & Spen was shot and stabbed outside her constituency surgery. This marks the first murder of a sitting MP since Conservative Ian Gow who was killed in an IRA terrorist attack in 1990. The perpetrator of Cox’s murder was quickly arrested and found guilty, he will be serving a whole life sentence.