The international sporting performance of the year and a genuine sporting fairytale…
Few had heard of Emma Raducanu, 18, before this year’s US Open. She arrived in New York to face qualifying rounds, but two weeks later, she has established herself as the rising star of women’s tennis, becoming the first qualifier in the Open era to win a Grand Slam and the youngest winner since Maria Sharapova in 2004.
Ranked 338th in June, the win saw her jump to 19th in the world.
What made this such a special performance was the backstory. Raducanu promised to “come back stronger”, when she withdrew from her round-of-16 match at Wimbledon in July, as the pressure that came with a Grand Slam debut on home soil caught up with her.
Two months later, she emphatically delivered on that promise by not dropping a set on her way to the title at Flushing Meadows.
Then, van Aert showed his sheer speed by out-finishing the specialist sprinters – including Cavendish – for victory on the Champs-Élysées finale.
No rider had captured a mountain stage, a time trial and bunch sprint in the same Tour de France since five-time champion Bernard ‘The Badger’ Hinault in 1979.
The 2021 Tour de France will always be remembered for Slovenian Tadej Pogacar defending his crown to become the youngest rider to win the world’s most famous cycle race twice.
Beyond that headline, this epic 21-stage, 3414km trek threw out so many other enthralling storylines, including the miraculous comeback of sprint ace Mark Cavendish, who broke a five-year drought to equal the record for most stage wins.metasports
But one of the least appreciated achievements during this year’s classic was that of Belgian Wout van Aert – a Jumbo Visma teammate of Kiwi George Bennett – who quietly stole three very diverse stages along the way.
The swimming sprint sensation had the weight of the world on his massive shoulders at the Tokyo Olympics.
The heir to the American swimming throne, previously owned by Michael Phelps, delivered in the pool.
Dressel won five gold medals in the Tokyo pool, breaking world records for fun and cementing his spot in not only American sporting history, but Olympic history as well.