A Year in Review: The Greatest Sporting Moments of 2008!
What a year of sports we experienced in 2008!
This past year has thrown up some extraordinary highs and some devastating lows, all combining to make 2008 a truly unforgettable year.
This slide show condenses an action-packed year into just 25 parts, one slide for each of the 25 greatest moments of the sporting year, ranging from football to cricket and baseball to swimming. All slides are arranged in chronological order.
The final slide will be a list of the 10 best moments of this year.
So, sit back, relax, and reminisce about the greatest sporting moments of 2008! Enjoy!
Jan. 16: The Messiah Returns
It was the date Newcastle fans around the world were waiting for—the stunning return of Kevin Keegan, a.k.a. "the Messiah."
Keegan returned to manage the Premier League team after almost guiding them to the league crown more than a decade earlier.
Living up to his moniker, Keegan was revered on Tyneside for his legendary first spell in charge, and his return was seen as a new era for Newcastle F.C.
Things didn't go as planned, however, and on Sept. 4 of this year, Keegan resigned, sparking furious protests from the Newcastle faithful.
Their Messiah had slipped through their fingers again.
Feb. 3: Super Bowl XLII—"Who Wants It More"
The 42nd Super Bowl saw a mismatch of epic proportions, as the undefeated New England Patriots took on the NFC champions, the New York Giants.
After a defensive first three quarters in which only 10 points had been scored (7-3 Patriots), the fourth quarter will go down in history as one of the most exciting in NFL history.
The Giants scored their first touchdown to give them a 10-7 lead, which they held for almost 10 minutes before the Patriots scored one with just 2:42 left on the clock. Surely the favorites had won it.
However, with just over one minute on the clock, Giants quarterback Eli Manning managed to find enough space to execute a stunning 32-yard pass to wide receiver David Tyree. Tyree leaped and caught the ball by pinning it on his helmet, in a move which has since become legendary.
Four plays later, and with just 35 seconds left on the clock, Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress caught the winning touchdown, completing one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history.
Almost 150 million viewers saw the Giants become the first ever NFC wild card team to win a Super Bowl.
March 15: The Welsh Grand Slam
March saw the climax of the RBS Six Nations, the second biggest tournament in Rugby Union for the Northern Hemisphere behind the World Cup.
Wales went into the last day on the verge of a second Grand Slam in four years, but France stood in their way.
After beating England, Scotland, Ireland, and Italy, Wales was on the verge of being crowned the king of the northern hemisphere just a few months after famously flopping at the Rugby World Cup.
In a performance typical of their Six Nations campaign up to that point, Wales triumphed 29-12 thanks to some accurate kicking and a record=breaking winger.
Shane Williams scored the 42nd try of his international career, becoming Wales' all-time top try scorer in the process.
The proud rugby nation once more had reason for their pride.
March 30: Wrestlemania 24—"The Man" Is Beaten
At the main event in the wrestling calendar, the greatest wrestler of all-time had to say farewell after being beaten by his opponent, Shawn Michaels.
Ric Flair had been in the business for 36 years, winning 16 World Heavyweight Championships in that time, more than any other professional wrestler.
His retirement came one day after becoming the first active wrestler to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Tributes for the career of Flair came flooding in, and he will forever be remembered by the wrestling community as one of, if not the greatest wrestler to have ever lived.
May 17: The FA Cup Final—Portsmouth Make History
The 127th final of the greatest domestic cup competition on earth saw Harry Redknapp's Portsmouth side take on Cardiff City of The Championship.
Wembley was the scene of the historic match for the second time since it's redevelopment as Cardiff aimed to win the cup for the second time in their history, the first coming way back in 1927.
It would also have been the first time a Welsh side had won the trophy since that date over 80 years ago.
As it was, however, Portsmouth triumphed 1-0, winning the trophy for the first time since 1939, and giving Harry Redknapp his first major trophy in his long managerial career.
Nigerian striker Nwankwo Kanu got the only goal in a low-key affair, in which neither side wanted to risk losing all they had come so far for.
There could be only one winner, though, and it was Portsmouth's FA Cup journey, which saw them beat the likes of Manchester United along the way, which had the happy ending.
May 21: UEFA Champions League Final—From Russia with Love
The biggest club competition in football saw the two heavyweights of English football go head to head, as Manchester United took on Chelsea in Moscow.
It was the first all-English final in the competition's history, as well as being Chelsea's first ever Champions League final, and it didn't disappoint.
Fifty years on from the tragic Munich Air Disaster, in which most of Manchester United's young side died, the current crop did their predecessors proud, as they brought the trophy back to Old Trafford for the third time.
The first goal came after 26 minutes when Cristiano Ronaldo capped off a remarkable season by scoring a header, putting United in the lead.
Frank Lampard equalised late on in the first-half, and despite chances for both teams, it stayed like that for the whole of the second-half, and extra time.
Both sides had chances, however. Lampard had a shot which hit the underside of the crossbar, and Ryan Giggs, who was making an all-time record 759th appearance for United, had two shots well blocked by Chelsea captain John Terry.
The hero was about to become the villain, however, as, with the scores in the penalty shoot-out poised at 4-4, Terry stepped up to win Chelsea the cup, after Ronaldo had missed for United earlier.
Terry slipped when striking the ball, and his effort hit the post and went wide, causing the penalties to go into sudden death, in which Edwin Van Der Sar saved the crucial penalty from Nicolas Anelka to win them the cup.
Didier Drogba's extra-time sending off was considered a key moment, as he would have taken the fifth penalty instead of John Terry, and had he not slapped Nemanja Vidic, who knows what could have happened.
June 8: "The King of Clay" Reigns Supreme
For the third year in a row, the "King of Clay" Rafael Nadal and "The King of Tennis" Roger Federer did battle at Roland Garros in the French Open final. And, for the third year in a row, the result was the same: Nadal was crowned champion.
He is called the King of Clay for a reason, and on the clay surface of Roland Garros he defeated Federer, 6-1, 6-3, 6-0. The last set was the first time Federer had failed to win a game in a set at a Grand Slam for over nine years.
This bout was the first final between the two of the year, and was especially significant because of the manner in which Nadal beat Federer, a man who had been the World No. 1 for a record 237 consecutive weeks (four-and-a-half years).
Nadal, who is still unbeaten at this tournament, won his fourth successive French Open, a record-equaling feat.
Many people thought the match saw the passing of the torch from the Federer era to the Nadal era. Yet this was simply a prelude of what was to come...
June 17: NBA Finals—A Rivalry Renewed
The two most successful teams in NBA history renewed a long-running rivalry when they met in this year's NBA finals, as the Boston Celtics took on the LA Lakers.
Amazingly, their last final meeting was 21 years ago, which was also the last time the Celtics reached the finals.
The Lakers were appearing in a record 29th final, while the Celtics were appearing in their 20th, a tally only bettered by that of the Lakers. The Celtics, however, had the upper hand on Championships won, with a record 16, leading second-place Lakers, who had won 14.
The game not only showcased the two best sides in NBA history, but also some of the greatest players in the game's history, as the likes of Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett took to the court.
It was the Boston Celtics who came out on top in the best of seven series, winning 4-2. It was the ninth time the Celtics had triumphed over the Lakers in the finals, leaving Kobe Bryant and the Lakers to dwell on another missed opportunity.
June 29: Euro 2008 Final—Spain Finally Perform
For years, the Spanish national side had failed to perform on the biggest stage, despite having world-class talent in their ranks.
They certainly weren't short of talent in the European Championships of this year either, but people were slow to back them because of their tag of perennial underachievers.
Even when they reached the final, people were hesitant to back them against the ruthless and efficient Germans.
Germany had experience of performing on the biggest stage and winning, while Spain always seemed to shoot themselves in the foot. That was not to be on this occasion, however, as the Spanish dominated throughout, and won their first major title for 44 years.
The goal came courtesy of Liverpool striker Fernando Torres, after he lifted the ball over the head of Jens Lehmann following an exquisite pass from Xavi.
The underachievers had finally achieved and are now looking forward to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
July 6: "The Greatest Tennis Match in History"
The top two in the world collided once more in a Grand Slam final as Rafael Nadal looked to break Roger Federer's spell at Wimbledon.
The Swiss maestro had won Wimbledon five years in a row entering this match, and was looking to break Bjorn Borg's Open Era record by making it six.
But in his way stood Nadal, and what followed was an epic Wimbledon final that will go down as one of the greatest tennis matches in history. It's certainly the best I've ever seen.
The final shot was struck in near darkness after rain stopped play on two separate occasions, which only served to prolong the tension that could be felt around the court.
Some shots left the spectators breathless, while others had them leaping out of their seats. When Nadal hit the final shot to complete an amazing 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (8-10), 9-7 victory, it mattered not who you were supporting, everyone rose to their feet and applauded these two great athletes.
If the French Open was the passing of the torch, Wimbledon was the coronation of a new king.
Aug. 16: Rebecca Adlington Wins Her Second Gold
Great Britain went into the Beijing Olympic games looking to compete on most levels, but the achievements of 19-year-old Rebecca Adlington surpassed anyone's wildest dreams.
After winning a gold five days previously in the 400m freestyle, Adlington went into her favoured event, the 800m freestyle, looking to become the first Briton to win two gold medals in the pool for 100 years.
She had already become the first British female swimmer to win gold for 48 years, but that wasn't enough for her.
As she pulled away from the rest of the pack in the pool, eyes turned not to see whether she would win, but how much she would break the world record by.
The answer: 2.12 seconds. At just 19-years old, Adlington had not just written herself into British folklore, but had made sure her name would be recorded in the world history books after smashing the record.
The future looks bright for Britain in the pool!
Aug. 16: The Lightning Bolt Strikes
I always wondered if I would know when I was watching something that would go down in history. With this, I knew.
Usain Bolt stepped up to the line for the 100m men's final having blown away his competition in the heats. He faced stern opposition in the final, including fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell, but was still expected to win.
The manner of his win, though, took everyone by surprise.
In a race against the fastest men in the world, he could afford to celebrate with 15 metres left. Not only did he cruise for the last part and win, he also broke his own world record, running it in 9.69 seconds.
Never before had the world seen such a dominant 100m final.
He didn't stop there either. Worryingly, the 200m was his favoured race and, just four days later, Bolt proved lightning can strike twice by winning gold, and becoming the first man to break both the 100m and the 200m world record at the same Olympics.
Just to cap his remarkable Games off, he helped Jamaica to the 4 x 100m relay, securing his third gold in Beijing.
Aug. 17: The Greatest Sporting Moment Ever?
One day after Adlington and Bolt made history, they were overshadowed by perhaps the greatest sporting achievement of all-time: Michael Phelps winning his eighth gold medal of the Beijing Olympics.
In doing so, he eclipsed Mark Spitz, who won seven swimming golds in 1972.
Phelps' dominance over his sport is something the likes of which we have never seen before, and the way in which he won the eight golds just adds to his legend.
Seven of his eight races saw him, and his teammates, break world records, and he broke the Olympic record in the remaining one.
Not only has he won more Olympic golds than anyone at one Games, he has now also won more golds than any other athlete in Olympic history.
A truly remarkable athlete who will go down as perhaps the greatest Olympian of all time.
Aug. 19: Chris Hoy Dominates the Velodrome
Just like one man dominated the pool, one man dominated the track in the Velodrome throughout the Summer Olympics: Chris Hoy of Great Britain.
Hoy won his third gold of the Games on this day, beating fellow Briton Jason Kenny in the final of the men's sprint.
His first two golds came in the team sprint and the men's keirin events, while the men's sprint event put the icing on a historic cake. Chris Hoy is now the most successful Scottish Olympian ever.
His performances capped off a wonderful Olympics for the British cycling team, which included seven out of a possible 10 golds.
He came back to a hero's welcome and has secured his place in the history books.
Sept. 8: The King Is Back!
After his so-called nightmare year, which included two other Grand Slam finals and an Olympic gold medal, Roger Federer went into this last Grand Slam of the year with a point to prove.
And, for once, there was no Rafa Nadal in his way.
Instead, he came up against Andy Murray, who was finally starting to show the type of form that could see him challenge the world's top two. A semifinal win over Nadal had showcased this for all to see.
But Federer showed that class is permanent, and you can never count him out. He may have been having a "bad" year, but he ended it on a high, beating Murray in straight sets 6-2, 7-5, 6-2.
It was Federer's fifth consecutive U.S Open title, becoming only the fourth man to complete such a feat, and the first in the Open era. He also became the only player to have won two seperate Grand Slams five times in a row.
The King was well and truly back.
Sept. 13: The All Blacks Reign Supreme Once More
The 2008 Tri-Nations was one of the most intriguing rugby tournaments of recent times, with World Champions South Africa taking on New Zealand and Australia.
The teams were ranked first, second, and third respectively going into the tournament, and all eyes were on the South Africa vs. New Zealand match to see who was truly the world's best.
The eyes of the world were distracted by Australia now and again, however, as they played their part in an exciting tournament, which saw everyone beat each other at least once.
Ultimately, it was New Zealand who came out on top, beating Australia 28-24 in a thrilling final day match to clinch the title. The Aussie's finished second, while the World Champions could only manage third.
One high point for the Springboks, however, was their destruction of Australia, as they defeated them 53-8.
New Zealand regained their place on top of the world rankings after this tournament.
Sept. 21: The Ryder Cup Goes Back to America
The 2008 Ryder Cup, the premier golf competition in the world, saw Nick Faldo captain Team Europe, while Paul Azinger captained Team USA.
Azinger was aiming to become the first American captain to win the prestigious tournament since Ben Crenshaw in 1999. Since then, Europe had dominated it.
This year re-wrote the history books, however, as America took home the prize, following a comprehensive 16.5-11.5 victory, America's biggest win for over 25 years.
Despite facing a team lacking Tiger Woods, the Europeans only managed one session win throughout a tournament where they never really looked able to beat the Americans.
Oct. 17: The Little Master Breaks the Test-Run Record
The cricketing world has seen many great batsmen, from W.G. Grace to Don Bradman and from Viv Richards to Brian Lara, but no-one has ever scored more test runs than Sachin Tendulkar,
On this day, during a test match against Australia, Tendulkar hit the 15 needed to overtake Brian Lara's record of 11,953 test runs, and went on to post 88 in that innings, making him the first batsman to pass the 12,000 mark.
After he broke the record, the crowd rose to their feet in rapturous applause, and even the Australian players wanted to shake the great man's hand.
The little master had lived up to his moniker.
At the time of writing, Tendulkar has 12,413 test runs, including a record 41 centuries, to his name.
Oct. 29: The World Series—The Phillies Triumph
The 104th edition of the World Series saw the Philadelphia Phillies take on the Tampa Bay Rays to determine the MLB Champions.
It was the first time the Tampa Bay Rays had ever made it to the World Series, while the Phillies were appearing in their sixth one, looking for their second win.
The weather played it's part in an exciting series, which eventually saw the Phillies take the crown with a somewhat comfortable 4-1 win.
The Series included the first elimination game to be suspended due to bad weather and not have it canceled. Instead, they resumed play on a different day, when the Phillies were able to capture the title.
Another highlight for the Phillies would have been their comprehensive 10-2 win over the Rays in the penultimate game of the Series.
Nov. 1: The Most Important Game in the History of Cricket?
In the most significant tournament in the history of cricket for quite some time, Sir Allen Stanford's Superstars took on England in a winner takes all Twenty20 encounter.
The winning players received $1 million each, with another $1 million being shared between the members of the winning squad who weren't selected for the championship game. An extra $1 million went to the management team, and the remaining $7 million was shared between the ECB and the WICB.
This meant that one catch could earn you, your teammates, and your country $20 million, while a dropped catch could cost you the same amount.
Some saw it as the evolution of cricket, moving away from the Test era and into the more exciting Twenty20 era. Others, however, saw it as the beginning of the end for the game.
In the Championship match between the Stanford Superstars and England, the result was emphatic, with the Superstars winning by 10 wickets after bowling England out for less than 100 runs.
Since the tournament, the Stanford Superstars have disbanded, and the prospect of any future tournaments looks bleak at best.
Nov. 2: The Most Exciting Finish in Formula One History
The stage was set for Lewis Hamilton to become the youngest F1 World Champion in history, after somehow missing out in his debut season.
All he had to do was finish fifth and the Championship was his. If he finished any lower than sixth, and title rival Felipe Massa finished first, then the title would be handed to Massa.
As the lap counter ticked down into single figures, Hamilton was out of the required positions and, with just a few of laps left, he was running out of options.
Then the rain came down, and Hamilton, as well as most of the other front-runners, stopped to change their tyres. One man didn't, however: Timo Glock.
As the race was nearing it's end, Hamilton was languishing in sixth place and, with Massa having the perfect race and finishing first, that would have meant another heartbreaking finish.
But then, on the last corner of the 2008 F1 season, Hamilton overtook Timo Glock, who was going slowly due to having the wrong tyres in the rain, and moved into the required fifth place, where he finished.
He had made history in the most dramatic of ways, and the finish will go down in Formula One folklore.
Nov. 22: The Kiwis Shock the World
It's not often that New Zealand go into a game of rugby as the underdogs, but in Rugby League there is only one nation who dominates: Australia.
And the Rugby League World Cup is their tournament, having won nine of the 13 previous tournaments. In fact, such is their dominance that they had won the RLWC every tournament since 1972.
So when they came up against New Zealand, a team who they had comfortably beaten 30-6 earlier in the tournament, the expectation was another win for the Kangaroos.
But it never materialized, as New Zealand rallied to a magnificent 34-20 win. It says something about Australia's strength that the loss, against the number two side in the world, is one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.
Nov. 28: The Darker Side of Sport
Sport can provide great highs, but sometimes it is involved in devastating lows, and this was one of those times, as the England v India ODI series was interrupted by the Mumbai terrorist attacks.
Sport had to take a back seat, and it was agreed among all involved that the series should be stopped, and England returned home.
What was especially worrying for the England players was that the terrorists seemed to be targeting foreigners, particularly those from the west.
Therefore, for the safety of the fans and players, the only reasonable action that could have been taken was to return home, and wait for the storm to pass.
All the players, fans, and everyone else involved expressed their deepest concerns for all involved in the chaos, and for the whole of India, a country that was deeply affected by these shocking acts.
Dec. 6: The Golden Boy Is Beaten Black and Blue
2008 may have seen Joe Calzaghe continue his unbeaten streak, and Ricky Hatton dispatch of Paulie Malgnaggi, but none could develop the same level of interest as Manny Pacquiao vs. Oscar De La Hoya.
It was the man widely regarded as the best active pound-for-pound fighter today (Pacquaio) taking on a boxing legend, who was still regarded as one of the best (De La Hoya).
In fact, going into the fight, De La Hoya was the favourite, as many people thought his size advantage over Pacquaio would be the decisive factor.
How wrong they were.
Pacquaio dominated the fight from start to finish, and De La Hoya looked a shadow of the Golden Boy he once was as Pacquaio hit him with punch after punch.
In the end, De La Hoya's corner threw in the towel before the start of the ninth round, with Pacquiao a long way ahead on points.
The "Dream Match" had turned into a nightmare for De La Hoya.
Dec. 8: Terrorism Will Not Win!
In the wake of the Mumbai terrorist attacks, many people expected sport to be put on the back-burner while the country came to terms with the situation that was unfolding.
After England had returned home just over a week before, many expected the Test match series between the two countries to be called off in the same way the ODI's were.
But, instead of showing the terrorists that they were winning, it was decided that sport could help people get through the horrific happenings.
And so the England players and English Cricket Board agreed to go back to India and complete the Test match series. What's more, when any England player could have refused to go back, a full squad was taken to India.
Every player wanted to help in whatever way they could.
It was a remarkable show of bravery from all involved, which includes the players and fans of both countries, and it showed that life goes on, and terrorism cannot stop that!
The Top 10 Sporting Moments of 2008
It's been quite a year in hindsight!
With so many great moments to choose from, picking a top ten is always going to be hard, but here is mine:
10. Euro 2008 final
9. Sachin Tendulkar breaks the test-run record
8. Chris Hoy wins his third gold
7. England resume tour of India
6. UEFA Champions League final
5. Lewis Hamilton wins the F1 Drivers' Championship
4. Super Bowl XLII
3. Wimbledon final
2. Usain Bolt smashes 100m record
1. Michael Phelps wins eight golds
What a year it has been! Feel free to agree or disagree with any of my choices, and here's to another great sporting year in 2009!