SO much happened in the world of sport in 2014 that I could easily have filled this entire newspaper covering all the feats, successes and triumphs achieved by individual stars and teams over the last 12 months.
However, I have been able to reduce my wordage and hopefully I have covered all the relevant facts and stats.
Here are my top three sports stars of 2014:
Lionel Messi – footballer
In October 2014, Barcelona’s Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi became the youngest player to score 250 goals in La Liga. The very next month, he bagged a hat-trick against Sevilla to become the all-time top scorer in La Liga with 253 goals. And later in the month, he netted his 74th Champions League/ European Cup goal to become the all-time leading marksman in this 60-year-old competition.
When I compiled these notes the irresistible ‘Leo’ had notched no less than 375 goals in 445 competitive games for Barcá (2004-14) and another 61 in 119 U20/U21/senior internationals for his country. And he’s still only 27.
Lewis Hamilton – F1 champion
The 2014 Grand Prix World champion Lewis Hamilton competed in all 19 F1 races this year, winning 11, finishing on the podium 16 times and starting in pole position on seven occasions. He amassed 384 points to clinch his second driver’s title of his career, ahead of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.
Lewis’s victories came in Malaysia, Bahrain, China, Spain, Britain (Silver-stone), Italy, Singapore, Japan, Russia, USA and Abu Dhabi in that order, clinching the title in the last race.
And to cap a great year, the 27-year-old Stevenage-born driver was crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year, gaining 33 per cent of the vote.
Marc Marquez – MotoGP star
Spain’s ‘Masterclass on two wheels’ Marc Marquez, ‘MM’ to his colleagues, achieved a hat-trick of World MotoGP championship victories – and his fourth triumph in five years.
He competed in all 18 races, gaining 13 wins, 14 podium finishes while accumulating a total of 362 points. He won the title with three races remaining.
He took the chequered flag in Qatar, America, Argentina, Spain (on three occasions at different venues), France, Italy, Holland, Germany, Britain, Malaysia and India. And with his 10th successive victory in Indianapolis, USA, ‘MM’ became only the third rider to achieve 10 successive race victories in the same season, after Aussie Mick Doohan and Italian Giacomo Agostini.
And some more:
I must also congratulate golfer Rory McIlroy, the PGA and Open champion who helped Europe win the Ryder Cup, again, under influential captain Paul McGinley… England’s women, winners of Rugby Union’s World Cup and ‘Team of the Year’… Ronnie O’Sullivan, the Welsh Open, Masters and UK snooker champion, and colleagues Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy… Ireland, under skipper Brian O’Driscoll, for their Six Nations Rugby triumph… Sri Lanka, victors of cricket’s T20 World Cup… marathon runner Wilson Kipsang, who won the London and New York events… Northampton Saints, Rugby’s Aviva Premiership and European Champions Cup winners… Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali… Germany, FIFA World Cup winners (and for beating Brazil 7-1)… Real Madrid, inspired by Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, for their Champions League and European Super Cup victories… Sevilla, Europa League winners… MK Dons for whipping Manchester United 4-0… Bournemouth for smashing Birmingham City 8-0 away… Chelsea, Sheffield United, Spurs and Liverpool for reaching the semi-finals of the League Cup… Worcester-Scunthorpe or their epic recording-breaking FA Cup penalty shoot-out (13-14)… Britain’s athletes (including 40-year-old Jo Pavey) for some terrific performances in the Glasgow Championships… racehorse winners Tonalist (Belmont Stakes), California Chrome (Kentucky Derby), Pineau de Re (Grand National) and the Aidan O’Brien-trained Australia (Derby)… NH jockey Tony McCoy on reaching the milestone of 4,000 winners… Stephen Bunting, the BDO Darts World champion… boxers Carl Froch, four-time World Super Middleweight champion… GB equestrian rider extraordinaire, Charlotte Dujardin… GB swimmer Adam Peaty… and finally skeleton bobber Lizzy Yarnold.
Sadly these sporting folk all left us in 2014: ex-footballers Sir Tom Finney (Preston), Tony Hateley (Liverpool, etc), Bert Williams (Wolves) and Alfredo Di Stefano (Real Madrid, Spain); F1 driver Sir Jack Brabham; rugby stars Jack Kyle (Ireland) and Norman Mair (Scotland); jockeys Terry Biddlecombe, Dessie Hughes and Michael Scudamore; trainer Toby Balding; athletes Sir Chris Chataway and Dorothy Tyler; tennis star Louise Brough; cricketers Ian Craig, Gary Gilmour and Phil Hughes (all Australia) and Phil Sharpe (England), and, finally, BBC com-mentator David Coleman.