Russia tainted the Games when it was revealed they had participated in a doping cover up scheme. Most of the country’s track and field team were banned from the Olympics and rightly so. Despite this, there were some terrific performances to come out of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
From Michael Phelps winning his twenty-third ever Gold Medal, to Kaori Icho wining her fourth straight Gold and South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk breaking the 400m track World Record, there were plenty of feel good moments in Rio. Elaine Thompson won the 100m and the 200m on the track and American Katie Ledecky is going to be a star in the pool for some time to come.
While there is still much to learn about how Australia approaches the Olympics, there were some golden moments that stand out from the Aussies too. From our Rugby 7’s girls claiming a maiden Gold Medal, to new Aussie faces including Emma McKeon in the pool and our up and coming men’s basketball team. Plus there was Gold to Chloe Esposito in the modern pentathlon and our sailors did their best to keep the medal tally respectable.
Optus changed the Premier League
When it was announced late last year that Optus would take over from Fox Sports in Australia as the rights holder of the Premier League, there was a massive outcry. It turns out this outcry was warranted though, because a third of the way into the 2016/17 Premier League season, there is still major issues with the service. Not to mention that Optus decided against buying rights to show every game on demand. Sigh. There is still two and a half more years of this and it could just be the beginning of a change in sporting rights in this country.
Women’s sport dominated the headlines
A new National Netball League was announced. The Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) got increased free to air coverage on Channel Ten. The AFL announced an eight team women’s competition to get under way in 2017 and the W-League continued to get decent television coverage. These were just some of the progress and big announcements that dominated the headlines for women’s sport in 2016. Next year will be a huge year as the new netball and football competitions get underway. There is still plenty to play out, but it will be an interesting year that is for sure.
Muhammad Ali passes away
June 3 2016 was the day that some call the greatest sporting figure to grace the planet, left the world. Muhammad Ali departed, leaving an array of famous one liners that will live in sporting folklore for ever. Enough said really.
Essendon saga drew on
Just when you thought this saga was all done and dusted, The Court of Arbitration for Sport handed down a penalty for anti-doping breaches and if you were a Bomber fan, it was not good news. Thirty four players would be forbidden from playing, coaching or being involved in AFL in any sort of way for twelve months. It ruined the year of the Essendon Football Club, although it did not break the spirit of the Club.
Later in the year, after an appeal to a court in Switzerland also failed to clear them, Jobe Watson handed back his Brownlow Medal. It is fair to say that every AFL fan would be very happy never to have to hear about this again.
It was the drug admission that shocked the sporting world and threw the integrity of the Australian Open out the window. The tournament already had faced awkward questions when it was revealed match fixing and betting scandals were well and truly alive in the sport. Then a few weeks after the tournament had ended Sharapova tested positive to a banned substance. Accident or not, it shook the sporting world’s confidence in having a clean sport once more.
Nico Rosberg wins and then quits
Rosberg claimed his maiden Formula One title after a year where him and teammate Lewis Hamilton dominated the track. At one stage they crashed into each other and this soured their relationship somewhat. Perhaps it was because of this that Rosberg called it quits at the end of the season. Needless to say, I am sure he will be back, but it at least means our own Daniel Ricciardo may have a good chance of challenging a bit more in 2017. That is if he can keep on top of his up and coming teammate Max Verstappen, who himself caused fireworks during the 2016 season. It is good though, because with Mercedes recent dominance, the sport needs a bit of a shake up.
GOAT. What more can you say about the man who has single-handedly restored credibility to the athletics world. His triple triple at the Rio Games was another sporting moment in time where you will remember where you were when you watched it. I think I was actually happier about Bruce McAvaney’s brilliant call of the event than Bolt actually pulling off the feat! One for the ages.
The boy from Port Lincoln became a star and boy did Australia love it. Clearly a massive highlight of 2016, Chalmers turned at the 50m mark of the 100m freestyle race in seventh place. Then, as a country focused on what fellow Australian Cam McEvoy was going to do, Chalmers came from the clouds and won a Gold Medal. Like Bolt, if you saw this race you will remember where you were. For me it was at work with the digital radio on and the ABC’s Gerard Whateley’s familiar voice revealing ‘Australia’s got a new teen idol at the Olympics.’ Chilling stuff.
The year of the underdog
2016 proved that you really do have to be in it to win it.
In the English Premier League, Leicester City did what everyone thought would never be done, they won the League. With a budget only the fraction the size of the likes of Manchester United and Manchester City, Leicester City played with a spirit and a confidence that could not be stopped and that we will be unlikely to ever see again.
Closer to home in the AFL, the Western Bulldogs came from seventh place, went over to Perth, then knocked out the three-time defending champions, went up to Sydney and beat the upcoming champions and won the flag.
In the NRL, Cronulla put the ASADA troubles of a couple of years behind them to take out the premiership. If only Essendon had taken a smiliar deal a few years back.
And in the United States, Cleveland took out the NBA in the ultimate homecoming for LeBron James and the Chicago Cubs won the Major League Baseball title. Both wins broke massive droughts. Anything really is possible in the world of sport.
If 2017 is half as good as 2016 was in a sportng sense, we would be in for another brilliant ride. We can only hope. See you in the grandstand in 2017 sports fans!
Picture – Cameron Spencer