VARIOUS: SPORTS YEARENDER 2007/REVIEW OF THE YEAR - Sporting year of 2007 has plenty of highs but problems of doping and crowd violence do not go away
VARIOUS: SPORTS YEARENDER 2007/REVIEW OF THE YEAR - Sporting year of 2007 has plenty of highs but problems of doping and crowd violence do not go away
- Title: VARIOUS: SPORTS YEARENDER 2007/REVIEW OF THE YEAR - Sporting year of 2007 has plenty of highs but problems of doping and crowd violence do not go away
- Date: 15th December 2007
- Summary: BEIJING, CHINA (FILE, 2007) (REUTERS) "BIRDS NEST" STADIUM SHROUDED IN SMOG WIDE OF BEIJING COVERED IN SMOG
- Embargoed: 30th December 2007 15:34
- Topics: Sport
- Reuters ID: LVAC5DVP65W5SVL71FNIBON1VTU6
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: SOCCER AC Milan, Manchester United and Real Madrid added more cups to their glittering trophy rooms but the war-ravaged country of Iraq provided the most unexpected and memorable moment for soccer in 2007.
Milan avenged their defeat to Liverpool in the Champions League final in Istanbul two years earlier with a 2-1 win over the same opponents in Athens. Thirty-three-year-old Filippo Inzaghi scored both Milan's goals.
Milan were crowned champions of Europe for the seventh time -- after UEFA initially did not want them to compete in the competition as a result of the 2006 Italian match-fixing scandal.
Kaka, Milan's playmaker, won the prestigious Ballon D'or. At just 25, the Brazilian seems destined to win plenty more honours in the future.
There were more celebrations in Milan as Inter won Serie A, but Italian football was dogged by violence which culminated in two deaths -- one a policeman and the other a fan -- prompting fixtures to be suspended and EU authorities to propose the formation of a new special police force for sport.
Italian football had suffered an unexpected setback when new UEFA president Michel Platini announced the favourites had failed in their bid to host Euro 2012. Instead, the tournament will be hosted jointly by Ukraine and Poland.
Real Madrid ended their four-year trophy drought when they won the Spanish league title for the 30th time after a dramatic 3-1 comeback victory over Real Mallorca on the final day of the season.
Coach Fabio Capello halted Real's worst run of form in over 50 years.
But although the team got back on the trophy trail, they did not play with the sort of open, attacking style demanded by the club and its fans.
The Italian came under fire from all quarters for sidelining David Beckham after the midfielder's announcement in January that he would be leaving the club to play for LA Galaxy in a package that could be worth up to 250 million U.S. dollars.
It was only during the team's thrilling run-in to the end of the season that the criticism from the media relented. But it was not enough to save Capello's job and he was replaced by German Bernd Schuster.
Real topped the final standings by virtue of a better head-to-head record against arch-rivals Barcelona.
The Catalan side responded by adding Thierry Henry to their all-star squad for the 2007-2008 season.
Spanish Cup winners Sevilla finished third in the league behind the two Spanish giants. Juande Ramos's side also beat Espanyol on penalties in the UEFA Cup final after a 2-2 scoreline.
In an eventful year for Sevilla, Ramos had been knocked unconscious in February by a bottle thrown from the stands at Real Betis.
The highest profile soccer tragedy this year was also at Sevilla, where 22-year-old Spanish international Antonio Puerta collapsed after a heart attack in a league match on August 25 and died three days later.
In the same week, Zambian striker Chaswe Nsofwa collapsed on the pitch during a practice game for Israel's Hapoel Beer Sheva and later died in hospital. The 27-year-old was part of Zambia's African Cup of Nations squad in 2002.
In England, Manchester United regained the title that Chelsea had won in 2005 and 2006.
United clinched their 16th championship and ninth under Alex Ferguson when Chelsea -- described by Ferguson as his most resilient ever rivals -- finally failed in their chase when only drawing with Arsenal.
Chelsea also lost "the Special One" -- their title-winning coach Jose Mourinho -- in September. Israeli Avram Grant is now at the helm of Roman Abramovic's expensive squad.
After ending the season a distant 21 points adrift of United, third-placed Liverpool embarked on a spending spree made possible by the purchase of the club by Americans George Gillett and Tom Hicks.
Rafael Benitez's highest profile signing was striker striker Fernando Torres who, at 23, became the most expensive Spaniard ever as he moved from Atletico Madrid.
David Beckham's recall to the England team by manager Steve McClaren ended a nine-game exile but his inspirational presence was not enough to save McClaren, who was sacked in the wake of England's stunning failure to make next year's European Championships.
Capello seems almost certain to take on the vacant England manager's position.
Alan Ball, the youngest member of the England team that won the World Cup in 1966, died aged 61.
Stuttgart won the Bundesliga title and Germany won the women's World Cup in China, becoming the first country to win successive women's world crowns. They beat Brazil 2-0 in the final.
Inspired by Juan Roman Riquelme, on loan from Spanish club Villarreal, Boca Juniors emerged as the club Champions of South America after beating Brazil's Gremio 5-0 on aggregate in the final of the Libertadores Cup -- the first time a team had kept a clean sheet over the two legs since 1969.
Riquelme, who scored twice in the first leg and again in the second, completed his transfer back to his former team in November.
Modest Argentine club Arsenal won the first title in their 50-year history early in December when they scored a late goal to win the Copa Sudamericana final against Mexican club America.
Despite losing the second leg 2-1 at home, Arsenal won on away goals after the tie finished 4-4 on aggregate. The crowd erupted, as did celebrity fan Diego Maradona watching from high in the stands.
Brazil won the Copa America, beating arch-rivals Argentina 3-0 in the final, despite being without Ronaldinho and Kaka. The high-profile pair had asked to be rested because they were tired after a long season in Europe.
Brazil, the only candidate, was awarded the 2014 World Cup by FIFA. But fears about the structural state of some of Brazil's stadia were rekindled in November when at least seven people died and dozens were injured as part of a stand collapsed in a Salvador stadium. A hole had appeared in the floor of the stadium's upper tier and several people fell to the street below. Salvador is a candidate city to host matches in 2014.
Iraq's 1-0 triumph over Saudi Arabia in the Asian Cup final in Jakarta on July 29 was a victory that transcended sport. Iraq's unexpected win was a triumph for human spirit as much as for the athleticism and skill of their players. Few people gave them any hope of making it past the group stages.
Their squad was a patchwork of Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish players, fractured by the sectarian violence in their homeland which touched almost all their players, most of whom had had friends and relatives killed in the conflict.
Iraq went into the final riding a wave of global sentiment but were still not expected to beat Saudi Arabia, who were appearing in their sixth final in 23 years and bidding to become the first country to win the title for a fourth time. Iraqi captain Younis Mahmoud scored the only goal to complete one of sport's great fairytales and spark wild celebration on the streets of Baghdad.
The Asian Champions League final was won by Urawa Reds. The Japanese team beat Esfahan of Iran 3-1 on aggregate.
CYCLING There was an unprecedented spate of doping scandals in the sport of cycling in 2007.
As the Tour of France was about to get under way, former winner Bjarne Riis admitted to doping during his victorious ride in 1996.
The race itself was further tarnished when several riders, including Kazakh Alexander Vinokourov and Dane Michael Rasmussen, were thrown out.
Pre-race favourite Vinokourov was found guilty of blood doping during the race and he and his Astana team were expelled. Rasmussen was sacked by his Rabobank team as he led the race for lying about his training programme.
When the Tour finally ended on July 19 it was Spaniard Alberto Contador who climbed onto the victory rostrum in Paris to take the yellow jersey.
However, it was not until September that the result of the 2006 Tour de France was settled when the original winner American Floyd Landis was banned from the sport by the American Arbitration Association. A French laboratory found traces of synthetic testosterone in a sample provided by Landis during the 2006 Tour de France. Landis was the first rider to be stripped of the Tour title and another Spaniard, Oscar Pereiro, was finally awarded the coveted yellow jersey.
Meanwhile, Giro d'Italia winner Danilo Di Luca has recently denied allegations he used a drip between a stage of May's race and a surprise late night dope test. Di Luca, who has always denied doping, was tested by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) after the 17th stage of the Giro and officials said the results showed abnormal hormone levels. The case remains unresolved.
ATHLETICS On the plus side in the fight against doping, 2007 was the year the BALCO laboratory scandal claimed its biggest victim.
Marion Jones, the triple Sydney Olympic gold medallist, finally admitted after years of denial that she had taken BALCO's most potent steroid tetrahydrogestrinone. Jones used the so-called "clear", specifically designed to fool the testers, before her 2000 triumphs. Jones, the heir to Carl Lewis as the world's leading sprinter and long jumper, broke down in tears at a news conference in which she confessed to drug abuse. She has since returned all five medals she won in Sydney and accepted a two-year ban.
American double world sprint champion Tyson Gay and Ethiopian distance runner Meseret Defar were named the 2007 World Athletes of the Year by the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations).
Defar shattered her own world record in the 5,000 metres, clocking 14 minutes 16.63 seconds in Oslo in June, to lower her previous mark by more than eight seconds. The current Olympic 5,000 champion, she also won the event at the World Championships in Osaka and set a world record indoors in the 3,000 metres.
Gay won three gold medals at the Osaka World Championships, sweeping the 100 and 200 metres and running the third leg on the victorious 100 metres relay team.
In the 100, Gay clocked 9.85, relegating world record holder Asafa Powell of Jamaica to third.
Powell broke his own world record in the 100 metres in September, clocking 9.74 seconds in Rieti.
Other notable performances came from Ethiopia's Haile Gebrselassie and Russian Yelena Isinbayeva.
Gebrselassie broke the men's marathon world record in Berlin with a new mark of two hours, 4 minutes and 26 seconds.
Isinbayeva, the World, Olympic and European champion was yet again without peer in the women's pole vault. In her first undefeated season, she raised her own indoor world record to 4.93 metres and also shared half of the one million U.S. dollars Golden League Jackpot with Sanya Richards.
In 2007 athletics said goodbye American discus great to Al Oerter who, from 1956 to 1968, won gold in four consecutive Olympic gold medals. He was
MOTOR SPORT Lewis Hamilton was simply sensational, and Kimi Raikkonen remarkable, but the real revelation of the Formula One season came courtesy of a photocopy shop near the McLaren factory where an employee tipped off Ferrari that someone had come in to copy 780 pages of their technical data.
The saga cost McLaren the constructors' title and a record 100 million U.S. dollars fine while threatening also to undermine Hamilton's chances of winning the 2008 crown by casting lingering doubts over next year's car.
It contributed to double world champion Fernando Alonso's departure from the Mercedes-powered team after just one acrimonious season, with the Spaniard returning to Renault next year.
If the sport's reputation took a battering in the courtroom, Hamilton added lustre on the track.
Standing out as Formula One's first black driver, the 22-year-old rookie exceeded all expectations with a debut like no other. Never before had a driver come as close as Hamilton did to winning the title at the first attempt as he won four races and beat team mate Alonso into third place.
Double world champion Alonso had expected to be acclaimed as undisputed number one at McLaren and the Spaniard found that hard to take, his relationship with Hamilton and team bosses disintegrating as the season wore on.
But with a first title since 1999 almost in their grasp, McLaren blew it.
It was Raikkonen's Ferrari that came through and sealed one of the sport's most stirring comebacks.
The Finn was 17 points adrift of Hamilton with two races remaining but victory in both, while the Briton skidded out on worn tyres in China and wrestled with a gearbox glitch in Brazil, handed him a long overdue title.
After two years dominated by Renault and Alonso, Ferrari were back on top.
The World Rally Championships had a similar finale. After having led, like Hamilton, for most of the season, Finn Marcus Gronholm (3) crashed out in Ireland, the penultimate event of the season.
Third place for Frenchman Sebastien Loeb in the season-ending Rally of Britain was enough to give him his fourth world title in a row.
Gronholm, who now retires from the sport, finished just four points behind the Citroen driver.
The world of motorsport mourned the death of former world rally champion Colin McRae in September after he was killed in a helicopter crash.
The 39-year-old died along with his five-year-old son Johnny when the helicopter he was flying in crashed into a forest near his home in Lanark, Scotland. A six-year-old friend and another man were also perished in the crash.
Baby-faced Australian Casey Stoner clinched a sensational first MotoGP world title with two races to spare as he finished ahead of Italy's Valentino Rossi in the Japanese Grand Prix. Twenty-one-year-old Stoner became his country's first world champion since Mick Doohan won the last of his five 500cc crowns in 1998 and also the second youngest premier-class champion in the sport's history.
Jorge Lorenzo retained his 250cc title after finishing third in Malaysia. The Spaniard will move up to MotoGP next season as Rossi's Yamaha team mate.
Gabor Talmacsi became the first Hungarian to win a motorcycle world championship in any class, clinching the 125cc title by finishing second to nearest rival Hector Faubel in the final race of the season.
James Toseland had to wait until the final race of the season to clinch his second World Superbike title at Magny Cours. The Briton will also ride in MotoGP season, having signed for the Tech 3 Yamaha team.
TENNIS Switzerland's Roger Federer continued to rewrite the tennis history books in 2007. In February he eclipsed Jimmy Connors' record for most consecutive weeks as World number one (160) and at the US Open becoming the first player in history to reach all four Grand Slam finals in back-to-back years.
Federer claimed three Grand Slam crowns for the third time in four seasons: his third Australian Open crown, his fifth straight Wimbledon championship and his fourth consecutive at Flushing Meadows. But the Swiss player again failed to overcome Rafael Nadal as the Spaniard maintained his superiority on the clay of Roland Garros. Earlier in the year Federer had broken Nadal's 81-match winning streak on clay to take the Hamburg Masters title.
Like Federer, Justine Henin, started and ended the season as number one. The Belgian player briefly lost the top spot to Maria Sharapova during the Australian Open where the Russian reached the final only to be beaten by Serena Williams who had slumped to a ranking of 81.
In the French Open final, Henin beat Ana Ivanovic who crowned a memorable tournament for Serbia where Jelena Jankovic and Novak Djokovic also reached the singles semi finals.
Henin suffered a surprise defeat in the Wimbledon semis to Marion Bartoli. The Frenchwoman then lost to Venus Williams in the final.
Even without Sharapova, Russia were too powerful for defending champions Italy in the Fed Cup final. Svetlana Kuznetsova, who finished the season ranked second, beat Francesca Schiavone in the decisive rubber.
The United States won the Davis Cup a record 32nd time with victory in the final over holders Russia. Andy Roddick, James Blake and the doubles pairing Bob and Mike Bryan swept aside the Russians to claim the team title for the first time in 12 years.
In May, Belgium's former world number one Kim Clijsters announced her immediate retirement from tennis on her Web site at the age of 23. The Belgian, who had struggled with a recurring injuries, won only one grand slam -- the 2005 U.S. Open. But she reached four other finals and six additional semi-finals in a 10-year professional career highlighted by fierce rivalry with compatriot Henin.
Early in November, an emotional Martina Hingis stunned the sporting world when she declared she had tested positive for cocaine at Wimbledon in June. The Swiss, who promptly retired from tennis, insisted she had never taken any drugs.
SWIMMING In November, swimming's world governing body FINA abandoned its long investigation into the results of a doping test from Ian Thorpe after the Australian was cleared of any offences. Thorpe, who won five Olympic gold medals before his retirement last year, has always maintained his innocence.
Earlier in the year, a week of jaw-dropping performances from Michael Phelps at the world championships emphatically confirmed him as the world's best swimmer. The gangling American surpassed Thorpe's achievement of six gold medals in a world championship by winning an unprecedented seven world titles in Melbourne and eclipsing four individual world records in the process.
RUGBY UNION South Africa and England might beg to differ but the rugby story of 2007 was New Zealand's all-too-familiar but still shocking World Cup implosion. Coach Graham Henry spent four years building towards October 20 in Paris but, despite an unprecedented no-stone-unturned approach, watched his team go out to France in the quarter-finals.
Henry was forced to reapply for his job. He was successful -- though only for two years -- and already the rugby world is wondering just how sport's greatest team might conspire to mess it up when they host the World Cup in 2011.
For France, having recovered from a defeat by Argentina, the win over New Zealand in Cardiff proved the highlight as they lost their Paris semi-final to a resurgent England in a fantastic atmosphere in the Stade de France.
Defending champions England were in disarray when they lost 36-0 to South Africa in the pool stage but the return to action of the irrepressible Jonny Wilkinson and some old-style forward grunt helped them to turn things round magnificently as they stunned Australia, then France.
In the final, South Africa had enough defence and discipline to keep England at bay and they took the trophy on the back of relentless efficiency without ever having to do anything extraordinary.
Scorching winger Bryan Habana, the IRB player of the year, epitomised their approach with his total commitment to his defensive duties in the final, while captain John Smit was a universally popular follower in the footsteps of 1995-winning skipper Francois Pienaar.
CRICKET The Cricket World Cup was irrevocably marred by the death of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer who was found unconscious in his hotel room on March 18 in Kingston, Jamaica, after his team's unexpected loss to Ireland.
Police launched a murder inquiry after Jamaican police commissioner Mark Shields announced the 58-year-old Englishman had been strangled, leading to initial speculation that illegal bookmakers on the Indian sub-continent could have been involved.
But Woolmer also had a number of health problems, including diabetes and high blood pressure, and last month an inquest returned an open verdict.
Early exits for Woolmer's Pakistan and India did not help the tournament. Nor did the decision by the International Cricket Council to place ticket prices out of reach of the locals and ban musical instruments, effectively barring the distinctive Caribbean atmosphere they had used to promote the tournament in the first place.
Overall the tournament, admirably organised in nine countries, went on too long and featured too many meaningless matches.
The final ended as a sorry metaphor for the 2007 World Cup as Australia twice celebrated victory over Sri Lanka. The players were recalled to the field unnecessarily for three more overs in a match which both teams realised had already finished according to rain regulations. Their commanding victory was set up by an innings of 149 by Adam Gilchrist.
By contrast, the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup, staged in South Africa and climaxing with victory to India over old rivals Pakistan, was an outstanding success.
By the end of 2007 the supple-wristed Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan had reclaimed the world record for test wickets with his 709th victim. Muralitharan's creaking 35-year-old body may not allow him to reach 1,000 wickets but he could still set an unassailable mark.
GOLF Title-hungry Tiger Woods and Lorena Ochoa were predictably golf's dominant figures in 2007 although the majors produced more than their fair share of surprise winners.
Woods and Mexican Ochoa, the respective world number ones, landed the final grand slam events of the year after the previous six had remarkably all been claimed by first-timers.
Woods, joint runner-up in the first two majors of the year before tying for 12th at the British Open, secured his 59th PGA Tour title in the PGA Championship at Southern Hills. Woods was delighted to add a 13th major trophy to his impressive collection. Only Jack Nicklaus, with 18, has more.
Fan favourite Ochoa eclipsed Woods with eight victories on the LPGA Tour where she was a full-time competitor for only the fifth consecutive year.
The Guadalajara native set the tone for an unforgettable 2007 when she dethroned Swede Annika Sorenstam as world number one in April. Ochoa finally made her major breakthrough with a four-shot victory in the Women's British Open at St. Andrews in August, having led from the opening round.
Zach Johnson clinched the first major of the men's season, defying all the odds when he held off a late challenge by fellow American Woods to triumph by two shots at the Masters in April.
Cigarette-puffing Angel Cabrera of Argentina followed suit in June when he became the second South American to win at the highest level with a highly popular U.S. Open success at daunting Oakmont.
The following month, Irishman Padraig Harrington ended an eight-year major drought by Europeans with a playoff victory over Spaniard Sergio Garcia in the British Open at Carnoustie.
On the European Tour, Britain's Justin Rose clinched the 2007 order of merit by winning the season-ending Volvo Masters at Valderrama last month.
OLYMPICS Beijing's preparations for hosting the 2008 Olympics surged ahead in 2007 as China sees the Olympics as a chance to showcase its development achievements to the world. However, air pollution in the city still remains a concern despite the IOC being reassured that the issue would be sufficiently addressed. Air quality has been one of the biggest issues facing the organisers of the Games, and the IOC chief Jacques Rogge said in August that some endurance events might have to be rescheduled if the pollution was too heavy.
In July the IOC awarded the 2014 Winter Olympics to Sochi. It will be the first time Russia has hosted a Winter Games.
YACHTING Alinghi won the 32nd America's Cup in Valencia, Spain, beating Team New Zealand by one second in a thrilling seventh race to take the series 5-2. The Swiss syndicate sailing team brought the Cup to Europe in 2003 for the first time since the initial race in 1851.
BOXING In the biggest match-up of undefeated welterweights since 1999, Floyd Mayweather confirmed his reputation as the world's best pound-for-pound fighter with an impressive knockout of brave but overmatched challenger Ricky Hatton on December 8. Mayweather retained his World Boxing Council (WBC) welterweight title with a 10th round stoppage of Briton Hatton, the American setting up the win with two knockdowns.
Little else of huge significance occurred in boxing in 2007 although former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson still contrived to hit the headlines as he reported to jail for the third time in 15 years. Tyson wore prison stripes to serve one day of a 10-day sentence after pleading guilty to drug possession and driving under the influence.
BASKETBALL Thousands of basketball fans spilled out into the streets of Athens on May 6 to celebrate Panathinaikos clinching the Euroleague basketball title.
The Greek team beat defending champions CSKA Moscow 93-91 in the final at the Athens Olympic Indoor Arena.
The NBA title went to the San Antonio Spurs who swept the Cleveland Cavaliers 4-0. San Antonio's Tony Parker took the MVP award.
AMERICAN SPORTS NHL ice hockey saw the Anaheim Ducks overpower the Ottawa Senators, 6-2, in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals to clinch the series.
In American Football, Superbowl XLI was won by the Indianapolis Colts who beat the Chicago Bears 29-17.
Disgraced U.S. football star Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison after pleading guilty for his involvement in an illegal dog-fighting enterprise. The former Atlanta Falcons quarterback was one of the National Football League's top players.
Baseball In August, Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron's baseball home run record of 755 set in 1974 to a rapturous reception by San Francisco Giants fans and a mixture of outrage and indifference elsewhere.
Bonds, with Marion Jones, BALCO's most high-profile client, has long denied doping. Yet many fans have suspected that steroids powered Bonds when he set the single-season home-run record in 2001 and kept him going at an age when many of his peers lose strength and endurance.
Bonds long-time team, the San Francisco Giants, chose not to offer him a contract for the 2008 season and his future in the game remains in doubt.
Baseball's World Series was won by the Boston Red Sox who beat the Colorado Rockies 4-0.
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