- Title: VARIOUS: Sports yearender 2011 - Review of the year part 1 - January to April
- Date: 10th December 2011
- Summary: JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA (MARCH 26, 2011) (REUTERS) O.R TAMBO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT ARRIVALS TERMINAL LIBYAN SOCCER PLAYERS AND OFFICIALS ARRIVING
- Embargoed: 24th December 2011 21:29
- Location: Spain, Italy, Usa, Brazil, United Kingdom
- Country: USA
- Topics: Sport
- Reuters ID: LVA4G3K9Q4RAPOOLQ42WC7XASNZZ
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: Part one of the sports highlights of 2011 - January to April.
JANUARY The first big soccer managerial casualty of 2011 came on January 8 when Roy Hodgson resigned after just six eventful months in charge of Liverpool. During that time, the ownership of the club had changed hands, the five-times European champions had slumped to mid-table and, crucially, Hodgson had lost the support of the fans. Former Anfield legend Kenny Dalglish took over.
Ronaldinho, one of soccer's great entertainers, returned home to a tumultuous welcome by over 20,000 fans in Rio de Janeiro as he rejoined Flamengo from AC Milan.
Ronaldinho, who has 93 caps for Brazil, was FIFA World Player of the Year in 2004 and 2005, The 2012 Ryder Cup captains were announced - Jose-Maria Olazabal will lead the holders Europe and Davis Love III the United States for the 39th edition of the biennial competition.
As a player, Olazabal formed a formidable partnership with Seve Ballesteros. The two Spaniards won 11, halved two and lost two of their 15 matches together as a Ryder Cup pair.
Love is a veteran of six Ryder Cups as a player.
Japan won the Asian Cup soccer championship for a record fourth time by beating Australia through an extra-time goal by Tadanari Lee in the final in Doha.
In the Australian Open tennis Spaniard Rafael Nadal breezed through the quarter-finals in his bid to become only the third man, and the first since Rod Laver, to hold all four Grand Slam titles.
But, struggling with a hamstring injury, the world number one lost to compatriot David Ferrer in straight sets.
After beating Roger Federer in the semis, Serbia's Novak Djokovic dispatched Britain's Andy Murray in straight sets to win his second Australian Open tennis final.
In the women's final, Belgian Kim Clijsters beat Li Na 3-6 6-3 6-3 to win her first Australian Open and fourth grand slam title. Li became the first Chinese player to reach a Grand Slam singles final.
The tournament saw former world number one Justine Henin quit tennis for a second time after doctors advised her to end her career due to an injured elbow.
Henin, 28, won seven grand slams. In May 2008 the Belgian became the first woman player to retire while ranked number one in the world but she returned early in 2010.
The British soccer transfer record was smashed twice on the last day of the January transfer window as Liverpool sold Fernando Torres to Chelsea but raided Newcastle United for an immediate replacement in the shape of burly England frontman Andy Carroll.
Torres cost Chelsea a widely reported 50 million pounds (80.21 million U.S. dollars) -- a new British record by quite a margin. Liverpool paid Britain's second largest fee, 35 million pounds (56.14 million U.S. dollars), for the 22-year-old Carroll on the day they also completed the signing of Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez from Ajax.
Benfica defender David Luiz joined Chelsea on deadline day as the English club's owners flexed their financial muscles.
FEBRUARY Former Pakistan captain Salman Butt and fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were banned for at least five years on February 5 after they were all found guilty of corruption by an International Cricket Council (ICC) tribunal.
Butt, 26, was banned for 10 years with five of them suspended.
Asif, 28, was ruled out for seven years -- two of which are suspended -- while 18-year-old Amir was banned for five.
The three were part of a gambling-inspired spot-fixing plot to bowl no-balls at pre-arranged times during a match.
In November 2011, the trio were found guilty by a British civil court for their part in the scandal, specifically over their actions in the fourth cricket test at Lord's in August 2010.
Butt and Asif were jailed for 30 months and one year respectively. Amir, who pleaded guilty before the trial of his two team mates, was sentenced to six months in a case that prosecutors said had revealed rampant corruption at the heart of international cricket.
Polish Formula One driver Robert Kubica suffered multiple fractures in a high-speed crash on February 6 while competing in a minor rally in Italy. Kubica, Renault's leading driver, is eventually expected to make a full recovery, but his future in Formula One is still in doubt.
The Green Bay Packers returned home with the Super Bowl trophy to the delight of thousands of supporters.
The Packers reclaimed the greatest prize in North American sport when they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 to win the 45th Super Bowl. Inspired by their dynamic young quarterback Aaron Rogers, the Packers gave a masterclass demonstration, opening up a 21-3 lead in the second quarter before surviving a ferocious late comeback from the Steelers.
Ronaldo ended his career, one of the most successful in soccer, in February. The former Brazil striker said injuries and fitness problems prevented him from playing to his best form.
The 34-year-old announced his retirement in a packed news conference at Corinthians' training complex in Sao Paulo.
During a brilliant career sprinkled with goals for four major European clubs -- Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and AC Milan -- Ronaldo was FIFA world player of the year three times and European footballer of the year twice.
He won two World Cup winners medals with Brazil. He was an unused squad member when Brazil won the title in 1994 and their top scorer when they won their record fifth in 2002 after he recovered from a serious knee injury that had threatened a premature end to his career.
Alberto Contador returned to competition on February 16, just one day after a provisional one-year ban for doping was lifted, starting in the Tour of Algarve in Portugal.
"It is an enormous satisfaction, not only for me but also for my team and my sponsors," Contador told reporters just moments before the start of the tour. "I am truly happy to be here."
The 28-year-old three-times Tour de France winner had been suspended provisionally since August 2010 after testing positive for a small amount of the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol, but the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFCEC) lifted the ban.
Contador, had repeatedly denied deliberate wrongdoing, saying the failed test was due to contaminated meat.
The season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on March 13 was called off on February 21 due to political unrest in the country. Organisers had hoped the race could be re-scheduled later in the year but that move was opposed in June by teams on logistical grounds.
MARCH Palestinians celebrated their first ever official soccer match on home soil on March 9 in an Olympic Games qualifier, but it was a bittersweet occasion as the under-21 team lost to Thailand 6-5 on penalties.
The match had ended at 1-0 to the hosts after extra-time, making it 1-1 on aggregate.
More than just a sporting occasion, Palestinians saw the match as another symbolic step towards confirming their credentials for the state they intend to establish in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The Japanese round of the MotoGP championship was postponed until October because of the earthquake and tsunami.
"Due to reasons of force majeure, the Japanese Grand Prix, at the circuit of Twin Ring Motegi, originally scheduled on April 24, has been postponed to 2 October," the International Motorcycling Federation (FIM) said.
It was the second year in a row that the race could not go ahead as scheduled. Last season's race was postponed due to global travel disruption caused by an ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano.
A Libyan under-23 team endured an exhausting journey to Johannesburg for an Olympic qualifier with South Africa.
With air-traffic having virtually grounded to a standstill in Libya due to the ongoing conflict, members of the depleted squad said they were forced to travel several hundred kilometres by road to the Tunisian capital of Tunis before flying to Europe to catch their flight to South Africa. The journey took nearly 48 hours.
With several of their regular squad missing, the Libyans lost 4-2.
APRIL India beat Sri Lanka by six wickets in the cricket World Cup final.
Sri Lanka's 274 for six was largely the result of a masterly 103 not out from Mahela Jayawardene.
Two thunderbolts from Lasith Malinga accounted for Virender Sehwag (0) and Sachin Tendulkar (18) after India set out in pursuit of a challenging target of 275.
But Tendulkar's early exit gave an opportunity to Gautam Gambhir and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni to take their side to victory as India became the first nation to win the event on home soil.
Gambhir scored an assured 97 while Dhoni hit an unbeaten 91, finishing the game with a theatrical six.
Muttiah Muralitharan, determined to bring the trophy to Sri Lanka for a second time, did his best to overcome the effects of a hamstring and a knee injury in his final international match.
Although the competitive fires still burned bright, the ball did not spit and turn as it once did and he failed to add to his record of 534 one-day wickets.
Real Madrid's chances of ending Barcelona's two-year reign as Spanish champions suffered a huge setback when they slumped to a shock 1-0 defeat at home to Sporting Gijon and Barca won 1-0 at Villarreal.
Real's failure spoiled their perfect record of 14 home wins at the start of the season and ended coach Jose Mourinho's nine-year unbeaten run in home league games with four different clubs.
The Portuguese coach had last experienced a league defeat in front of his own fans when Porto lost to Beira Mar on Feb. 23, 2002 and was then unbeaten in 150 home league games with Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real.
During a sequence of games when Real played Barca four times in 18 days, the Madrid side had a sweet victory over their great rivals in the King's Cup final. An extra-time goal by Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo settled the game.
But the trophy ended up under the team's open-top bus wheel.
As thousands of euphoric fans welcomed the champions at the iconic Cibeles fountain in the Spanish capital, Real's defender Sergio Ramos accidentally dropped the 18-year awaited trophy.
Members of Spanish police and Madrid's emergency rescue service quickly pulled out the trophy which was taken by the driver to the coach's interior.
Holders Inter Milan faced elimination from the Champions League after collapsing to a stunning 5-2 home defeat by a makeshift Schalke 04 team in their quarter-final first leg at the San Siro. Raul was amongst the scorers for the German side, to extend his record as the competition's leading scorer. Schalke were to go on to win the tie 7-3 on aggregate.
Coach Leonardo was to win the Coppa Italia at the end of May, his only trophy for Inter. The Brazilian left the club soon afterwards to become director of football at Paris St Germain.
South African Charl Schwartzel birdied the last four holes to clinch his first major golf title with a two-stroke victory at the Masters.
Schwartzel, who began the final round at Augusta National four strokes off the pace, rolled in a six-metre putt on the 18th green to complete a six-under-par 66, the day's lowest score. The 26-year-old threw both arms skywards in jubilation after his ball dropped into the cup to give him a 14-under total of 274 in the season's opening major.
Australians Adam Scott (67) and Jason Day (68) tied for second at 12 under after playing together on the final day.
Rory McIlroy of Britain, four ahead going into the final round, suffered a nightmare day as he tumbled out of contention with an 80 for a four-under total of 284.
Former marathon world record holder and world champion Grete Waitz died at the age of 57. She had been suffering from cancer.
Waitz won the inaugural world marathon title in Helsinki in 1983 and a year later took Olympic silver in Los Angeles, the first time the event was included in a Games for female runners.
She won her first New York City marathon in 1978, setting a world best time before winning the race a further eight times.
The Norwegian also won the London marathon in 1983 and 1986, setting world records on each occasion.
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