Credit: Rachael Banks

The best sporting moments of 2021

By Collaborative

2021 has been a year of sporting ups and downs. Here’s a round-up of some of the most memorable moments from the past year.

The sporting world, like the rest of the world, had its fair share of highs and lows in 2021. We laughed, we cried, we celebrated and grieved as sport began to return to normal, with athletes continuing to live out their dreams under the watchful gaze of many. Here are some of our favourite sporting moments from the past 12 months.

Genevieve Brown – PGA Golf beef between Koepka and DeChambeau

Watching the 2021 PGA Championship with my Dad, I caught a moment of unguarded contempt on live television. Brooks Koepka muttered “fucking Christ” at the mere sight of Bryson DeChambeau at a press conference, and I was hooked. The Trump Golf-sponsored DeChambeau was known for hitting the ball as far as possible, using brute force, and performing calculations on the fairway to determine his strategy. But he was bested by the winning 50-year-old don, Phil Mickelson. Mickelson is skilful and sees golf as an art, not a science. This Hollywood-style narrative had me unexpectedly invested in golf drama this year!

Dan Street – Luke Shaw’s goal in the Euro 2020 final

As the pandemic leered over the UK’s summer, and cases grew and grew, the England men’s football team gave my nation  south of the border something to finally be proud of. Luke Shaw’s goal in the Euro 2020 final was a surreal, swirling thing of high seas beauty. Within the first two minutes of a major tournament final, the nonchalant outside-of-the-boot strike gave England fans the best glimpse of the promised land since 1966. The goal itself was an artwork for the ages, conjured initially by Shaw himself, who started the move near his own box; then Harry Kane’s intelligent, deep foray – deftly switching play to the right flank; then the erudite, sixpence delivery of Kieran Trippier; before the left back’s flamboyant, Picasso-esque stroke caused Wembley to erupt into a kind of buzzing delirium. The resultant euphoria, before the half-time warm pints of Carling kicked in and Italy wrestled back control, was as close to perfection as I have experienced watching the national team. For at least an hour or so, it felt different being English. The nation was vibrant, colossal, sure-footed. It felt as if England was made for days like this – when myriad societal worries would melt away to be replaced by diverse, young, jubilant heroes. The Scottish roars from my Glasgow local, however, were louder when Italy finally won, but I shall keep the memory of that heady, ecstatic hour with me forever.

Alex Mirzai – Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder III

Any boxing trilogy is always worth the watch. Tyson Fury v Deontay Wilder III was no exception. No doubt, Wilder was determined to succeed on this occasion after the initial draw followed by his first-ever professional loss in the rematch (Fury v Wilder II). Wilder weighing in at his heaviest mark (231 lbs) introduced a level of uncertainty which later exposed his questionable boxing ability on fight night. Fury, sharp as ever, was appraised for yet again performing to an exceptional standard. 

The back-and-forth action between the two fighters was relentless. From stinging body blows to damaging hooks, Wilder stood no chance against the relentless pace of Fury. With five total knockdowns in the fight, the matchup emphatically ended in the 11th round with Fury by knockout. The result was both concussive and conclusive. 

This begs the question of what the future holds for Wilder. With no belts in his corner, the former champion must prove his worth in the heavyweight division by defeating the best fighters, namely Anthony Joshua, Oleksandr Usyk, or Dillian Whyte, or face ridicule for biting off more than he can chew. Naturally, Fury prevails and is now the name to beat. 

Claire Thomson – Women’s 200 metre breaststroke at Tokyo 2020 Olympics

In the swimming world this year, there have been some absolutely incredible races, standout athletes and moments that make me feel proud to be involved in the sport. British Swimming have had a year to remember and their Olympic montage is something really special, however, I’ve decided to pick the women’s 200-metre breaststroke final from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as my sporting moment of 2021. 

Having failed to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics by just one-hundredth of a second, South African swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker claimed victory in the 200 metre breaststroke in a world record time, beating a strong field, including the favourite for the title, American Lilly King. Whilst my heart went out for King, being beaten for the second time at the Olympic Games in both her main events, Schoenmaker’s achievement was simply incredible. Her gold medal was South Africa’s only of the whole Olympics and was her country’s first female medal in an Olympic Pool since Penny Heyns won bronze in 2000. What’s more, her reaction to her win, followed by the pure emotion of realising she had broken the world record, becoming the first woman ever to swim under 2min 19sec. Joined by fellow South African swimmer Kaylene Corbett and American duo Lilly King and Annie Lazor, who grabbed silver and bronze, the quartet shared their success together in the pool, proving that swimming is far from an individual sport and that we always need each other to help us achieve our dreams.

Qalam Trevelyan – Men’s High Jump at Tokyo 2020 Olympics 

For the first time since 1912, the Tokyo Olympics saw a shared podium. Following an intense two-hour competition, Mutaz Barshim of Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy found themselves inseparable at 2.37m in the men’s high jump final. Having been offered a “jump off” by officials to decide who would take home the highest of athletic honours, in an unprecedented move, the two athletes instead decided that they would share the gold medal. This sporting demonstration of respect, selflessness and friendship captured the hearts of all who had tuned in. The events of that night undoubtedly transcended athletics. Having previously been united by a common injury, both athletes have helped the other reach the lofty heights of Olympic glory. In a world frequently torn apart by animosity, such a story allows us all to re-evaluate the importance of kindness in maintaining human excellence. Pictures of the two men embracing, immortalised on the back pages of newspapers across the globe, will forever be a demonstration of the importance sport has in uniting all, despite the most testing and competitive of arenas.

Craig Smith – McTominay’s Goal v Israel

My favourite sporting moment of 2021 came in October when Scotland’s men took on Israel in a crucial 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier at Hampden Park, win,  and Scotland were in a strong position to gain a playoff spot, fail to win and it would be an uphill struggle to say the least. It was a magical day from start to finish. The game itself was a rollercoaster of emotions with brilliant Scotland moments, like John McGinn’s opening goal, and daft Scotland moments, like Lyndon Dykes’ missed penalty. However, that was all just a precursor to the moment of the year as in the 94th minute of the match, with the score tied at 2-2, Scotland won a corner. John McGinn stepped up to take it, Jack Hendry flicked it on with his head at the near post and Scott McTominay bundled in the ball at the back post. The goal might have lacked aesthetic pleasure but the fans did not care, it was a moment of release for Scotland fans, celebrating together in a way they had been deprived of when Scotland qualified for Euro 2020 due to the severe Covid-19 restrictions at that time. This felt like the moment when the Tartan Army finally got to come together as one and celebrate the wonderful team Scotland currently have. As if the day wasn’t special enough then the day at Hampden was topped off with a spectacular rendition of Yes Sir I Can Boogie from the crowd.

And what a year to be a Scotland fan considering there was at least three rival Scottish Men’s National Team moments which could have usurped McTominay’s goal for best sporting moment of 2021: that Euro 2020 draw against England at Wembley, Callum McGregor scoring Scotland’s men’s first major tournament goal for 23 years, and Che Adams making it 2-0 for Scotland against Denmark to secure a home playoff spot for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It is truly halcyon days for Scottish football fans, and it might get better yet in 2022. 


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