With Leicester still in pole position in the Premier League, sports writer Nancy Frostick reveals her top 5 sporting wins that took the world by surprise.
With Leicester City creeping closer to the Premier League title week on week, there is every chance that they will complete one of the biggest ever sporting shocks. Rising from the ashes after being in the relegation zone this time last season, Claudio Ranieri’s side have surprised everyone by maintaining their form and holding on to the top spot. Until the title is wrapped up in May however, it is yet to be seen whether they will be able to go the distance and win the title – especially after defeat to title contenders Arsenal on Sunday. Some of the most surprising sporting wins that were unlucky to make it into the top five are Wigan winning the FA Cup in 2013, Sri Lanka winning the Cricket World Cup in 1996 and Germany’s 7-1 thrashing of Brazil at the World Cup in 2014.
5. Tiger Woods wins the Masters by 12 shots (1997)
Back before success and controversy, Eldrick “Tiger” Woods was a promising young player thought to be among the top prospects to flourish heading into the 1997 Masters. The tournament was to announce Woods’ arrival on the international stage as he won by twelve shots. Only eight months before, Woods had turned pro, and at the age of 21 became the tournament’s youngest winner and first black player to win a major. The winning margin of 12 shots was also a record breaker, replacing Jack Nicklaus’ previous nine shot record. Although gaining attention leading up to 1997, Woods’ emphatic victory shocked fans and his rivals alike as he exceeded his potential, destroying records on his way to dominating golf for years to come.
4. Boris Becker winning Wimbledon (1985)
At 17 years old, Boris Becker won Wimbledon and became the youngest ever winner of a Grand Slam, the first German winner of Wimbledon and the first unseeded champion. Despite winning Queens three weeks earlier and being predicted as a ‘future Wimbledon champion’, no one accounted for the prophecy being fulfilled at such short notice. Becker’s swagger and aggressive style of play earned him fans and plaudits aplenty as he completed one of the most unlikely victories Wimbledon has ever seen. Performing with maturity beyond his years, Becker’s style of flinging himself around the court and unnerving his opponent made him a German idol.
3. US Men’s Ice Hockey beat USSR (1980)
At the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, the Soviet Union were favourites to win the gold medal in the Ice Hockey, having been champions at the previous four Olympics. The ‘Big Red Machine’ were easily the best team in the world, so when facing off against a USA team largely comprised of college players and amateurs, it did not seem like they would face much opposition. However, the USA came from behind in the third period as goaltender Jim Craig took a battering to preserve their slim lead and earn them the win. The USA later went on to beat Finland in the final and secure the gold medal, but their Cold War fuelled victory over the USSR went down in history.
2. Greece win Euro 2004
Greece completed one of the most surprising victories in footballing and sporting history by winning Euro 2004. Never considered serious contenders coming into the tournament with a 150-1 chance of winning, they managed to defeat hosts Portugal in the final. Advancing through the knockout stages with 1-0 wins, their strong defensive performances made the difference against France and the Czech Republic respectively. Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo were the star names in the Portugal team in the final, but both missed key chances as Angelos Charisteas capitalised to score the winning header. Portugal were the first host nation to lose a European Championship final, and it was Greece’s first ever tournament triumph having only previously qualified for two tournaments, where they lost every game.
1. Nadia Comaneci’s perfect 10 (1976)
At the Montreal Olympics in 1976, 14 year old Nadia Comaneci became the golden girl of gymnastics by achieving the first ever 10. Although already European champion, Comaneci broke all the records and redefined concepts of what women could do in sport. Before the games, the makers of the electronic scoreboards were told ‘it was impossible to get a perfect score in gymnastics’, so only made boards that could display three figures. When Comaneci was awarded her 10.00, it could not be shown on the board, and it is the emphatic nature of her victory that made it so surprising. Comaneci received her first perfect score for the uneven bars during the group routine, and for a later three times in the asymmetric or uneven bars and three times on the beam. She finished the Olympics with three gold medals, one silver and one bronze, paving the way for future generations of female gymnasts with a totally unprecedented performance, earning her a place at the top of my list of surprising victories.