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A Look Back on Summer Sports Highlights

Are you, like millions of others around the globe, a sports fan? Or perhaps, you find it impossible to escape from the bevy of sports-related conversations among your friends? Or is your response, “What happened this year in sports?” Whichever category you fall into, this latest article is for you! Insomniac’s writer, Jessie Koh, brings us through 2012′s exciting summer sports highlights!

The Olympics Hang-Over (Source: GLYN KIRK/AFP/GettyImages)

For most Singaporean sports fans, summers are usually rather agonizing – summer means the end of many popular sports leagues (notably, the BPL for football and NBA for basketball) and the hiatus of a key source of entertainment for many. Yet, summer this year was an especially packed season for sports, with the Euro 2012 tournament, and the Summer Olympic Games more than making up for the hiatus. Now, as we near the end of the year, it seems apt to look back at the action-packed summer, with an (extremely) belated review of sorts, made up of an assortment of memorable moments and observations from the sporting events this summer.

One month where country comes first

Watching the Euro 2012 tournament as a neutral (well, with a slight preference for Spain and Germany), I was just looking forward to high-level, exciting and hopefully high-scoring matches. The tournament did not disappoint, providing many high quality games, such as the Denmark (2) – Portugal (3) game, where Denmark fought their way back into the game twice, nearly dealing a fatal blow to Portugal’s hopes of reaching the next round before succumbing in the 87th minute. What was disappointing was the Netherlands team, which really should have spiced up the ‘group of death’ even more with their plethora of talent (Van Persie, Robben, Sneijder, etc.), but ended up exiting the tournament with three sloppy losses.

Italy vs. EnglandSpain vs. Portugal

Penalty shoot-outs are perhaps the most nerve-wrecking thing in football, and they provided much excitement to this tournament, deciding the fates of four powerhouses, in the quarterfinal between England and Italy and the semifinal between Portugal and Spain. Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo’s ‘Panenka’ (a cheeky chipped penalty) was a magic moment in the tournament that lifted Italy past England, extending England’s long losing streak (this was their sixth shoot-out loss from seven in major international tournaments) in penalty shoot-outs. It was again emulated by Spanish defender Sergio Ramos against Portugal – which was all the more impressive, considering that his disastrous penalty for his club, Real Madrid, during the Champions League semifinal was still fresh in the minds of many fans. The fact that Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal’s star player, did not even get to take a penalty was also a huge talking point – adding even more drama to the tournament.

In the end, however, Spain managed to consolidate their legacy as one of the best national teams of all time, with their distinctive style of ‘tiki-taka’ football successfully putting them into the history books as the only international team to have won three championships in a row.

Stray observations and notable moments:

  • Hilariously, Glen Johnson missed the England team photo for their match against France, opting to skip off for his solo warm-up instead.
  • After England’s shoot-out loss, the national tourist board tweeted: “England lose on penalties. For more on our culture and traditions go to
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    http://www.visitengland.com ;) ”, poking fun at their national team’s poor record in penalty shoot-outs.

  • The Spain NT’s kids during their celebration were simply adorable, almost taking away the spotlight from their parents!

Inspire a Generation

At this year’s Summer Olympic Games, artistic gymnastics was the sport that I was looking forward to the most, and it indeed produced some truly stunning moments. American gymnast McKayla Maroney’s vault during the Women’s Team Final was simply amazing, and while her mistake in her individual final lost her an individual gold medal, it won her a place as the star of the “McKayla Is Not Impressed” meme, which quickly went viral and gained much media attention. The Men’s High Bar and Vault Finals provided us with

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incredible routines one after another as well – Epke Zonderland’s (from the Netherlands) winning high bar routine was possibly the craziest thing I saw during the entire event, while Yang Hak-Seon’s vault made him the first South Korean gymnast to win an Olympic gold medal. Britain’s Beth Tweddle finally winning a medal during her final Olympics was a special moment as well, but the true star of the sport was probably American Gabby Douglas, who put in a strong performance in the Individual All-Around Final to deny the two Russian girls the gold medal and becoming the first black woman to win the title.

Phelps and LochteUsain Bolt

Quite a few legends were up to prove and re-establish their legacy – with others hoping to set the foundations for their own legacies. American swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte come to mind – Phelps had a truly brilliant Olympics the last time round in Beijing, and was hoping to consolidate his position as the most successful swimmer and perhaps, Olympian of all time, while Lochte had built up much hype prior to the Games, setting him up as the challenger to Phelps’ throne. While Phelps successfully achieved the title of being the most decorated Olympian with a final tally of 22 medals, Lochte fell short of his high expectations, failing to defeat Phelps in the 200m individual medley and underperforming in the 4x100m freestyle relay team final, conceding the gold to the French team. Usain Bolt was also able to re-establish his dominance on the track after several setbacks in the past year, setting a new Olympic record for the 100m race and claiming gold in the 200m and 4x100m races as well. British tennis player Andy Murray, coming off a heartbreaking loss to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final just weeks ago, also exacted revenge by defeating Federer for the gold medal and proving that he was, indeed, capable of holding his own in big events despite his poor record in Grand Slam finals.

However, the Games also had its share of controversies – for example, the reaction towards Ye Shi-Wen’s record-breaking win was disappointing, to say the least. When it was revealed that she swam even faster than Ryan Lochte for a section of her swim, ugly accusations of doping quickly emerged, with many disbelieving that she, a woman, could possibly swim faster than one of the top male swimmers despite authorities insisting that she had been strictly tested and was innocent.

Merve AydinLiu Xiang

Yet, at the end of the day, even with such high stakes, the Olympic spirit remained strong, giving rise to many touching and inspirational moments. The many displays of camaraderie, sportsmanship and dedication were indeed very heartwarming, ranging from moments such as athletes Liu Xiang and Merve Aydin determinedly limping to the end of their races despite their injuries, and the various scenes of athletes being genuinely excited about their competitors’ impressive performances rather than bitterly ruing their own chances.

Notable moments in the London Games:

  • Saudi Arabia had their first female athletes compete in the Games – a heartening sign of social progress.
  • South Korean fencer Shin A Lam’s inspirational protest over the perceived mistakes of the judging panel again showed us the depth of the dedication of the athletes.

Although there are definitely many great moments that have not been mentioned above, I hope this review managed to give an adequate round up of a truly satisfying summer of sporting action, and here’s to hoping that upcoming sports tournaments in 2013 will live up to expectations as well!

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