In the rankings at the end of the year, we always focus on books, records, films, and fiction of various kinds, neglecting other elements that however enter the collective imagination and that sometimes thrill us as much as a good film.
In particular, among the many it seems to us that some sporting events that marked this year deserve to be remembered, which made us shed a tear, scream with joy, or cheer as if we were the protagonists of that success.
And among these, we have selected five taking into account not only the strength and the technical value of the gesture itself but also the so-called “human side”, always important in creating great sports stories. Here, then, are the five sporting events of 2013 that we believe deserve to be remembered.
1. The Withdrawal of Ferguson and Heynckes
Let’s start, for once, from the end, that is, from two goodbyes. It is always exciting to see a great athlete retire, celebrate his career, and admire the homage that fans and colleagues give him.
Rarely, however, the same fate is reserved for coaches, much more in the shadows even in the world of football, wherein in any case we have arrived at unprecedented forms of protagonism in other sports. This year, however, there were two very special and celebrated farewells: those of Alex Ferguson and Jupp Heynckes.
The first had been planned and expected for years. Ferguson turned 72 on 31 December and boasts a career like few in the world of football, having won thirteen league titles, two Champions League, five FA Cup, and numerous other awards, not counting trophies at Manchester United. won at Aberdeen.
The farewell, postponed several times, was sooner or later inevitable and Ferguson formalized it as a winner, after winning yet another national title and designating his successor, compatriot David Moyes, who, as was predictable after such a change had a slow start in the league.
The successes of Heynckes
Less successful in absolute terms (three league titles, all with Bayern, and two Champions) but no less important was Heynckes’ career.
The coach was the protagonist in the 2012/13 season of one of the greatest winning streaks in European football. And he managed to achieve it by retiring, having already announced that he would leave the Bayern Munich bench at the end of the season and that he would be replaced by none other than Pep Guardiola.
Nevertheless, Heynckes succeeded in the feat of the treble, leading his team to conquer the Scudetto, the Champions League, and the German Cup, playing a football that left no room for even very worthy rivals, from Borussia Dortmund down.
2. Jason Collins Comes Out
In itself, the second element of our five is not strictly sporting, it is not about victories or defeats, but rather the cover of a magazine and a memorial published exclusively.
The protagonists of the event are Jason Collins – a mid-level basketball player in various NBA teams, especially the New Jersey Nets and Atlanta Hawks – and the very popular American magazine Sports Illustrated, which on May 6, 2013, dedicated its cover and piece of openness to Collins’ important statements.
Important because for the first time an athlete still active in a team sport has dispelled one of the hardest taboos in professional sport, that is, he has declared his homosexuality.
The topic is delicate and topical: it had also been talked about in Italy in relation to football, but no one had dared to come forward, and indeed from many players had come words of annoyance and annoyance for the way in which the topic had affected them.
The first openly gay athlete in an American team sport
In fact, up to that moment, the coming out had been limited to individual sports involving also prominent athletes or some sporadic team athletes already withdrawn (above all, another basketball player, John Amaechi, remembers).
It is obvious, however, that the real step forward concerned an athlete who was still playing in a team where you have to trust each other, work together day by day, and share the locker room.
Collins has never been a prominent NBA player, often playing with the second or third lines of the teams in which he played, but he is still known to the general public thanks to the two finals he played when he played in the New Jersey Nets.
In the past, he was also engaged to a female NBA player, Carolyn Moos, who said she was surprised by her ex-partner’s statement. Praise and support came from personalities from the world of basketball such as Kobe Bryant and David Stern but also from President Obama and Martina Navratilova.
3. Boston Wounded and Reborn
If sport has a value outside of itself, surely it is to relieve people of the anxieties and problems of the moment, in an effect that is sometimes almost cathartic. In some cases, it is even a catalyst able to keep people together, to give hope and new motivations.
So it was this year also for the city of Boston, one of the sports capitals of the United States, home to some of the most important professional teams (the Celtics in basketball, the Bruins in hockey, the New England Patriots in football, only to name three with a long history of successes behind them) but also of a famous marathon.
The Red Sox remember the victims of the marathon attack
The marathon was hit, on April 15 this year, by a terrorist attack caused by two Chechen brothers which left three dead (including an eight-year-old child) and wounded about 180.
There were many gestures of closeness and solidarity also in the sports world: minutes of silence on all fields, pages in newspapers bought by various teams from other cities to say “today we are all teams from Boston” and so on, but the most significant in my opinion was that of the Red Sox, the glorious city baseball team.
After overcoming the famous Babe Ruth curse that had kept them away from the title for 86 years in 2004, this year they won the World Series again, the finals of Major League Baseball, becoming world champions.
And to celebrate, during the parade in the city (even carried out amphibious vehicles) they stopped on the arrival of the marathon, where one of the two bombs of the attack exploded, placing the trophy and a team shirt with the name “Strong” ( which means “strong”) and the number 617 (the prefix for Boston), to remember the will to live in the city.
4. The Victories of Vinci and Errani
The golden year was probably 2012, but 2013 was the one in which the fruits were fully harvested: we are talking about Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, the two girls who have brought prestige to Italian tennis in recent months, both in the single and above all in the double, reaching peaks that we have been missing for a very long time.
As mentioned, 2012 had ended in a great way. Sara Errani had reached the final at Roland Garros and the semifinals at the US Open, while Roberta Vinci had reached the quarter-finals of the US Open for the first time.
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Above all in doubles, however, the two tennis players had achieved unprecedented goals, winning two Grand Slam tournaments, that of Paris and that of New York.
The confirmation of the women of tennis
This year they picked up where they left off last year. Immediately, in January, they won the Australian Open as a couple. Then they continued with perhaps fewer victories than in 2012 but still excellent placings.
There were two icing on the cake. First, the triumph at the Fed Cup, where they immediately got rid of the fearsome United States in the quarter-finals, and finally in the final, they ruled the athletes of Russia in a match without history that ended 4-0.
Second, they have reached their highest level so far in the WTA singles rankings, with Errani in fifth place overall in May (although she has now dropped to seventh) and Vinci in eleventh in June (now she is fourteenth).
In the doubles, on the other hand, they have been firmly at the top of the world rankings since 2012.
5. Nibali Triumphing in the Snow
It was since the 1970s that Italian cycling had not boasted a rider capable of finishing on the podium in the three greatest tours of Europe, those of France, Italy, and Spain.
In fact, Felice Gimondi last succeeded, who had won all three laps (the one in Italy three times plus another six times on the podium, that of France once plus a podium, that of Spain once) between the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The long fast was interrupted last year when Vincenzo Nibali managed for the first time to arrive on the podium of the Tour, but it is above all this year, with the conquest of the first Giro d’Italia, that the career of the Messina rider has definitely taken off.
The conquest of the Giro d’Italia
Starting as one of the favorites, he quickly earned the pink jersey, but it was on the twentieth stage that he set his definitive seal on the race, finishing first at the Tre Cime di Lavaredo at that moment under a real blizzard.
Nibali started three kilometers from the finish even if his advantage in the general classification would have allowed him to easily control the race, and then he slipped away, without anyone being able to catch him.
A test of strength and authority that paid off, given that the rider crossed the finish line alone, winning the second personal stage and finally putting his hands on the Giro, which then ended in the next stage in Brescia on a real catwalk.
The great season then continued at the end of the summer in Spain, with the Vuelta, which he did not manage to win but where he nevertheless collected an important second place behind the American Christopher Horner, forty-one years old at the first result of certain importance in his career.