Looking back on 2021, there have been some incredible moments on the sporting stage; from underdog victories to big names breaking records.

Here are our greatest sporting moments of 2021.

Raducanu’s underdog performance

This list wouldn’t be complete without Emma Raducanu’s performance in the US Open. Upon entering the competition, Raducanu was ranked 150th in the world, yet 10 matches later she was holding the US Open trophy, along with the title of being the first British woman to win a grand slam singles title since Virginia Wade in 1977. She beat Leylah Fernandez 6-4 6-3 in the final, capping an extraordinary run where she didn’t lose a set all tournament. Raducanu’s heroics led to her recently being voted BBC Sports Personality Of The Year, and her star is likely to continue its upward trajectory in 2022, with odds of 12/1 for her to become WTA world number 1 by the end of next year.

The British & Irish Lions took on South Africa

For any rugby fan, the 2021 Lions tour to South Africa has to be a highlight of the year. The tour was filled with interesting refereeing decisions, coaches coming onto the pitch ‘disguised’ as water boys, social media battles, epic tries and three heated Test matches. The Lions began well, winning the first Test in Cape Town after an inspired fightback from nine points down at half-time to win 22-17. A resurgent South Africa then claimed a decisive victory in the Second Test, before an agonising defeat for the travellers in the final Test, with South Africa securing a 19-16 win courtesy of a late Morne Steyn penalty. The series saw some golden oldies take the tour again, including captain Alun Wyn Jones, as well as some new faces including Scotland’s Ali Price and Wales’ Louis Rees-Zammit. With the players now back in their national teams, the Six Nations is all to play for.

Rachael Blackmore made horse racing history

Rachael Blackmore rewrote the history books when she became the first female jockey to win the Grand National when she rode Minella Times to victory. Owned by JP McManus and trained by Henry de Bromhead, Minella Times returned at 11-1 in the world’s greatest steeplechase. It capped a remarkable few weeks for Blackmore, following her six wins at Cheltenham Festival, a feat that saw her pick up the leading jockey award at the meeting. Her displays in the saddle have since led to her being named BBC Sports Personality of the Year’s World Sports Star of the Year.

England make it to the Euro 2020 final

The Three Lions were so close to winning the European Championship for a first time but fell agonisingly short as they lost out to Italy on penalties. After Luke Shaw scored in the second minute, confidence around Wembley steadily grew, but the Italians began to ramp up the pressure in the second half. Leonardo Bonucci scrambled home from a corner on 67 minutes and the game looked set to go the distance. Ultimately all the pressure fell on the shoulders of Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka as he stepped up to take England’s final penalty with them trailing 3-2 in the shoot-out. It wasn’t to be, as Gianluigi Donnarumma saved and English hearts sank. The national heartbreak this game caused stretched far and wide, but the journey through the tournament was still something to be remembered.

Ronaldo returns

August 2021 saw Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the greatest of all-time, return to his former club Manchester United. His first performance back in a red jersey saw him score twice in their win against Newcastle. The 36-year-old’s two-year contract delighted many United fans, who were ecstatic to see their talisman of old back after 12 years spent at Real Madrid and Juventus. A sense of confidence around the club was restored after his return and despite their struggles on the pitch this season, Ronaldo has been the man to lift United time and again, often with crucial late goals.

F1’s battle between Hamilton and Verstappen

Arguably the most controversial sporting moment of 2021 was Red Bull’s Max Verstappen’s winning of the F1 World Championship title. An incident-packed season saw a fierce rivalry develop between Verstappen and seven-time World Champion and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton and it all came down to the final race in Abu Dhabi. The two drivers were level on points, and the season was decided following a reversed decision involving the safety car’s presence that ended with Verstappen passing his rival on the final lap. Despite his loss, Hamilton is still favourite to win the Drivers’ Championship in 2022, with odds of 5/6, but followed closely by Verstappen who’s second in the market at 9/4.

Chelsea triumph in the Champions League

Chelsea turned an initial season of turmoil into the ultimate victory after they beat Manchester City in Porto, to lift the Champions League for a second time. Kai Havertz, assisted by Mason Mount, scored the winning goal in the 42nd minute to put the Blues ahead and some inspired defending kept out the Manchester side as they pressed for an equaliser in the second half. It was a particularly notable success for new Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel, who led his team to victory just 124 days after he took over following the departure of Frank Lampard.

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