Wednesday, 25 April 2012

U is for… Unlikely sporting heroes

Everyone loves to see the superstars of sport perform at the peak of their powers, but perhaps even more thrilling is when an unlikely sporting hero arrives; someone who comes out of nowhere to grab the sporting limelight for a brief period of time. Let’s celebrate a few of these heroes and their achievements.

Gary Pratt

In cricket, substitute fielders are supposed to be used to provide cover for injured players. England’s use of substitute fielders in the 2005 Ashes series proved to be controversial, with the Australian team claiming England were using substitutes to rest their bowlers between spells, and were picking specialist fielders for the job. 

Gary Pratt gets mobbed by the England team
Gary Pratt was an unremarkable cricketer, who at the time was contracted to Durham, but failed to play a first class game that year. He was however a good fielder, and was chosen by England to be a substitute fielder in the fourth match of the series at Trent Bridge. During that match England’s fast bowler, Simon Jones, suffered an ankle injury, and Gary Pratt came on to take his place in the field. 

At the time Ricky Ponting, Australia’s captain and star batsman, was in the middle with Damien Martyn. Pratt was fielding at short cover when Martyn tapped the ball in his direction, looking to run for a quick single. Pratt ran quickly towards the ball, picking it up cleanly and throwing down the stumps in one motion. He’d managed to run out Ricky Ponting, the thorn in England’s side for so many years! Ponting fumed as he trudged off the field, angrily shouting towards the England balcony at their use of substitute fielders. 

The moment proved to be a key turning point in the series, with England pressing home their advantage and winning the match, claiming a 2-1 lead in the series, which they managed to hold on to. Pratt briefly became a national hero as England reclaimed the Ashes for the first time in 16 years, and he joined the rest of the team in an open-bus ride around London in celebration. 

Steven Bradbury

Steven Bradbury wasn’t expect to be a challenger in the speed skating 1000 metres at the 2002 Salk Lake City Winter Olympics, but a series of remarkable events led to him claiming the most unlikely of gold medals and becoming one of the heroes of the Games. After winning his first heat convincingly, Bradbury was given a nightmare draw in the quarter final, being up against the world champion, Marc Gagnon, and the American favourite and 1500 metres gold medallist, Apolo Anton Ohno. Only the top 2 finishers were due to advance to the semi-finals, and after finishing 3rd Bradbury thought he was eliminated. However a review showed that Gagnon had obstructed another racer and he was disqualified, with Bradbury being promoted to second in his place.

Steven Bradbury celebrates a remarkable gold medal
In the semi-finals Bradbury was expected to be well off the pace, and unsurprisingly found himself in last place heading into the final bend. However one of the other racers slipped at he turned round the last corner, colliding into another racer and leaving both of them on their backsides. Bradbury skated through to finish in second place and qualified for the final. 

Bradbury was once again well off the pace in the final, with all 4 other racers competing for the medals on the last lap. Then, once more heading into the final corner, one of the racers slipped, leaving only 3 guys ahead of his going into the final straight. Remarkably the other three competitors then collided, leaving Bradbury with the simple task of gliding round the final turn to claim perhaps the most unbelievable gold medal in Olympic history. 

Jimmy Glass

Jimmy Glass was a journeyman goalkeeper who found himself at Swindon in 1999. However, after falling out with the Swindon manager, Jimmy Quinn, he found himself on the outer at the club, and engineered a loan move to Carlisle after the Cumbrian club found themselves with no fit goalkeepers and three games left of the season to play.

Carlisle were struggling to stay in the football league in the 1998/1999 football season, and found themselves at the foot of the third division going into the final game of the season, with relegation to the football conference beckoning. On the final day of the season the equation was simple, they needed to better Scarborough’s result to avoid a heartbreaking relegation out of the football league.

Jimmy Glass etches his name into football folklore
The match at Scarborough finished 10 minutes before the match at Carlisle, and with Scarborough achieving a 1-1 draw against Peterborough Carlisle knew that a victory against Plymouth was the only result that could keep them up. The score at Carlisle was also 1-1 heading deep into injury time, when Carlisle won a corner. Knowing that it was now or never, Glass left his goal to join his teammates in the opposition area. The corner came in and a Carlisle player got a header at goal, which the keeper could only parry in to Glass’ path. Instinctively Glass lashed the ball home, saving his new team from relegation in only his third match for the club. 

Jimmy Glass never played football for Carlisle again, and retired from professional football two years later at the age of 27. However his goal ensured that he’ll never be forgotten in one of football’s greatest fairytale finishes to a season.

1 comment:

  1. great story of steven bradbury, evan. remember this being on TV, but didn't realise that disqualification and did-not-finish circumstances happened to him three times in a row. reminds me of andy murray's recent progression through tournaments with byes, ret. hurts and walk-overs