Sports act as a powerful medium to send a message, to make a point or restore faith in miracles even when the outcomes are unintentional. There are moments that stand out among others which define the year and sometimes an era. Every year brings with it intriguing, shocking moments in sports that catch the world unaware. While some live their dreams, some fairytales turn into dust.
After Rio Olympics last year, 2017 was expected to slow things down but the year wove some of the biggest moments, heartbreaks as well as unexpected comebacks and beautiful stories from the sporting world. Here are our top five to make the list:
Gianluigi Buffon’s heartbreaking retirement
When legends retire, it is usually followed by tributes to their stunning careers. But when Buffon announced retirement, it came as a tearful heartbreak amidst sheer embarrassment for Italy, who failed to qualify for World Cup 2018. Even though football fans were preparing to accept his retirement post the Russia World Cup, the announcement of him hanging his boots came as an absolute shocker to even big names in the football world.
Watching Buffon in tears and apologising to his fans for not being able to take his side to the World Cup for the first time in 60 years was a painful sight. Buffon holds the record of most appearances (79) for Italy as captain.
Pregnant Serena Williams winning Australia Open title
When the news came out at first, no one believed it! A woman winning a tennis title, that too Australian Open, with eight weeks pregnancy? Are you crazy? Williams might not be the first athlete to be pregnant while playing an important match, but she definitely is the most prominent one.
The news of Williams’ pregnancy broke out as a mistake by the tennis player, who uploaded a photo with the caption ’20 weeks’ only to delete it later. Fans quickly did the maths and put two and two together.
Usain Bolt’s shocking collapse in final race
Usain Bolt needs no introduction even to those who know nothing about track racing. His name has been imprinted in the athletic world as the GOAT. After a spectacular run at Olympics 2016, Bolt announced retirement in 2017 because he wanted to be remembered as a legend, a winner when he leaves the track.
The stadium was full with fans from all over the world coming to watch the track-god race for the last time. But who was to know that his final race at IAAF World Championships in August would end in such a horrific way! During the 4x100m relay, the Jamaican collapsed on the track clutching his left thigh due to leg cramp. It was a traumatic sight no one expected to ever see.
Barcelona 6-1 comeback against PSG
Barcelona advancing to Champions League quarterfinals last season can be described as the biggest football comeback ever. Something magical happened at Camp Nou that night, something unexpected and implausible.
PSG had, what looked at that time, an unassailable 4-0 lead going into the second leg against Barcelona. Luis Enrique had said before the match that if the French team could score four goals, his side can score six. Of course, no one took him seriously. What followed at Camp Nou was an undefied spirit by the Catalonian side, as fans around the world and even Barcelona’s own staff watched in disbelief.
The visitors started brilliantly, scoring a precious away goal, which should have ended it all for Barca but they came back to score three times in the final eight minutes, including five added minutes. The memories of the night that Barca delivered 6-1 comeback will haunt PSG forever.
Take a knee protest
Back in 1968, Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised black-gloved fists during the medal ceremony at the Olympic Games. It became one of the most iconic sports images and a symbol of Black power back then. Fifty years later, not much has changed. Except for this time, the players knelt down instead of raising fists.
The year 2017 saw a major trend of players in teams across the US National Football league protesting against racism and police brutality by kneeling during the National Anthem, something that irked US President Donald Trump, who said that those who refuse to stand during national anthem should be fired.