London 2012 Paralympics: My Top 10 Moments of The Games

1. Sarah Storey winning Team GB’s first gold of The Games:

Sarah Storey Paralympics

I can’t think of a person more deserving of four different stamps…well.. maybe David Weir…

You might ask why I have chosen to pick out just one of her astonishing haul of four gold medals but the first one for the host nation is always a bit special isn’t it! Super Sarah led the charge and broke records a plenty on course to cementing her place as one of GB’s greatest ever Paralympic athletes, if not the greatest.

2. Ellie Simmonds first gold of The Games:

Ellie Simmonds’ astonishing first gold medal victory of the Games wasn’t in her strongest event and wasn’t necessarily one she was expected to dominate but that she did. This triumph was akin to Jess Ennis’ win in the heptathlon in the Olympic Games as it relieved an enormous weight of pressure and expectation as Ellie Swim-monds went in as ‘The Face of the Games. She then went onto follow this success up with another gold and a silver and bronze to boot. Not a bad few days.

3. David Wetherill’s wonder shot:

It speaks for itself…

4. : The high-jump:

High-Jump London 2012 Paralympics

The high jump made for an incredible spectacle

I know every event was amazing in it’s own way but this was just ridiculous. The athletes competing were truly gobsmacking, how on earth a one-legged man can leap as high as these guys were is simply beyond me. I loved watching it though!

5. Mickey Bushell’s T53 100m win:

Mickey Bushell’s moment of glory was one of the more memorable of the Games from a Paralympics GB perspective. He was already a silver medalist in the World Championships and last time out at the Paralympics in Beijing and now he has finally become a gold medallist at the Games. The emotion displayed by him as he crossed the finish line was a pleasure to behold.

6. Hannah Cockroft romping to double sprint victory:

Our very own female and wheelchair riding Usain Bolt. She didn’t just win two sprint golds, she won them by a country-mile. She was supreme.

7. Jason Smyth’s 100m final win and new WR:

Smyth suffers from a 10% loss of sight and though that might not sound like the greatest impairment of the many we have seen at the Games, he was still competing in a field of similarly disabled athletes and he blew them all away. I haven’t checked to see whether he is or not but I suspect that he might not only be the fastest ever Paralympian but that he also might well be the quickest Irish sprinter ever, able bodied or disabled. If he isn’t the fastest ever Irishman then he must be bloody close!

8. David Millar’s Golden Fortnight:

Four events, four gold medals. What a hero! Not only did he win four golds but they were in entirely different disciplines; the 800m, the 1500m, the 5,000m and the marathon. The mind boggles!

9. Juan Jose Mendez, my favourite Paralympian:

Mendez Paralympics

The picture speaks for itself…

This guy is unreal. He may not have won a medal or even have got that close to winning one, but this veteran of the Spanish track cycling team truly amazed me. In spite of the Velodrome’s steep angled banking he manages to hurtle round the track in spite of missing an arm and leg both on the same side of the body. I quite simply don’t know how he stays on or how he moves the bike!

10. Alex Zannardi’s road to recovery:

45 year old former F1 driver Alex Zannardi brought an incredible story to a glorious conclusion at the Paralympic Games this week. Fifteen years on from his horror career-ending crash which left him having both of his legs amputated, he returned to the forefront of the sporting world in phenomenal fashion by becoming a double-gold medal winning hand-cyclist.

The man is an inspiration but in fairness that is true of every single Paralympian I have witnessed over the past couple of weeks, but sadly it is now all over!

Soul’s A Fire: Matt Corby the Unintended Headline Act at Communion

There is something very special about beating the rush and getting to see a phenomenal artist before they really ‘make it’. This particular artist though, Matt Corby, has actually already ‘made it’ in his homeland but as yet hasn’t been fully unleashed on the UK market where he is sure to shine and gain his greatest level of recognition to date.

Last night I experienced this sensation when I visited the Notting Hill Arts Club for a gig hosted by Communion record label where Torches were meant to be the headline act but had their limelight somewhat taken by the last-minute special guest who announced his place on the billing just three days before the gig.

Matt Corby Singer

Australia’s Matt Corby is signed to Communion and will be embarking on his first ‘proper’ tour of Europe this Autumn/Winter

Matt Corby, if you haven’t come across him yet, is an Australian ‘singer/songwriter’ who has taken a rather unusual route to the verge of stardom having begun his singing career by appearing on Australian Idol at a very tender age, where he made it all the way through to the latter stages before being eliminated at the last. Thank god he didn’t win.

If he had then who knows where or how he would have ended up but thankfully it didn’t come to that and the then 16 year old learnt the error of his ways and took off in his own direction and what a direction it has become.

If you haven’t encountered him before, then please, before listening to Corby forget about any prejudices you might have about ‘singer/songwriters’ as in this case you’re not dealing with the Jason Mraz’s and Ed Sheeran’s of this world but you are faced with a totally new dimension of this old genre.

Where Mraz and Sheeran (both of whom are artists I have seen perform live in the past) veer towards ‘crooning’ territory and sing tales about “geeks in the pink” and “lov[ing] Shrek”, Corby strikes a far darker and more menacing tone with a far more haunting and at times devastating lyrical content.

Such comments aren’t intended to belittle the likes of Sheeran who has found his own niche and his own form of diversity in teaming up with grime artists, using loop pedals and in singing songs that sound sweet in spite of their subject matters which include rape, prostitution and miscarriage, or indeed Mraz who has his own take on the genre with his at times very slick and very witty approach to songwriting.

This comment is instead designed to sub-categorize this all too wide-spanning a genre and to elevate Corby’s daring and soaring sound to it’s own very deserving perch, a perch which I believe is deserving of greater critical appreciation and recognition than the work of artists like Ed Sheeran and Jason Mraz who may well be hugely successful and may well be talented but for me can’t match up to the emphatic performances and song-writing depth of Corby.

The angst and the ferocity of Corby’s vocals set him apart from an awful lot of the music industry’s success stories within this at times rather antiquated genre and was at first-hand like nothing I have ever really known or witnessed emanating from the lungs of a ‘singer/songwriter’ before.

Sure, I had been an admirer of Matt Corby’s for quite a while having first been drawn to his sound when I first heard a live version of his most successful song to date ‘Brother’ and I had sensed the vocal range and power that he possesses, but there is nothing quite like having it performed live and within five metres of you.

After this first-hand experience and some considerable reflection I would place him somewhere between Caleb Followill (of Kings of Leon fame) and Jeff Buckley on the vocal spectrum, in that he combines Followill’s strength and grittiness with the Buckley’s delicacy, darkness, tone and control. I am far from an expert when it comes to singing and vocal control (as anyone who has heard me in full-flow will testify) but I advise you to imagine the combined vocal strengths and qualities of these two aforementioned artists and to throw in a hefty amount of soulful inspiration if you wish to gain an idea of what Matt Corby is all about.

Corby’s set at the Arts Club last consisted of  just 5 songs which were (in order); Soul’s A Fire, Made Of Stone, Runaway, Brother and Big Eyes. The set-list from his performance last night is listed below with accompanying videos from previous live performances….

1. Soul’s A Fire:

2. Made Of Stone:

3. Run Away: (The actual performance from last night’s performance in Notting Hill)

4. Brother:

5. Big Eyes:

The journey of this set started, as stated above, with a rendition of ‘Soul’s A Fire’ which is a heavily blues influenced rock track which showed off both the delicacies of Corby’s vocal range with his ability to channel the spirit of guitar-soul icons such as Jimi Hendrix. This track features on Matt’s ‘Into The Flame’ E.P and it made for an emphatic start to his set.

The second track which he performed last night was the haunting ‘Made Of Stone’ which he performs with staggering vocal control amidst the gymnastic ability required by his tonsils throughout in order to hit the extraordinary notes which he takes on whilst performing the melodic backing track on piano.

Then, sandwiched between his more familiar tracks, was a new song of Matt’s titled ‘Run Away’ which is an epic tail of heartbreak and the breakdown of a relationship consumed by selfishness and volatility. They may not on paper sound like inspired lyrics but the repetitive burst of “She doesn’t give a shit about you” strikes an agonising chord as Corby’s vocals soar into their grittiest and most heart-wrenching state.

There was no let-off either as Corby followed this tale of woe with the previously mentioned ‘Brother’ which is another heart-wrenching tale of love and mistreatment laced heavily with regret. This is arguably the song which is most indicative of any defined genre in which one could place Corby as it combines beautifully his delicate menace and his thumping and scratching roars of emotion.

To follow such agony came the sweet ‘Big Eyes’ to close the set as Corby lulled the audience into a comfortable stupor and this closing performance was an apt demonstration of Matt’s diverse songwriting abilities and of the emotions which he is capable of evoking.

I realise that this ‘review’ of sorts sounds rather more like a love letter to Matt Corby than a fair and balanced analysis but I honestly couldn’t possibly pick fault with what I saw. The performance was stunning from start to finish and I am thoroughly looking forward to seeing a full-length performance from him some time in the near future.

I implore anyone who reads this to give him a good lengthy listen and to buy tickets for his forthcoming UK tour which there is meant to be an announcement about through his website tomorrow…. http://mattcorby.com.au/news/

I should also quickly mention Alexander Wolfe who was the other Communion signed artist I saw perform at the Arts Club last night whose performance might not have been as epic as Corby’s but was soulful and unique in it’s own right. Check him out too…

Premier League Summer Transfer Window XI

(Formation: 3-2-3-2)

Hazard Chelsea

Hazard has been the biggest money move of the window at the time of writing this post but he is already looking worth every penny

Goalkeeper:

Ben Foster: (Undisclosed)

He may not come across as a new signing to many having been on loan to the Baggies last season but Ben Foster has now signed a permanent deal with West Brom and he looks set to play a huge part in West Brom’s attempts to avoid a hangover period in the wake of former manager Roy Hodgson’s departure from the club.

Defence:

Nathaniel Clyne (Crystal Palace to Southampton – Compensation Not Yet Agreed)

He is very much a raw talent at present but Nathaniel Clyne has great potential. He burst onto the scene with Palace last year and I am surprised that a bigger club than Southampton weren’t tempted to have a punt on Clyne as he seems to have the strength, physique, speed and technical ability necessary to drive him on to become one the best full-backs in the country.

Jan Vertonghen: (Ajax to Spurs £10 million)

Vertonghen Tottenham

Can Jan be the perfect heir to Ledley’s throne?

It is early days for Vertonghen as a Premier League player but there was a great amount of interest in him from some very big clubs over the summer and Andre-Vilas Boas and Tottenham did very well to secure the signature of the Belgian in what appears to be a great bit of business. £10 million isn’t a great deal to pay for a top-class centre-half in the modern game and Spurs will hope that he can quickly become a very able replacement for Ledley King who sadly had to retire over the summer as a result of years of injury woe.

Jose Manuel Flores: (Genoa to Swansea £2 million)

Swansea’s charismatic new centre-half is well known to their new manager Michael Laudrup from their time together at Mallorca and his start at the club has been a very good one. Since his £2 million arrival he has been involved in back-to-back clean-sheets and has been a major part of the Swans’ great start to the campaign as they look to continue their reputation from last season as one of the Premier League’s meanest defences.

Midifeld:

Oscar: (Internacional to Chelsea £25 million)

A lot of South American players have struggled to adapt to life in the Premier League but given time and sufficient guidance I think Oscar will prove himself to be a huge hit for Chelsea. I don’t necessarily think he will get a huge amount of game time in the short-term but as a long-term prospect there are few better talents plying their trade in the Premier League. He has great movement on and off the ball and has a tremendous eye for a pass as his performances in the Olympic Games demonstrated and I think he’ll shine over the next few years if Chelsea can settle him into Premier League life.

Santi Cazorla: (Malaga to Arsenal £16 million)

He might not quite have come up with the necessary goods to land Arsenal their first win of the season in their opening two games but Cazorla already looks like he could be their best player this season as he possesses many of the qualities that they have been lacking since the departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri last summer. It is only because Spain have been blessed with probably the greatest group of midfielders that one country has ever possessed at one time that Cazorla hasn’t become a bigger name by now but he has still managed to amass a total of 46 international caps to date as well as 7 goals for his country and I think we will see this season why he is so highly thought of back in Spain.

Attacking Midfield:

Eden Hazard: (Lille to Chelsea £32 million)

He may only have made three Premier League appearances since moving to the Bridge but Chelsea’s new boy has already made six assists and scored a goal from the penalty spot. Having seen him struggle to assert himself in Belgium’s friendly against England before the start of Euro 2012 and then again in Chelsea’s Community Shield loss to Manchester City, many thought that in spite of his undoubted technical qualities that it might take Hazard a little while to settle into English football but he has firmly quashed any such thoughts with three outstanding displays straight off the bat in the Premier League. He looks like one hell of a player and Chelsea could be propelled back into title contention this season if his current form continues.

Shinji Kagawa: (Dortmund to Man Utd £12 million)

He might not have had quite the impact of Eden Hazard at Chelsea but Kagawa who operates in a similar position to the Belgian has already looked very assured as a Premier League player in his first couple of outings and in addition to having already opened his scoring account against Fulham at the weekend he has also been right at the heart of nearly all of United’s best forward play in their opening two games. Like I say, he might not have matched Hazard’s blistering form thus far but he did cost United £20 million less than the Belgian set Chelsea back and he too looks a great attacking midfield prospect.

Adam Johnson; (Man City to Sunderland £10 million)

I think this signing represents a fantastic bit of business for Sunderland. Not only is Johnson immensely talented but he already has a Premier League winners medal to his name, a smattering of England caps and already a couple of international goals to boot, so at £10 million he looks an absolute bargain by today’s premium on English talent. He is versatile and can operate strongly on either flank and with his combination of speed, skill, trickery, decent two-footed delivery and an eye for goal I expect him to play a huge part in Martin O’Neill’s plans this season. If Steven Fletcher is even half as lethal in front of goal as Martin O’Neill thinks he is then he will score a hat full this season with the likes of Johnson, Stephane Sessegnon and James McClean providing him with great servie from all angles.

Attack:

Robin Van Persie: (Arsenal to Man Utd £24 million)

RVP United

RVP has settled quickly into the OT limelight and is looking forward to proving any doubters wrong

Many have had their say on Van Persie’s summer move to Old Trafford and though some thought the £24 million transfer fee looked a little too grand for a player nearing his thirties and with only one year remaining on his contract at Arsenal but if anybody needed convincing that his acquisition was a great one for United then last weekend should have been sufficient. In a game which saw United’s talisman Wayne Rooney suffer a nasty injury which looks set to keep him out of the side for at least a month, Van Persie came up trumps netting a fine finish for his first goal for United in a narrow 3-2 win. The finish was exquisite and it was Van Persie’s very first shot in a United shirt. One shot, one goal, he is a lethal finisher and his signing puts United in great stead to challenge Manchester rivals City for the title.

Emmanuel Adebayor: (Man City to Spurs £5 million)

This comes within the the same bracket as Ben Foster’s move to West Brom in that this deal was a conversion from loan signing last season to a permanent transfer this summer and at a cost of just £5 million and with his hefty wages being subsidised by his former club this deal looks like a cracking bit of work by Daniel Levy. Adebayor is a proven scorer and assist-maker over several years at Premier League and Champions League level and if he can re-create anything like his contribution to Spurs’ cause last season then AVB will be delighted that they now have him as a more permanent fixture on their books.

Subs:

Cesar Azpilcueta: Chelsea’s punt on the young Spanish full-back looks like a good one as he has impressed in the French Ligue 1 and also with the Spanish youth side.

Joe Allen: £15 million seemed an inflated fee at the time and in spite of an MOTM performance against City it does still look a little hefty but Rodgers knew full-well what he was getting when he signed Allen and he has the potential to grow into one of Europe’s best possession-players. He could be the long overdue replacement for Xabi Alonso in Liverpool’s engine room.

Michu: Three goals in his first two Premier League starts means he has as good as repaid his £2 million fee already. The midfielder-come-striker looks well designed for the rigours and physicality of the Premier League and has shown that he is a quality finisher.

Moussa Dembele: The ex-Fulham man endured an injury blighted first few months in English football but since finding his feet he has grown ever stronger. He has gradually become accustomed to a deeper role in Fulham’s side having originally been signed as a front-man and the now midfielder has looked every bit worth his suspected £15 million transfer fee throughout the past year.

Matt Jarvis: Though I think his transfer fee is a little high for a man only about seventh or eighth in England’s pecking order of wide-men and for a man coming from a Championship side, Jarvis has demonstrated over the past couple of seasons just how decent a Premier League player he is. Last season he stood out from the crowd on Wolves’ sinking ship and he more than deserved his immediate return to the big-time, I’m sure he’ll be a big asset to West Ham.

Kevin Mirallas: He may only have been making his debut against lower-league opposition but he bagged his first two Everton goals with no time wasted at all and he looks an exciting prospect. I think Moyes might have pulled yet another managerial masterstroke with this lad.

Pavel Pogrebnyak: He is far from a glamour-signing in terms of his style of play but he is such a huge presence on the field and he has genuine goal-scoring ability at the highest levels of football. I think his signing was a major coup for Reading given the interest in him from all around Europe and I think his contributions could be the difference between Reading staying up and going down.

 

The best completed and potential deadline day signings:

Stephen M’Bia (QPR), Charlie Adam (Stoke), Maicon (Man City), Scott Sinclair (Man City), Joao Moutinho (Spurs), Clint Dempsey (Liverpool), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Andre Shurlle (Chelsea), Michael Owen (Stoke/Everton), Dimitar Berbtov (Fulham), Michel Bastos (Fulham), Keiran Richardson (Fulham)…

England Vs. South Africa Series Review: Marks Out Of 10

England:

Andrew Strauss: 3/10

It is easy to criticise a man who has captained his supposedly very strong side to a comfortable series defeat on home turf but more of a concern than his leadership skills has been his lacklustre performances with the bat at the top of the order.

Alistair Cook: 5/10

In stark contrast to his form in recent times this series was a bit of a struggle for Cook. Throughout the vast majority of the series he didn’t look overly comfortable against the strength, accuracy and potency of South Africa’s gifted bowling attack and this lack of ease is highlighted by the fact that he failed to pass 50 on any occasion apart from his series-opening hundred at the Oval. He may have started the series with a fine knock but from then it was all downhill as he failed to pass seven runs on three occasions.

Jonathan Trott: 6/10

By Trott’s exceptionally high standards to date this was not an overly brilliant series but he still got a couple of fifties and ended with an average in excess of 40 for the series so it would be churlish to pan him. He did of course turn his arm rather a lot too and though he failed to take a wicket in the series he did give a few of South Africa’s much-vaunted batting lineup a tricky spell or two and it isn’t really his job to rip through the opposition’s batting lineup after all.

Kevin Pietersen: 8/10 on the field, 1/10 off of it…

Pietersen Scandal

KP may have out-performed the rest of his team mates with the bat but his behaiour off of the field has been apalling

There was little wrong with Pietersen’s form with the bat as he amassed not far shy of 300 runs with the bat in the two tests in which he featured and he was also surprisingly impressive with the ball taking four wickets in the second test at Headingley.

Sadly though, it has been Pietersen’s off-field behaviour which has been the recipient of far more headlines as he has been embroiled in some reported in-fighting both in the England dressing room and with the top officials in the English game.

If the text messages to SouthAfrican players included the sort of content that they are alleged to have, then no matter how well Pietersen might have played in the second test, the decision to drop him for the final match was wholly justified. No man is bigger than the team and if he has been caught red handed when bad-mouthing his generally very popular and very respected captain then he shouldn’t be given an easy-route back into the side unless he has made some serious attempts to right his wrongs and until he has proven that he can act more maturely and can be trusted in a team environment.

Ian Bell: 3/10

When compared with the ease and fluency of his run-scoring exploits in the most recent test series’ on home turf Ian Bell endured a bit of turgid time of things against the South Africans, managing an average of  just 28.80 and a high score for the series of just 58. More so than the scores themselves the methods of dismissal will concern and irritate Bell as he was far too easily tempted into loose strokes by the South Africans, which saw him lose his wicket cheaply on more than one occasion.

James Taylor: 4/10

It is hard to make a fair judgement on Taylor’s first strides as a test cricketer as he was thrown right in at the deep end against arguably the best bowling attack in the world. He only batted in three innings in the series and in one of those three he was run out by Trott, in another he failed to get in before being dismissed and then in the other he made a score in the thirties which was probably far better than it sounds as he batted with great patience and he supported Pietersen very well en route to his big hundred at Headingley. It wasn’t the best start to life as a test cricketer but I’ve seen worse.

Jonny Bairstow: 8/10

He only played in one test match but boy did he do well. He struggled throughout much of his maiden test series earlier in the summer against the West Indies but the manner in which he stepped into the Kevin Pietersen shaped void amidst very tricky circumstances in the final test was truly admirable. He proved that he has real potential as a test cricketer and demonstrated an encouraging amount of confidence and intent at the crease as he notched back-to-back half centuries, it was just as shame that he fell five short of his maiden test century when he fell for 95 in the first innings.

Ravi Bopara: 2/10

Off the back of an impressive ODI series against Australia this was another major chance for Bopara to try and re-establish himself as part of England’s test side but it went pretty dismally. He scored 0 and 22 in the first test and then he removed himself from contention for a place in the side due to personal reasons.

Matt Prior: 7/10

Over the past couple of years Prior has fully re-asserted himself as England’s first-choice with the gloves and has become arguably the best keeper-batsman in world cricket and his performances in this series will have done little to harm his reputation. Prior was very impressive at times with the bat, never more so than in his courageous second innings knock in the final test, and he was generally very assured with the gloves minus a dropped catch which would have got rid of Amla for just two in the final test. On the whole this was another very decent series for the gloves-man.

Stuart Broad: 5/10

Broad showed glimpses throughout the series of what he brings to the England attack but he looked a little short of rhythm as failed to consistently threaten the South African batting lineup. He seems a little short of pace at the moment which is strange for a man with such a great fast bowling physique but he did however contribute well with the bat in England’s brave final day resistance today and he deserves credit for that.

Graeme Swann: 4/10

Swann Vs. South Africa

Swann was seen as the part of the England attack that might have given them the edge but it wasn’t to be

Having re-announced himself on the international stage in phenomenal fashion over the past few years, Swann has become one of the most feared spinners in the game but he is going through a bit of a barren spellat the moment by his high standards. Like his Nottinghamshire clubmate Stuart Broad he contributed bravely with the bat in England’s final innings of the series but his attempts to help England maintain their place at the top of the world rankings proved futile as they fell fifty runs short of an historic win.

Tim Bresnan: 4/10

Brezza failed to maintain his test match ‘lucky charm’ status as he tasted test defeat for the very first times in his career. He was made to look fairly ordinary by South Africa’s superior batting lineup in the first couple of tests and it was no surprise to see the more threatening Steven Finn preferred to him in terms of selection for the final test.

James Anderson: 5/10

This series proved to be pretty frustrating Anderson as he bowled well for long periods of the game without much reward for his efforts. There is little doubt however that Anderson will come back strongly from a disappointing series and I fully expect him to play a huge part in England’s forthcoming matches in their quest to now recapture what is no longer their place at the top of the world test rankings.

Steven Finn: 7/10

Having spent a bit of time in the wilderness in terms of test match cricket, young Steven Finn returned to regular action for the test side and played in the second and third matches of the series. In his two opportunities in the series he maintained his reputation as a great wicket taker at the highest level even if he did still have a tendency to spray the ball around and provide the opposition with run-scoring opportunities.

Finn’s best day of the series came when I was at Lords to watch the match and it was a pleasure to see two brilliant spells of bowling from the young man. His first spell of the day was brimming with pace and hostility and he must take a lot of credit for the wicket of Dale Steyn, which may have been taken by Broad but was set up by Finn’s aggression and accuracy. His spell of bowling in the afternoon though was the real highlight as he removed Amla, De Villiers and Rudolph in a devastating spell that saw him take 3 wickets for just 14 runs. It will be very surprising now if Finn isn’t selected next time England are in test action.

South Africa:

Graeme Smith: 8/10

Smith led from the front with some of his trademark stubborn, hard-nosed batting at the top of the order and he backed up his strengths with the bat with consistently good captaincy and he fully deserved to lead his side to victory.

Alviro Petersen: 6/10

Five of his six marks out of ten are awarded to Petersen for his marvellous 182 at Headingley as his other five innings in the series garnered a combined total of just 83 runs as he failed to match his opening partner Smith in terms of consistency. His first innings performance at Headingley was terrific and he showed enormous resolve to score big whilst the majority of his team mates failed to fire as they did in the other innings’ throughout the series. However, his form aside from this knock was very indifferent so it is hard to award him more than six out of ten even though he did average over 60 for the series.

Hashim Amla: 9/10

Amla Vs. England

Amla’s 311* was arguably the highlight of the series

Man of the series without a shadow of a doubt. Absolutely no one got anywhere near him in terms of run scored or in terms of batting averages in this series and his staggering knock of 311 not out at the Oval was the highlight of South Africa’s tour. This series was billed as a battle of the bowlers beforehand but in truth it has been South Africa’s staying power and persistence with the bat that has impressed the most and Amla has been the figurehead of this outstanding team display.

Jacques Kallis: 7/10

An enormous unbeaten contribution with the bat in the first innings was the highlight of the series for South Africa’s veteran all-rounder who otherwise failed to make any major contributions with the bat but as always he did offer South Africa an invaluable option with the ball and he defied troubles with persistent back spasms to contribute four wickets in the series.

AB De Villiers: 6/10

Having stepped into the breach in the wake of Mark Boucher’s untimely retirement, AB kept wicket pretty well on the whole in his first full series in the role but he failed to set the world alight with the bat. He did though average over 40 for the series which is respectable given that he was twice not required to bat in the series due to the stellar efforts of some of his team mates.

Jacques Rudolph: 5/10

Rudolph looked solid and added some depth to South Africa’s line-up in the absence of Mark Boucher but he only produced one innings of any real note when he scored 69 having been thrown in to open the batting for his side whilst usual opener Petersen was left back in the hutch due to severe stiffness. He hasn’t long been back in the side after a few years out of the reckoning and though he wasn’t a major force with the bat this time around he didn’t play himself out of the side either.

JP Duminy: 7/10

Duminy wasn’t called upon with great regularity in the series but when he was he proved just why South Africa deem him to be more than just a very good one day player. He contributed with characteristically steady batting down the order bagging himself the second highest South African batting average of the series whilst also contributing when needed with the ball.

Vernon Philander: 8/10

Philander came into this series with a fantastic start to his test career under his belt and he took little time in impressing upon England just why he has been such a success. He may not have been a prolific wicket-taker throughout the entire series but his five-for in England’s final innings was suitable reward for a series of accurate, disciplined and determined bowling. A series bowling average of 23.6 tells you all you need to know about how well he bowled.

Dale Steyn: 8/10

Steyn Vs. England

The world’s number one test bowler is now part of the world’ number one test side

It seemed for long stretches as if Steyn wasn’t quite at his sparkling best but he was still comfortably the biggest wicket taker of the series and as such deserves enormous credit once again. If you aren’t at your very best and you’re struggling with a couple of niggles but you still take the most wickets in the series by a distance then you know you’re a bit special.

Morne Morkel: 6/10

Morkel can at times be one of the most frustrating bowlers in test cricket but he performed pretty well as part of South Africa’s potent attack in this series. He averaged 34.5 with the ball which was less impressive than either Steyn or Philander but he did manage to take 11 wickets and he also chipped in with a few valuable runs right down the order.

Imran Tahir: 5/10

Tahir was arguably the least threatening part of South Africa’s front-line bowling attack but the veteran of English county cricket demonstrated his knowledge of English conditions in playing a part in South Africa getting the better of England’s disappointingly frail-looking batting line-up. The spinner department is arguably South Africa’s weak link and Tahir will surely have to better his average of 47 with the ball in this series if he is to hold onto his place in the world’s best test side.

Premier League 2012/2013: Team by Team Preview

Arsenal

Key Player: For me, Alex Song was second only to Robin Van Persie in terms of Arsenal’s best players last season and I think that they must do absolutely everything in their power to keep him at the club amidst rumours that Barcelona are on the verge of a securing a move for the dynamic midfield player. I think that losing Song would represent a greater loss to Arsenal than losing Van Persie as the Dutchman’s departure was always expected and therefore planned for whereas Song’s departure would leave Arsenal requiring some quick-fire work in the latter stages of the transfer window.

Alex Song Barcelona

Signings: Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud

What they still need: If Arsenal are planning on offloading either Marouane Chamakh or Nicklas Bendtner then I think they need to invest in another striker but Arsene Wenger seems to think otherwise. They will also need to line up a very decent replacement for Alex Song if he is to be lured to the Nou Camp.

Prediction: 5th

Aston Villa

Key Player: Villa had a pretty dire season last year in almost every way but they certainly had their reasons. I can remember very few Premier League sides ever having endured such a terrible season of injury woe than Villa last year and the major loss of the bunch was Darren Bent who missed the most crucial part of the season as they were sucked into the relegation dogfight. With Bent back on the field they will stand a far greater chance of avoiding relegation worries this season as he remains their only major goal threat.

Bent Villa

Signings: Karim El Ahmadi, Brett Holman, Ron Vlaar, Matthew Lowton

What they still need: Villa could do with someone to help Bent out on the goal scoring front as Gabriel Agbonlahor’s contributions have never been consistent enough. Last season Villa also looked desperately short of creative sparks in their midfield and they would benefit from adding a creative player out wide. Someone like Matt Jarvis of Wolves or Gabriel Obertan of Newcastle would prove a decent addition to their squad and they are prbably both available at the right price.

Prediction: 13th

Chelsea

Key Player: Fernando Torres has struggled for form and fitness over the past few seasons but towards the end of last season there seemed to be a bit of an upturn in form for the once prolific Spaniard and this form followed him unto Spain’s successful Euro 2012 campaign where he won the Golden Boot. In the wake of Chelsea hero Didier Drogba’s departure Torres will need to step up to the plate and take on the bulk of their goal scoring burden and I think we will see something more like his old self in this campaign.

Torres Chelsea

Signings: Oscar, Marko Marin, Eden Hazard, Thorgan Hazard

What they still need: Chelsea need a right back to compete with Branislav Ivanovic and perhaps they could also do with another holding midfield player as Michael Essien seemed to struggle to reach his former heights last season. Don’t rule out a move for a striker either as they aren’t exactly over-stocked in that department.

Prediction: 3rd

Everton

Key Player: Everton are always brilliantly drilled and organised by their fantastic manager David Moyes but the only area in which they have truly struggled during his time at the club is in the goal-scoring department. Never before have they had a striker with such an eye for goal as Nikica Jelavic and if his first half season at the club is anything to go by then they may well have finally found themselves a 20 goal a season man.

Jelavic Everton

Signings: Steven Pienaar, Steven Naismith

What they still need: They were surprisingly active in the January transfer market and have already brought Steven Pienaar back to the club this summer so expect little more movement from Everton. Having said that though, I think a rumoured move for Michael Owen would represent the sort of low-risk move which might take David Moyes’ fancy and he could prove a decent addition if he can keep fit.

Prediction: 8th

Fulham

Key Player: Fulham’s star man is Clint Dempsey. He is far and away their best player and his ability to score a huge haul of goals from midfield has been the difference between them being a mid-table club rather than a side battling to avoid relegation in recent times and it is of paramount importance that they hold on to him if they are to have any chance of progressing. It does however sound like he is at the top of Liverpool’s wanted list and one would have to think that the move will probably go through.

Dempsey Fulham

Signings: Mladen Petric, Hugo Rodallega, Sascha Reither, George Williams

What they still need: If Dempsey decides to move to Liverpool then Fulham will need to either invest in a striker who can take on the task of replacing the void left by Dempsey’s departure in their goals tally or alternatively a midfielder in the Dempsey mould who can score and create goals on a regular basis.

Prediction: 12th

Liverpool

Key Player: He may well be the most, or at very least one of the most, maligned players in the league but Luis Suarez is undoubtedly Liverpool’s best offensive player and they will rely heavily upon him to try and re-assert themselves as a real Premier League force this season. In terms of his contribution in purely football terms Suarez has enjoyed a very decent first season and a half in English football but he needs to score a greater bulk of goals than he has done so far if he is to be truly regarded as one of the most highly revered strikers in world football.

Suarez Liverpool

Signings: Joe Allen, Fabio Borini

What they still need: If Daniel Agger moves to City then Liverpool will definitely have to replace him with someone like Steven Caulker and they could also do with adding more bite to their midfield. It sounds as if they are keen to secure a deal to sign Clint Dempsey and I don’t think there are many sides in the league who wouldn’t benefit from adding him to their squad. Christian Tello and Nuri Sahin are both very firmly on their radar also…

Prediction: 6th

Manchester City

Key Player: Yaya Toure had a sublime season last year and was  arguably the key component of their first ever Premier League winning side. He has adapted his game so easily since joining the club and he has transformed himself into one of the most dynamic roaming midfielders in world football. If City are to make it back-to-back titles then they will need Toure to keep fit and to reach the same levels as last season.

Toure Man City

Signings: Jack Rodwell

What they still need: Do City really need anyone? They could perhaps do with some more competition in central defence as replacement centre half Stefan Savic didn’t look up to the task last season and Daniel Agger would be a great signing if they could pull it off.

Prediction: 1st

Manchester United

Key Player: He may not seem the obvious choice but I think Michael Carrick could and should have a huge part to play in United’s season. At his best he is one of the Premier League’s finest distributors of the ball and he possesses the ability to relieve his defence of an enormous amount of pressure with his very efficient positioning and shielding of the back four. When he is high on confidence he is a totally different player than when he is in and out of the starting lineup and I think it is of little coincidence that United are at their best when Carrick is thriving in the heart of their midfield.

Carrick Man Utd

Signings: Robin Van Persie, Nick Powell, Shinji Kagawa

What they still need: Signing Van Persie has given their chances of gaining revenge on City a huge boost. They could however still do with some more defensive cover and perhaps a holding midfielder.

Prediction: 2nd

Newcastle

Key Player: Since joining Newcastle Cheik Tiote has become one of the most sought after midfield players in English football as his destructive and combative talents have proved completely vital to Newcastle’s successful return to top-flight football. It seems as though Newcastle have done a fantastic job of keeping him happy at the club as I’m sure there would be a whole host of suitors for one of the Premier League’s best holding midfield players if he was ever to declare anything other than his enormous affection for the club.

Tiote Newcastle

Signings: Curtis Good, Romain Amalfitano, Vurnon Anita, Gael Bigrimana

What they still need: Newcastle still need some defensive cover having looked threadbare at the back throughout the second half of last season, other than that though their squad is looking pretty well set for a challenge at securing European qualification for the second season running.

Prediction: 7th

Norwich

Key Player: Last season Grant Holt not only realised his dream of playing Premier League football but he also became perhaps the surprise success story of the entire Premier League season as he banged in the goals which kept Norwich clear of danger. If Norwich are to avoid danger again then Holt will surely again have to reach a similarly decent goals tally.

Holt Norwich

Signings: Michael Turner, Robert Snodgrass, Jacob Butterfield, Javier Garrido, Steven Whittaker

What they still need: Norwich need to bring someone in who can share the goal scoring burden with Grant Holt and they would benefit from investing in a quality centre half.

Prediction: 20th

QPR

Key Player: One of the more interesting transfer deals of the summer has seen Park Ji-Sung leave Manchester United for Queens Park Rangers. Not satisfied anymore with life on the periphery of the United side Park decided to ‘up sticks’ and he signed for Rangers in what could prove to be a great bit of business for the West-Londoners. He became well renowned for his tremendous attitude and work ethic at United but when he was at his best he was more than just a dedicated squad member. He has terrific off the ball movement and if he can just make more of his uncanny ability to pop up in great areas then I’m sure he’ll prove to be a big hit at Loftus Road.

Signings: Park Ji-Sung, Fabio, Ryan Nelsen, Samba Diakite, Andy Johnson, Rob Green, Junior Hoilett

What they still need: QPR need to make improvements in defence having looked very leaky at the back last season and they would be wise to add further defensive recruits as they have the potential to become a top-ten side if only they can find a bit more stability throughout their squad.

Prediction: 10th

Reading

Key Player: Any new Premier League sides desperately need a striker who can reach at least double figures on the goals front and in signing Pavel Pogrebnyak Reading way well have found themselves one. Pogrebnyak’s arrival at the club appears to be a real coup as a couple of more established Premier League and European Clubs were after his services and if he can re-create his start whilst on loan at Fulham last season then he will prove to be a crucial part of Reading’s bid for survival.

Pogrebnyak Reading

Signings: Chris Gunter, Pavel Pogrebnyak, Danny Guthrie, Adrian Mariappa, Nicky Shorey, Gareth McCleary

What they still need: Reading have done pretty well in the transfer market so far having beaten more established sides to the signatures of Pogrebnyak and Guthrie but they could still do with adding some Premier League experience to their squad right across the board. Many are tipping them for the drop but I think they could have a pretty good season.

Prediction:15th

Southampton

Key Player: Rickie Lambert has proven himself to be a lethal marksman at football league and championship level but it remains to be seen whether he can emulate the likes of Grant Holt and make a success of himself in the Premier League. Southampton haven’t invested much in new signings so far this summer so if they are to re-establish themselves as a top-flight side then they will be reliant once again on Lambert finding the back of the net on a regular basis.

Lambert Southampton

Signings: Jay Rodriguez, Steven Davis, Nathaniel Clyne, Paolo Gazzaniga

What they still need: Southampton must add greater numbers and a greater amount of experience to their squad as they look a little lightweight in every department at the minute. The signings they have made so far have actually been pretty good but they definitely need to invest more if they are to have any hope of staying up.

Prediction:18th

Stoke

Key Player: Tony Pulis put a lot of faith in Peter Crouch last summer when he splashed over £10m on the ageing England international but his faith was repaid as Crouch led the line admirably for the Potters. Hopes will be high again for Crouch to deliver and if he scores ten to fifteen goals then Stoke should be in decent shape to avoid being lured into a relegation battle.

Crouch Stoke City

Signings: Michael Kightly, Geoff Cameron, Jamie Ness

What they still need: Stoke have done a great job establishing themselves as a Premier League club and now they need to ensure that this remains the case. If they are to steer clear of any flirtations with trouble then I think they need to sign a creative central midfield player as they are short of genuine playmakers.

Prediction: 14th

Sunderland

Key Player: Last season Stephane Sessegnon was far and away Sunderland’s best player. The diminutive midfielder is an elusive off the ball runner and he has the ability to unlock doors in any opposition’s defences so he will always be a major threat. If they can keep him sweet and team him up with a new front man then he could well continue to establish himself as one of the Premier League’s finest playmakers.

Sessegnon Sunderland

Signings: Louis Saha, Carlos Cuellar

What they still need: They may have added Saha to their ranks but they still desperately need another striker and it sounds as if they are trying their utmost to land Steven Fletcher from Wolves. They could also do with more cover across all positions at the back.

Prediction: 9th

Swansea

Key Player: In the wake of Joe Allen’s departure from the club, Swansea are left without arguably their best player from last season but up until now at least they have managed to hold on to Scott Sinclair who has also been fantastic for them over the past couple of seasons. In his attacking midfield role Michael Laudrup will need Sinclair, his star man, to contribute heavily both in terms of goals scored and assists made otherwise the Swans could struggle to remain a Premier League club come the end of the season.

Sinclair Swansea City

Signings: Michu, Jose Manuel Flores, Jonathan De Guzman, Itay Shechter

What they still need: Swansea could do with replacing the playmaking talents of the departed Joe Allen and it wouldn’t hurt them to try and sign a new striker to compete for a place with Danny Graham as well. If Scott Sinclair is tempted away in the coming weeks by Manchester City then it would also be of paramount importance that they find a suitable replacement.

Prediction: 17th

Tottenham

Key Player: New signing Jan Vertonghen has impressed greatly in his time at former club Ajax and Spurs will need to him to settle very quickly in London if they are seriously challenge for the top few places in the league. Now that their defensive rock Ledley King has finally had to call it a day for his injury-plagued career there is a huge void left in Tottenham’s defence which creaked at times last year and Vertonghen will be required to fill it.

Vertonghen Spurs

Signings: Jan Vertonghen, Gylfi Sigurdsson

What they still need: A replacement for Luka Modric is a must and they could do with a couple of strikers also. They will still be hoping they can make a deal for Emmannuel Adebayor work and they may also try to land either one of Loic Remy or Leandro Damaio who have both been on their radar for quite a while. Andy Carroll could also be an option…

Prediction: 4th

West Brom

Key Player: Ben Foster has proven himself to be a very decent Premier League goalkeeper at a few different clubs now and though he is a keeper with an error-prone streak in him he is also a keeper capable of match-winning performances. Sometimes there seems to be absolutely no way past Foster and West Brom will need him to have several of these days in the forthcoming season if they are to avoid a post-Roy Hodgson era hangover under new manager Steve Clarke.

Foster West Brom

Signings: Markus Rosenberg, Ben Foster, Yassine El Ghanassy, Claudio Yacob

What they still need: West Brom’s squad could do with the addition of a striker who could bag them 15-20 goals a season and a midfielder capable of providing the service necessary to make this possible. Matt Jarvis might be a good option as he is a proven creator and scorer of Premier League goals from wide positions.

Prediction: 19th

West Ham

Key Player: James Tomkins has already had a taste of Premier League action having featured regularly in West Ham’s relegation season but this time he will be hoping to prove that he has developed his game sufficiently to help West Ham avoid the drop this time around. He has been the recipient of a lot of praise since West Ham found themselves back in the Championship and he will be desperate to continue his strong rate of development at the highest level this season.

Tomkins West Ham

Signings: Modibo Maiga, James Collins, Alou Diarra, Mohamed Diame, Stephen Henderson, Jussi Jaaskelainen, George McCartney

What they still need: The Hammers have recruited very well so far this summer but if they have aspirations of doing more than just staying up then they could do with one or two more faces. Their midfield now looks packed with strength and combative players but they still look slightly lightweight in terms of creative forces.

Prediction: 11th

Wigan

Key Player: New signing Arouna Kone notched an impressive 17 goals in 34 appearances for former club Levante last season and if Wigan are to steer clear of their now annual relegation battle then he will need to be similarly potent for his new club. Wigan have always struggled to find a consistent goal scorer in their years as a Premier League club but in Kone they may finally have found one. We’ll have to wait and see…

Kone Wigan

Signings: Arouna Kone, Fraser Fyvie, Ivan Ramis

What they still need: They could do with strengthening their defence and adding toughness to their midfield, they ideally would like to add players who already have Premier League experience. Another must for Wigan is either holding onto Victor Moses or alternatively spending the money made from any deal involving Moses wisely on a player or a couple of players who are capable of replacing his considerable talents.

Prediction: 16th

London 2012: Team GB’s Awards Ceremony

Best Quote:

Nominees: Boris Johnson – “They [the female beach volleyball players] are glistening like wet otters”, Boris Johnson ” ‘Inspire a generation’ is our motto. Not necessarily ‘Create a generation’, which is what they sometimes get up to in the Olympic Village…”, Ben Ainslie – “They’ve made me angry and you don’t want to make me angry”, Lord Coe – “When the time came, Britain, we did it right!”

Ben Ainslie Angry

You don’t want to make him angry…

Winner: Ben Ainslie’s fighting talk

Ben Ainslie’s threat to the rest of the Finn Class field may have sounded a little preposterous at the time but he yet again proved himself a class apart as he recovered a sizeable early deficit in the competition so sufficiently that he went into the final race in pole position and managed to hold on for his fourth gold medal. Like he said, you don’t want to make him angry…

Golden Oldie:

Nominees: William Fox-Pitt, Nick Skelton, Mary King, Greg Searle, Ben Ainslie, Katherine Grainger, Sir Chris Hoy

Winner: Nick Skelton

54 year old Nick Skelton may have narrowly missed out on a gold medal in the individual showjumping competition but in playing a huge part in Team GB’s gold medal winning success in the team competition he proved that he is still a spring chicken at heart.

Most Inspiring Member of Team GB:

Nominees: Jess Ennis (‘The face of the Games’), Anthony Agogo (Won boxing bronze and dedicated his triumph to his hospitalised mother), Nicola Adams (Women’s boxing trailblazer and gold medal winner), Gemma Gibbons (Judo silver Medallist who dedicated her success to her dead mother), Katherine Grainger (Three consecutive Olympic silver medals and now, finally, a gold medallist), Bradley Wiggins (Tour De France winner and now a four time Olympic gold medallist), Sir Chris Hoy (Six time Olympic gold medallist), Tom Daley (Bronze medallist so soon after the death of his beloved father), Joanna Roswell (Alopecia sufferer and now an Olympic gold medallist)

Winner: Nicola Adams

In a home Games that were full of emotion and tales to tell this was undoubtedly one of the most hotly contested categories and I have opted for Adams who endeared herself and her much-maligned sporting discipline to the nation. Before the Games many would have had reservations about women’s boxing but Adams’ bravery and skill turned people’s frowns upside down and she deserves an enormous amount of credit for playing a huge part in convincing the nation and indeed the world into giving the sport a chance and then some… 

Saddest Moment:

Nominees: Zak Purchase and Mark Hunter post-final interview, GB’s lighweight four post-final interview, Gemma Gibbons’ “I love you mum” moment

Winners: Zak Purchase and Mark Hunter

Most Exciting Moment:

Nominees: Mo Farah (Home straight of the 10,000m), Mo Farah (Home straight of the 5,000m), Laura Trott (Final event of the Omnium), Etienne Stott, Tim Bailie, David Florence and Richard Hounslow (C2 Canoe Finale) Peter Wilson (Double Trap Shooting Final), Tom Daley (10m Platform Diving Final), Victoria Pendleton (Individual Sprint)

Mo Farah Mobot

The ‘Mobot’

Winner: Mo Farah (10,000m home straight)

Mo Farah’s double gold medal winning performance at London 2012 was a treat to behold and for me at least his 10,000m race was the most exciting moment of the Games. It put the icing on the cake of an incredible Saturday night in the Olympic Stadium as it was Team GB’s third gold medal in the space of an hour and it was the ‘mo’ment which ensured that that night would forever go down as one of the very finest in British sporting history.

Best Team:

Nominees: Cycling, Rowing, Equestrian, Tennis, Gymnastics, Canoe/Kayak

Winners: Cycling

Gold after gold after gold. Once again the cycling team were unbelievable and there huge level of achievement was made all the more incredible by the heartbreak of Mark Cavendish’s ‘failure’ to live up to the huge weight of expectation on his shoulders when he finished way off the lead in the men’s road race on the first day of the Games. Such was the British cycling team’s success that the French team were crying foul play, accusing Dave Brailsford and his team of cheating by way of having wheels that were unfairly round… 

Biggest Disappointment:

Nominees: Dai Greene, Shanaze Reade, Perri-Shaykes Drayton. Phillips Idowu, GB Relay Teams, GB Swimming Team

Winner: Phillips Idowu

As the Olympic Games have been such an overwhelming success in London and as Team GB have for the most part been terrific it is easy to forget that there have been some major disappointments along the way. The greatest of the disappointments was arguably been Phillips Idowu both in terms of his behaviour in the lead up the Games and then his performance in the Games itself. His ‘invisible man’ act beforehand and his poor performance in the preliminary rounds of the triple jump contest at which he was eliminated will have won him few admirers and one would hope he can find a better performance soon otherwise this will have been a horrible way for one so talented to leave his sport.

Best Celebration:

Nominees: Tom Daley (Pool jump), Mo Farah (The ‘Mo-Bot’), Andy Murray (A la Pat Cash), Sophie Hoskings and Kath Copeland (Kath Copeland’s ‘The face of victory’), Etienne Stott and Tim Bailie (Capsize into the rapids), Jade Jones (Good, old-fashioned scream, roar and phist-pump)

Tom Daley Team GB

Daley’s bronze medal celebration was one of the highlights of the London Games

Winner: Tom Daley (Pool jump)

There was so much reason for celebration within Team GB during Olympic fortnight that it all seems to blend into one but one of the stand-out celebrations of the Games was undoubtedly that of Tom Daley and his diving team mates. Imagine if he’d won gold…!

Superstar in the making:

Nominees: Anthony Joshua (Boxing gold medallist), Laura Trott (Track cycling double gold medallist), Jason Kenny (Track cycling Double Gold Medallist), Lizzie Armitstead (Cycling Road Race Silver Medallist), Alistair Brownlee (Triathlon gold medallist), Adam Gemili (100m semi-finalist), Sophie Hitchon (New British record holder in the hammer throw), Michael Jamieson (Swimming – Breaststroke), Jade Jones (Taekwondo gold medallist)

Winner: Laura Trott

It is hard to see Laura Trott not ending her cycling career amongst the most decorated British Olympians of all time as she has already bagged two golds at the age of 20. If she continues at her current rate then she could well be a ten-time gold medal winner if she carries on until she is Sir Chris Hoy’s current age!

Star Performer:

Nominees: Mo Farah, Jess Ennis, Laura Trott, Jason Kenny, Andy Murray, Sir Chris Hoy

Winner: Mo Farah

There have been almost too many success stories to mention for Team GB and for London over the past few weeks but the stand-out performer of the Games has to be our favourite Somalian born distance runner, Mo Farah.

Farah’s nerve, concentration, strategic nouse and physical strength have peaked at the perfect time and in becoming only the eighth person ever to do the 5,000m and 10,000m double he has written his name into the history books as one of the greatest ever Olympic athletes.

So, huge congratulations are in order to the likes of Jess, Jason, Sir Chris and Laura as well as the rest of Team GB’s medal winners  and emerging talents but perhaps even greater congratulations are due to Mo. He might not have the looks of  our “Face of the Games” Jess Ennis but who can resist a scrawny-looking, bald, bearded man win a penchant for slapping his own slap-head and for performing the now infamous ‘Mo-bot’… Sir Mo, we salute you!

London 2012: My Top 10 Moments Of Week 2

London 2012 Closing Ceremony

London 2012 has sadly come to an end but the following are some of the memories that will last a lifetime…

Andy Murray’s Sweet Revenge:

Just a couple of weeks prior to the Games SW19 played host to Andy Murray’s proudest career achievement to date when he reached his first Wimbledon final and lost valiantly to Roger Federer, but now he can finally say that he has become a champion at Wimbledon.

He still isn’t yet a winner of Wimbledon title ‘proper’ or a Grandslam title but his fantastic performances en route to the Olympic final and then in hammering Federer in the final will have given him an enormous amount of hope in his quest to land a first Slam. It was also fantastic to see him gunning for glory on all fronts as he teamed up with his brother in the men’s doubles and with Laura Robson in the mixed doubles where they landed a deserved silver medal.

Golden Saturday:

Little can be said about Saturday the 4th of August 2012 that hasn’t already been said a thousand times but there is no way it could be left off of this list. 6 golds in one day and three of those in the space of less than an hour in the Olympic Stadium. It was awesome.

Epke Zonderland flies his way to Gold in the Men’s High Bars:

In a week of phenomenal achievements for Team GB it was tempting to fill this list with tales of home glory and triumph but one of my personal highlights of week two came in a somewhat surprising form. In the build-up to the Games I hadn’t exactly set my heart on watching an enormous amount of gymnastics but Team GB’s unbelievable success got me hooked and then a certain Mr. Zonderland  made me really sit up and take note. His High Bars routine was truly a sight to behold and he more than deserved his gold medal. If you haven’t already seen it then please use this link and do so… http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/olympics/18903127

Trotty’s Double Gold:

With some of team GB’s more high-profile members such as Jess Ennis, Mo Farah and Sir Chris Hoy delivering in fantastic fashion I felt as if young Laura Trott’s double gold went unfairly a little under the radar as did her boyfriend Jason Kenny’s double gold. Her individual winning performance in the women’s omnium was terrific and she sealed her precious second gold in stunning style by romping to victory in the final event and replacing the experienced American Sara Hammer at the top of the standings.

Ben Ainslie makes it 4 out of 4:

Ainslie yet again did it the hard way as he always seems to do as he once again he came from behind to land a stunning fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal and a third consecutive gold in the Finn class. The man is a legend and one would imagine that a knighthood could well be forthcoming.

Sir Chris replaces Sir Steve at the top of GB’s gold medal winners list:

Chris Hoy London 2012

His Royal Thighness grabbed two golds in what is almost certain to be his last Olympic Games

Chris Hoy’s outstanding performance in the Keirin was arguably the highlight of yet another stunning team performance from Britain’s cyclists at the Olympics and it saw him reach the incredible tally of six golds, one more than Sir Steve Redgrave who provided a very nice touch by going to the Velodrome to congratulate the man who has arguably deposed him as Team GB’s greatest ever Olympian.

Bolt doubles up on all three fronts:

I’m pretty certain that most people would already have regarded Usain Bolt as a legend prior to London but now he himself believes once and for all that he has the right to be called a legend. Once again Jamaica’s finest produced storming performances in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay and his second consecutive triple-gold medal haul silenced all of the doubters who thought he might not be able to match his displays in Beijing. My favourite Bolt moment from the last fortnight though was his homage to home favourite Mo Farah when he performed the ‘Mo-bot’ just after crossing the line for gold in the relay.

Farah Bolt London 2012

‘Mo Bolt’ and ‘Usain Farah’ celebrate their triumphs with each other

Brotherly love in the Triathlon:

For years I have been derogatory about triathlon in order to wind up a friend of mine who is all to keen on the sport but the truth of the matter is that triathlon is an unbelievably demanding discipline and both of the Brownlee brothers are phenomenal athletes. Tuesday’s triathlon drew an enormous crowd, one which  included myself, and Alistair Brownlee’s gold medal winning performance was well worthy of such phenomenal support.

Mo Doubles Up:

Saturday night saw Mo Farah complete arguably the greatest British athletics achievement ever as he landed the 5,000m gold medal to add to the 10,000m gold which he won a week earlier. This achievement has seen Farah soar into the realms of the greatest athletes ever to have competed at the Olympics as only seven people have ever done the long distance double at the Games.

Stephen Kiprotich defies the odds to bring glory to Uganda:

Kiprotich Marathon Winner

Stephen Kiprotich took an unlikely victory in Sunday’s showpiece event

Uganda are traditionally one of the least successful competing nations at the Olympic Games and until yesterday they were still without a medal at London 2012. However, on the final day of the Games Kiprotich stepped up to the plate and beat the favourites from Africa’s distance running strongholds Ethiopia and Kenya en route to winning the marathon and becoming not just Uganda’s first medal winner of the Games but also Uganda’s first gold medal winner in 40 years. This was a staggering achievement for one so young and it was deserving of the traditionally special medal ceremony that the marathon receives in the closing ceremony.

London 2012: 100m Men’s Prediction

The Semi-Finals:

Semi-Final 1 Winner: Justin Gatlin in around 9.85

Semi-Final 1 Runner-Up: Asafa Powell in around 9.90

Semi-Final 2 Winner: Usain Bolt in around 9.80-9.85

Semi-Final 2 Runner-Up: Daniel Bailey in around 9.85

Gemili Olympics

I have an inkling that Gemili will run his first sub-10 second time in the 100m and will get into contention for a place in the final

Semi-Final 3 Winner: Yohan Blake in 9.80

Semi-Final 3 Runner-Up: Tyson Gay in 9.85-9.90

Fastest Losers: Richard Thompson in around 9.90 (Semi-Final 2) and then either one of Adam Gemili, Dwain Chambers or Keston Bledman in around 9.95

In short, I think that all the usual suspects will advance to the final as well as young talents Ryan Bailey and perhaps even Adam Gemili. If events on the track so far are anything to go by then I have a feeling that the home crowd could inspire either one of Gemili or Dwain Chambers to make the final as one of the fastest losers from the semis.

I think Yohan Blake, Justin Gatlin and Usain Bolt will set the tone for medal-winning finishes in the final with victories in each of their semi-finals and I think that each of their times will crank up into the region of 9.80-8.85 seconds as they start to move through the gears of the competition.

The Final:

Gold: Yohan Blake in around 9.65

Silver: Usain Bolt in around 9.65-9.70

Bronze: Justin Gatlin in around 9.75

Fourth: Asafa Powell

Bolt and Blake

Will Bolt hold onto his 100m crown or will the young pretender Yohan Blake pip him to the post?

Fifth: Tyson Gay

Sixth: Ryan Bailey

Seventh: Richard Thompson

Eighth: Adam Gemili/Dwain Chambers/Keston Bledman (Second fastest loser from the Semi-Finals)

You heard it hear first: Usain Bolt will ‘only’ win a silver medal! You can never rule out Bolt, I know that of course, and I am not ruling him out. I think the pace of the final will be very decent and I think it will be either Blake or Bolt that win it in around 9.65 seconds but for the sake of interest and in aid of backing up what I have been saying to anyone who will listen for months I have gone for Blake to win.

I then think their will be a real dog-fight for the Bronze medal in a time of 9.75-9.80 seconds with Justing Gatlin pipping Asafa Powell, Tyson Gay and Ryan Bailey in the battle for a third-placed finish.

Whether Bolt wins tonight or not, tonight is sure to be another historic night for both British and World athletics so sit back, relax (if you can…) and enjoy another sporting feast.

Gold Gold Gold Gold Gold Gold

Is it just me that has Spandau Ballet ringing through my head?

What a night it has been for British athletics and what a day it has been for British sport. Two golds on the track, one in the field and three earlier in the day shared between the river at Eton and the Velodrome at the Olympic Park. Has British sport ever seen anything like it?

I can’t quite believe we won 6 of these in a day!

Well, I certainly can’t remember a night like it and I’m pretty sure that I will never see a more superior day of British sporting excellence for the rest of my existence, nor would I really hope to as I don’t think I could bear it!

So, where to start?

Well, first of all, huge congratulations to Jess Ennis, Greg Rutherford, Mo Farah, Laura Trott, Joanna Roswell, Dani King, Sophie Hosking, Katherine Copeland, Pete Reed, Andy Triggs Hodge, Tom James and Alex Gregory. You are all brilliant and we as mere spectators of your brilliance are all indebted to you for eternity for the magnificent day of entertainment with with you have provided us!

Now, breaking it down, here is the run through of my experience of Team GB’s ‘Golden Saturday’ at the Games….

10:00 A.M: Position on the sofa assumed for a long day ahead…

10:30 A.M: Jess Ennis nails the long jump and thrusts herself well and truly into the driving seat in the heptathlon…

11:30 A.M: GB WIN GOLD IN THE MEN’S FOUR! GOLD MEDAL NUMBER ONE ON ‘GOLDEN SATURDAY’ FOR TEAM GB!!!

London 2012 Rowing Gold

Gold number one…

12:00 P.M: GB WIN ANOTHER GOLD AT ETON! KATH COPELAND AND SOPHIE HOSKINGS TRIUMPH IN THE LIGHTWEIGHT WOMEN’S DOUBLE TAKING TEAM GB’s GOLD MEDAL TALLY TO TWO ON ‘GOLDEN SATURDAY’!!!

Gold number two…

12:30 P.M: Team GB get a silver medal in the men’s double lightweight sculls courtesy of reigning Olympic champions Zak Purchase and Mark Hunter. The pair were desolate in the wake of their ‘failure’ to get the gold but they performed manfully and shouldn’t feel ashamed at all…

1:00 P.M: Usain Bolt begins his Olympic campaign and though this would usually have thrilled the nation, his sluggish heat win paled in comparison to the level of excitement developing for Team GB on ‘Golden Saturday’. Adam Gemili also began his 100m campaign and he looked very good in his run to a second placed heat finish to winner Asafa Powell. Gemili won’t medal but he could make the final if he can find a PB on Sunday…

1:20 P.M: Dwain Chambers also qualifies for the next round of the 100m by winning his heat in an impressive time of 10.02 seconds. It was always going to be interesting to see how well he would be received by the crowd and though I have no affection for him whatsoever I am still pleased to report that he got a very warm reception as it would have been pretty awkward had he not…

1:30 P.M: My girlfriend left my house. Usually I wouldn’t report this as a significant event but the fact that she was then on her way to the Olympic Stadium as she had tickets for the phenomenal night ahead makes it rather more relavant… Lucky git…

2:00 P.M: Jess Ennis nails the javelin also which is often her achilles heel, throwing a lifetime best distance of 47.59 metres! This was the moment where I and the whole nation finally accepted that our ‘face of the Games’ would indeed win the gold medal she so deserved…

2:30 P.M-5 P.M: Many hours spent sulking because I wish I had a ticket for the Olympic Stadium…

5:00 P.M: I went for a jog and was of course pretending that I was Mo Farah. I convinced myself for a few seconds that I was actually a little too fast to be Mo before then realising that in reality I am actually horribly unfit…

5:30 P.M: Andy Murray and Laura Robson triumphed in the semi-finals of the mixed doubles in the tennis competition guaranteeing themselves a medal winning finish. Olympic tennis usually fails to capture my imagination but today changed everything for me. The nerve and resilience shown by our pair in their back-to-back Saturday afternoon wins over Australia and Germany was captivating and they fully deserve at very least a silver medal, which is now the minimum possible reward for their efforts. Andy Murray now has a shot at two gold medals on Sunday…

6:15 P.M: GOLD FOR GB IN THE WOMEN’S TEAM PURSUIT AT THE VELODROME! TEAM GB’S THIRD MEDAL OF GOLDEN SATURDAY! TAKE A BOW LAURA TROTT, DANI KING AND JOANNA ROSWELL!!!

Gold number three…

7:00 P.M: GB’s athletic’s team captain Dai Greene took to the track for his 400m hurdles semi-final and the world champion had a shocker! A 4th placed finish saw him scrape into the final by the skin of his teeth and in hindsight maybe this was the price all us Brits had to pay for the success lying in wait on ‘Golden Saturday’…

8:20 P.M: Greg Rutherford landed a major blow in the long jump final with a leading jump of 8.21 metres and the vaguest possibility of three Olympic golds in one night for Team GB’s athletics team dared to creep it’s way into the nation’s minds…

8:40 P.M: Michael Phelps won gold as part of the USA’s relay team in the 4x100m medley final in what was his last ever competitive race but I didn’t care because GB were on course to win 3 golds in a night! OK, I did care really… What a man. What an Olympian. 22 Olympic medals and 18 of them Gold. Is he the greatest sportsman of all time?

8:55 P.M: Time for Jess to finish off a job bloody well done… The nation awaits…

9:00 P.M: Jess only went and bloody well won her 800 didn’t she! It would have been so easy for her to just pace her way to a comfortable finish high up the field but the determination she showed to win her race was phenomenal. GOLD MEDAL NUMBER FOUR FOR TEAM GB ON GOLDEN SATURDAY!!!

Jess Ennis London 2012

Gold number four…

9:05 P.M : Rutherford extended his lead in the long jump with a terrific leap of 8.31 metres, a second gold in a matter of minutes became an even greater possibility for Team GB

9:20 P.M: Mo Farah begins the 10,000m and the Olympic Stadium erupted as the realisation of three potential athletics golds in one night started to really dawn on the nation…

9:25 P.M: Greg Rutherford stuffed up his ‘jump of honour’ but who gives a toss?! GOLD FOR TEAM GB IN THE LONG JUMP, 2 ATHLETICS GOLDS AND FIVE TEAM GB GOLDS ON GOLDEN SATURDAY!!!!

Greg Rutherford London 2012

Gold number five…

9:45 P.M: MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! FARAH WINS GOLD IN THE 10,000 m AND TEAM GB GET THEIR SIXTH GOLD MEDAL OF GOLDEN SATURDAY!!!!!!!

Mo Farah London 2012

…and Mo makes it six!

9:50 P.M: Jamaica get their gold in the women’s showpiece athletics event with Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce defending her Olympic title in 10.75 seconds. Usually the 100m finals are the more memorable moments of the Olympics but Fraser-Pryce’s terrific defence of her title was a little lost amidst the British Euphoria at the Olympic Stadium…

10:15 P.M: Team GB’s male footballers crashed out to South Korea in the quarter finals in a penalty shootout. Usually I would have cared but not tonight. Very little could have happened to dampen my mood and I’m sure that was the case for the vast majority of British sports fans!

 

Saturday the 4th of August will undoubtedly go down in history as one of it not THE greatest day of all time for British sport. 6 Olympic golds and a few more medals to boot. If you didn’t shed a tear at some point today then you might as well leave Britain and never come back…

 

London 2012: My Top 10 Moments Of The Opening Week

France Win 4x100m Freestyle Gold:

France Swimming London 2012

The French quartet shocked everybody in the relay as they defeated the USA and Australia

In what was billed the battle of the USA and outsiders Australia, the tables of swimming superiority were momentarily turned and the French took a remarkable victory. Everybody loves an underdog even if it is the French…

Grainger’s Gold At Last:

Grainger Watkins London 2012

Ably supported by team mate Anna Watkins, Kath Grainger finally got her hands on a gold medal

When she managed ‘only’ a silver in Beijing it looked as though Kath Grainger might never achieve a gold medal at an Olympic Games and as she put it before breaking down into a flood of tears she looked to destined to be “always the bridesmaid and never the bride.”

However, Friday morning’s terrific performance alongside the magnificent Anna Watkins saw her finally achieve the gold she so deserved and how she managed to hold herself together so well I’ll never know. Well done Kath, you are the bride after all!

Sir Chris Makes It 5:

Amidst the drama and disappointment of Jess Varnish and Victoria Pendleton’s disqualification on the first evening of Velodrome action, Sir Chris Hoy and his trusty team sprint team mates Jason Kenny and Phillip Hindes triumphed in their final breaking the World Record along the way.

Hoy fifth gold

Sir Chris brought home GB’s WR breaking team pursuit effort

This success was Chris Hoy’s fifth Olympic gold medal and the scenes it prompted inside the Velodrome were about as euphoric as the games has served up so far.

King-Size Judo Battle:

If you haven’t seen this already then please just take a look at this link and enjoy…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/olympics/19109181

Still Life In The ‘Old’ Dog:

On the opening night of the games Michael Phelps managed only a fourth placed finish in his first final and this result was made all the more startling by the fact that it was his fellow US star Ryan Lochte who bagged the gold medal. This triumph for Lochte led to him being asked in a post-race interview if 2012 was his time and his games and he answered “Well… Yeah… I guess so…”

Phelps Greatest Ever Olympian

Phelps had a sluggish start to his last Games but he has since stormed back to multiple gold medal winning success

However, the greatest Olympian of all time has had something to say about that and he has out-‘golded’ him so far this games and in doing so has kindly reminded Lochte (who for the record I cannot stand…) that for this week at least he still has some serious competition.

Gold-Silver Finish For Britain’s Men In The C2 Slalom:

Team GB flourished in the two-man canoeing discipline

Going into the finals of the C2 hopes were hight that one of the two British pairings might manage to get in the mix for a medal winning finish but a GB 1-2 was never really though to be on the radar.

It was a staggering performance from both pairs and the two medals captured for Team GB contributed to a mad five minutes in which Peter Wilson also showed phenomenal nerve to grab a shooting gold to make it three medals in five minutes for us Brits.

British Men’s Gymnastic Get Team Bronze:

Team GB came within a judge’s review of a silver medal in the team competition

Having gone into the team event in the gymnastics with hopes higher than ever before and aiming for a top five finish, our men’s squad excelled beyond belief and ended up getting themselves an awe-inspiring Bronze medal.

The Olympic Games are all about triumph in the face of adversity and performing to the very limit of your abilities and this success was the very epitome of such sentiment. I never though it would have been the case but their battle for a medal was probably my highlight of the first week of Olympic action and they came agonisingly close to bettering their final position with only a judge’s review denying them the silver medal.

South Africa Get Gold In The Lightweight Four:

South Africa’s first ever rowing old may have come at GB’s expense but it still made for fantastic viewing

Before this historic race South Africa had never before won a rowing gold but their staggering late burst in the lightweight fours earned them an awesome victory at the expense of the GB crew who were narrowly squeezed out into the silver medal position in the final few metres.

The South Africans were never meant to win this race but they did and they more than deserved to on the day even though it was heartbreaking to see our boys lose out so narrowly in a race they were very confident of winning beforehand.

Wiggo Rides His Way Into The History Books:

Having fought manfully for Mark Cavendish’s failed crack at winning gold in the men’s road race, Bradley Wiggins had to lift himself for Wednesday’s time trial and he did just that.

Wiggo Gold

Britain’s greatest ever Olympian?

His staggering victory by over forty seconds saw him win his fourth Olympic gold and his seventh Olympic medal in total and these achievements coupled with his historic triumph in the the Tour De France have put him right up there in contention to be thought of as Britain’s greatest ever sportsman. Arise Sir Brad….

Jess Ennis Blowing Away The Field In The 100m Hurdles:

At the time of writing this piece Jess Ennis has now built on her brilliant start to the heptathlon and has just one event remaining in her quest for an Olympic gold and looks set to close the deal with a fair amount of ease in tonight’s 800m.

Ennis Heptathlon Gold

Ennis’ awesome opening run in the hurdles catapulted her into the record books and straight o the top of the heptathlon standings

But in terms of the first week of the games she had only completed four of her seven events and the first of these, the 100m hurdles, saw her start her campaign in phenomenal fashion allaying any fears about her being overcome by the huge pressure of being the ‘face of the games’.

Her time of 12.54 seconds would have seen her in a photo finish for Olympic gold in the women’s 100m hurdles as an individual discipline in Beijing in 2008 and it was also the fastest hurdles time ever run by a British woman. This was an incredible start to her Games and it set the tone beautifully for the rest of her competition.