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King of the kickers

Steven Lynch September 12, 2011
Practice has made perfect for Jonny Wilkinson © Getty Images
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Dwight Phillips won the long jump for the fourth straight time at the world athletics championships. Is this a record? asked Ken Norman
No, it isn't: for a start, although Dwight Phillips did win his fourth long jump world title in Daegu, they weren't consecutive - he won in 2003, 2005 and 2009 as well, but Irving Saladino from Panama took the title in 2007. Cuba's Ivan Pedroso did win the long jump four times running, between 1995 and 2001. But the record for successive gold medals at the world athletics championships is a scarcely credible six - by the Russian/Ukrainian Sergey Bubka, who won the pole vault at all the first six meetings, between 1983 and 1997. What makes his achievement all the more impressive is that the championships were only held every four years until changing to a biennial event after 1991. Germany's Lars Riedel won the discus gold medal five times (from 1991 to 2001, excluding 1999). The others to have won four successive world titles at individual track and field events are Michael Johnson (400m 1993-99), Hicham el Guerrouj (1500m 1997-2003), Haile Gebrselassie (10,000m 1993-99) and Kenenisa Bekele (10,000m 2003-2009). Allen Johnson won the 110m hurdles four times between 1995 and 2003, but missed out (to Britain's Colin Jackson) in 1999. No woman athlete has yet managed four titles in a row, although several have won three.

I was watching a programme about the 1966 World Cup, and noticed that one of the group games was played at the White City, which wasn't a league ground at the time (if it ever was). Why was this, and how many other grounds from 1966 are no longer in use? asked Colin Morrison
The match between France and Uruguay in the 1966 World Cup was played at White City (Uruguay won 2-1) for what now seems a rather bizarre reason - all the other games in that group (which included England) were played at Wembley, but the authorities there were reluctant to miss out on the takings from their regular midweek greyhound meetings, so insisted that this game was played elsewhere. The White City stadium at Shepherds Bush in west London - which had been the main base for the 1908 Olympics - was not used for league football at the time, although it had been Queens Park Rangers' home ground for two brief spells, in the 1930s and again in the early '60s. The stadium was demolished in 1985. Two other grounds used in the 1966 World Cup are no longer used for league football: Ayresome Park and Roker Park, which have been supplanted by new stadiums for Middlesbrough and Sunderland respectively.

I spotted that Gigi Fernandez and Natalya Zvereva once won six Grand Slam doubles titles in a row. Is that a record? asked Mark Kennedy
Gigi Fernandez and Natalya Zvereva made a clean sweep of the women's doubles titles at the Grand Slam events between the 1992 French Open and Wimbledon in 1993, thus just missing out on a calendar-year slam in both years. But the record is eight successive titles, by an even greater doubles pair, Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver. They won every women's doubles event at the Grand Slam tournaments from Wimbledon in 1983 to the French Open in 1985, including all four in 1984. The men's record is seven successive titles, by the Australians Ken McGregor and Frank Sedgman in 1951-52. Sedgman actually won eight in a row, as he took the men's doubles at the US championships in 1950 with another Australian, John Bromwich.

How many fights did Muhammad Ali have in Britain? asked George Bantock
Muhammad Ali had three fights in the UK: both his bouts with Henry Cooper and one with Brian London. The first one against Cooper - the one where "Our 'Enry" famously knocked him down - was a non-title fight at Wembley Stadium in June 1963. The knockdown was at the end of the fourth round - but Cooper was stopped towards the end of the next round because of bad cuts. Ali later said that Cooper "had hit him so hard that his ancestors in Africa felt it". Cooper had to wait three years for a rematch, at the old Arsenal stadium at Highbury in north London in May 1966, but that too was stopped - in the sixth round this time - when Cooper's notoriously fragile eyebrows cut up badly again. Ali's next fight, just over two months later, was against Brian London at Earls Court: London was knocked out in the third round. Ali never fought in Britain again, although he came close in 1972 when he won a non-title bout against Alvin "Blue" Lewis in Dublin.

Who has scored the most points - and the most tries - in the Rugby World Cup? asked Alex Mackie
The overall points leader at the Rugby World Cup - with power to add in his fourth tournament in 2011 - is England's Jonny Wilkinson, who had scored 249 prior to England's opener at the current World Cup. The only other man over 200 is Scotland's Gavin Hastings (227), while the Australian Michael Lynagh fell just short with 195. Wilkinson has also kicked the most penalties (53) and drop-goals (13) in World Cup history, but trails in seventh place in the conversion stakes with 23 - Hastings leads the way there with 39. The leading overall World Cup try-scorer is the New Zealand man-mountain of a wing Jonah Lomu, with 15 tries, four of them in the 1995 semi-final against England. Another All Black, Doug Howlett, is second with 13.

After Japan's upset victory in the 2011 women's World Cup, I was wondering if any nation has won both the male and female versions? asked Jane Callender
The only country to have won both is Germany, the hosts - and defending champions - for the 2011 women's World Cup. But the Germans, who won in 2003 and 2007, couldn't make it a hat-trick on home soil, losing to Japan in the quarter-finals. Japan went on to beat Sweden in the semis, and the favourites, the United States, on penalties in the final in Frankfurt. Apart from Japan, Germany and the USA (who won the inaugural tournament in 1991 and again in 1999), the only other country to have won the women's World Cup is Norway in 1995. Germany won the men's event (as West Germany) in 1954, 1974 and 1990.

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