On This Day

  • June 11 down the years

Alesi's birthdays all come at once

Jean Alesi won the Canadian Grand Prix on his birthday © Getty Images
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1995
Jean Alesi drove in 201 Formula One grands prix. He won only one, today in Canada. Michael Schumacher, who won the race seven times, started on pole and set the fastest lap - but he needed a long pit stop when his car was stuck in third gear, leaving Alesi's Ferrari out in front with only twelve laps left. Alesi must have thought it was his birthday. It was. His 31st.

1939
A more successful motor racing driver was born in Scotland. Jackie Stewart drove in 99 Formula One races, winning 27 of them, a record at the time. Fast and skilful without being reckless, he was world champion in 1969, 1971, and 1973. The last race of his last year would have been his 100th grand prix, but he pulled out when his Tyrrell team mate François Cevert was killed in practice the day before. At a time when drivers died virtually every year, Stewart campaigned long and hard for improved safety, which made him unpopular with track owners, some fans and even the odd driver. But no-one could ever doubt his courage: he won the German Grand Prix three times at the dreaded Nürburgring, where his own team, Stewart Grand Prix, won the European GP in 1999.

2005
Mike Tyson's last fight. We hope. Just before his 39th birthday, he was stopped in the sixth round by Kevin McBride, who outweighed him by nearly three stone. Best to remember Iron Mike the way he started, on November 22, 1986.

1995
Before Jonny Wilkinson's on November 22, 2003, this was England's most famous drop goal. It won another World Cup match against Australia. Both sides had been unconvincing in their group matches: Australia losing to hosts South Africa, England winning 24-18 against Argentina, who scored the only two tries of the match. England's points in that match all came from Rob Andrew: six penalties and significantly two drop goals. And he did the trick again in Cape Town today. England dominated the first half but didn't score their try until halfway through it, when Michael Lynagh fumbled and Tony Underwood beat David Campese for pace. Australia were happy to be only 13-6 down at half-time - and level in the first minute after it, winger Damian Smith catching a Lynagh kick to score a try reminiscent of the 2003 Final. Then the fly-halves traded penalties. Lynagh put Australia ahead for the first time at 19-16 but Andrew made it 22-22 with five minutes left. In the third minute of injury time, big Martin Bayfield caught a lineout. When the ball came back from the maul, Andrew landed his drop goal from 45 yards. The champions were out and England marched confidently towards their meeting with Jonah Lomu. This was the last of Lynagh's 72 international matches for Australia. His 911 points (worth 924 today) were a world record at the time.

1989
Two 17-year-old tennis players became French Open champions, including the youngest man to win a grand slam singles title. Earlier in the tournament, Michael Chang came from two sets down to beat former champion Ivan Lendl. In the final, he faced Stefan Edberg, who was trying to become one of the very few serve-volleyers to win the top clay court event. He came close, too. After a bad start, he dominated the next two sets and had ten break points on Chang's serve. But he missed them all, and Chang's retrieving got to him in the end. Edberg had to hit shoulder-high groundstrokes for nearly four hours, and he lost the fifth set 6-2. Chang was the first American to win the title since 1955. He received the trophy from the two surviving Musketeers of the 1920s: René Lacoste and the 90-year-old Jean Borotra. It was the only Grand Slam singles trophy Chang ever won.

The day before, Arantxa Sánchez Vicario won the women's title for the first time. Steffi Graf was trying to win it for the third year in a row, but she could be mentally brittle at times. After losing the first set 8-6 on a tie-break, she won the second and served for the title at 5-3 in the third. Then she fell apart, Sánchez breaking her to love twice then serving out the match. Graf lost the next year's final as well, before beating Sánchez in two more.

1967
The end of the longest winning streak in athletics. Since finishing third at the 1956 Olympics, dodgy Romanian high jumper Iolanda Balaş won 140 competitions in a row. And it would have been more if she hadn't been way off form today. She jumped only 1.68 metres, way short of her world record 1.91. So East Germany's Dagmar Melzer found 1.71 enough to win.

Michael Chang won a five-setter against Stefan Edberg © Getty Images
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1982
People were slowly coming round to the idea that Larry Holmes might be quite a good heavyweight champion after all. Being Muhammad Ali's sparring partner does nothing for your ring cred - especially as very few fans knew that Ali stopped flicking his left jab and started giving it more snap only after working with him. Holmes won the WBC title from Ken Norton on June 9, 1978 and made his 12th defence tonight. He'd already seen off former champions Leon Spinks and Ali himself, future champions Mike Weaver and Trevor Berbick, and fearsome puncher Earnie Shavers. Now he faced big Gerry Cooney, who rode into the ring on a sea of hype. The media lapped up this big white hope with an Irish background and pointed to his last two fights, in which he'd knocked out Norton in 54 seconds and the dangerous Ron Lyle in less than three minutes. And he outweighed Holmes by a stone. But he hadn't gone past six rounds in any of his last nine fights. He came out throwing bombs at Holmes, who kept him at bay with stiff jabs and right-hand counters. Cooney was cut over the left eye in the fifth round and after that only his courage kept exhaustion at bay. He was taking terrible punishment when his trainer jumped into the ring in the 13th round. That was the end of Gerry Cooney as a contender. He made a half-hearted comeback but retired after losing consecutive fights to Michael Spinks, and then a 41-year-old George Foreman on January 15, 1990. Holmes made another four defences of the WBC title, then won three IBF title bouts before facing Spinks in a landmark fight on September 21, 1985.

1896
Golf's Great Triumvirate was just beginning to take shape. JH Taylor won the British Open in 1894, and today Harry Vardon won it for the first time, pulling back three stokes on Taylor in the last round. In those days, play-offs were half as long as tournaments themselves, and Vardon beat Taylor by four shots over 36 holes. The other member of the Triumvirate, Jimmy Braid, finished sixth. Old Tom Morris played in the Open for the last time, 29 years after winning it for the last time.

1950
A car crash in 1949 left Ben Hogan unable to play as much golf as before. The various fractures healed - pelvis, collarbone, ankle, rib - but his stamina was affected. So he cut down the number of tournaments he played - which left him fresher for the big ones. He won nine Majors, six of them after the accident, beginning with the US Open today. The tournament stretched his limited physical resources a bit. The last two rounds were played on the same day, and he had to endure a play-off the following day. He got through on guts and the roar of the crowd, shooting 69 to beat Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio. Hogan won the US Open again the following year.

1995
Jonathan Edwards broke the British record at last. He was 29 by the time he triple-jumped 17.58 metres, one centimetre further than Keith Connor 13 years earlier. Edwards of course went on to much longer things, culminating in two monster world records on August 7, 1995.

1978
Björn Borg had been 22 for only five days when he won the French Open for the third time. He hadn't taken part the year before, when his friend and doubles partner Guillermo Vilas kept the throne warm, losing only 43 games in winning the title. This year Borg lost 32, including only five in the Final - against Vilas. The Argentinian was one of the top clay-court players of his day and most others, powerful and subtle. But he could rarely live with Borg, who did everything slightly better today, happy to outslug the slugger. One of their rallies went to 86 shots and there were several others over 50. Borg won 6-1 6-1 6-3 and took the title without losing a set. The last man to win it three times had been Henri Cochet, who presented him with the trophy.

The women's singles attracted the latest embarrassingly weak field. Virginia Ruzici of Romania beat no-hopers like Uruguay's Fiorella Bonicelli and Brigitte Simon of France to reach the Final, where she hammered away with her big forehand to beat defending champion Mima Jausovec 6-2 6-2.

2000
Gustavo Kuerten must have wondered if he was ever going to regain the French Open. In the final, he won the first two sets but didn't win the fourth until Sweden's Magnus Norman had saved ten match points!

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