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Success breeds success

Steven Lynch March 18, 2013
Ben Hogan was almost untouchable in 1953 © Getty Images
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How many Olympic boxing champions have gone on to win the world heavyweight title? asked Gerry Miller

The first former Olympic champion to win the world professional heavyweight title was Floyd Patterson, the middleweight gold medallist at Helsinki in 1952, who added the pro crown in 1956. Muhammad Ali (then still known as Cassius Clay) won light-heavyweight gold in Rome in 1960, and claimed the world heavyweight title for the first time in 1964. That year Joe Frazier won the Olympic heavyweight title, and he was followed in 1968 by George Foreman. At Montreal in 1976 Michael Spinks won the middleweight gold and his brother Leon the light-heavyweight one - both went on to win versions of the world heavyweight title. Ray Mercer, the 1988 Olympic heavyweight gold medallist, became the WBO heavyweight champion in 1991, beating Francesco Damiani - the 1984 super-heavyweight silver medallist - to win the title. And after the super-heavyweight division was added to the Olympic programme in 1984, Lennox Lewis (who beat Riddick Bowe in the 1988 final) and Wladimir Klitschko (1996) both won the Olympic title before going on to greater things at professional level.

I know no-one has ever won all four professional golf majors in the same season. But what is the closest anyone has come to doing it? asked Christopher Anderson

Two players - Ben Hogan in 1953 and Tiger Woods in 2000 - have won three of the four majors in the same season (Bobby Jones, the famed amateur, won the US Amateur, US Open, British Amateur and Open Championship in 1930 - when they were considered the sport's four biggest events). Hogan didn't play in the fourth one (the US PGA, which was played at almost the same time as the British Open that year), while Woods finished fifth in the first major of the 2000 season, the Masters. Woods's combined placement total that year of eight (5th+1st+1st+1st) was the lowest ever, although he equalled it in 2005, when he won the Masters and the Open, and was second in the US Open and fourth in the PGA.

Since the PGA became a strokeplay event in the late 1950s there have been 22 instances of a player finishing in the top ten of all four - five by Jack Nicklaus and three by Tom Watson, in addition to Woods's two. Arnold Palmer (who was the first to manage it, in 1960) and Gary Player also did it twice. In 11 - exactly half - of these instances the player concerned didn't actually win any of the four majors in the year concerned. And three of those - Doug Sanders (1966), Miller Barber (1969) and Sergio Garcia (2002) - never did win a major (although it's still possible Garcia might).

Who has scored the most goals in FA Cup finals? asked Clive Kirkpatrick

The leader on this list is Ian Rush, who scored five times in FA Cup finals for Liverpool - two against Everton in both 1986 and 1989, and another against Sunderland in 1992. Didier Drogba scored in a record four different finals, all of which Chelsea won - against Manchester United (2007), Everton (2009), Portsmouth (2010) and Liverpool (2012). In all Rush scored 44 goals in FA Cup matches, a number exceeded only by the 19th-century Notts County forward Harry Cursham, who found the net 49 times.

I read that Roger Federer had won 76 tournaments on the ATP Tour by the end of 2012. Has anyone ever won more than him? asked Fiona Waterton

Roger Federer's 76 tournament victories puts him fourth on the all-time list. He's just one behind John McEnroe, but has a fair bit of ground to make up on Ivan Lendl (94), and the only man with more than a century of tournament wins - Jimmy Connors (109). Rafael Nadal is currently in tenth place with 52 wins. Three women have more than 100 victories on the WTA Tour: Steffi Graf won 107 tournaments, Chris Evert 157, and Martina Navratilova a whopping 167. There's a big gap to fourth-placed Lindsay Davenport (55); Serena Williams (47) is currently sixth.

Bobs Worth did the double of the Hennessy and Cheltenham Gold Cups this year. How many horses have done this before? asked Johnny Day

First of all I should point out that Bobs Worth didn't quite win both in the same year, although he did do so in the same National Hunt season - the Hennessy Gold Cup is usually run at Newbury in November or December. But Bobs Worth was only the eighth horse to win both races since the Hennessy started in 1957. The others to do it in the same season were Mandarin (1961-62), Bregawn (1982-83), Arkle (1964-65 and 1965-66), and Denman (2007-08). Mill House won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March 1963 and the Hennessy later that year (but in the 1963-64 season); Burrough Hill Lad did the same in 1984. Kerstin won at Cheltenham early in 1958, and the Hennessy late in 1959.

Carl Lewis won ten Olympic medals, nine of them gold. Is this a record for an athlete? asked Lawrence Metcalfe

Carl Lewis's nine gold medals equalled the record for any Olympic track and field athlete - he shares it with Paavo Nurmi, the Finnish middle- and long-distance runner, who won nine between 1920 and 1928. But Nurmi just shades the overall medal tally - he won 12 in all at the Olympics, with three silvers to go with his haul of golds. Lewis's only non-gold medal was a silver in the 200 metres (behind his fellow American Joe DeLoach) at Seoul in 1988. The leading woman, with nine Olympic medals (three silver and six bronze) is the Jamaican sprinter Merlene Ottey.

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