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Aussie agony and a strange start for Red Rum

Steven Lynch January 3, 2011
Sam Stosur went agonisingly close to tasting major glory in 2010, but was beaten by Francesca Schiavone © Getty Images
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I'm a big fan of Samantha Stosur. Who was the last Australian woman before her to reach a Grand Slam singles final? asked Jennifer Morton from Bristol
Samantha Stosur just missed out in the 2010 French Open final, losing to the Italian Francesca Schiavone, and it was 30 years since another Australian woman had been in the final of a Grand Slam singles event. Evonne Cawley won Wimbledon for the second time in 1980, and I initially thought she was the answer - until I spotted that Wendy Turnbull reached the Australian Open final that year, where she lost to Hana Mandlikova. It wasn't until later in the 1980s that the Australian Open started being played in January rather than December - there was no tournament during 1986 when the change was made - so Turnbull reached her final after Cawley. The 1980 Australian Open began in Kooyong in Melbourne on Boxing Day, and the finals were actually played in January 1981.

Who has scored the most goals in the World Cup finals? asked Anthony Cheyne from London
The leader in all matches at the World Cup finals is the great Brazilian centre forward Ronaldo, who scored 15 goals all told (four in 1998, eight in 2002 including two in the final itself, and three in 2006). Just behind him on 14 are the German pair of Miloslav Klose of Germany (who had the chance to equal or better Ronaldo in the 2010 third-place play-off, but failed to score) and Gerd Muller. They are just ahead of Just Fontaine, whose 13 goals for France in 1958 remains the record for a single tournament. England's leading scorer is Gary Lineker, with ten goals in the finals.

Is it true that Red Rum was once ridden at Aintree by Lester Piggott? asked Nick Broadbent from Solihull
Red Rum is one of the most famous of all jumping horses, having won the Grand National in 1973, 1974 and 1977, as well as finishing second in the two in between. But like most racehorses he was started out on the Flat, and it was in the Earl of Sefton Plate at Aintree in 1968 - ironically on Grand National day (the winner that year was another Red, Alligator) - that the three-year-old Red Rum was beaten by a short head with Lester Piggott on board.

Phil Taylor is the greatest player to pick up a dart © Getty Images
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Which darts players have beaten Phil "The Power" Taylor at the PDC World Championship? asked Mike Ringstead from Doncaster
Prior to the 2011 event, there had been 17 PDC World Darts Championship finals since the first one in 1994 - and Phil Taylor had won 13 of them. Taylor was beaten in the final of the inaugural tournament, by Dennis Priestley, and also lost in the final in 2003 (to John Part) and 2007 (to Raymond van Barneveld). The only time Taylor didn't reach the PDC final was in 2008, when he lost 5-4 in the quarter-final to Wayne Mardle. Mardle then lost in the semi-final to Kirk Shepherd, who himself lost in the final to John Part.

What has happened to the golf World Cup, and how often have Great Britain won it? asked Jim Walsh from Surrey
You're right in spotting that the golf World Cup did not take place during 2010, after being an annual event since its inception as a two-man team event in 1953 (apart from 1981, when there wasn't one). The reason for this year being blank is that the World Cup has been turned into a biennial (every two years) event, apparently to avoid a clash with the Olympics, which is set to feature golf again in 2016 (and no, I'm not quite sure why that means there couldn't have been one this year!). Italy are the current World Cup holders, after the Molinari brothers won the title in 2009. "Great Britain" have actually never won it, as the home nations compete as separate entities. David Llewellyn and Ian Woosnam won for Wales in 1987, David Carter and Nick Faldo for England in 1998, Paul Casey and Luke Donald for England in 2004, Stephen Dodd and Bradley Dredge for Wales again in 2005, while Colin Montgomerie and Marc Warren pulled off Scotland's only victory in 2007, in the first tournament held in China. Ireland have also won it twice. Not entirely surprisingly, the United States have had the most wins, with 23 (South Africa are next with five).

I was told there was a rower who had won gold medals at six different Olympics, beating even Sir Steve Redgrave's amazing record. But I can't trace him - so is it true? asked Jeremy McConnell from Birmingham
I think the person you're after is a canoeist, which might be why you haven't managed to track them down. Another reason might be because the person concerned isn't a "him", but a woman - Birgit Fischer from Brandenburg in Germany. She won her first gold for East Germany in the individual 500-metre kayaking event at Moscow in 1980, when she was only 18. This made her the youngest Olympic canoeing champion ... 24 years later, in Athens, she became the oldest, at 42, when she won her eighth gold, this time in the four-woman kayak. In between she won in 1988 (two golds), 1992, 1996 and 2000 (two again), and was probably only denied another gold in 1984 by the eastern-bloc boycott of that year's Los Angeles Games. Fischer also won four silver medals, while she was pre-eminent at the World Championships, winning 28 gold medals in all between 1978 (when she was 16) and 1998.

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