• July 17 down the years

Scot joins the cycling legends

Graeme Obree trains for the World Championships © Getty Images
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1993
The small Norwegian town of Hamar staged one of the greatest cycle rides in history. The day before, Scottish genius Graeme Obree (born 11 September 1965) had failed in his attempt to set a new world record for distance covered in an hour. 'Failed' is relative here: he set a sea-level world record. Now he was back for another go - and joined the cycling legends. He abandoned the conventional bike he'd used for the first attempt and rode one he'd made himself, using some unlikely parts including the bearing from a washing machine. The handlebars were straight, not dropped, and fixed much closer to the saddle, so he had to tuck his arms in to hold them: his famous 'Superman position'. He didn't even have a full day's rest before the second attempt: to stop his muscles seizing up, he drank pints of water, which made him get up several times in the night so he could do his stretching exercises. Eccentric but dead right. He covered 51,596 metres to surpass the 51,151 set by Italy's Francesco Moser at altitude nine years earlier. The new record lasted only a week before Chris Boardman reached 52,270 in Bordeaux, but Obree regained it the following year.

1941
The end of Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, a sequence that still stands as an iconic record in Major League baseball. Today was the 57th. Ken Keltner of the Cleveland Indians made two excellent stops to end the streak. The New York Yankees still won the game, and went on to take the World Series.

1960
The end of the longest-lasting world record in swimming. American Lynn Burke swam the 100 metres backstroke in 1 minute 10.1 seconds to break the 1:10.9 set by Cor Kint of Holland in 1939, 20 years 300 days earlier.

1997
The end for poor Ian Baker-Finch. Very poor by now. Six years earlier, he'd won the British Open and looked set to replace Greg Norman as Australia's top golfer. 'Tall, dark, and hyphenated', he ended with superb rounds of 64 and 66 to finish two shots clear of a field that included Norman, Mark O'Meara, Fred Couples, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, and Vijay Singh. But then Baker-Finch suffered a very public loss of form that never went away. He began the 1995 Open by hooking his opening tee-shot out of bounds. He missed the cut that year and the next, and didn't even get as far as the second round today. After shooting 92 in the first, he retired from tournament golf. In three years, he'd made the cut only once in any tournament.

Joe Di Maggio is an MLB icon © Getty Images
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1924
In the rowing events at the Olympic Games, the USA won the gold medal in the eights. Nothing noteworthy about that - except for the fact that one of the crew was Ben Spock, who went on to universal fame as Dr Spock, the author of a famous baby book. The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care sold over 50 million copies in more than 30 languages. Dr Ben lived to enjoy the proceeds: he was 94 when he died in 1998.

1949
The only motor racing driver to span twenty years as a Grand Prix winner. The remarkable Louis Chiron was only 17 days short of his 50th birthday when he won the Grand Prix de France (not the French Grand Prix) in a Lago-Talbot. After a race lasting more than three hours, he finished 17 seconds ahead of 'B Bira', a member of the Siamese royal family whose full name was Birabongse Bhanetej Bhanabandh, son of Bhanurangsi Savangwongse, the Prince Banubandhu Vongsevoradej. Chiron's first Grand Prix win was at San Sebasti√°n in 1928. He won the French Grand Prix (not the Grand Prix de France) four times from 1931 to 1947 and was the only driver from Monaco to win the Monaco Grand Prix (19 April 1931).

1908
Britain's George Larner was persuaded out of retirement for the Olympic Games in London. After winning the 3,500 metres walk on 14 July, he did the double today by dominating the 10-mile race, beating Ernest Webb into second place again, this time by more than 90 seconds. All the top seven finishers were British. Larner's training included running round gardens in the nude (7 March).

In the same White City stadium, Eric Lemming of Sweden won gold in the javelin for the first time, setting one of his 15 world records in finishing more than four metres clear of the field. He set another one, this time with a landmark distance, when he retained title four years later (6 July).

1849
When Mike Madden boxed, he boxed for a long time. The previous December, his fight with Jack Grant in Woking lasted 145 rounds, spread over five hours 45 minutes before ending in a draw when darkness fell and referee went home. They fought at nine stone 10 pounds and split a prize of fifty sovereigns. After that little warm-up, Madden came to Edenbridge in Kent today and fought for more than six hours before losing to Bill Hayes after 186 rounds!

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