• July 25 down the years

Great Britain take gold on a technicality

The Great Britain relay team were promoted to gold medallists © Getty Images
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2001
Britain's first gold medal at the World Swimming Championships since David Wilkie in 1975 (24 July). In the women's 4x200 metres freestyle relay, Australia finished first but were disqualified when one of their team celebrated by jumping into the pool before the last swimmer had finished the race. An action that didn't affect the result, but rules are rules. The USA, who finished second, were disqualified for an early changeover, so Britain were promoted to first place. A lucky win, but all hail Nicola Jackson, Janine Belton, Karen Legg, and Karen Pickering for knowing the rules.

1980
At the Olympic Games in Moscow, Soviet gymnast Aleksandr Ditiatin set a record by winning a medal on each of the six pieces of apparatus. He won four silvers and only one gold (on the rings), finishing the Games with eight medals, including gold in the all-round individual and team. Vitaly Scherbo spread himself less thinly at the 1992 Games (2 August).

2010
Mark Cavendish produced a devastating late sprint to seal a fifth stage win of the Tour de France - but his efforts were not enough to stop him finishing as runner-up to Alessandro Petacchi in the battle for the green jersey. As expected, Alberto Contador was crowned as the general classification winner - in the process sealing his third Tour title in four years - after finishing 39 seconds ahead of Andy Schleck.

1980
Scotland's Allan Wells (born 3 May 1952) won the Olympic 100 metres. The Americans had boycotted the Moscow Games, and Wells's winning time of 10.25 was the slowest since 1960. But it was a cold night, he beat the talented Cuban Silvio Leonard, and - well, you take what you can get. Wells was in lane eight, Leonard in lane one. Wells's dip at the line won him the gold, even though Leonard shared the same time.

Today Viktor Saneyev came within inches of winning the Olympic triple jump four times in a row. Soviet team mate Jaak Uudmäe won it with his third-round jump, and Saneyev's last-round 17.24 metres fell 11 centimetres short. But some of the field events at these Games were cloaked in controversy. Long jumps by Brazilian world record holder João Carlos de Oliveira and Australia's Ian Campbell were annulled because they allegedly touched the runway with their trailing legs. The discus was also won by a USSR thrower - but an apparent last round winner by a Cuban was measured short. In the javelin, the Soviet winner made the final even though his qualifying throw didn't appear to touch down point-first. In the triple jump, de Oliveira was lucky they allowed him to win bronze.

1976
Barry Sheene, poster boy for British motorcycling, won the Swedish Grand Prix to clinch the 500cc world title for the first time with three races to spare. Suzuki riders occupied the first three places, and a fourth set the fastest lap. Sheene retained the title the following year (31 July).

1908
The only runner to win an Olympic gold medal on his own. Clarify that: in the semi-finals of the 1400 metres in London, Lieutenant Wyndham Halswelle set a Games record of 48.4. In the final on the 23rd, he faced three Americans. Feelings ran high at those Games between British officials and American track and field competitors. In this race, marshals were stationed every 20 yards round the track, apparently to check for American skulduggery. Sure enough, the officials saw what they wanted to see. William Robbins went off so fast that he led by ten metres after 200, but he was no Eric Liddell (11 July 1924), so he paid the price as John Carpenter came past. Halswelle then tried to overtake Carpenter, but the race wasn't run in lanes, and Carpenter ran very wide to stop him. Outraged judges stopped the race before the end, Carpenter was disqualified, the two other Americans refused to take part in the re-run, and Halswelle ran round on his own. The lanes were marked out with lengths of string on short sticks, superfluous now of course. In the circumstances, Halswelle did well to get round in exactly 50 seconds.

1999
Juli Inkster shot a record-equalling 272, 16 under par, to win the US Open. She won it again three years later, when she was 42.

1982
Martina Navrátilová helped the USA win the Fed Cup after winning it with Czechoslovakia in 1975, the last time the USA didn't emerge victorious until 1983. In Santa Clara today, Navrátilová won 6-4 6-4 against 19-year-old Bettina Bunge to clinch the final against West Germany, then teamed up with Chris Evert Lloyd to win the dead doubles against Bunge and 18-year-old Claudia Kohde.

Martina Navratilova became a master of the doubles in her later years © Getty Images
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1996
The second of only two swimmers to win the same individual event at the Olympic Games three times. Hungary's Krizstina Egerszegi (born 16 August 1974) was still only a slip of a girl, but she went backwards through water better than anyone else. She won the 200 metres backstroke for the first time in 1988 when she was barely 14, and now finished more than four seconds clear of the field, the widest winning margin in any women's 200 metre event. She was the first woman to win five Olympic golds in individual events.

1965
Freddie Mills was found dead in his car. He had well-known money troubles, and there was a shotgun he'd recently bought. He killed himself just before the anniversary of better days, his world title in 1948 (26 July). A boxer with limited skills but inexhaustible courage, Fearless Freddie wore opponents down with all-out attack, thoroughly deserving his world light-heavyweight title. But he was too brave, taking far too much punishment in fights with heavyweights, including fellow Brit Bruce Woodcock and big Yank Joe Baksi. When he retired, Mills bought a nightclub which was frequented by his pals the Kray twins, but when it failed he felt he had nowhere to go.

1948
Gritty, gutsy, and just plain great, Gino Bartali won the Tour de France for the first time in ten years. He was 34 by now, so although he'd won three stages, including two in a row, no-one was unduly surprised when he lay 21 minutes behind the brilliant young Louison Bobet with less than half the Tour to go. Then: crisis in Italy. The chairman of the powerful Communist Party was shot, and the country was immediately hit by a general strike. In the aftermath of a War which had destroyed the country's infrastructure, there was talk of civil conflict. The next day, Bartali and Bobet were inseparable for 80 kilometres in the mountains. Bartali gained a grand total of two seconds, and Bobet surely had the race in the bag. But the stage had exhausted him, and two days later he cracked. By the end of the next stage, Bartali was eight minutes in front. When the Communist leader recovered in hospital, he asked how Bartali, an arch Catholic, was doing in the Tour. Civil war averted. The following year, Bartali defended the yellow jersey with typical courage and no luck against another great Italian (24 July). In 1953, Bobet won the Tour for the first of three times in a row.

1976
The first swimmer to cover 100 metres in under 50 seconds. At the Olympic Games, Jim Montgomery swam 50.39 in the freestyle semi-finals to break his own world record, followed by 49.99 in the final.

Elsewhere, legendary 400 metre hurdler Ed Moses (born 31 August 1955) won his first Olympic gold. He was only 20 and this was his first international competition, but his long legs allowed him to take only 13 steps between the hurdles, without the need to change his stride pattern. He set a world record of 47.64 in winning by nine yards. Britain's Alan Pascoe, the reigning European and Commonwealth champion, would have been a good bet for silver, but his latest injury left him short of training. He gave it a go but finished last. Moses didn't get the chance to retain the title in 1980 (26 July).

On the same track, another 20-year-old lost any chance of a medal in the 800 metres when he was drawn in the outside lane. At the time, you had to stay in your lane for the first 300 metres, so runners in lane eight couldn't see what was going on inside them until almost half the race was run. Britain's Steve Ovett set off slower than he needed to, and managed only fifth place. But even if he'd gone off fast, he wouldn't have won the gold: giant Cuban Alberto Juantorena broke the world record. Belgium's Ivo Van Damme finished second in this race and the 1500 metres (31 July) before dying in a car crash (29 December) when he was only 22. Juantorena added the 400 metres title on 29 July. Ovett won gold in the 800 four years later (26 July).

1952
The FBI agent who let himself be followed by a Russian. Horace Ashenfelter won the Olympic 3,000 metres steeplechase, beating the Soviet Union's Vladimir Kazantsev and taking his world record. Britain's John Disley won the bronze.

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