On This Day

  • July 29 down the years

Boardman races to Olympic gold

Chris Boardman won gold in the 4000m individual pursuit © Getty Images
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1992
Chris Boardman won Olympic gold. It's not about the bike, Lance Armstrong would have us believe. But it always is. You can't win a bike race without one. And if you arrive at a competition with a revolutionary machine made by Lotus and break the world record twice before the semi-finals... The competition were blown away by the 'advanced composite monocoque with minimum-drag aerodynamic cross-sections' made from 'unidirectional and stitched high-strength carbon fibre in an epoxy resin matrix.' As you would be. The whole thing weighed only nine kilos. In the final, Boardman didn't break his new world records - because he caught his opponent, something which had never happened in an Olympic final. And Germany's Jens Lehmann was the reigning world amateur champion. Boardman was the first British cyclist to win an Olympic title since 1920.

Two of the track and field gods won their 9th Olympic gold medals on the same day. Paavo Nurmi in 1928 and Carl Lewis in 1996.

Nurmi hadn't been allowed to defend his 10,000 metre title in 1924. So he won five other events instead, including two within two hours (10 July). Four years later, he was beginning to decline, so he had to settle for silver in two events. But he did regain the 10,000, outsprinting fellow Finn and defending champion Ville Ritola in the home straight. Ritola beat him at last a few days later, taking Nurmi's 5,000 metres title.

Emil Hirschfeld of Germany came into the same Games as world record holder in the shot putt. But John Kuck threw 15.87 metres to break that record and win the gold. Hirschfeld took bronze behind Kuck's US team mate Herman Brix, who later played Tarzan in films under the name Bruce Bennett.

In 1996, Lewis became one of the very few competitors to win the same event in four different Olympics. At 35, he wasn't expected to win the long jump this time - but world champion Iván Pedroso of Cuba hadn't recovered from a torn hamstring and finished 12th. So although Lewis's 8.50 metres was his shortest winning jump of the four, it was still 21 centimetres more than anyone else. Mike Powell, who'd won silver behind him at the last two Olympics, pulled a muscle in the fifth round and landed almost head first when he tried to put everything into his last jump. Lewis took some of the sand from the pit as a souvenir.

Those nine golds he and Nurmi won: they're not the record, despite what some record books say. Check out 23 July 1908.

Here in 1996, Lewis was just one of several top athletes who won gold in the stadium.

After a career plagued by injury, Britain's Roger Black ran his only 'perfect race' to finish second in the 400 metres, ten yards behind the unbeatable Michael Johnson, who set an Olympic record of 43.49.

The women's race was won by Marie-José Perec of France for the second Games in a row. She passed Australia's Cathy Freeman off the final turn and won by three yards. Freeman was the first Australian Aborigine to win an Olympic medal, but of course her big moment came in Sydney four years later (25 September). Perec later won a shock gold in the 200 (1 August).

Allen Johnson set a Games record of 12.95 seconds in winning the 110 metres hurdles. Britain's Colin Jackson finished fourth today, fifth in 200, won silver in 1988, but missed his best chance in 1992 (3 August).

And Haile Gebresilasie won the 10,000 metres by holding off Kenya's Paul Tergat, who finished second to him again in an even closer race in 2000.

2009 A polyurethane bodysuit broke yet another world record at the World Championships. The swimmer inside it, Italy's Federica Pellegrini, set her sixth at the 200 metres freestyle. This was her third of the year and second in two days. When she set her first record at the event, only two years earlier, it was 1 minute 56.47. Today her bodysuit swam it nearly 3 and a half seconds faster as she became the first woman to break 1 minute 53. When she won silver at the 2005 Championships, she swam nearly six seconds slower. Three days earlier, Pellegrini had won another gold and set another world record in beating Britain's top two.

2010
Britain's Phillips Idowu recorded a personal best to leap to triple jump glory at the European Athletics Championships in Barcelona. The world champion and the commonwealth champion capped off the grand slam by jumping 17.81m - his lifetime best performance at the time.

2001 One of the few world records to survive the bodysuit blitz at the 2009 Worlds. At the 2001 Championships, Grant Hackett swam the 1500 metres in 14 minutes 34.56 to break the seven-year record set by another great Australian Kieren Perkins. Hackett retained a title he eventually won four times, winning by more than 24 seconds from Scotland's Graeme Smith.

Two cyclists won the Tour de France by the thickness of their tyres.

In 2007, Alberto Contador of Spain finished just 23 seconds ahead of Australia's Cadel Evans. The race began with a prologue in London and wasn't decided until the final time trial. Before that, drugs raised their heads yet again when race leader Michael Rasmussen was pulled out by his own team after missing various drug tests that year. In the deciding time trial, Evans and Levi Leipheimer couldn't make up enough time on Contador, the American finishing only 31 seconds off the lead in third. Contador won the race again in 2009 (26 July), ahead of two big names.

In 1951, the Tour started from outside Paris for the first time - and ended in an even closer finish. By the end, Switzerland's Hugo Koblet was only 22 seconds ahead of Frenchman Raphaël Géminiani, the shortest margin until Laurent Fignon's ponytail cost him the race in 1989 (23 July). But Koblet left some big names way back in his wake: past and future Tour winners Gino Bartali, Fausto Coppi, Jean Robic, and Louison Bobet, destroying them in a famous solo run to Agen.

1966
Sally Gunnell was born in Essex. The move from high (ish) hurdles to low emphasised her strength and made her a global winner. Commonwealth Games champion at 100 metres hurdles in 1986, she moved up to the 400 and showed her potential by winning gold at the 1990 Games ahead of Debbie Flintoff, who was trying to win the event for the third time in a row. Gunnell retained the title in 1994. Two years earlier, she'd succeeded Flintoff as Olympic champion - after surviving a scare when she missed a drug test. Gunnell completed the set by winning titles at the World Championships, where she set a world record of 52.74 seconds (19 August 1993), and the Europeans in 1994. She set a British record in the 100 hurdles (12.82 in 1988) and seven in the 400.

2000
Julio César Chávez was stopped in the fifth round when he tried to take the WBC light-welterweight title from the formidable Kostya Tszyu. But Chávez's place in the pantheon had been secure for years (12 July). Of his 115 pro fights, 37 were for world titles, more than any other boxer. He lost only four, all when he was over 30, the last one to Tszyu today.

1990
The youngest player in any Fed Cup final. Jennifer Capriati was only 14 when she played Leila Meshki in the opening match against the USSR. Meshki may have thought she was on the way to putting the kid in her place when she led 4-2 in the first set - but Capriati came back to lead 5-4, miss three set points, then take control. She led 5-1 in the tie-break, won it 7-3, then took the second 6-2 against an opponent who knew someone special had arrived. Zina Garrison lost to Natasha Zvereva when she abandoned her serve and volley after winning the first set, but then helped 'Gigi' Fernández win the doubles against the USSR's crack pair of Zvereva and Larisa Savchenko. Playing at home in Atlanta, the USA retained the trophy 2-1. After growing pains led to time out from tennis, Capriati helped the USA win the Cup ten years later.

2001
A German won the German Grand Prix. Schumacher of course, but not the usual one. Juan Pablo Montoya started on pole for the first time in his career and set the fastest lap, but he didn't make the finish. Nor did Michael Schumacher, whose Ferrari packed up for the last time in years. So brother Ralf finished a long way clear of Rubens Barrichello, who'd won the race the year before. Michael won the race (again) the following year, Montoya in 2003.

1956
The first seven-foot high jump. At the US Olympic trials in Los Angeles, Charlie Dumas cleared 2.15 metres at the first attempt. It had taken 15 years to raise the record by a single inch. At the Olympics, 2.12 (6' 11½) was enough for Dumas to win gold.

1976
Polish track queen Irena Szewińska (born 24 May 1946) won her third Olympic gold medal. After the sprint relay in 1964 and 200 metres in 1968, she moved up to the 400 metres. In the final, she ran 49.28 seconds to break her own world record.

The men's race was won by the long-striding and very powerful Cuba Alberto Juantorena, with Britain's David Jenkins in seventh place. Juantorena had already set a world record in winning the 800 metres on 25 July, beating another top British runner. He was the first runner since 1906 to do the 400-800 double at the Games.

Arnie Robinson had gone into the 1972 Olympics as favourite for the long jump but finished third behind 19-year-old US team mate Randy Williams. Today Robinson beat Williams into second place. Like Williams, he won with his first jump.

Fernando Alonso moved to Ferrari at the end of the 2009 season © Getty Images
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1981
Fernando Alonso was born in Spain. His potential as a motor racing driver was obvious early on, and he translated it into success at an early age. He drove in a Formula One race when he was only 19, and at the Hungaroring in 2003 he became the youngest to win a World Championship race until Sebastian Vettel in 2008 (14 September). When he won the Formula One title in 2005, he was only 24, the youngest champion until Lewis Hamilton scraped through in 2008 (2 November). After beating Michael Schumacher to retain the world title in 2006, Alonso moved from Renault to McLaren, where he won four races but dropped to third in the championship, only two points from retaining the title (21 October), after a difficult season alongside Hamilton. When he moved back to Renault for 2008, Alonso won two Grands Prix late in the season, not enough to finish higher than fifth overall. After a 2009 season in an uncompetitive car, he moved to Ferrari and won the opening race of 2010, his 22nd victory in F1.

At the other end of the age scale in motor racing, in 1951 Juan Manuel Fangio became world champion for the first time at the age of 40. He would have won the inaugural title the previous year if his gearbox had held up (3 September). Today he finished second to Alberto Ascari at the German Grand Prix to win the title with two races to spare. Fangio won the last race too, in Spain.

1992
Tan Liangde of China joined the very exclusive and anguished club of competitors who won three successive silver medals in the same event at the Olympic Games. After finishing second to Greg Louganis in the springboard diving event in 1984 and 1988, Tan must have fancied his chances when the great man retired. But another American was too good for him again, Mark Lenzi earning the three highest scores of the competition to win by 30 points. Poor Tan also finished second in consecutive World Championships, behind Louganis and a third American.

1984
When East Germany boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics, American swimmers had the pool to themselves. Two of them won gold today - in the same race. The women's 100 metres freestyle ended in a dead heat between Nancy Hogshead and Carrie Steinseifer. Their time of 55.92 was more than a second slower than the current world record, which was set at the previous Olympics - by an East German.

On the same day, Tracy Caulkins won Olympic gold at last. After winning five titles at the 1978 World Championships, she missed the 1980 Games thanks to another boycott. Today she led the 400 metres individual medley from start to finish to win by nine seconds. She went on to win two more events at these Olympics.

1920
Lars Jørgen Madsen of Denmark won his first Olympic gold medal since 1900, in the military rifle 300 metre standing team event. Phew. His gap of 19 years 359 days between Olympic golds isn't quite the record, which was set in 1956 (23 November).

1908
When Britain won Olympic gold in the 8-metre class in sailing, it was a real family affair. John Rhodes and 54-year-old Blair Cochrane were married to daughters of the same man, whose son Henry Sutton was also in the crew.

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