On This Day

  • August 6 down the years

Sanderson exceeds expectation

Tessa Sanderson set a new Olympic record to win gold in Los Angeles © Getty Images
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1984
Tessa Sanderson became an Olympic champion. Four years earlier, she'd been one of the favourites in the javelin. Anything near her best of 69.70 metres would have won her the gold. Instead, in one of the shocks of the Games, she didn't qualify for the final. Expectations weren't so high this time, which may have helped. Tiina Lillak of Finland had thrown a monster world record of 74.73 as well as winning gold at the inaugural World Championships, with Britain's Fatima Whitbread second. But here in Los Angeles, Lillak had to miss her last four attempts with a stress fracture of her foot, and Sanderson's opening throw of 69.56 metres, a new Olympic record, held up for the title. Whitbread finished third here and second four years later.

Meanwhile Seb Coe was winning his second successive silver in the 800 metres. Unlike 1980 (26 July), he didn't make a mass of mistakes - but no-one could match the tall young Brazilian Joaquim Cruz, who ran increasingly fast during the competition, culminating in an Olympic record 1 minute 43.00 seconds in the final. Coe made his move on the final turn, but he never looked like catching Cruz, who won by five yards. Defending champion Steve Ovett couldn't cope with an attack of bronchitis in that terrible LA smog. He finished last, collapsed in the tunnel, and spent two days in bed. He was back for the 1500 metres final (11 August) but wasn't healthy enough to try and stop Coe retaining the title.

On the same day in 1992, Lewis won the Olympic long jump gold for the third time. This time he had to reach 8.67 to inch out Mike Powell, whose last jump landed only three centimetres short. Powell entered the competition as favourite after setting a shock world record in beating Lewis at the previous year's World Championships (30 August). Instead he won silver behind him for the second successive Olympics. Lewis won his fourth gold in the event in 1996 (29 July).

1926
The first woman to swim the English Channel. Gertrude Ederle set off from Cap Gris Nez in France and set foot at Kingsdown in Kent. An increasingly choppy sea kept her swimming for 14 hours 39 minutes, which was still easily the fastest crossing up to then - and only the sixth in the 51 years since Captain Matthew Webb achieved the first (25 August 1875). The previous year, Ederle had given up with seven miles to go after swimming for nine hours. The year before that, she won relay gold at the Olympic Games (18 July).

1948
After ten years away from rowing, Ran Laurie and Jack Wilson won Olympic gold. In 1938 they'd won the Silver Goblets at Henley; now they returned from colonial service to win the coxless pairs on the same stretch of water, holding off the Kalt brothers from Switzerland by nearly three seconds. Laurie's son Hugh rowed for Cambridge in the 1980 Boat Race and went on become a famous actor: Fry and Laurie, Blackadder, House, etc.

Ran Laurie is the father of actor and comedian Hugh © Getty Images
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1955
One of rugby union's all-time great international matches, one that set up an entire series. On a baked Johannesburg pitch, the Springboks scored four tries, but the British Lions scored five, four by their brilliant set of backs, which included Cliff Morgan at fly-half, Jeff Butterfield in the centre, and teenage wing Tony O'Reilly (born 7 May 1936). South Africa picked nine new caps, but the Lions played most of the second half with seven forwards after an injury to flanker Reg Higgins. With less than 20 minutes to go, the fourteen men led 23-11 after scoring three tries in ten minutes, and looked completely out of sight. But then scrum-half Tommy 'Popeye' Gentles set up a try with a kick through, and prop Chris Koch added another in the last minute. Giant full-back Jack van der Schyff converted, and although the Lions still led 23-19, hometown ref Ralph Burmeister discovered three minutes of injury time, just enough for new right winger Theuns Briers to score his second try of the game. But he left a tough conversion, out near the touchline with the match hanging on it. Van der Schyff, recalled after nearly six years, had kicked two other conversions and two penalties - but two cock-ups had led to tries by Jim Greenwood and O'Reilly. Still, nail this winning kick and it was instant forgiveness and hero worship. A photographer, aiming to catch the moment of impact, was a second too late - and came up with one of the great sports pictures: the ball sailing wide to the left and Van der Schyff's bowed head and slumped shoulders. Big Jack didn't play for South Africa again, while the 23-22 scoreline sent the Lions into the second Test one up (20 August).

1966
The year England became world champions - but not in heavyweight boxing. Muhammad Ali had already come to London to beat Henry Cooper at Highbury (21 May). Now he made another courtesy call to dispose of Brian London at Earl's Court. It's true Ali was running out of credible opposition, but poor Brian was hardly that. He was the first British heavyweight in the century to fight for the world title twice, but he was over-matched against Floyd Patterson in 1959 (1 May), and 'outclassed' doesn't begin to cover it here. London missed with a few punches, Ali hit him with a lot more. Glib but true. A barrage of lefts and rights knocked him out in the third round.

An even shorter world title fight ended today in 1993. Before his tragic collapse against Nigel Benn in 1995 (25 February), American middleweight Gerald McClellan was one of the great knockout punchers. He once won five pro fights in a row in the first round, including one for the WBO title. Later he won another three consecutive fights in less than a round, all for the WBC belt. The first of those took place tonight against poor Jay Bell, who lasted just 20 seconds. There's only been one shorter world title fight (19 July 2003).

1932
At the Olympic Games, Britain's Tom Evenson won silver in the steeplechase - thanks to an official's cock-up. At the end of 3,000 metres, Evenson was in third place - but someone had counted the laps wrongly and the runners were forced to run another one. It made no difference to Finland's Volmari Iso-Hollo, who increased his winning lead to 75 yards - but Evenson overtook America's Joe McCluskey on the added lap. Iso-Hollo won the race again four years later.

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