On This Day

  • August 8 down the years

Gold for Ireland

Michael Carruth jumps for joy after winning gold © Getty Images
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1992
Ireland's first Olympic gold medal since 1956. They had two boxers in the finals, with Wayne McCullough regarded as the better prospect after winning the fight of the Games, his semi against Li Gwang-Sik of North Korea. But tonight he started too slowly against Cuba's Joel Casamayor. He was 10-2 down going into the last round and his famous aggression wasn't enough. So it was left to Michael Carruth at welterweight. He wasn't expected to beat Juan Hernández, another Cuban, who was the reigning world champion - but Carruth had a fantastic last round. Going in level at 8-8, he forced errors from the taller man and won the fight 13-10. Back in Ireland, pubs dropped the price of beer to the 1956 level: 4p a pint. Hernández went on to be world champion another three times, but he lost in the Olympic final again in 1996 and never won gold.

The lightweight division at those 1992 Games was won by 19-year-old Oscar De la Hoya, who came through a war in his semi-final against a Korean who should have been disqualified. In the final, De la Hoya avenged his defeat at the World Championships by outpointing Marco Rudolph of Germany, knocking him down in the third round. De la Hoya (born February 4, 1973) turned pro and won world titles at six different weights.

Talking of American hot favourites, Olympic basketball would never be the same again after the Dream Team gatecrashed the Games. NBA players were allowed to take part for the first time - just when a crop of all-time greats were playing at the same time. The US squad for Barcelona included Earvin 'Magic' Johnson, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen, and someone called Michael Jordan. No wonder they scored over 100 points in every game. The first was delayed so the Cuban players could have their photos taken with the titans. Only Croatia gave the Dream team any sort of a game, losing 103-70 and (in the final today) 117-85. Overkill? Maybe, but fun for everyone who watched them.

1903
The British Isles won the Davis Cup for the first time. In the inaugural match three years earlier (August 10), they'd sent a weak team to the USA and lost 3-0. Two years later, they lost 3-2 after omitting Laurie Doherty, the best player in the world, from the singles. The penny dropped at last this year. On the anniversary of that second defeat, they were back in Boston to clean up. They could even afford to default the opening match. When Reggie Doherty, Laurie's delicate brother, strained his shoulder, team manager William Collins made a calculated and imaginative decision. He could have called Harold Mahony into the team, but the former Wimbledon champion was 36 by now, and if he played in one match he'd have to play in the other: the Americans wouldn't allow Britain to use three players in the singles. So Collins took a calculated risk. After getting medical advice, he forfeited the first singles, expecting Reggie's shoulder to be alright in time for the doubles. The bold decision seemed to appeal to someone upstairs: it rained for the two days, so the shoulder had plenty of time to heal! In the meantime, Laurie Doherty destroyed Bob Wrenn in straight sets, including the first 6-0. Then he and Reggie won the doubles in four sets against the Wrenn brothers. The reverse singles on the last day were unbearably tense. With only an umpire's chair separating the two courts, roars of applause from one match disturbed the players from the other. At one point, both were level in the fifth set - but Reggie's match with Bob Wrenn ended at 4-4 when Laurie beat double US champion Bill Larned 7-5. Laurie stayed on to beat Larned in the final of his own Championships, and the British Isles didn't lose the Davis Cup until Laurie stopped playing in it after 1906. They twice beat the USA 5-0 in the Challenge Round.

1953
Nigel Mansell was born in Worcestershire. Fast and aggressive on the racing track, idolised as a 'lion' by Ferrari fans after winning his first Grand Prix with them, he was horribly unlucky not to be Formula One world champion in 1986: a burst tyre blew his chances in the final race (October 26). So he had to wait six years before taking the title, doing it in style by winning the first five races of the season and clinching it with five races to spare (16 August). He then popped over to America to win the CART World Series in his first season. He won 31 F1 races, more than any other British driver.

1966
Eighteen-year-old Austrian Erika Schinegger won the downhill at the World Skiing Championships, ahead of Marielle Goitschel and Annie Famose, who were much more, well, famose. Schinegger was described as 'the new Austrian star' and so she was. Or rather he was. As Schinegger was preparing for the 1968 Olympics, it was discovered that although raised as a girl, he was actually a man. He underwent medical treatment, changed his name to Erik, married, and became a dad.

1994
Steve Backley never won an Olympic gold, but Jan Železný never beat him at the European Championships. Today big Steve won the second of his four consecutive gold medals at the event, with slim Jan settling for bronze. Backley's winning throw of 85.20 metres set a Championship record he broke four years later. He won his fourth gold in the event on 9 August 2002.

Over on the track, Olympic champion Linford Christie won the 100 metres for the third time in a row. His time of 10.14 seconds was nothing special but not bad for a 34-year-old. The day before, fellow British sprinter Solomon Wariso was banned from competing after testing positive for ephedrine. The British authorities had known about his failed test for weeks but let him travel to the Championships. Wariso had taken two tablets of a product called Up Your Gas. Bit careless, especially for a chemistry graduate!

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