On This Day

  • August 14 down the years

Lions roar to victory in New Zealand

Gareth Edwards pulled the strings for the British Lions © Getty Images
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1971
The only time the British Lions won a series in New Zealand. After taking the third Test to go 2-1 up, they played the fourth and last in Auckland. In a match understandably full of errors, they missed the chance of a try in the first minute. Then docile All Black lock Peter Whiting at last gave Gordon Brown some of his own medicine, splitting his eyebrow with a punch. While Broon from Troon was off for attention, New Zealand scored a converted try. Then they kicked a penalty to lead 8-0, whereupon the Lions decided to play a tighter game. Not for the first time. The reputation of that 1971 team lies in its brilliant backs (Edwards, Barry John, Gibson, Duckham, Gerald Davies, JPR Williams) - but they pulled a con trick in the Tests, using their superiority in the scrums and playing a lot of ten-man rugby. Here they got back into the game with a penalty goal by John and his conversion of a try by flanker Peter Dixon. The scores were level at half-time, and John out them ahead with another penalty. Tom Lister scored a try from a lineout to make it 11-all, but JPR Williams landed a drop goal from fifty yards. The All Blacks levelled again with another penalty, but the Lions had chances to score the winning try. Still, the 14-14 draw gave them the series, by the scoreline team manager Doug Smith had prophesied: two wins to one, with one draw. New Zealand's captain, the great Colin Meads, playing the last Test of a mighty career, was muttering as he disappeared into the sunset. 'He must be the greatest bloody predictor of all time.'

2004
Superstar swimmer Ian Thorpe won the 400 metres freestyle for the second Olympics in a row. But only just and lucky to be there at all. He was disqualified at Australia's Olympic trials after overbalancing on his starting block and falling in. But Craig Stevens swapped his place in the team for 130,000 Australian dollars from a TV company for the rights to broadcast his announcement! Funny money. In the Olympic final, Thorpe swam three seconds slower than his world record, barely holding off another fellow Oz, Grant Hackett.

More controversy at the same Games. When American gymnast Paul Hamm finished his last routine in the all-round event, he found he'd won gold by 0.012 of a point, the narrowest winning margin in the history of the event at the Olympics. But then the waters muddied horribly. Two South Koreans won the minor medals. But the man in bronze, Yang Tae-yung, should have won the gold. His coach realised that his routine on the parallel bars had been marked against the wrong start value. The coach got no joy from the head judge, who happened to be an American. Other judges realised they'd made a mistake, and the South Korean Olympic Committee appealed to the International Gymnastics Federation, who ruled the appeal inadmissible because it had been lodged after the competition was over. Instead the IFG wrote to Hamm asking him to hand over his medal. Spineless all round. Hamm kept the ill-gotten gold, and Yang got a symbolic version from his own authorities.

No such shenanigans among the men in cycling's road race. Staged in horrible heat through the ancient streets of Athens, it came down to a sprint after Italy's Paolo Bettini and Sérgio Paulinho of Portugal broke away. Bettini won more easily than the one-second margin suggests. Bronze medallist Axel Merckx of Belgium was the son of the famous Eddy (born June 17, 1945).

Ian Thorpe was a star figure in Australian sport © Getty Images
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1936
All-time great British rower Jack Beresford (born January 1, 1899) won his third and final Olympic gold medal, in the double sculls after golds in two different events in 1924 ( July 17), and 1932 (August 13). Beresford, who was 37 by now, won his first Olympic medal back in 1920 (August 29). He and Leslie 'Dick' Southwood had the same British coach as the German pair. He put all four in lighter boats and gave them the same training methods. Here in Berlin, the Germans beat the Brits in the first round, partly because they nicked a flying start, having noticed that the starter couldn't see round his own megaphone! In the final, Beresford and Southwood deliberately false-started, then held the race up again by taking their sweaters off, then set off as soon as the Germans did. Their winning margin was more than five seconds.

In the same Olympic regatta, France won bronze in the coxed fours. Three of their crew were from the same family, including cox Guy Vandernotte who was only 12.

1994
Zimbabwean golfer Nick Price won two Majors in a row. He holed a 50-foot putt for an eagle on the penultimate hole at the Open, and added the US PGA today, beginning and ending with rounds of 67 and adding a 65 in the second. His finished 11 under par, six shots clear of Corey Pavin and the rest of an outstanding field: the top twelve included ten Major winners. Price had won the event two years earlier (August 16).

Lanny Wadkins won the US PGA on the same day in 1977. In the final round, he made up six shots on Gene Littler, who bogeyed five out of six holes on the back nine. Wadkins made his only birdie of the round at the very last hole, then won at the third hole of the first sudden-death play-off in any Major.

2008
Kosuke Kitajima completed the Olympic double double. Winner of both breaststroke events at the 2004 games, Japan's top swimmer did the same today, adding an Olympic record in the 200 metres to the world record he set in the 100. Hugues Duboscq of France won his third bronze in the four events.

1982
Talking of national icons, David Campese scored his first try for Australia. On his debut against New Zealand in Christchurch, he went over in the second half. But Australia couldn't come back from being 19-3 down at half-time and conceded four tries in losing 23-16. In the next match of the series, in Wellington a fortnight later, Campo scored another try. This time it was Australia who led 19-3 at the interval, holding out to win 19-16. Campese set a new world record with his 25th try (June 13, 1987) and scored his 64th and last in 1996 (June 29).

1903
Jim Corbett's last pro fight. The classically skilful boxer of his age, a master of footwork with a crisp punch, he won the first ever world heavyweight title bout with gloves (September 7,1892), which was appropriate: Gentleman Jim was a dandy outside the ring and wouldn't soil his hands inside one. He lost the title to Britain's finest in 1897 (March 17) and this was his second attempt at regaining it from big Jim Jeffries, who outweighed him by 30 pounds. In their first fight (May 11, 1900), Corbett had outboxed the slab of meat for 22 rounds before being worn down when a points victory was in sight. Now he was nearly 37 and not as nimble. He took some heavy punishment before his chief second threw in the towel. Actually, being Gentleman Jim, it was a large fan shaped like a palm leaf. Going out in style.

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