• August 24 down the years

Alonso laps Schumacher on his way to maiden victory

Fernando Alonso shows off his trophy after his first Grand Prix win, in 2003 © Getty Images
Enlarge

2003
Fernando Alonso won a Formula One race for the first time. Starting the Hungarian Grand Prix on pole in his Renault, he lapped Michael Schumacher, no less, on the way to finishing well ahead of Kimi Räikkönen's McLaren. Alonso was only 26 days past his 22nd birthday, the youngest driver to win a World Championship race until Sebastian Vettel five years later (September 14).

1920
Britain won a tennis gold in the women's doubles - though they were lucky that the great Suzanne Lenglen was saddled with an inadequate partner in Elisabeth d'Ayen. Even then, the British women were taking no chances. Kitty McKane was Wimbledon singles champion twice, but only when Lenglen didn't play. And McKane's doubles partner Winifred McNair was past her best: Wimbledon singles finalist in 1913 but now 43 years old. So our Kitty withdrew from her singles semi-final to concentrate on the same round in the doubles, and that extra freshness was just enough to see them through: they beat Lenglen and sidekick 8-6 in the final set after losing the first. In the final, McKane and McNair took the opening set by the same close score, then won in straight sets against another British pair, the really not very good at all Geraldine Beamish and Dorothy Holman.

The standard in the men's tennis events was embarrassingly poor. None of the top Americans turned up, or even the Australians from the next tier down. The singles final was won by South Africa's Louis Raymond, who did nothing in grand slam tournaments, from Ichiya Kumagai of Japan (ditto). So a British pair had an easier time in the doubles than they should have. Max Woosnam was a good doubles player, Wimbledon champion the following year. But his partner Noel Turnbull wasn't in the same class, and they wouldn't have won gold against international-class opposition. As it was, they inflicted another silver on Kumagai, who reached the final with Seiichiro Kashio. The Japanese pair drew level by taking the second set 7-5 but lost the next two by the same score. Woosnam captained England at football in 1922.

1996
The All Blacks finally reached the holy grail. They'd been playing international rugby in South Africa since 1928. Now they won a Test series there for the first time. Having won the first two matches by narrow margins, they did the same here in Pretoria, taking a 21-11 lead at half-time and holding out to win 33-26. New Zealand's three tries, including two by flying winger Jeff Wilson, were matched by the Springboks - but Simon Culhane edged Joel Stransky in the battle of the kicking fly-halves, and No.8 Zinzan Brooke repeated his feat at the 1995 World Cup by landing a drop goal (June 18). It was the All Blacks' 10th win in a row, a run ended by South Africa's consolation win in the fourth Test.

1997
Having broken Seb Coe's world record for the 800 metres eleven days before, Wilson Kipketer set one that lasted until 2010. Kipketer clocked 1:41.11 seconds in Cologne. It survived until another Kenyan-born athlete beat it in another German town, David Rudisha running two hundredths of a second faster in Berlin.

1967
Shame the US PGA wasn't held in January, because Don of that name won it this year. A Don of another name, Don Massingale shot 66 in the last round to force a play-off, which held bad memories for Don January. He'd lost one at the 1961 PGA despite shooting a 68. Today he shot one more than that, but it was enough to beat Massingale by two strokes.

Hicham El-Guerrouj finally showed his class at the 2004 Olympics © Getty Images
Enlarge

A year earlier to the day, Al Geiberger also won the US PGA. On a difficult course, he was the only player to go round in even par - and by some distance, too. Symmetrical scoring - 68-72-68-72 - left him four shots clear of Dudley Wysong.

2004
Hicham El-Guerrouj won the Olympic 1500 metres at last. At the 1996 Games, he was about to take over Nourredine Morceli's mantle when he fell over just before the bell (August 3). Four years later, El-Guerrouj was world record holder and prohibitive favourite - only to be beaten into second place by Noah Ngeny of Kenya. Maybe the Moroccan simply tightened up. Sometimes you can crave something too much. There again, that desire can take you there. With only 50 yards to go in today's Olympic final, El-Guerrouj was overtaken by Bernard Lagat. But he wanted it more than this particular Kenyan, edging past him near the end before collapsing in tears. Relaxation and the old bus analogy then came into play: in the 5000 metres four days later, El-Guerrouj took on the formidable Kenenisa Bekele, winner of the 10,000.

In the decathlon, brave Brit Dean Macey had to settle for fourth place for the second Olympics in a row (September 28) but far less controversially. His 8,414 points left him a long way short of bronze. World record holder Roman Sebrle took gold with an Olympic record of 8,893.

1911
Victor Barna was born Gyozo Braun in Budapest and became the most successful male table tennis player in history - mainly because the World Championships were held every year (they became biennial in 1959). He won the singles five times, the first in 1930 (January 26), the doubles eight times, the mixed doubles twice, and seven team titles. His backhand flick was the most famous shot in the game - but also an obsession, used even on the forehand side. It makes for some weird viewing and wouldn't have survived today. But he was still the star of the show, the player who made ping-pong into a major sport. His flamboyance and generous personality, the ever-present smile, made him the most popular player of all time. And limited strokes or not, his energy, athleticism and fighting spirit made him one of the best.

1975
Top British motorcyclist Phil Read won a World Championship race for the last time. He won one for the first time back in 1961 (June 16). Today he beat the great Giacomo Agostini into second place in the 500cc event in Czechoslovakia. Read had taken over as world champion from Agostini in 1973 and 1974, riding for Ago's famous MV Agusta. But Agostini regained the title this year, having moved to Yamaha. He scored fewer points than Read, but only a percentage of races counted towards a rider's final total.

© ESPN EMEA LTD
Close