• August 25 down the years

Captain Webb conquers the Channel

Matthew Pinsent equalled Steve Redgrave's record of nine World Championship golds © Getty Images
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1875
The first person to swim the English Channel. On August 12, 27-year-old Captain Matthew Webb made his first attempt but was beaten back by strong winds and a rough sea. On the 24th, he set off again, from the Admiralty Pier in Dover, accompanied by three boats and smeared in porpoise fat, which may have attracted the jellyfish that stung him on the way. But his biggest problem was the series of strong currents which took him so far off course that he swam virtually twice the required distance: 39 miles instead of 22. So it took him 21 hours and 45 minutes to reach the French coast near Calais. No-one else swam the Channel until 1911 and no woman until 1926 (August 6). Webb died eight years later (July 24) in a crazy attempt to swim past Niagara Falls.

2001
At the World Rowing Championships, superstars James Cracknell and Matthew Pinsent won the coxed and coxless pairs in the space of two hours. This made them the first to win two events on the same day in a global championship since another British rower at the 1932 Olympics (August 13). Pinsent equalled Steve Redgrave's record of nine World Championship golds (he broke it the following year). The previous day, Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus had finished third in both the single and double sculls within half an hour.

At the World Championships in 1995, Scotland's Peter Haining won the lightweight single sculls for the third year in a row. It was his hardest win of the lot. Before every race, he used inhaler for his asthma - but this time it fell out of his boat as it was launched. The British team manager managed to find a replacement, but Haining didn't get to use it until 30 seconds before the start, which wasn't nearly enough for it to work. He normally took a puff ten minutes beforehand, and now he had an asthma attack after he'd built up a 20-second lead with a quarter of the race to go. Haining hung on to beat the Czech Republic's Tomáš Kacovský, who also won silver the following year.

2004
A Greek winner in Greece. Except she was a loser in the end. At the Olympics in Athens, Fani Halkia entered the 400 metres hurdles as an outsider but clocked a Games record of 52.77 seconds in her semi-final. She won the final in a slightly slower time. Suspicions were aroused by her sudden improvement at the age of 25 and her coach who'd trained under the coach of disgraced sprinters Kostas Kenderis and Ekaterina Thanou. At the next Olympics, Halkia failed a drug test and was suspended for two years.

1946
Golfing legend Ben Hogan won a Major for the first time. The US PGA was a matchplay event at the time, and Hogan won each round like a heavyweight, knocking out Art Bell and Frank Moore by the same score of 5 & 4 before thrashing former Masters champion Jimmy Demaret 10 & 9. Hogan had no trouble in the final, beating Ed 'Porky' Oliver 6 & 4.

985
Niki Lauda won a Formula One race for the last time. At the Dutch Grand Prix, the reigning champion started only 10th on the grid but came through just 0.232 of a second ahead of his McLaren team mate Alain Prost, who went on to win the title for the first time. It was Lauda's 25th race win in the World Championship. His first had come in the same Grand Prix 11 years earlier.

1954
The wrong turning that cost someone a gold medal. In the Marathon at the European Championships, three runners approached the finish together. Finland's Veikko Karvonen had moved up to join two Soviet runners but now he had to let one of them get away. Four years earlier, Karvonen had finished second to Britain's best (August 23) - and although he ran several minutes faster today, he was looking at a second successive silver as Ivan Filin sprinted to a certain victory. But inside the stadium, Filin turned the wrong way. By the time he retraced his steps, he'd lost more than 100 yards. When the same thing happened to Scotland's Jim Alder at the 1966 Commonwealth Games (August 11), he had the time and strength to recover and win. But Filin couldn't catch Karvonen, who stole his gold, or Boris Grishayev. Tough on our Ivan, who ran faster at the 1958 Championships but finished second behind team mate Sergei Popov's world record.

1927
Althea Gibson was born in South Carolina. Winning the French Open in 1956 made her an icon in the game: the first black player to win a Grand Slam singles title. Held back by having to play on segregated courts, she was already 28 by then, but made up for lost time, winning the Wimbledon and US singles in 1957 (July 6) and 1958. For three years in a row, she won the Wimbledon doubles and lost in the final of the mixed, with three different partners in each event. Long-limbed, with an intimidating volley and smash, Gibson missed out on winning all four Grand Slam tournaments by losing the final of the Australian in 1957. When she was living on welfare in the 1990s, she got help from Britain's Angela Buxton, who'd partnered her to the Wimbledon doubles title in 1956. A letter in a tennis magazine raised a million dollars for a star who should have been earning that in her prime instead of filling stadiums for nothing. The Open era came too late for Althea Gibson and other champions like her.

1962
Pity poor Jean Dunn. A British track cyclist who today won bronze at the World Championships. Again. This was the fifth year that the women's sprint had been held at the Championships, and Dunn finished third in all five of them. Valentina Maksimova was almost as frustrated. In the first four of those years, she finished second to Soviet team mate Galina Ermolayeva.

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