Damon Hill will always be known as the son of Graham Hill. But today he came into his own. He would have been Formula One world champion two years earlier but for a Michael Schumacher shunt. And nothing was going to stop him today. His only rival for the title was his Williams team-mate Jacques Villeneuve, who'd won in Portugal the previous month. But Hill's second place there left him nine points ahead going into today's final race in Japan. Meanwhile Schumacher was way behind after a feet-finding first season at Ferrari. Villeneuve took pole, but again Hill was right behind, and the Canadian made a poor start to the race itself. He set the fastest lap as he worked his way back through the pack, but then his rear wheel came off, taking his Championship chances with it. Hill was world champion with a Williams team who'd already ditched him for 1997! Villeneuve won the title that year, while the motor racing gods didn't allow Schumacher to win it again until the new millennium.
At the rugby union World Cup, defending champions England had recovered from a dreadful start to surprise Australia in the quarter finals (October 6). Now they faced France in the semis for the second time in a row. This time they had to do it in their opponents' back yard, the Stade de France - but at least England made a stunning start. From a ruck on the left, scrum-half Andy Gomarsall sent a kick up the touchline. Full-back Damien Traille had it well covered - but then the ball did a little skip and sat up, and Josh Lewsey raced in to snatch it from right in front of Traille and dive over. Only 77 seconds gone. The rest of the match was a real comedown. France had shocked the All Blacks in the quarter-finals, but here they matched England error for error. Both sides tried hard not to win it, and viewers lost count of the dropped passes. Three penalties from Lionel Beauxis put France 9-8 in front while Jonny Wilkinson was off form with the boot. But eventually he kicked a penalty he couldn't miss, then added a trademark drop goal to win a truly terrible match 14-9. Not the way lock forward Fabien Pelous expected to end his international career, which brought him a record 118 caps for France. England were somehow in their second successive World Cup final and eyeing revenge over South Africa. The Springboks weren't expecting a repeat of their 36-0 win over England in a group match - but they couldn't have been quaking in their boots.
Paula Radcliffe's first world record in the Marathon. In Chicago the year before, Catherine Ndereba had set the previous best of 2 hours 18 minutes 47 seconds. In the same city today, she was only four seconds behind Radcliffe at halfway. Ndereba fell away for a while, was back with Paula after 15 miles, but couldn't keep up after 17. The Kenyan ran a very impressive 2:19:26 - but it left her more than two minutes behind Radcliffe, who came home in 2:17:18. And this despite stomach trouble and running into a headwind for the last few miles! The men's event was won by Khalid Khannouchi, a Moroccan competing for the USA, whose time of 2 hours 5 minutes 56 came close to the world record he'd set in London (April 14). Radcliffe won that race too - and again the following year, when she set the world record which still stands (April 13).
The first swimmer to win the same event at three Olympic Games. Dawn Fraser was one of Australia's great sporting icons. She set ten world records in the 100 metres freestyle from 1956 to 1964, including the first sub-60-second time by a woman (October 27, 1962). She set one of those records in winning the 100 metres freestyle at the 1956 Olympics, and a Games record while retaining the title in 1960. By 1964, she was 27 years old, positively superannuated by the standards of the day. But her strokes were still powerful enough to set another Games record in the semi-finals. In the final, she blitzed the first length - but then found she had company. Sharon Stouder was only 15, but she already had the strength to win the 100 meters butterfly here in Tokyo, plus two other golds in relays. Here in the 100 free, she caught Fraser with 30 metres to go and the old lady was about to suffer the shock of the new. But big Dawn found something extra and edged clear again. Her time of 59.5 was yet another Olympic record, while Stouder became the second female to break sixty seconds. Only one other swimmer has won an individual event at three Olympics (July 25, 1996).
At the White City stadium in west London, British runner Chris Chataway won one of the most famous 5,000-metre duels of all time. At the European Championships that year, he'd kept too close an eye on the ageing Emil Zátopek and allowed Vladimir Kuts to open up too big a gap. Kuts set a world record in finishing the length of the straight ahead of Chataway (August 29), and today the blond Soviet robot set a similarly fierce pace. After the first mile, he put in one of his famous spurts and broke the whole field except one. After two miles, Chataway was still there, with the third-placed runner 100 yards behind. At the bell, Kuts went again, setting a world record for three miles (4,828 metres). But there was no getting away this time. Chataway hung on superbly before inching ahead with only 20 yards to go. His time of 13 minutes 51.6 broke Kuts' world record by exactly five seconds. The new mark lasted only ten days. Kuts could run at this sort of pace with little recovery time in between. He shaved a fraction off Chataway's time in Prague, set two further world records in the event, and won the 5,000-10,000 double at the 1956 Olympics. The nearest Chataway came to an Olympic medal was when he fell in 1954 (July 24).
In swimming, a world record was broken after 15 years. When Petra Schneider swam the 400 metres individual medley in 4 minutes 36.10 seconds at the 1982 World Championships, she finished 7.41 seconds ahead of the silver medallist and was arguably the strongest all-round swimmer of all time. At the 1980 Olympics, Schneider had set another world record in beating Britain's Sharron Davies into second place (July 26). Of course, it wasn't all natural talent - and years later, Schneider admitted having taken drugs. So it was no wonder her last world record lasted until today, when Chinese swimmer Chen Yan clocked 4:34.79 in Shanghai. Chen was born the year before Schneider set her record.