On This Day

  • February 11 down the years

Curry wins Olympic gold

John Curry had his rivals in a spin © Getty Images
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1976
John Curry won Olympic gold. There were prejudices to overcome on the way. Judges who thought his style of ice skating was too feminine. He threw in some big jumps to satisfy the macho mentality, without compromising the balletic sweeps which made him unique. A faultless performance won him first place by a mile. He went on to become the first male skater in 40 years to be European, World, and Olympic champion in the same event. Like his predecessor Ondrej Nepela, he died of an AIDS-related illness. He was 44.

1990
Mike Tyson lost to Buster Douglas. And we're still wondering why. Complacency maybe. At the time, Tyson was the baddest man on the planet. When he became the youngest world heavyweight champion on November 22, 1986, he scared the stuffing out of everyone - and the shock and awe continued for the next few years. It is easy to forget that the fight with Douglas was his tenth defence of the title. Only two of his challengers went the distance. Seven of them were world champions at one time or another; another was an Olympic gold medallist. James Buster did not fit into either category - but he did have form. In his two previous fights, he'd outpointed former champion Trevor Berbick and future champion Oliver McCall. And naturally he was going to be the fittest he'd ever been.

The same could not be said for Tyson. After all, he had recently fired his long-time trainer Kevin Rooney. Whatever, he almost won the fight in the eighth, when a right uppercut floored Douglas and the bell saved him. But Buster had been getting through with punches, and in the tenth he connected with five in a row. The sight of Iron Mike on all fours scrabbling around for his mouthguard was almost a crime against nature. It took him six years to regain the title, and he was never the same fighter again. Nor was Douglas, who was overweight for his first defence and lost to Evander Holyfield. Buster lost most of his millions soon afterwards.

1996
Wigan were unbeaten in a record 43 consecutive Challenge Cup matches between losing to Oldham in 1986-87 and Salford today. In that time, they won the trophy eight years in a row. No other club has managed more than two. Shaun Edwards was the only player to appear in all 43 matches. Various Wigan old boys did the damage for Salford. Steve Hampson played well at fullback, Scott Naylor scored two tries, Steve Blakeley kicked five goals and was named man of the match. Wigan's famous wingers Va'aiga Tuigamala and Martin Offiah scored three tries between them, but Salford led 14-0 and won 26-16.

1934
John Surtees was born in Surrey. His dad was a motorbike dealer, and John himself ran a motorbike shop in the 1970s. But he squeezed in a fair bit before that. In motorcycling, he won the premier 500 cc class four times, including the last three in a row: 1958 to 1960. In each of those three years, he also won the 350 cc title. Inward-looking and determined, he switched to motor racing and achieved a unique double by becoming Formula One world champion in 1964. He finished runner-up two years later. He won 38 Grands Prix on two wheels and six on four.

Va'iga Tuigamala was a regular Challenge Cup winner © Getty Images
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2007
The first rugby union international played at the temple of Gaelic sport. Unfortunately for Ireland, the French came to Dublin's Croke Park and spoiled the party. Raphaël Ibañez scored the first try on the hallowed turf, Ronan O'Gara the first for Ireland, but it was the third and last which put the dampener on. Right at the end, Ireland were leading by a point when French substitute Lionel Beauxis hit a post with a drop kick. O'Gara then kicked a penalty. He scored all of Ireland's points, and these seemed to have made things safe. But there were still three minutes left when Vincent Clerc threw a slight dummy, cut inside big Shane Horgan and swerved round the covering Denis Hickie to put down. The 20-17 defeat eventually cost Ireland the Grand Slam and the Six Nations title. Clerc scored more tries against Ireland on February 9 the following year.

2002
A major scandal at the Winter Olympics. A judging shocker which led to an extra gold medal. In the pairs, Russia's Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze wobbled on their landings but scored highly on presentation. They were followed onto the ice by Jamie Salé and David Pellentier of Canada, who skated impeccably but lost 5-4 on the judges' cards. The crowd booed the decision. But then the French judge, Marie-Reine Le Gougne, admitted she had "submitted to a certain pressure" in casting her vote for the Russian pair. She was banned for three years and the Canadian couple were awarded a gold medal, though Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze also kept theirs. After the scandal, changes were made to the scoring system.

1909
Max Baer was born in Omaha. If ever a man was built to be a big-punching heavyweight, it was he - a slim-waist, powerful shoulders and back muscles, weighing 15 stone. He took the world title by knocking down the giant Primo Carnera 11 times, and when Frankie Campbell was trapped on the ropes in 1930, he took so much punishment that he died. Baer should have retained his title easily against Jim Braddock in 1935, but he'd enjoyed being champion too much, and a year out of the ring cost him against a hungry fighter. Baer spent most of the 15 rounds not throwing his big punches, and lost the decision. Easy come, easy go. He was stopped by Joe Louis in his next fight and never fought for the title again. Baer's lifestyle caught up with him when he died of a heart attack at the age of 50. His son Max Baer jnr played Jethro in the TV series The Beverley Hillbillies.

1950
England's Jack Holden won the Marathon in Auckland. He was 42 by then, the oldest athlete to win a gold medal at any Commonwealth Games (still the British Empire Games at the time). On August 23, Holden became the oldest gold medallist at any European Championship.

1983
Everyone knew Tony Sibson had bitten off more than he could deal with. But taking a bite out of cherries is what boxers do. A thick-set middleweight with a rousing approach, Sibson had made four successful defences of his European title and not bothered with the Commonwealth title he won in 1980. So a world title challenge was the obvious next step. But Sibbo had not fought the calibre of opponent to prepare him for a tilt at Marvin Hagler, who may not have been the best middleweight of all time but wasn't far off. Like Hagler, Sibson stopped Alan Minter in the third round, but comparisons end there. He absorbed what he could, but he was beaten to the punch too often, and Hagler stopped him, painfully, in the sixth. Sibbo had two more goes at world titles, losing to fellow Brit Dennis Andries at light-heavyweight in 1986 before his very last fight on February 7, 1988.

1870
At long last, the first professional billiards championship match was played. At long last because Edwin Kentfield had been declared champion in 1825 without playing for the title, then in 1849 gave up the title to John Roberts without a fight. Now, finally, Roberts' son John junior took on William Cook for the vacant title - and lost by 1,200 points to 1,083. Junior took the title from Cook later that year, then they spent the next 15 years swapping it back and forth.

1932
After Canada lost to Japan at rugby, prop Bill Wharton managed to walk away from the post-match banquet despite drinking 16 bottles of sake. His team mates pronounced it "the most brilliant individual performance of the tour". That's not saying too much: Canada conceded eight tries and lost 38-5 in Tokyo. Ernest Pinkham, who won his only cap in that match, celebrated his 101st birthday in 2009.

1995
Mark Foster swam the 50 metres butterfly in 23.55 to break his own short-course world record.

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