On This Day

  • March 4 down the years

Sotomayor sails skywards

Javier Sotomayor took high jumping to a new level © Getty Images
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1989
On the second day at the World Indoor Championships, four athletes set world records. Javier Sotomayor of Cuba high jumped a stratospheric 2.43 metres, 10 centimetres ahead of the next man. Years later, he tested positive for steroids. Kenyan Olympic champion Paul Ereng ran away with the 800 metres. Australia's Kerry Saxby won the 3000 metre walk. And Elly van Hulst of Holland won the 3000 metres run, kicking past Britain's Liz McColgan, who'd set the pace as always.

1905
The most tries by one player in a senior rugby league match. George West scored 11 for Hull KR in a Challenge Cup match against Brookland Rovers. He also kicked ten goals for a total of 53 points, another all-time Challenge Cup record.

2000
At Twickenham, Neil Jenkins' kicking kept Wales in touch at half-time, when they trailed 19-12, but England had too many guns and won 46-12. Four of their tries were scored by forwards, including the famous back row of Richard Hill, Neil Back, and Lawrence Dallaglio. And the boy Wilkinson kicked 21 points.

1987
Basildon fireman Terry Marsh won a version of the world light-welterweight title by stopping Joe Manley of the USA. It was only the IBF title, which wasn't much in those days, and the fight was staged in Marsh's home town, so it wasn't a high-key affair. Manley called himself Joe Louis Manley, but there was none of the old Bomber's punching power here. Marsh dropped him in the ninth and stopped him in the tenth. He made one successful defence before retiring at about the same time that he was diagnosed with epilepsy. He was undefeated in 27 pro fights, but very few of his opponents leap out at you. When his former manager and promoter Frank Warren was shot two years later, Marsh was tried and acquitted.

1944
American swimmer Adolf Kiefer set his last world record in the 200 metres backstroke, 8 years 328 days after his first. No other swimmer has set world records over such a long span, in any event or events.

1978
In Dublin, Wales became the first country to win rugby's Triple Crown three years in a row - but had to work very hard for it in a ferocious match. The referee called the captains together after half an hour, and JPR Williams should have been sent off for a hideous late tackle on Mike Gibson. JPR for once made a hash of a clearance kick, which led to Ireland's equalising try - but JJ Williams went over in the corner. Fenwick kicked his fourth penalty goal and Tony Ward his third for Ireland to make the final score 20-16. That late tackle left Gibson with blurred vision, not the way he'd have chosen to celebrate his 64th cap, which broke the world record he shared with three other players, Gareth Edwards equalled 'Willie John' McBride's world record of 52 consecutive caps and broke it on March 18, when Wales went for the Grand Slam. They won a fourth consecutive Triple Crown in 1979.

1978
Bernie Ford didn't have that extra pace that wins 10,000 metre races at major championships, but his strength and doggedness made him a real contender on grass and mud. In the National Cross-Country, he was runner-up twice in a row before completing a family double on March 13 1976, then finished second again in 1977. Today Brendan Foster wasn't there to defend the title, but bearded Bernie beat former world champion Ian Stewart into second place. Nicky Lees won the junior race after finishing runner-up to Nat Muir for two years in a row.

John Curry produced another faultless display © Getty Images
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1976
British ice skating icon John Curry won his only world title. Overwhelming favourite after winning gold at the Winter Olympics on February 11, he beat Vladimir Kovalev by only five votes to four, which was a scandal typical of judges' prejudice. Kovalev shouldn't have won a medal at all. He made a series of scrappy landings and even fell over early on! In contrast, Curry was typically faultless. He turned professional at the end of a season in which he also won the European title.

1968
Joe Frazier's fight with Buster Mathis was recognised as a world heavyweight title fight by five American states. Big Buster outweighed him by very nearly three stone, but a lot of that was round the middle. It wobbled whenever Smokin' Joe hit him, which was a lot. Mathis spent much of the fight trying to tie Frazier up in clinches, probably to try and suffocate him in all that blubber. Actually he did well to last until the 11th round. Frazier, looking as trim as Tyson, used his famous left hook on that big body, then caught Mathis in the head. The big man beat the count but he was staggering and the referee stopped it.

1918
Margaret duPont was born Margaret Osborne in Oregon. One of the battalion of American players who dominated women's tennis just after the War, she was Wimbledon singles champion in 1947 and runner-up in 1949 and 1950, losing to Louise Brough in three sets each time. Both matches had a spooky symmetry, Brough winning 10-8 1-6 10-8 and 6-1 3-6 6-1. The two players won the Wimbledon doubles five times together, and duPont won the mixed in 1962 when she was 44. She was French singles champion twice and US champion three years in a row, from 1948 to 1950.

1955
Jack Wardrop broke the world record in the 220 yards freestyle, which also counted as the best in the 200 metres. He was the last British male swimmer to set a world record in an Olympic event until David Wilkie on September 6, 1973.

1978
Kevin Finnegan, Chris's brother, was a talented middleweight who never fought for a world title. This was about the nearest he came. In Boston, Marvin Hagler's backyard, Finnegan showed skill and poise. A number of boxers found Hagler easy to hit, and Finnegan caught him time and again, but Hagler's own punches were crueller. They opened up deep gushing cuts on Finnegan's nose and above both eyes and the fight was stopped at the end of the eighth. Finnegan faced Hagler again in the same town two months later, but the cuts stopped him at the end of the sixth. Hagler inflicted similar damage when he fought another British boxer for the world title on September 27, 1980, by which time Finnegan had regained the British and European titles.

1870
Verner Järvinen was born in Finland. He was an Olympic champion in an obscure event in an extra-curricular Games, the Greek style discus in 1906. But he was the real deal in the proper discus, setting two world records that went unratified for no good reason. He had world class genes, too. His son Akilles won two Olympic silver medals in the decathlon (they would have been gold under another scoring system), and another son Matti dominated the javelin in the 1930s, setting ten world records and winning gold at the 1932 Olympics and the first two European Championships.

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