Part 1: Don’t look back in anger
2016 wasn’t exactly a year where voters made essentially good choices. But there were a few notable exemptions. Germany’s sports journalists are being asked each year to vote for sportspersons of the year (male/female/team). Ever so devoted to furthering the variety of sports on TV and giving even non-football players the place they deserve, German broadcaster ZDF put the grand sports awards gala to the night slot, starting at 10pm on a Sunday…
As for the winners, I don’t have to say much more about the female sportsperson of the year. Australian Open and US Open Champion, Wimbledon runner-up, Olympic Silver medalist, year end No. 1 and overall a wonderful person, Angelique Kerber sure deserved this, as well as all of the numerous awards she won throughout the year.
In the men’s category, the trophy went to Nico Rosberg. Probably not only for becoming the third German to win the Formula One World Championship, but also for achieving something so many athletes fail to do: to have the wisdom, greatness, somehow bravery and also luck to quit at exactly the right moment, at the pinnacle of his career.
The team of the year award went to Hamburger SV…or more specifically to the club’s most successful side during the past twelve months, by some distance… When Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst began their Gold Medal match of the Beach Volleyball tournament against local favourites Ágatha and Bárbara, the sympathies of large parts of the audience at Copacabana were visibly and audibly one-sided. But the occassional boos and jeers were quickly silenced by the phenomal play of the Germans. The Brazilian crowd just couldn’t help it but marvel at the elegance and technical near-perfection of Ludwig/Walkenhorst, which earned them not only Olympic Gold this year but also the European Championship and Gold at the World Tour Finals in Toronto.
Anything else? Huh!
But the year 2016 had so much more to offer than the Olympics and Paralympics. Besides Angelique Kerber and Nico Rosberg there were the stars of the winter season like the dominant Mikaela Shiffrin, biathletes Martin Fourcade and Gabriela Koukalova (née Soukalova), as well as Javier Fernandez, a 25 year old from Madrid who became the world’s best figure skater.
We saw the swan song of living legend Peyton Manning, leading the Broncos to glory in Super Bowl 50. And the Chicago Cubs finally overcame the ‘curse of the Billy Goat’, winning their first World Series in 108(!) years.
Oh, I almost forgot, there happened to be a somewhat important football tournament this summer (association football that is, aka ‘soccer’). I don’t usually write or care too much about football. While watching Germany’s quarterfinal against Italy with some friends, I was even chided for talking over the penalty shootout, which the others considered to be rather exciting. I still have no idea why…
But one team at this Euro 2016 stood out. It only took eleven vikings, two famous victories over Austria and England, one tenth of Iceland‘s entire population travelling to France, a wonderfully enthusiastic commentator called ‘Gummi Ben‘, probably the best and most memorable cheer in the history of sport (‘Huh!’) and the fact that they gave this game the name ‘Knattspyrna’, to make me, almost, for a short while, fall in love with this sport. Almost…
And so the Olympic year of 2016 came to an end. It may be too early to qualify it as an overall ‘good’ or ‘bad’ year for sport in general. But to call it unforgettable seems quite appropriate. And the last words belong to someone who himself is and always will be unforgettable:
Impossible is not a fact, it’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration, it’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
Muhammad Ali (January 17, 1942 – June 3, 2016)