The Ladbrokes News New Year Sport Awards: The ten stars of 2016
From a sporting point of view, 2016 was pretty incredible. And with the year almost over, it’s time to look back at those who stole the headlines, and the accolades.
We saw a new Premier League winner, we saw a thrilling European Championships in France.
We also witnessed incredible scenes at the Olympics in Brazil, and we had a Ryder Cup to enjoy too.
And that’s not even half of it!
So let’s crack on, at Ladbrokes News we’ve racked our heads and decided that these ten teams or individuals shone the brightest in 2016…
Of course Claudio Ranieri’s Foxes are on the list. Will we ever see anything like it again?
A team on the brink of relegation the previous season hired an Italian who had just been sacked by Greece and were handed odds of 5000/1 to win the Premier League.
But as the usual contenders floundered, Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and co stunned the globe to pull off football’s greatest underdog story. Even today we still need to pinch ourselves that it really happened.
A second Wimbledon title, a second Olympic title and a personal record nine ATP successes all added up to a fine year for Andy Murray.
Throw in a stunning end to 2016 to win five successive tournaments, which culminated in the life-long dream of becoming world number one, and the year was easily the Brit’s greatest yet. And he won SPOTY for the third time. What a year.
After two seasons of being beaten by Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg entered 2016 more determined and prepared than ever before to win the Formula One World Championship.
And he did just that. While Lewis made too many mistakes, Nico kept it together in a thrilling Abu Dhabi showdown to replicate his Dad’s achievement in 1982.
And then five days later, he retired, producing sport’s biggest mic drop of 2016.
British Olympic & Paralympic Teams
After a starring performance to come third in the London games four years ago, Britain were cautiously hopeful of another summer of success in Brazil.
But nobody could have envisaged quite what lay ahead.
The Olympic squad defeated Russia, and amazingly, China too, to finish second in the medal table, and the Paralympic heroes matched that feat to ensure a stunning summer of glory in Rio.
Iceland national football team
Few expected much of Iceland at this summer’s European Championships, but the smallest nation to ever qualify for the tournament proved the naysayers wrong.
After startling eventual champions Portugal with a 1-1 draw, Heimir Hallgrimsson’s men saw off Austria and Hungary to reach the last-16.
England awaited, but the tournament’s biggest underdogs weren’t done yet, and sparked more of their famous celebrations with a 2-1 win. They couldn’t stop France putting five past them in the last eight, but all of Iceland’s expectations had been emphatically exceeded.
Wales national football team
It had been a long time since Wales had made their mark on a football finals tournament. But after 58 years, Chris Coleman’s men became the success story of the European Championships.
Topping Group B, the Red Dragons then edged Northern Ireland in the last 16, before arguably their greatest moment – a stunning 3-1 win over pre-tournament dark horses Belgium.
Hal Robson-Kanu etched his name into folklore, and only Antoine Griezmann outscored Gareth Bale. Portugal may have ended the fun in the semi-finals, but legends, heroes and joyous memories had been made long before then.
England Rugby Union Team
For sheer perfection, nobody did it better than Eddie Jones and England, who claimed 14 wins from 14 this year.
That included a Six Nations Grand Slam, plus a 3-0 series whitewash over Australia Down Under.
With New Zealand’s record 18-match run ending this Autumn, Jones and England are just five wins away from setting a new best streak.
In a thrilling final day at Augusta, Danny Willett became a household name as he, and millions of others, sat and watched.
Starting three shots off Jordan Spieth, Sheffield’s Willett posted a tidy 67 and entered the clubhouse in good shape for a top-three finish.
But then the precocious American sank two into the water on 12. Spieth couldn’t recover, leaving Willett to become only the second English Major winner in 20 years, and golf’s new hero.
Michael van Gerwen
At the time of writing it remains to be seen if Michael van Gerwen lands the World Championship, but he has simply dominated the PDC this season.
Mighty Mike claimed six of the year’s ten European Tour events, five players championships, two world series tournaments, plus the Euro Championship, the World Series of Darts, and the Players Championship Finals.
The Dutch star has won 25 titles this year, racking up over £1.5m in prize money. Sensational.
An incredible third Tour de France success cemented Froome’s place as one cyclings all-time greats.
The Tour wasn’t without it’s issues however.
Cluttered crowds caused problems throughout this year’s event, and Froome showed his unrelenting desire to win after having to ditch his bike on Stage 12, and run. What a guy.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing