• Ask Steven

Nearly men and a record in the saddle

Steven Lynch October 10, 2011
Greg Norman suffered agony at the Masters © Getty Images

Which footballer's autobiography included a chapter entitled "The Average Director's Knowledge of Football", which consisted of a single blank page? asked Martin Harrison
This was Len Shackleton, most famous for his performances with Sunderland in the 1950s. He had started with Bradford, and then moved to Newcastle, but it was at Roker Park that he became a star. He was always an irreverent soul, that chapter in his autobiography being just one example, and his nickname (which he later borrowed for the book's title) was "The Clown Prince of Football". His reputation as a joker militated against his chances of a regular England place, and he won just five international caps between 1948 and 1954. In the last of them he scored his one and only goal for England, helping them to a 3-1 victory at Wembley over West Germany, who had won the World Cup earlier in the year. Shackleton was forced to retire by an ankle injury in 1957, when he was 35. He had scored 101 goals for Sunderland, after 25 for Newcastle - including six on his debut for them against Newport County in 1946.

Lester Piggott rode 30 Classic winners, which is more than anyone else. Whose record did he break? asked Peter McIntyre
Lester Piggott rode his first English Classic winner in 1954, when he piloted Never Say Die to victory in the Derby (the first of a record nine victories for Piggott in that great race). His 30th and last came on Rodrigo De Triano in the 2000 Guineas of 1992. The previous record had stood for 165 years, being set by Frank Buckle, who rode his 27th and last Classic winner in 1827. That included a record nine victories in the Oaks. Piggott actually broke Buckle's record in 1984, riding Commanche Run to victory in the St Leger, his 28th Classic win.

My team, Hull Kingston Rovers, have reached the rugby league Challenge Cup final six times, but only won it once. To make me feel better, has any team got a worse conversion rate than this?! asked Dave Wright
Well, I hope we can make you feel a bit better - Salford have been in seven finals, but have only won one (back in 1938, so Hull KR's solitary victory in 1980 is a much more recent memory). And it might be even more of a consolation to know that Hull KR's city rivals Hull have reached 14 Challenge Cup finals, but have been on the receiving end 11 times, winning only in 1914, 1982 and 2005. Only Wigan and Leeds have lost as many Challenge Cup finals as that - but they have won 18 (a record) and 11 times respectively to make up for it.

Has any golfer ever lost in play-offs for all four majors? asked Mick Watkinson
Two golfers have suffered this frustrating fate. Greg Norman lost his first major play-off in 1984, when Fuzzy Zoeller prevailed in an 18-hole shootout to win the US Open at Winged Foot. Three years later Norman looked set to win the Masters at Augusta, before local boy Larry Mize's chip in at the second extra hole secured him the green jacket. In 1989 Norman lost a four-hole play-off to Mark Calcavecchia at the Open, then completed the set in 1993, when he lost a sudden-death play-off to Paul Azinger at the US PGA Championship at Inverness (where, seven years earlier, Norman had finished second behind Bob Tway). The other unfortunate man was Craig Wood, who lost 36-hole play-offs to Densmore Shute at the Open in 1933, Gene Sarazen in the 1935 Masters, and Byron Nelson in the 1939 US Open. Wood's set was completed by defeat by Paul Runyan in the US PGA Championship in 1934. The PGA was a matchplay championship in those days, but the scores were tied after 36 holes and they had to play two more before Runyan emerged as the winner. Wood finally shook off his reputation as a nearly man to win the Masters and the US Open in 1941.

Joe Frazier won Olympic gold in 1964 © Getty Images

I heard during the coverage from Daegu about an athlete who was competing in their third world championships - for their third different country. Who was this? asked Colin Frears
The much-travelled athlete in question is the triple-jumper Yamile Aldama, who finished fifth in the World Championships in Daegu earlier this year, representing Great Britain. Aldama, who was born in 1972, won the silver medal in the 1999 World Championships, representing her native Cuba, before moving to Britain in 2001 to marry a Scottish man. Her citizenship did not arrive in time for her to represent Britain at the 2004 Olympics, and in frustration she managed to obtain a Sudanese passport, competing for them in the Athens Olympics (finishing fifth) and at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, where she was fourth. Aldama also took part in the 2007 and 2009 World Championships for Sudan, without qualifying for the triple-jump finals, before finally received British citizenship in 2010, after which - nearly 39, and not long after giving birth to her second child - she started representing Team GB.

The great trio of Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman all won Olympic gold medals before going on to the world heavyweight title. But is it true that Frazier shouldn't have been there? asked Joel Crane via Facebook
It is in a way - Joe Frazier was beaten in the trials for the United States team at the 1964 Olympics by Buster Mathis, and seemed to have missed his chance of a trip to Tokyo. But a hand injury ruled Mathis out of the Games: Frazier replaced him ... and went on to win the gold medal in the heavyweight division. Frazier avenged that defeat as a professional in 1968, when he stopped Mathis in what was essentially a world title eliminator. That same year George Foreman won the heavyweight title at the Mexico Olympics. Muhammad Ali - who was known as Cassius Clay at the time - won his gold medal at Rome in 1960 in the light-heavyweight category: you'd probably confound a few people at the average sports quiz if you told them the heavyweight champion in those Rome Olympics was the local man Francesco di Piccoli.

If you want to ask Steven a question, use our feedback form. The most interesting questions will be answered here fortnightly on Mondays, and you can challenge him on Facebook too

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Steven Lynch Close
Ask Steven features a number of experts, headed by Steven Lynch, who answer your questions across a variety of sports Ask Steven features a number of experts, headed by Steven Lynch, who answer your questions across a variety of sports