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Doubles and trebles

Steven Lynch March 5, 2012
Gordie Howe was so good he had a hat-trick named after him © PA Photos

What three things do you have to do for a "Gordie Howe hat-trick" in an ice-hockey match? asked Mike Callaghan via Facebook
The Canadian Gordie Howe is one of the all-time hockey greats, helping the Detroit Red Wings win the Stanley Cup four times between 1950 and 1955. Among other nicknames, he was known as "Mr Hockey" - and his wife, predictably perhaps, was "Mrs Hockey". Howe scored more than 1000 goals in senior hockey, and remains the only man to play in the NHL in America when over 50. He was also a physical player, capable of sticking up for himself - which is probably why, to collect a "Gordie Howe hat-trick", you have to get a goal, get an assist, and get into a fight in the same game!

Who was placed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Badminton Three-Day event in the same year? asked Jim Williams
This remarkable double was achieved by the Australian Bill Roycroft in 1965. In March he rode Stoney Crossing to third place in the Gold Cup, behind the handy pair of Arkle and Mill House. Roycroft, who had won a gold medal in the three-day event team competition at Rome in 1960, had ridden in only one previous "proper" race in Britain - the previous day at Cheltenham. The following month Roycroft was second at Badminton on Eldorado, and also took sixth place on his Gold Cup horse Stoney Crossing. Roycroft also won bronze medals at Mexico in 1968 and at the 1976 Montreal Olympics when he was 61, and was one of the flag-bearers at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. He died last year aged 96.

Has anyone ever defeated Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the same tournament? asked Tushar Radke via Facebook
This has never happened in the men's singles in a grand slam event (although Steffi Graf once beat the top three seeds to win the French Open), and I was just trying to work out how to discover whether it had ever occurred in any ATP tournament when another keen Facebooker, Manish Yadav, came up with the answer: in the Madrid Masters of 2007 the unseeded Argentinian David Nalbandian beat Nadal in the quarter-finals, Djokovic in the semis and Federer in the final. It was only the third time in the Open era that someone had defeated the three top-ranked players in the world at the same tournament (Boris Becker and Djokovic himself had previously done it). Two weeks later Nalbandian - unseeded once more - beat Nadal and Federer again to win the Paris Masters, although he didn't face Djokjovic in that one.

Hunter Mahan was a big winner in Arizona © Getty Images

Hunter Mahan, who won the World Match Play title recently, has never won a major. How many people have won a WGC event but not a major? asked Carl Turner
Hunter Mahan's victory over Rory McIlroy in the final of the World Match Play at Dove Mountain in Arizona last month was actually his second WGC (World Golf Championship) title - he also won the Invitational tournament in 2010. It's true that Mahan has never won a major title, but quite a few WGC winners haven't - starting with the first one, Jeff Maggert, who won the inaugural Match Play title in 1999. He's been followed by Steve Stricker (2001 Match Play), Kevin Sutherland (2002 Match Play), Craig Parry (2002 Invitational), Henrik Stenson (2007 Match Play), Ian Poulter (2010 Match Play), Francesco Molinari (2010 Champions), and three of the 2011 winners - Luke Donald (Match Play), Nick Watney (Championship) and Adam Scott (Invitational). There are also a few more who shared in their country's World Cup triumphs when that was considered a WGC event (2000-06).

I noticed that Porto won the UEFA Cup in 2003, and the Champions League the following year. Has anyone else achieved this unusual double? asked Kevin O'Donnell
Porto's unusual double in 2003-04 had previously been achieved only by Liverpool, who beat Bruges to win the UEFA Cup in 1976, then won the 1977 European Cup (as it then was) by beating Borussia Monchengladbach in the final. Liverpool retained the title in 1978, again beating Bruges in the final.

Red Rum might have won the Grand National five times - what's the record for a horse winning any annual race? asked Graham Dawson
Red Rum won the Aintree Grand National three times - in 1973, 1974 and 1977 - and was second in 1975 and 1976 as well. That's the National record, while the best for a big British annual race is six wins, by Brown Jack in the Queen Alexandra Stakes (at more than two and a half miles, the longest Flat race in Britain) at Ascot between 1929 and 1934. There's now a statue of Brown Jack at Ascot, to commemorate his feat. Golden Miller won five successive Cheltenham Gold Cups between 1932 and 1936; he also wno the National in 1934, a unique double. But they all have to give best worldwide to the American horse Leaping Plum, which won the same annual race - the Grasmick Handicap at Fonner Park in Nebraska - eight times between 1995 and 2003, excluding 2002 when he finished third.

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