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Final day dramas & Ryder Cup records

Steven Lynch October 1, 2012
Michael Thomas scored Arsenal's unforgettable winner © Getty Images

I remember Arsenal winning the league championship at the last gasp at Anfield one year. Is there any other team which never led the top division until the final day? asked Peter Hamilton

The season you're talking about was 1988-89 when - in a climax seared into the minds of Liverpool supporters, some of whom have never quite recovered - Michael Thomas (who later played for Liverpool too) scored with the last kick of the game to give Arsenal the 2-0 victory they required to win the league title. That strike meant that the two teams' goal difference was the same, but Arsenal had scored more in total. However, Arsenal had led the table for most of the season, so that wasn't the only time they were ahead. The only case I can find of a team never topping the league until the rather important point of the last day of the season was in 1959-60, when Burnley won their second (and last to date) title with a 2-1 win at Manchester City, to finish a point in front of Wolves and two ahead of Spurs.

Who has played the most matches in the Ryder Cup? asked Christopher Attwell

Sir Nick Faldo appeared in 11 different Ryder Cup tournaments between 1977 and 1997, one more than Bernhard Langer (1981-2002) and the Irishman Christy O'Connor senior (1955-73). Faldo also captained the European team in the 2008 event. The American record was broken at Medinah last week when Phil Mickelson made his ninth appearance: Billy Casper, Ray Floyd and Lanny Wadkins all played eight. If you meant individual matches during the Ryder Cup, Faldo again leads the way, having played 46: Langer comes next with 42, ahead of Neil Coles, with 40, and Seve Ballesteros with 37. For the USA, Casper played 37 matches, and Mickelson and Wadkins 34 (before 2012). Faldo has also won the most Ryder Cup points overall - 25 - ahead of Langer (24), Casper and Colin Montgomerie (both 23½), Arnold Palmer (23), Ballesteros (22½), Wadkins (21½), Jose-Maria Olazabal (20½) and Lee Trevino (20).

How many people have beaten both Williams sisters in the same grand slam tournament? asked Dawn Catherwood

Three women have managed this. The Belgian pair of Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters each defeated both Venus and Serena Williams on the way to winning the US Opens of 2007 and 2009 respectively. And the first one to do it was Martina Hingis, at the Australian Open in 2001. She did the hard work by beating Serena in the quarter-final, then Venus 6-1 6-1 in the semi ... before losing to Jennifer Capriati in the final. Clijsters also beat both sisters at the WTA Championships in 2002. Lindsay Davenport (Los Angeles 2004), Steffi Graf (Sydney 1999) and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (Sydney 1998) all did it at non-grand slam tournaments too.

Which boxer had the most successful defences of the world heavyweight title? asked Andrew Stratford

Leading the way is the great Joe Louis, who made 26 successful defences of the world heavyweight title after winning it from James J Braddock in 1937. That did include some fairly modest opponents during what became known as Louis' "Bum of the Month" campaign in the early 1940s. The "Brown Bomber" announced his retirement in 1949, but financial problems forced him into a comeback, and the following year he lost his only title fight, to Ezzard Charles. Next among heavyweights comes Larry Holmes, who made 20 defences of the title he won from Ken Norton over seven years before a shock defeat by Michael Spinks in 1985. Muhammad Ali made 19 successful defences, and also claimed the title on three separate occasions, so actually won 22 title contests.

Which Olympic gold medallist is a cousin of Lord Lucan? asked Jim O'Connell

The connection here is Robin Dixon, the brakeman in Britain's gold-medal-winning two-man bobsleigh team at Innsbruck in 1964, at the back end of the sled piloted by Tony Nash. An Old Etonian, Dixon later succeeded to an Irish peerage and is now Lord Glentoran. He was actually introduced to bobsleighing by Lucan, the British peer who disappeared in 1974 after the mysterious death of his children's nanny. Lucan, a keen winter sportsman himself, took Dixon down the Cresta Run at St Moritz about seven years before his Olympic triumph.

How many times has a boat sunk during the Boat Race? asked Harry Sampson

There have been six instances of a boat sinking during the University Boat Race. In 1912 - about a fortnight before the Titanic disaster - both boats sank! Cambridge won after the Oxford boat became waterlogged in 1859 and 1978, and Oxford returned the favour in 1925. And in 1951, Oxford sank again, but the race was re-rowed two days later (Cambridge still won). The most recent Boat Race sinking was actually during the warm-up for the big event, when the Cambridge boat embarrassingly bumped into a moored barge. The race was postponed until the following day, when Oxford won.

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