- Ask Steven
Horses don't win Grand SlamsSteven Lynch January 6, 2013
I'm just settling down to watch the Welsh Grand National. Has any horse ever won the English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh versions? asked Roy McAllister
No horse has managed to complete this full set - the nearest approach is by Earth Summit, which won the Scottish Grand National as a novice in 1994, the Welsh one in 1997, and the Grand National itself in 1998. He had a different jockey on board each time: David Bridgwater at Ayr, Tom Jenks at Chepstow, and Carl Llewellyn at Aintree. Several horses have won two of the races, including the great Red Rum, which won in Scotland in 1974, the same year as the second of his three Aintree triumphs. The most recent horse to complete a double was Silver Birch (Welsh 2004, English 2007) while Numbersixvalverde won the Irish Grand National in 2005 and the English one in 2006.
How many majors does Tiger Woods need to win to break the overall record? asked Colin Woods
The most majors won by a single golfer is 18, by Jack Nicklaus, who won six Masters, five PGAs, four US Opens and three British Opens during his brilliant career. A few years ago, nothing seemed more likely than that Tiger Woods would soon overtake him: when Woods won the US Open in 2008, it was his 14th major, and he was still only 32. Since then, though, Tiger's much-publicised problems have meant that he hasn't added to his tally of major wins - and, with young guns like Rory McIlroy blazing away, he might find it hard to do so now. Still, Woods has quietly returned to the higher reaches of the world rankings - only McIlroy and Luke Donald were ahead of him by the end of 2012 - so no-one will be betting against more majors for the 37-year-old Tiger just yet.
Who has won the most Australian Open singles titles without ever winning one of the other Grand Slams? asked Simon Calder
Two men have won three Australian Championship singles titles without winning one of the others - and they're both Aussies who played at a time when few overseas players ventured on the long and arduous trip Down Under. James Anderson won in 1922, 1924 and 1925, while Adrian Quist - best remembered as a doubles specialist (he's the only person to win a doubles title at Wimbledon before and after the Second World War) took the crown in 1936, 1940 and 1948. Coming up to date, in the Open era Johan Kriek won the Australian title in 1981 and 1982, although it has to be said that the field was not a terribly distinguished one in those years (back then the tournament was played over the Christmas period, with limited prizemoney, and many players stayed at home). It's a similar story for the women: Nancye Wynne Bolton, the pre-eminent local player of her day, won six singles titles between 1937 and 1951, but none outside Australia. No-one in the Open era has more than one women's singles title in Australia without winning at least one somewhere else.
Which footballer held the appearance record for England before Billy Wright? asked Maurice Jones
I was quite surprised to discover that the great Wolves halfback Billy Wright was not only the first man to win 100 England caps - during a career which stretched from 1946 to 1959 - but the first to 50 as well. The appearance record before Wright made it his own personal territory for a while belonged to Bob Crompton, a fullback from Blackburn Rovers, who won 41 caps (22 as captain) between 1902 and 1914: his record stood until Wright won his 42nd cap in 1952. In all, Wright played 105 times for England, 90 of them as captain - a record later equalled by Bobby Moore.
Who was the first new world champion of 2013? asked Philip Johnston
I'm not quite sure whether you'd call him "new", but the first significant world champion of 2013 was Phil "The Power" Taylor, who won his 16th world darts title on New Year's Day, beating the Dutchman Michael van Gerwen 7-4 in the final at Alexandra Palace. Taylor, who's now 52, has won the PDC title on no fewer than 14 occasions since it was established in 1994 (four other men have shared the other six titles), and he also won the BDO title in 1990 and 1992.
Andy Murray won two Olympic medals on the same day in 2012. What's the overall record? asked Gill Barber
I was rather hasty in my initial answer to this question, which was the Russian Vitaly Scherbo, who won four medals on the same day at Barcelona in 1992. He is indeed the last person to manage that feat, but actually no fewer than nine athletes have managed to collect six Olympic medals in the same day. All but one are gymnasts, in which until quite recently the events were usually all staged at the same time. Thus Herman Weingartner (Germany, 1896), George Eyser (USA, 1904), Konrad Frey (Germany, 1936), Viktor Chukarin and Mariya Horokhovska (USSR, 1952), Agnes Keleti (Hungary, 1956), Larisa Latynina (USSR, 1956), and Aleksandr Ditiatin (USSR, 1980) did manage their six-in-a-day feat. The sole non-gymnast to do it was the Belgian archer Hubert van Innis, in 1920. Scherbo's four medals were all gold, which does equal the daily record, also achieved by Chukarin, Keleti, Latynina, van Innis and Anton Heida (USA, gymnastics, 1904). I should have remembered George Eyser, because he won his gymnastics medals despite having a wooden leg! I'm grateful to the distinguished Olympic historian Bill Mallon for helping to set the record straight, and apologise for the original error.