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Wimbledon shocks and Olympic stars

Steven Lynch December 20, 2010
Boris Becker proved his class on grass in 1985 © Getty Images

Is there any England footballer who has only played at the World Cup? asked Alex Broughton from Cheshire
There is one footballer whose entire England career was conducted at a World Cup: Laurie Hughes, the Liverpool half-back, was selected for England's first appearance at the finals in 1950, and played in all three games there, including the famously embarrassing 1-0 defeat to the USA (newspapers back home queried the scoreline, assuming it must actually have been 10-1 to England!). Hughes fell out of favour after that, and never pulled on an England shirt again. With so much more international football being played these days it's most unlikely that anyone will ever make their debut in a World Cup finals match again - although it did happen for England in 1970, when Allan Clarke won his first cap during a group game (and scored a penalty). Clarke did play several more times for England, though, outside of the World Cup.

Has an unseeded player ever won the men's or women's singles at Wimbledon? asked Ben Valentine from Wales
Seeding the leading players, to keep them apart in the draw, was fully implemented at Wimbledon in 1927. Since then, no unseeded woman has ever won the singles there, but two men have managed it, both quite recently: the first was Boris Becker, who won the first of his three titles in 1985, when he was only 17 and not seeded, even though he had just won the pre-Wimbledon tournament at Queen's Club. The other unseeded winner was Goran Ivanisevic, in 2001: he had had such a poor year that he did not qualify directly and was given a wild card entry - he is the only wild card Wimbledon winner. Some reference books give Richard Krajicek as unseeded when he won in 1996, but, although he was not in the original seeding lists and was also not shown as a seed in the official programme, the Wimbledon committee later confirmed that Krajicek was in fact made a seed when Thomas Muster, the No. 7, withdrew shortly before the tournament. Ten other men (including Denmark's Kurt Nielsen twice) and four women have reached the singles final unseeded, but ended up losing.

Which track and field athlete has won the most medals at the Olympics? And who has won the most golds? asked Peter Mansell from Worcester
The two answers are the same: it's Paavo Nurmi, one of the "Flying Finns", who won 12 medals at the Olympics, nine of them gold, between 1920 and 1928. He might have added to his tally had he not been branded a professional late in his career and thus banned from the Games. Nurmi, who usually ran with a stopwatch in his hand to check his own lap times, won the 10,000 metres in 1920, 1924 and 1928, the 1500 and 5000 metres in 1924, the individual cross-country event in 1920 and 1924, and was part of the winning cross-country team in 1920 and 1924 as well. He also won silver medals in the 5000 metres in 1920 and 1928, and in the 3000-metre steeplechase in 1928. In Paris in 1924 Nurmi showed amazing powers of recuperation: the 5000 metres final started less than two hours after the 1500 metres final finished, yet he won both. Carl Lewis won ten Olympic medals, while Merlene Ottey is the leading woman athlete with nine.

Carl Lewis was an Olympic great © Getty Images

Who was the last amateur golfer to win one of the four professional majors? asked Lee Wright via Facebook
My first thought was that it had to be the great American amateur Bobby Jones, who won the US Open four times and the British Open on three occasions, most recently in 1930. But there has been on amateur winner since then: in 1933 Johnny Goodman, an insurance salesman from Nebraska, won the US Open at North Shore, near Chicago. He started the last round six shots in front of Ralph Guldahl, but struggled to a 76 and finished just one stroke in front. Four years later, Guldahl won the first of his two US Opens, and Goodman won the US Amateur Championship. Since then there have been some near-misses for amateur golfers: Frank Stranahan finished joint second in both the Masters and the British Open in 1947, and in The Open again in 1953; Ken Venturi lost the Masters by one stroke in 1956 after subsiding to a final-round 80; and in 1961 the American Charlie Coe was joint second in the Masters. The most famous recent run by an amateur is probably Justin Rose's fourth place in the British Open at Birkdale in 1998, when he was only 17 (he turned pro the following week). But back in 1960 a promising young amateur called Jack Nicklaus was second in the 1960 US Open. Wonder what happened to him?

I remember my father taking me to the world speedway final at Wembley one year. When did it stop being a one-off event and start being a series, and who has won it most often? asked Ian Cooper from Kent
The Grand Prix Series to decide the speedway world championship started in 1995, since when the Swede Tony Rickardsson has won it five times. Rickardsson, who retired in 2008, had also won the last one-off world championship final, at Vojens in Denmark in 1994, giving him a total of six world titles - which equals the record of the great New Zealander Ivan Mauger, who won six of the one-off championships between 1968 and 1979. You mentioned Wembley: the world championship was held there every year from 1936 to 1960 (excluding the war years), and quite frequently after that as well until 1981. The most frequent Wembley winner was another Swede, Ove Fundin, who collected four of his five world titles there.

I believe the equestrian events are the only ones in the Olympics where men and women compete on level terms. Has a woman ever won the Olympic show-jumping gold? asked Hannah Woodbridge from Dorset
I think you're right about men and women competing on equal terms now only in the equestrian events, although I think it would, in the past at least, have been possible for women to have competed in the shooting and sailing too, before they had their own events. In answer to the second part of your question, it seems that no woman has yet won gold in the individual show-jumping event at the Olympics - the best is silver, by two British riders: Marion Coakes (later Mould) in 1968 and Ann Moore in 1972. There have been woman winners in the team show-jumping, though, including the American Elizabeth "Beezie" Madden at both of the last two Games. The Olympic individual three-day event title has never been won by a woman, either, although there have been plenty of female victories in the dressage.

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