- July 13 down the years
Simpson dies during Tour de France
Tommy Simpson died during the Tour de France. The first British cyclist to wear the yellow jersey (5 July 1962), he was also world road race champion in 1965. But today he collapsed near the summit of Mont Ventoux in Provence. Despite mouth-to-mouth attempts, he died from a combination of amphetamines and exertion in burning heat. There's a memorial near the spot where he fell.
South African golf icon Gary Player won the Open for the third time in a third different decade. Already champion in 1959 (3 July), today was the anniversary of his second win in the event. In 1968 he won by two strokes from former champions Bob Charles (who collapsed to 76 in the last round) and Jack Nicklaus. Player made the crucial shot at the 14th hole, a full-blooded three-wood over a bunker that stopped two feet from the pin. That gave him a three-shot lead, and he saved par at the next after driving into the rough.
In 1974, Player began with 69 and 68 which allowed him to shoot 75 in the third and still win by four shots from Britain's Peter Oosterhuis, with Nicklaus a further stroke back in third. Player was the only golfer to break par for the tournament.
Not such good news for Gary Player from his homeland. The British Lions hammered South Africa's rugby players to win the series. After winning the opening match on 8 June, the Lions realised they were playing one of the weakest Springboks teams of all time, and came out of their shell to score five tries and win the second Test 28-9 despite missing five kicks at goal and half a dozen try-scoring chances. The third Test today was a bit harder, but even so South Africa were 7-3 down after dominating the first half and had to face the sun and wind in the second. John (JJ) Williams scored two tries again, and although the Lions scored only three this time, they won easily again: 26-9. The real fun came from the Springbok selectors, who picked seven new caps for the second Test and another six here, including two new locks: nasty old 'Moaner' van Heerden, who went off injured, and Johan de Bruyn who had only one eye! He was no Martin Pelser (23 March 1934) and this was his only cap. But the worst pick was at scrum-half. When their two first choices dropped out injured, the selectors gave three others a trial, getting them to throw passes off one hand then the other like a bunch of kids. After all that, they plumped for Gerrie Sonnekus, whose passing was the worst of the three. Plump was the operative word: until a few weeks earlier, he'd been a No.8! Against the Lions, he shovelled all kinds of hospital passes at his fly-half, after which Sonnekus was left out of international rugby for a decade. When he returned, he scored a try against England - playing at No.8. Meanwhile back in 1974, South Africa hadn't scored a try in three Tests and were in danger of losing all four (27 July).
Tom Watson won the Open at the first attempt. The previous month, he'd disintegrated at the US Open after opening rounds of 67 and 68, but he held up well here at Carnoustie. Middle rounds of 67 and 69 were bettered by Jack Newton's 65 in the third, but Watson took two strokes off the Australian to draw level at the end of the fourth round, with Jack Nicklaus a shot behind. In today's play-off, the last to be staged over 18 holes in a British Open, Watson made his fifth bogey in five visits to the short 16th but had two big strokes of luck. At the 8th, he hooked his tee shot - it would have gone out of bounds if it hadn't hit a strand of wire on a fence and bounced back into play. And he chipped in from 27 feet at the 14th. So instead of being comfortably ahead, Newton was level coming to the last hole, where he found a bunker and missed his final putt from 15 feet. Poor Newton never won a major and lost an arm and an eye in an accident with a helicopter blade in 1983. Watson went on to win the Open another four times, starting with an epic battle against Nicklaus in 1977 (9 July).
Ten years after Laura Davies became US Open champion, little Alison Nicholas became the second British golfer to win the event. At 35, she was five years younger than former major winner Nancy Lopez, who finished second for the fourth time, 22 years after the first. Nicholas led by three strokes overnight and finished one ahead after Lopez missed her chance at the 17th. Nicholas took five after overshooting the green and getting a free drop from the stands - but Lopez found a bunker, then left a 12-foot putt inches short.
Iwan Thomas ran the 400 metres in 44.36 seconds to beat Roger Black's 1996 time by a hundredth of a second and set the British record that still stands.
The only player to win the men's singles at Wimbledon six years in a row. It's a cheap little record really, because there was a Challenge Round at the time, so Willie Renshaw had to play only one match in each of the last five years. Today he beat idiosyncratic baseliner Herbert Lawford for the third year in a row, winning the first set 6-0 but losing the second 7-5 when Lawford came to the net more. Renshaw pulled back from 4-1 and 5-3 down before Lawford held his nerve to take it 7-5. But in the next two sets Renshaw played the big points better, winning three deuce games in the third and the last two of the fourth. He would probably have won seven titles in a row if he hadn't withdrawn with tennis elbow in 1887. So Lawford and Renshaw's twin brother Ernest won their only singles titles before Willie came back to win his seventh in 1889 (8 July).
Jacques Villeneuve won the British Grand Prix for the second year in a row on his way to becoming world champion. He started from pole but was lucky when two leaders dropped out with mechanical failures: Michael Schumacher after setting the fastest lap and leading by 40 seconds, and Mika Häkkinen.
Dorothy Round was born in Worcestershire. When Helen Wills Moody stayed away, Round won the Wimbledon singles title twice. She'd already given the American idol a hard match in the 1933 final, winning the second set 8-6, and the following year she beat Helen Jacobs to win the title (7 July). Wills Moody popped over to win in 1935, then Round survived the 1937 Final against Poland's Jadwiga Jedzręjowska (3 July). Both of Round's winning finals went to a third set after she lost the second, but her booming groundstrokes, as hard as most men, saw her through. In each year, Round added the bonus of the mixed doubles title, which she won three times in a row, the first with Tatsuyoshi (Ryuki) Miki of Japan, the last two with Fred Perry.
In a packed day of track and field at the Olympics, the legendary Paavo Nurmi won his fifth gold medal of the Games, an unequalled record. He was running his seventh race in six days, including two finals within two hours (10 July) and a cross-country run in murderous heat (12 July), but today he had the great Ville Ritola alongside him, so Finland had no trouble winning the 3,000 metres team race.
Another Finn, the veteran Albin Stenroos (born 25 February 1889) won the Marathon twelve years after finishing third in the 10,000 metres (8 July). Pulling away just before halfway, he won by nearly six minutes from Romeo Bertini of Italy, with multiple Boston Marathon winner Clarence DeMar third. The same heat that affected the cross-country race (12 July) was too much for many of the runners today: only 30 of the 58 finished the race - though it was obviously a race for experienced men: Stenroos was 35, Bertini 31, DeMar 36.
On the track, the ebullient little Italian Ugo Frigerio retained his title in the 10,000 metre walk, while the USA set world records in winning both relays, with Britain picking up a silver and bronze.
In the field, Clarence Houser won the discus to become the last man to do the shot-discus double at the Games. He won the discus again four years later.