- July 16 down the years
Schumacher shatters his own record
Michael Schumacher became the only driver to win the same Formula 1 race eight times. He was already the only one to win one seven times: in Canada, San Marino, and here in France, where today he started on pole and set the fastest lap. But Fernando Alonso finished second and retained the world title at the end of the season.
On the same day in 1955, Stirling Moss won a World Championship race for the first time and became the first British driver to win the British Grand Prix since 1936, when it was known as the Donington GP. In a thrilling race, Moss started on pole and swapped the lead with reigning world champion Juan Manuel Fangio before winning by only a tenth of a second after more than three hours' driving. Typically modest, Moss suggested that Fangio, his Mercedes team mate, had let him win. Fangio retained the world title that season, with Moss a distant but distinguished second.
In 1995, Johnny Herbert inherited the British Grand Prix after Damon Hill drove into Michael Schumacher. Nothing unusual in that. Hill started from pole, then swapped the lead with Schumacher from one pit stop to the next. Near the end, Hill made two attempts to pass on the same lap. The second time, they both ended up in the gravel trap. It was the last of Herbert's three wins in Formula 1, from 161 starts. Crumbs from the table. Schumacher retained the world title that year.
Losing to Lithuania at tennis in 2010 was the pits, but this was right down there. The day Britain were relegated from the top division of the Davis Cup after losing to Ecuador - at Wimbledon, too. In the deciding singles, Arvind Parmar lost to a 17-year-old clay-court specialist who'd recently been knocked out in the second round of the junior singles at Wimbledon. Giovanni Lapentti, ranked 959 in the world to Parmar's 147, won in five sets after losing the first two. Tim Henman had levelled the tie by beating Lapentti's brother Nicolás in straight sets - but the two Brits had lost the doubles the day before.
Athletics provided better news for British sport. In Gateshead, the British men's team had to do without Colin Jackson, Steve Backley, Jonathan Edwards, Jason Gardener, and Iwan Thomas - but still won the European Cup. Their event winners were Darren Campbell (100 metres), Christian Malcolm (200), Jamie Baulch (400), Chris Rawlinson (400 hurdles), 'Larry' Achike (triple jump), and the sprint relay team. Germany were in the lead before the final event, the 4x400 metres relay, but amazed everyone by finishing only seventh. Baulch brought the hosts home in second place, enough to win the whole competition by just half a point.
Defending champion Mark O'Meara (19 July 1998) missed the cut at the British Open. So did Sergio García, only more so. Golf's new young gun, 19-year-old winner of two events in his debut season on the European Tour, he finished his first British Open in tears after rounds of 89 and 83, thirty over par! In the US PGA the following month, García shot 66 in the first round and finished only one shot behind winner Tiger Woods. Meanwhile here at Carnoustie, we were treated to the Jean Van de Velde Show, with Paul Lawrie in the supporting cast (18 July).
At the US Olympic trials, Florence Griffith Joyner ran the 100 metres in an obscene 10.49 seconds, a world record that looks likely to last for decades. There isn't much doubt that the time was wind-assisted. It was blowing a gale in Indianapolis that weekend. Carl Lewis ran the 100 metres in 9.78 and Willie Banks triple-jumped 18.06 and 18.20, all in excess of world records. But the wind allegedly blew at an angle when FloJo ran her 100, so the wind gauge registered zero. In the next two days, she ran 10.70 and 10.61 - this from a woman who'd never run such times before but was now shattering the previous world record at the age of 28.
In Nice, Steve Cram became the first runner to go under 3½ minutes for 1500 metres. After a tremendous race with his great rival, Said Aouita of Morocco, Cram stopped the clock at 3:29.67, which broke the world record of 3:30.77 set by fellow Brit Steve Ovett four years earlier. Cram's record didn't last quite so long - Aouita broke it the following month - but it's still an unapproachable British best.
In rugby league, Iestyn Harris amassed a Super League record 42 points for Leeds Rhinos against Huddersfield Giants. He scored four tries and kicked 13 goals in a 86-6 win.
Miguel Indurain was born in Spain. The first cyclist to win the Tour de France five years in a row (23 July), he would have made it six but for bronchitis. In time trials on the road, he was world champion in 1995 and Olympic champion the following year. In 1994, he set a short-lived world record for distance travelled in a hour. Since this is cycling, pharmaceuticals rear their head. He tested positive for salbutamol, a drug banned by the IOC but with exceptions made for asthma sufferers. His resting pulse rate was a basement 28 beats a minute, lower than Björn Borg's.
New Zealand completed their first 4-0 whitewash over the Lions since 1966. The margin of victory in the first three matches had been close, but the All Blacks were always in control. As always, they acted on what they saw. The Lions' only real threat came from the boot of fly-half Ollie Campbell. After he'd kicked all 12 of their points in the first Test, New Zealand didn't give away a single kickable penalty in either of the next two. With the series in the bag, they came out of their shells today. Winger Stu Wilson scored three of their six tries, and flaky full-back Alan Hewson scored another on his way to 26 points, a world record between major countries at the time. But they were middleweights beating up lightweights. This was one of the worst Lions squads in history, captained by Ciaran Fitzgerald, a very ordinary hooker. So a good but not great All Black team were able to win 38-6, worth 44-6 in today's money. The Lions scored a grand total of two tries in the four matches.
Two British runners won gold medals at the Olympic Games. In a slow race even by the standards of the time, 2 minutes 01.2 seconds was enough for Alf Tysoe to win the 800 metres ahead of two Americans. Bronze medallist David Hall ran 1:59.0 in his heat but four seconds slower in the final. Tysoe was only 27 when he died of pleurisy the following year.
Britain filled the first three places in the 4,000 metres steeplechase. John Rimmer led from the front and held off the new 1500 metre champion Charles Bennett (15 July) and Sidney Robinson.
America's Meyer Prinstein channelled his anger at the long jump result into winning the triple jump for the first time, ahead of defending champion Jim Connolly, the first modern Olympic champion in any sport (6 April 1896).
Prinstein wasn't pleased to know that the winner of that contentious long jump, Alvin Kraenzlein, also won the 200 metres hurdles. It was his last gold medal at these Games, making him the only track and field athlete to win four individual golds at one Olympics.
Meanwhile mighty John Flanagan became the first Olympic champion in the hammer throw. An Irishman who'd emigrated to the USA only three years earlier, he came very close to his own world record by throwing 51.01 metres, over 15 feet further than the silver medallist. Flanagan won the event for the third time in 1908 (14 July).
Margaret Court was born Margaret Smith in New South Wales. With her size and wingspan, big Madge covered a tennis net like no woman before her. No-one, woman or man, has equalled her total of 24 Grand Slam singles titles, but 11 of those were at the Australian, which many of the top players didn't always travel to. She won Wimbledon three times from 1963 to 1970, and the US and French five times each, as well as two US Nationals. It might have been even more but for her famous nerves: she lost a lot of matches by freezing on big points. Evonne Goolagong, for instance, was too loose for her in the 1971 Wimbledon final. There again, Court's record looks even better when you consider the opposition: she had major rivalries with Maria Bueno, then Billie Jean King, with Britain's Ann Jones in the mix. Court helped Australia to six Fed Cup finals, including the first in 1963 (20 June), winning four of them.
At the Olympic Games in London, Britain won gold in the cycling - and might have made it two if people hadn't punctured and pratted about. The blue ribald 100-kilometre race was run in heavy rain which made the track a soaking trap. There were falls and punctures galore, including one that forced the retirement of Britain's world champion Leon Meredith. His team mate Charles Bartlett fell and damaged his bike. He found a replacement and restarted, only to be called back to the point where he fell. Setting off 600 yards behind the leaders, he caught them with a mile to go and won a sprint finish. After more than 2 hours and 40 minutes, he finished less than a bike width ahead. Bronze medallist Octave Lapize won the Tour de France two years later (31 July).
The same wet conditions affected the final of the sprint, with three British riders missing out. Victor Johnson and Clarrie Kingsbury punctured before Maurice Schilles of France beat Ben Jones in the race for the line. But the last three had spent so much time crawling round for position that they exceeded the time limit and the race was declared void. No medals were awarded.
In the athletics field, two mighty men added to their haul of gold. Massive Ralph Rose won the shot putt as he'd done in 1904, and Martin Sheridan won the discus as he'd done in 1904 and 1906. Ireland's Denis Horgan, competing for Britain, finished second in the shot at the age of 37.
The first player to kick five penalty goals in an international rugby union match was a prop, of all people. In Cape Town, Aaron 'Okey' Geffin kicked all of South Africa's points in a 15-11 win over New Zealand, who led 11-3 at half-time after scoring the only try of the match. It was the start of the All Blacks' worst ever year. They lost all six Tests, including all four in this series in South Africa, all by narrow margins. Safe to say they weren't enamoured of local refereeing: Geffin kicked all the points again in the third Test, which again New Zealand lost after scoring a try. Ten years later, the whistle was in the other mouth against the British Lions (18 July).