- July 23 down the years
Woods records thumping Open win
When Tiger Woods won the British Open for the first time, he won it big. By eight shots. By shooting 19 under par, which broke the Major record set by Nick Faldo on the same St Andrews course ten years earlier (22 July). Woods began with a 67 which left him one stroke behind Ernie Els, then took the lead and increased it after every round: 66 to lead by three, 67 (by six), and finally 69, ahead of Els and Thomas Bjørn. Woods was now the youngest golfer to win all four Majors. He shot 18-under at the US PGA that season (20 August) - just enough to force a play-off.
Two days earlier, Jack Nicklaus missed the cut in his last British Open, on his favourite course, where he'd won the Championship twice. Emotional farewell, posing for photos on the Swilcan Bridge, the works. It was also his 40th wedding anniversary.
If you're going to hole a 60-foot putt at the last, don't lose the play-off after it: it's a real anti-climax. Today in 1995, Italy's Costantino Rocca rolled in his monster putt from off the green, one of the most dramatic shots in any Major - but couldn't come back to earth in time for the four-hole play-off. He dropped a shot to John Daly at each of the first two, then took seven at the third. At the second, just to show he could do it too, Daly holed from 40 feet. But he'd played more conservative golf than when he made his sensational breakthrough at the US PGA in 1991 (11 August).
Floyd Landis of the USA won the Tour de France by 57 seconds - then became the first rider to lose it after a drugs test. He lost eight minutes on the 16th stage, then suddenly came out and dominated the next one, charging up the hills at a suspicious rate. He made up almost all his deficit and took the lead a couple of stages later. Too quick a recovery, Floyd. The race was awarded to Oscar Pereiro of Spain.
In 1989, Laurent Fignon lost the Tour in a completely different but equally excruciating way. Going into the last day, he led Greg Lemond by 50 seconds, and the final time trial from Versailles looked a formality. A hunting accident two years earlier left Lemond with dozens of shotgun pellets in his body, but he rode the fastest time trial in Tour history up to then, and by the time Fignon came into the Champs Elysées, it was dawning on people that he might just possibly lose. When he did, he did it by eight seconds, the smallest margin in any Tour de France. It was the last time a time trial took place on the final day: the race has ended with a procession into Paris ever since. For today's trial, Lemond used handlebar extensions and wore a helmet while Fignon was bare-headed. Someone seriously suggested that his ponytail lost him ten seconds over the whole Tour! The following year, Lemond won the race for the third time. Fignon won it for the second and last time in 1984.
In 1995, Miguel Indurain equalled a record by winning the Tour for the fifth time and set one by doing it for the fifth year in a row. He took the lead after the eighth stage and held it to the end to win by more than 4½ minutes from Alex Zülle. The race was marred by the death of an Olympic champion on the 18th.
The oldest and youngest winners of the Tour de France both did it today. Henri Cornet eleven days short of his 20th birthday in 1904, and 36-year-old Fermin Lambot in 1922.
The 1904 Tour was a shambles, a litany of alleged skulduggery and crowd violence. Defending champion Maurice Garin (18 July 1903) led all the way again, but the first four riders were disqualified - and Cornet, who was born Henri Jaudry, inherited the race from fifth place. He was lucky and the penalties were draconian. The only crime any riders seemed to have committed was accepting food from unauthorised sources! And getting in the way of spectators' missiles.
Lambot was even luckier in 1922. In those days, a broken bike cost you the Tour. No instant replacements like nowadays. So a number of top riders dropped out with a broken fork (poor Eugène Christophe again) or a broken wheel (three-time Tour winner Philippe Thys), or after a series of punctures (yellow jersey Jean Alavoine). Finally, Hector Heusghem lost the lead when he was handed a one-hour penalty for swapping his bike after an accident. Lambot wore the number 13 and took the lead on the 13th stage! He won the race by a hefty 41 minutes without winning a stage.
Conventional wisdom states that the most gold Olympic medals won in track and field is nine, by Paavo Nurmi and Carl Lewis (both 29 July). Except it isn't. Ray Ewry (born 14 October 1873) competed in the standing jumps, which are obsolete now, and he took part in the 1906 Olympics, which some people sniff at but were definitely official Games at the time. Today in London, Ewry won his 10th Olympic gold medal, jumping an inch higher than US team mate John Biller. It was the fourth time he'd won the event. Three days earlier, he'd also retained the standing long jump, the first competitor in any sport to win the same event at four Olympics.
The gymnast carried to the medal rostrum with her foot in plaster. At the Olympic Games, the USA were neck and neck with Russia for the women's team title. When Kerri Strug landed from her first vault, she felt a terrible pain in her ankle. Her team mates and national coach Béla Karolyi urged her to give her leg a good shake and take her second vault. She did, made a good score, then collapsed in agony. When the USA won the gold, Karolyi carried her to the rostrum. Strug had to withdraw from all her individual events, and the ankle injury stayed with her for life, thanks to that second vault - which it turns out the USA didn't need. Even without it, they would have won easily.
An action-packed day's athletics at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, including two runners who fell to earth.
In the 3,000 metres steeplechase, new world record holder Kerry O'Brien tripped over the water jump on the penultimate lap. His Oz team mate Tony Manning ran away to a surprise gold medal ahead of fancied Kenyans Ben Jipcho and Olympic champion Amos Biwott.
New Zealand's Sylvia Potts also fell, even more achingly close to a gold medal. She was in the process of taking the lead just ten yards from the end of the 1500 metres when she suddenly fell over. Not tripped, just fell. "My legs just ran out of running." When she got up, she was less than a yard from the line, but so many runners had passed her that she didn't hurry to cross it. England's Rita Ridley won the race.