• July 26 down the years

Raul leaves Real Madrid

Raul made an emotional exit from Real Madrid © Getty Images

Real Madrid legend Raul bade farewell to the Bernabeu after 16 years of service. He left as Real's all-time leading goalscorer and the all-time leading scorer in the Champions League. Shorn of blinding pace, strength or aerial ability, Raul made a career out of living on instinct, using his delicious left foot to chip, dink, place and power shots past countless goalkeepers. He won six La Liga titles, three Champions Leagues, four Spanish Super Cups and one UEFA Super Cup, as well as becoming the first player to score in two Champions League finals, against Valencia and Bayer Leverkusen in 2000 and 2002 respectively.

Alberto Contador won the Tour de France for the second time, much more easily than the first (29 July 2007): more than four minutes ahead of Luxembourg's Andy Schleck. But the big stories were a little lower down. Lance Armstrong came third at the age of 37, before he was eventually stripped of his seven Tour wins after admitting to doping during all of them. Bradley Wiggins, triple Olympic champion on the track, was fourth, only six minutes behind the winner. A real watch-this-space performance, with Wiggins going on to become Britain's first winner of the Tour three years later.

If you're born Tanni Carys Davina Grey, you're already on the way to becoming Baroness Grey-Thompson, Dame Commander of the British Empire. Born with spina bifida, she became the most successful wheelchair athlete of all time, winner of 11 Olympic gold medals from 1992 to 2004, plus six at the World Championships. She won every event from 100 metres to 800 as well as the London Marathon six times. Great versatility and triceps of fire.

Stephen Roche of Ireland won the Tour de France. He fought a classic duel in the mountains with Spain's Pedro Delgado, especially on La Plagne, where Roche had to be given oxygen. He trailed Delgado by only 21 seconds before the final time trial, then won it to take the whole race by only 40. Later in the year, Roche became the only rider apart from Eddy Merckx (21 July 1974) to win the Tour, the Giro, and the World Championship road race in the same year. Delgado won the Tour controversially the following year (24 July).

Two Olympic gold medals for Britain in track and field. After finishing fifth in the 800 metres four years earlier (25 July), Steve Ovett wouldn't have come first this time if Seb Coe hadn't cocked it up. When you're the world record holder but your main rival has a faster sprint, you need to set a fast pace and be ahead of him at the final turn. A no-brainer, yes? But that's what Coe was in this race. Even after a very slow opening lap, he didn't take it on. When Ovett sprinted into the lead on the home straight, Coe was still dawdling near the back. After making every mistake you can make in a championship race (his words), he won a silver medal that hurt, and had to pick himself up for the 1500 metres, Ovett's speciality, on 1 August.

A number of countries supported the USA's boycott of these Games, including West Germany, which deprived the decathlon of its world record holder. But Guido Kratschmer would have had to go some to beat Daley Thompson, who was a better competitor. When the boycott was announced, Thompson broke training so he could take Kratschmer on. He not only beat him, but also set a world record of 8,622. Kratschmer responded with 8.649 the following month, but only because Thompson wasn't there. Here in Moscow, Daley scored only 8,495 points because he didn't need any more. When he did, he retained the title emphatically four years later (9 August).

The boycott did make a huge difference to the 400 metres hurdles. Ed Moses set a world record in winning the event in 1976 (25 July) and would have walked away with it this time. In his absence, gold went to the talented East German Volker Beck and bronze to Britain's dogged Gary Oakes, whose wife-to-be Heather Hunte won the same medal in the sprint relay. Moses regained the title in 1984 (5 August).

An altogether less successful Olympics for British athletics. Brendan Foster won the country's only track and field medal at these Games, a distant bronze behind Lasse Virén, who retained the 10,000 metre title. Foster was many people's favourite for the event, but his usual mixture of fizzy drinks on a nervous stomach left him struggling to hold off team mate Tony Simmons. Virén took the lead on the penultimate lap and won easily from Portugal's Carlos Lopes, who won the Marathon eight years later (12 August).

The first woman to swim 400 metres in under four minutes. The go-faster bodysuits led to an absolute plague of world records that year, especially at the World Championships, where they were set in 31 different events. In the 400 metres freestyle, Federica Pellegrini delighted the Roman crowd by touching in 3 minutes 59.15, more than a second faster than the British pair of former world record holder Jo Jackson and Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington. Pellegrini set another world record at the Championships three days later.

Vitas Gerulaitis was a popular figure in men's tennis © Getty Images

Vitas Gerulaitis was born Vytautas Gerulaitis to Lithuanian parents in New York. The great tennis playboy of his generation and most others, highly visible with his long frizzy blond hair and speed around the court, he didn't have big enough shots to win consistently against Borg, McEnroe, and Connors. He lost a US Open final to McEnroe, a French Open final to Borg, and a famous Wimbledon semi-final to Borg in 1977, losing the fifth set 8-6. Gerulaitis won the doubles there with Sandy Meyer in 1975. His only Grand Slam singles title was the Australian Open in 1977, when he beat Britain's John Lloyd in the Final (31 December). Popular with other players as well as fans, Vitas lived fast and died young: he was only 40 when he succumbed to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in his sleep.

Brave British boxer battles to world title. Freddie Mills becoming light-heavyweight champion was just reward for all the punches he took in a hard career. Some of those were dished out by Gus Lesnevich when he retained the world title by stopping Mills in ten rounds (14 May 1946). Tonight Lesnevich was back in London for the rematch, and he must have thought he could carry on where he finished off, because he went steaming in right at the start, driving Mills into the ropes. But Lesnevich came out of that encounter with cuts over both eyes, and he generally kept his distance after that. So did our Fred, reluctant to take risks after what happened in the first fight. The referee had to call for more action from both boxers in the sixth round, then again in the tenth, when Mills reacted at last, knocking the champion down twice and keeping him away with hurtful jabs for the rest of the fight. Fearless Freddie lost the title two years later but deserved to have won it - and a better retirement than the one he ended in 1965 (25 July).

The notorious Jarmila Kratochvílová set a world record that still stands, a scary 1 minute 53.28 seconds for 800 metres. Caster Semenya ran 1:55.45 in 2009. Later in 1983, the heavily muscled Krach became the first woman to run 400 metres in under 48 seconds. Many women's world records still survive from the 1980s, including the shot, discus, heptathlon, FloJo's 100 and 200, and Marita Koch's 400.

After inflicting South Africa's record home defeat at rugby union (19 July), New Zealand scored seven tries and 50 points in an away match for the second time in a week. Here in Sydney, they won 50-21, with their express wingers Doug Howlett and Joe Rokocoko scoring four tries again. Rokocoko became the first player to score three in a Tri-Nations match. The All Blacks would have looked firm favourites for the World Cup later that year if they hadn't lost at home to England the previous month.

The oldest Olympic Games competitor was also the oldest to win a medal. Oscar Swahn was 72 and long white bearded when he helped Sweden win silver in the running deer double-shot team event. He was already 60 when he won his first gold medal, in 1908, and 64 when he became the oldest gold medallist ever (4 July 1912), the same year that his son Alfred also won Olympic gold.

At the other end of the age scale, Canadian swimmer Allison Higson was the youngest gold medallist at any Commonwealth Games: only 13 when she won the 200 breaststroke in 1986. She also won the 100 breast.

Talking of precocious female swimmers, Sharron Davies was a child star. Picked for the 1976 Olympics at 13, double Commonwealth Games gold medallist at 15. She was still only 17 when she proved herself a top all-round swimmer at the 1980 Olympics. The Americans boycotted the Games, but they would have struggled to catch another 17-year-old in the 400 metre individual medley: East German Petra Schneider broke her own world record in winning the gold, with Davies more than ten seconds adrift in second place. Twenty-five years later, Schneider asked for her records to be removed from the books because she'd achieved them with the help of steroids.

The day it all got too much for Roger Bannister. He was one of the favourites for the Olympic 1500 metres - until someone decided to add a semi-final round. Bannister, who'd prepared for just a heat and a final, didn't have time to adjust his training, and in the final he ran out of steam and finished fourth behind tough little Josy Barthel of Luxembourg. But Bannister secured his place in history two years later (6 May).

The great Bob Matthias retained his Olympic decathlon title. When he won it in 1948, he was only 17. Now he scored 7,887 points to break his own world record and win by a crushing 912. He would have been hot favourite to win a third gold in 1956 if he hadn't been declared a professional for playing himself in a film of his life.

Meanwhile little Soviet strongwoman Galina Zybina won the shot putt with a world record in the last round - and Australia's Marjorie Jackson completed the sprint double by winning the 200 metres.

Cecil Parke was born James Cecil Parke in County Monaghan. A forgotten name by now, he was one of the top all-round sportsmen, especially in tennis and rugby. The only Wimbledon titles he won were the mixed doubles in 1912 and 1914, but he went to Australian in 1912 to win the singles title there and help the British Isles regain the Davis Cup. Parke's win over Norman Brookes in the opening singles (28 November) was one of the great performances. A talented rugby centre, Parke won 20 caps for Ireland, scoring two tries and kicking assorted conversions and penalty goals, including one of each in his last game, a win against France in 1909. His try against England that year couldn't prevent an 11-5 defeat at home.

In the 20 kilometre walk, Jefferson Pérez won Ecuador's only Olympic gold medal. In the same event in 2008, he won only their second medal.