• July 27 down the years

Redgrave & Pinsent spare British blushes

Sir Steven Redgrave won the coxless pairs for the third time © Getty Images

Britain's only gold medal at these Olympic Games. In their 100th race together, Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent retained their coxless pairs title. Redgrave had already won the event with Andy Holmes in 1988 and Pinsent in 1992 (August 1). This time they held a substantial lead at halfway and held on to beat the Australians by less than a second. Never in doubt, according to Redgrave, though it looked as if Pinsent rather dragged him over the line. Redgrave had certainly had enough by now: immediately after the race, he granted people permission to shoot him if they saw him in a boat again. Presumably nobody tried to, because he and Pinsent were back four years later (September 23).

Swimming bodysuits helped set dozens of world records this year, including three in one day at the World Championships. Brenton Rickard of Australia in the 100 metres breaststroke, Sweden's Sarah Sjoström in the 100 butterfly, and Ariana Kukors of the USA in the 200 individual medley. The two women broke records they'd set themselves the day before. World records were broken in 31 different events at these Championships.

The last day England ever held the Davis Cup. With Fred Perry in the team, they'd regained the trophy in 1933 and held it ever since, winning the final for the last time in 1936 (July 28). But now Perry had turned pro, and Britain were exposed to a USA team headed by the great Don Budge. He'd just won his first Wimbledon singles title, and now he was back on Centre Court for the Inter-Zonal round against Germany, winning an epic deciding singles against Gottfried von Cramm (July 20) to send the States into the Challenge Round. They began that by losing the opening singles, Frank Parker going down in three sets to 'Bunny' Austin. But without Perry, Britain had to use Charles Hare in the second singles, and he wasn't in the same class. Even so, he gave Budge a tough time in the first set before losing it 15-13 and the next two easily. Budge was also Wimbledon champion in the doubles with Gene Mako, and they now beat former champion Raymond Tuckey and former finalist Frank Wilde, although again the Brits made them work for it, winning the third set 9-7 before losing the fourth 12-10. That was the end of it, because Hare had no chance against Parker, and Budge's win over Austin only widened the margin to 4-1. The USA won the Cup for the first time since 1926. Britain didn't reach the Final again until 1978 (December 10).

In rugby union, the British Lions won the first three Tests in South Africa (July 13) and were looking for their first whitewash there since the inaugural series in 1891 (July 30). But they gave their worst performance of the four, partly because South Africa gave their best, which wasn't saying much. With both sides making a string of mistakes and missing kicks at goal, the score was 13-13 with five minutes to go. The Lions were awarded a try when Roger Uttley was judged to have beaten Chris Pope to a touchdown, and the Springboks scored their only try of the series when Peter Cronjé picked up a bouncing pass. Now the Lions' great full-back JPR Williams made one his trademark runs through the middle. With blood dripping from his nose, he beat two players before taking a tackle and passing to flanker Fergus Slattery, who forced the ball down between Cronjé's legs for the winning try. Except that South African referee Max Baise gave a five-yard scrum, so South Africa escaped with a 3-0 defeat and celebrated as if they'd won the series. Why did Baise blow so quickly? To prevent a maul forming, he claimed. They 'can be dangerous, and I don't like to let them develop.' But there was precious little chance of that with only one other player anywhere near. 'Other players were arriving quickly,' said Baise. But not so quickly that he had to blow after two seconds. He later cited his decision to award Uttley's try was the worst of his career. Second worst maybe, Max.

Cuban high jumper Javier Sotomayor set the world record that's still with us. Four years earlier, he'd cleared 2.44 metres, the first eight-foot jump in history. Now he jumped a centimetre higher. He tested positive for cocaine in 1999 and steroids in 2001.

Javier Sotomayor's high jump record still stands today © Getty Images

Steve Cram ran a mile in 3 minutes 46.32 seconds to improve the time set by Seb Coe four years earlier. Cram's time lasted as a world record until 1993 and is still the best by a British runner.

Diego Maradona left his post as Argentina boss after a unanimous vote from the Argentine Football Association. Maradona had been offered a new four-year contract but said he would only continue on condition that his backroom staff remained. Argentina exited the 2010 World Cup at the quarter-final stage under Maradona, losing 4-0 to Germany, a result largely blamed on the coach's decision to leave European Cup winners Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso at home.

The youngest ever Olympic gold medallist in swimming. Kyoko Iwasaki of Japan was only six days past her 14th birthday when she won the 200 metres breaststroke. She swam an Olympic record 2 minutes 26.65 seconds to beat Lin Li of China. Third place went to American world record holder Anita Nall, who shared the same birthday as Iwasaki but was two years older.

In contrast, 35-year-old German Mark Warnecke became the oldest medallist at any World Long-course Championships when he won gold in the 50 metres breaststroke in 2005.

Not a great day for two Olympic champions from Britain.

At the Games in Atlanta, defending 100 metre champion Linford Christie was a 36-year-old grandad by now, so he wouldn't have challenged Canada's Donovan Bailey, who set a world record of 9.84 seconds in succeeding him as champion. Christie didn't even trail home in Bailey's wake: he was disqualified for two false starts.

In the triple jump, Jonathan Edwards had set two huge world records the previous year (August 7), and he jumped a long way again today. But he couldn't catch former world champion Kenny Harrison, who reached 18.09 metres. No-one jumps this kind of distance any more.

Mo Farah became the first British runner to win the European 10,000 metre crown. Farah produced a stunning sprint-finish to destroy his rivals in Barcelona, earning Britain's first medal at the Championships.

The stage that won Marco Pantani the Tour de France. One of the great climbers but ordinary in time trials, he came to the last Alpine stage needing to gain more than seven minutes on Jan Ullrich to have any chance of taking the Tour. Seven minutes. Against a defending champion who was the ultimate all-round cyclist and had a former Tour winner among his outriders. Seven minutes. Unthinkable in modern-day cycling. Oh, I don't know, thought Pantani; let's give it a go. Riding through a thunderstorm in the dark, he set such a pace that Ullrich's assistants couldn't keep up, leaving their leader to do his own chasing. He couldn't. On the anniversary of his winning the Tour the previous year, Ullrich struggled home in agony. Ahead of him, after one of the iconic solo rides, Pantani reached the finish on Les Deux Alpes with his eyes shut and arms out like a crucifixion. He now led Ullrich by nearly six minutes and won the race by under 3½. He was the last rider to win the Giro and Tour in the same year. Ullrich finished runner-up another three times but never won the Tour again.

A day for Soviet giants at the Olympics.

Legendary fat-bellied weightlifter Vasili Alekseyev (born January 7, 1966) retained his super-heavyweight title. He was 34 by now and nearly 25 stone, the sort of ballast you need for jerking a world record 255 kilos, 25 more than in 1972. Alekseyev won the event by 35k from the East German who'd won bronze four years earlier, that gift to schoolboy humour Gerd Bonk.

When women's basketball was introduced to the Games, the event was dominated by the USSR, who beat the USA 112-77. The Soviet player who attracted most media interest was Ulyana Semyonova, who was born with gigantism and stood 6' 11 (2.11 metres). She averaged nearly 20 points a game despite being spending most of her time on the bench. One of the American silver medallists, Nancy Lieberman, later trained Martina Navrátilová.