- August 23 down the years
Holmes strikes gold
The position Kelly Holmes must have doubted she'd ever find herself in. After all the injuries and minor medals, she was in the mix coming down the home straight. This was her third 800-metre final at the Olympics, and you could say she'd been moving up: fourth in 1996, bronze in 2000. But she was 34 by now, with her eyes on the 1500 metres. Anything she got from today's race would be a bonus, even if it was just extra training. As bonuses go...When Holmes overtook Maria Mutola, not many people thought she'd stay in the lead. Mutola was the defending champion and there were faster runners on the way. But they'd left it a fraction too late. When Holmes crossed the line, her delighted amazement was one of the images of the Games. She finished five hundredths of a second ahead of Morocco's Hasna Ben Hassi, with Mutola fourth. One of the great moments in British sport - with every chance of another one to come: Holmes was going to be relaxed and dangerous in the 1500 (August 28).
Not much was expected from James DeGale at these Olympics. He'd gone into the 2006 Commonwealth Games as favourite to win the middleweight boxing division but lost in the semi-finals. Then he lost heavily in the first round at the 2007 World Championships. But here in Beijing he threw off his reputation for freezing on the big occasion. In the quarter-finals, he beat Bakhtiyar Artayev of Kazakhstan, welterweight champion at the previous Olympics. In the semis, DeGale outpointed tragic Irishman Darren Sutherland, who suffered from depression when he hanged himself the following year. In the Olympic final, DeGale faced Cuba's Emilio Correa, whose father Emilio senior won welterweight gold at the 1972 Games. The fight was a video nasty from the start. Correa was deducted two points for biting, which left him 6-1 down at the end of the first round. DeGale was a point further ahead after the second, but lost two in the third for holding and finished it only 12-10 up. They wrestled each other to the floor three times, the referee lost control, and Correa closed to within a point in the last round. But DeGale kept his cool to win 16-14. He made his pro debut the following year.
The oldest Grand Slam singles champion in tennis. Molla Mallory was 42 when she won the US title for the eighth time, which is still a record for the Championship. The final was a battle of hefty baseliners, and Mallory came from a set down then survived a match point and a 4-0 deficit in the final set against 34-year-old Elizabeth 'Bunny' Ryan.
Talking of veterans, today in 1950 saw a British runner become the oldest athlete to win gold at any European Championship. Jack Holden took the age record from another Marathon runner (22 August) and added to his own portfolio: earlier in the year (February 11), he'd become the oldest to win gold in track and field at the Commonwealth Games. Today he was happy that the race was run in the evening, and a cool one, after a thunderstorm just before the runners left the stadium. The 43-year-old Holden shook off assorted French and Belgians before duelling with the highly-rated Soviet runner Feodosi Vanin, grinding him down with five kilometres to go. Holden finished half a minute clear of Finland's Veikko Karvonen, who was gifted the race four years later (August 25).
Like father, like son? Not yet. At the Dutch Open, Bernhard Langer's 17-year-old son Stefan shot 98 in his first ever round on the European Tour - 31 strokes behind his dad. Langer junior's card included a 12 at the second hole, where he lost two balls, plus three triple-bogeys and four double-bogeys. He hit only one fairway. Some small consolation: the only way is up - and Stefan's round wasn't the worst in European history. One of Britain's top golfers shot 111 in 1978 (May 5).
Another Olympic gold for Britain in track and field. Only six countries entered the 4x400 metres relay - which didn't stop the organisers from insisting on two semi-finals, with the top three qualifying from each one. Since only three took part in each race, naturally all six reached the final! You do wonder sometimes. Anyway, once the race got going, it was clear that the USA had a weak team for once, and they finished out of the medals. Nineteen-year-old Cecil Griffiths ran a massive first leg for Britain, giving Robert Lindsay a big lead, and the rest was relatively inevitable. John Ainsworth-Davis had finished fifth in the individual fnal (August 20), while Guy Butler had won silver behind Bevil Rudd. On the last leg of the relay, Rudd brought South Africa into second place, but Britain won by several yards. France took the bronze medal after an opening leg by Géo André, who'd won silver in the high jump at the 1912 Games and played international rugby just before the War.
The first player to be sin-binned in a rugby union international. James Holbeck against South Africa in Pretoria. It was a bad day for Australia all round. Fielding a strong team, they trailed only 18-15 at half-time but collapsed in the second half, losing 61-22. Holbeck's yellow card didn't affect the outcome: New Zealand referee Paddy O'Brien didn't show it until ten minutes from time. Australia's backs scored three tries, two by all-time stars Joe Roff and Holbeck's centre partner Jason Little. But the Springboks scored eight, including one by Jannie de Beer, who converted six of them as well as kicking three penalty goals. Holbeck won only one more cap, as a substitute four years later.
Wrestling was included in the very first Olympic Games in 1896. Today the men kindly allowed the women to take part at last. Finals took place in four weight divisions. The first was the flyweight decider, in which Irini Merleni of the Ukraine beat Japan's Chiharu Icho, whose sister Kaori won gold at middleweight later in the day.