• January 16 down the years

Liddell the Flying Scotsman

The sporting events of January 16 down the years
Eric Liddel: An athlete of immense talent © Getty Images

Eric Liddell was born. When he ran the first 200 metres in 22.2 seconds, everyone waited for the inevitable collapse. In 1924 you didn't go off that fast in a 400 metre race, even the Olympic final. But this was a man on a mission. Cue Chariots of Fire theme tune as he actually increased his speed round the top bend. Running in that distinctive upright style, head back, he won by six yards and two of his competitors fell over trying to catch him. One of the great performances in track and field. Four days earlier, Liddell had won bronze in the 200. It's true that he switched from the 100 to the 400 because he refused to run on Sundays - but he knew about it early enough to adjust his training. Britain would have finished better than third in the 4x400 relay if he hadn't been away preaching a sermon. His speed and robust physique served him well at rugby too. He won seven caps for Scotland, scoring a try in each of four consecutive internationals, all of which were won, and finishing on the losing side only in his last match, against England in 1923. He was born in China and died there in a Japanese internment camp during the Second World War, which ended only a few months later.

Pat Doherty beat Pat Doherty. In the first ever British super-featherweight title fight, Pat Doherty of Croydon lost on points to Bradford's John Doherty, who was also known as Pat.

Roy Jones junior was born to be the best boxer in the world. Even as an amateur, the only people who beat him were iffy judges. In the light-middleweight final at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, he beat the lights out of South Korea's Park Si-hun, who was as shocked as anyone to be given the decision, the worst in Olympic history. Jones got a better deal as a pro. On November 18, 1994, he took over as Best Pound For Pound from James Toney and kept that accolade for the next decade. Then those amazingly fast hands slowed right down and he was a shot fighter all of a sudden, losing all his titles in the second round, losing three fights in a row. He was even outpointed by Joe Calzaghe when he was 39. But remember him at his peak. On March 1, 2003, he became the first former middleweight champion to win the heavyweight title since March 17, 1897. He was champion at four different weights and the list of his victims reads like a who's who of boxing: Toney, Bernard Hopkins, Mike McCallum, Virgil Hill, Antonio Tarver...

Cliff Thorburn was born in Canada. In the final of the 1980 World Championships, he kept believing that his grinding style would wear down the loose brilliance of Alex Higgins (born March 18, 1949). Thorburn's 18-16 win made him the first world champion from outside the British Isles. He was also runner-up in 1977 and in 1983 to Steve Davis, who embarrassed him (in his own words) 18-6. Earlier in the latter tournament, in a match against Terry Griffiths, Thorburn made the first ever 147 maximum at the World Championships. He won the Masters three times in four years.

Frank McGee cemented his reputation as one of ice hockey's most ruthless goalscorers by putting 14 past the Dawson City Nuggets, still the record for a single Stanley Cup game. He scored eight of them in a spell of nine minutes. Not bad for someone who was blind in one eye! The Nuggets had travelled 4,000 miles from the Yukon to Ottawa. It took them a month. The Senators beat them 23-2.

Leon Spinks got mugged. They even took his gold teeth. They were either mob-handed and tooled up or dead brave, because he'd been world heavyweight boxing champion three years earlier.

Christine Truman was born in Essex. One of Britain's favourite tennis players, she started well but finished early. She reached the Wimbledon singles semi-final at 16, and had her big year in 1959, when she won the French and Italian, finished runner-up at the US, and was No. 1 seed at Wimbledon, where she reached the final of the doubles. But she played only one singles final there, on July 8 two years later, when she came painfully close to winning. Then her size, lack of mobility, and marriage took over. She reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in 1965 and the French doubles final seven years later, but her career at the top effectively ended with that 1961 defeat.

The only team who failed to score a touchdown in a Super Bowl. Dominated in every department, Miami Dolphins lost 24-3 to Dallas Cowboys. Class quarterback Roger Staubach was voted MVP for his two touchdown passes, one of them to Mike Ditka, who coached the winners of the Super Bowl on January 26, 1986.

AJ Foyt junior was born in Texas. Anthony Joseph Foyt was the first driver to win the Indianapolis 500 four times: in 1961, 1964, 1967, and 1977. He finished 9th in the 1992 race when he was 57. In 1967 he became the only driver to win the Indy 500 and the Le Mans 24-hour race in the same year.

Neil Back was born - and didn't grow much bigger, the critics said. Not tall enough for the back of the lineout, not bulky enough at close quarters. Speed around the park isn't everything. So he didn't play rugby for England until he was 25, after which he set about proving a lot of people wrong. His speed got him to the breakdown first, he put on that bulk, and he became a master of the dark arts: the infamous Hand of Back inside a scrum won Leicester a Heineken Cup final against Munster. He used his mitts to less nefarious effect in the open spaces, scoring 16 tries for England and one for the Lions. His four against Holland in 1998 equalled the world record for a forward, and he would have set a new one if he'd crossed an open try line instead of passing for Dan Luger to score on his debut. Back won 66 caps for England and five for the Lions, the last when he was 36. Oh, and the back row trio he made up with Richard Hill (born May 23, 1973), and Lawrence Dallaglio (August 10, 1972), average age nearly 32, didn't do too badly in the World Cup final on November 22, 2003. Back wasn't the only one proving people wrong.

Jack Johnson fought a no-decision three-rounder with Joe Jeannette and therefore successfully defended his 'Colored Heavyweight Title'. On December 26, 1908, Johnson fought for something rather more mixed.

Australia's Jim Carlton equalled a world record by running 220 yards in 20.6 seconds. But he retired to become a priest before the Olympic Games that year.

Delroy Bryan took the British welterweight title on points from Kirkland Laing. In his previous fight, the flashy Laing had lost his European title to the classy Patrizio Oliva. The following year, Bryan lost the British title when he was outpointed by Gary Jacobs.