• January 21 down the years

Birth of the Golden Bear

The sporting events of January 21 down the years
Jack Nicklaus took golf on to a new level © Getty Images

Jack Nicklaus was born. Go directly to list of golfing records. Eighteen majors, including six Masters and five USPGAs. Six World Cups with three different partners. Imagine the totals if he'd found the odd shot here and there: he finished runner-up in more majors than he won, including seven Opens. Longevity records too: he was US Amateur champion in 1959 and 1961 and won his first major in 1962 (the US Open was his first win as a pro) and his last in 1986 when he was 46, the oldest player to win the Masters. Statistically, and quite possibly more than that, the sport's No. 1.

On the last day of the world table-tennis championships, a 19-year-old called Fred Perry won his semi-final against fellow Englishman Adrian Haydon in three straight games, including the second 21-0. In the final later that day, he beat 16-year-old Miklós Szabados in four games after losing the first. Szabados won the title two years later. Perry, of course, went on to do okay at lawn tennis.

The Torvill and Dean comeback continued at the European Championship, but their victory was a setback. Already nervous about new rules banning the use of classical music (such as their famous Bolero from 1984), they now won the Europeans only because one pair of Russians won the free dance and the other one didn't. In some desperation, T&D set about trying to rescue their own routine in time for the Olympics on February 18.

Ronnie O'Sullivan came from 2-0 down to humiliate Ding Junhui in the final of the Masters. Earlier in the tournament, on January 14, the 19-year-old Chinese had made a 147 maximum. Now he opened with breaks of 77 and 109 - but O'Sullivan took the last six frames to win 10-3. Like a punched-out boxer, Ding offered O'Sullivan his hand after the 12th round, I mean frame, thinking the match was the best of 17. He looked on the verge of tears.

In one of the lightweight superfights, the great Roberto Duran met the pretty damned good Esteban de Jesús for the third time. In a non-title fight in 1972, De Jesús floored Duran in the first round on his way to a win on points. Two years later, Duran was knocked down in the first again but recovered to stop De Jesus in the eleventh and keep his WBA lightweight title. Now it was De Jesús who had the WBA belt and Duran the WBC version. Duran ended up with them both after winning in 12 rounds. De Jesús retired in 1980. The following year, he was convicted of murder. In jail, he contracted full-blown AIDS. One of his visitors was Duran. At a time when touching AIDS victims was considered dangerous, Duran lifted his old adversary out of bed to hug him. De Jesús died soon after being pardoned at the age of 37.

At Twickenham, future England cricket captain Mike Smith won his only cap at rugby. MJK owed his selection to his performances for Oxford University, but those performances owed a lot to his scrum-half Onllwyn Brace, who was also making his international debut - but on the other side. And Brace was partnering Cliff Morgan, one of the fly-half gods. Wales scored a try when Smith had a kick charged down, and were a little lucky to win 8-3.

In the first Davis Cup final after the First World War, Gerald Patterson beat Lieutenant-Colonel Algie Kingscote to keep the trophy in Australasia. Earlier in the match, Patterson had teamed up with 42-year-old Norman Brookes to achieve the easiest win in any Davis Cup final. They won the first 16 games on the way to beating Kingscote and Arthur Beamish 6-0 6-0 6-2. Britain didn't win the Cup again until 1933.

Warming up for his gold medal at the European Championships in the summer, Steve Ovett won the Inter-counties cross-country race.

Brian O'Driscoll: It's like tackling a brick wall © Getty Images

Brian O'Driscoll was born. One of the greatest rugby centres of all time, he combined an eye for an opening with the pace to go through it, and tackled with the best of them. He scored a searing try for the Lions against Australia in 2001 and another against the same country in 2009 to snatch a draw in his 100th international. Earlier in the year, he'd captained Ireland to their first Grand Slam since 1948. He led the Lions too, in 2005. The All Blacks were always going to win that series - so there was no need for Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu to spear-tackle O'Driscoll out of the series in the first Test. Call it a compliment by cowards. For Ireland in 2009, O'Driscoll scored his 38th try and counting.

Laura Robson was born in Australia but plays tennis for Britain. She was only 14 when she became Wimbledon Junior singles champion in 2008. Unseeded in her first junior Grand Slam event, she beat top seed Melanie Oudin of the USA, then Noppawan Lertcheewakarn in the final. Robson was still 14 when she became the youngest girl to play in an ATP event: in Luxembourg later that year, she lost her debut match to world number 42 Iveta Benesová of the Czech Republic after winning the first set 6-1. Watch this space.

The night Cinderella went to the ball for the last time. Jim Braddock's first fight after losing his world heavyweight title to Joe Louis on June 22 was also his last. The Cinderella Man, surprise world champion on June 13, 1935, won a split decision over Welshman Tommy Farr, who'd been Louis's first challenger on August 30.

The previous year, Manny Pacquiao had lost to Erik Morales for the vacant super-featherweight title. Now he took revenge by stopping him in the 10th round.

If you're going to be the first defending champions to lose in the Super Bowl, it might as well be an epic. But you'd prefer not to lose it to your biggest rivals, the ones who beat you in the big event on January 18, 1976 - especially if a controversial call gives them a touchdown. Dallas Cowboys were the first team to score 30 points in a Super Bowl and lose. Ditto quarterback Roger Staubach and his three touchdown passes; Dallas were 35-17 down when Staubach threw his last two, but the Steelers held on to win 35-31. Their own quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw for four touchdowns, one of them from 75 yards, and was voted MVP. The same players as in 1976 scored Pittsburgh's TDs: running back Franco Harris and wide receivers Lyn Swann and John Stallworth.

That classy boxer Alexis Arguello fought his last fight. At the age of 42, he lost a unanimous decision to Scott Walker in Las Vegas. Arguello won world titles at three weights, taking the WBC lightweight belt from Scotland's Jim Watt in 1981.

Peter Fleming was born in New Jersey. According to him, the best doubles team in tennis was 'John McEnroe and anybody'. But he played his part. Tall, a good server and volleyer, he helped McEnroe win four doubles titles at Wimbledon, three at the US Open, and two Davis Cups.

Australia's favourite Frenchman. At the Albert Hall in London, Johnny Famechon beat José Legra to win the WBC featherweight title. Jean-Pierre Famechon was born in Paris and moved to Australia when he was five. He retired after Vicente Saldivar came out of retirement to win the title back from him in 1970.

Clive Churchill was born. One of Australia's most famous rugby league players, he was only 5 foot 9 and 12 stone but tackled like a ferret and moved similarly quickly. He was captain in 24 of his 34 internationals, including the 1950 series against Great Britain, when Australia regained the Ashes after 30 years. He was Premiership champion five times with South Sydney and famously won a semi-final with an injury-time conversion from the touchline while in pain from a broken wrist. The Clive Churchill Medal, presented after the Premiership final, is the equivalent of the Lance Todd Trophy in the Challenge Cup in England.