- February 28 down the years
A record and a medal for Hansen
British triple jumper Ashia Hansen won the European Indoor title with a leap of 15.16 metres, a world indoor record at the time and a Championship record that still stood by the end of 2009. She had to come from behind to win the gold. World outdoor champion Šárka Kaspárková led after the first two rounds, Hansen went in front with 14.69, then the Czech girl came back with 14.76. The lead lasted less than five minutes.
On their way to their first Six Nations Grand Slam since 1948, Ireland's veterans creaked at the hinges at times. A quality side would have seen off the latest shaky England team, especially at home. Instead Ronan O'Gara had an off-day with the boot, and England might even have won if they hadn't had two players sin-binned for the third game in a row. The first match was against Italy at home, so they got away with it, but they lost the next one away to Wales. Here in Dublin, the second yellow card cost them the match. Substitute scrum-half Danny Care barged into Marcus Horan, and O'Gara kicked the easy penalty. That left England 14-6 down, and by the time Andy Goode converted Delon Armitage's try, there were only two minutes left.
Talking of Ireland Grand Slams (it doesn't take long), on the same day in 1948 they beat Scotland 6-0 in Dublin to become Five Nations champions. After a scoreless first half, they got their tries from Barney Mullan and the great Jack Kyle. Now only the Grand Slam was left on March 13.
Mario Andretti was born in Italy and moved to the USA when he was 15. His Formula One career culminated in the drivers' title in 1978: he was 38 by then and didn't win another Grand Prix afterwards. He won twelve in all, including six in his championship year, when his mechanical knowledge helped with the construction of the car. But it was a title that left a taste. His Lotus team mate Ronnie Peterson followed team orders by finishing second to him four times even though Peterson was acknowledged as the fastest driver of the lot - and Andretti clinched the title at the Italian Grand Prix when Peterson, his closest challenger, died in a pile-up. Andretti won the Indianapolis 500 in 1969, but his other 28 attempts there were cursed. He reached the finish only five times, was awarded the trophy in 1981 until an appeal was lodged, and broke both ankles in 1992. His son Michael led that 1992 race until his fuel pump stopped pumping fuel.
Barry McGuigan was born Finbar McGuigan on the Irish border. A featherweight who punched like a heavierweight, he had an unstoppable rise to the top but didn't stay there long. After the usual route of British and European titles, he faced the legendary Panamanian Eusebio Pedroza at QPR's ground in 1985. Pedroza was a smooth mover with flinty punches. He'd made 19 successful defences of the WBA title in seven years, beating quality opposition like Rubén Olivares, Juan La Porte, Bernard Taylor, and Rocky Lockridge. But he was almost 32 by now and struggling to make the weight. McGuigan demonstrated that by knocking him down in the seventh. Even that didn't signal the end: a year earlier, Pedroza had been knocked down by Gerald Hayes before stopping him in the 10th. And now he boxed his way out of trouble, a great champion going down fighting. Because go down he did. McGuigan hit harder and more often and won almost every round. He made two successful defences, one against Taylor - but McGuigan's strength was his strength. Take that away and there weren't many tools in the box. So when the heat sapped that strength, he had nothing to fall back on. Fighting outdoors in Las Vegas, he struggled for breath against the very ordinary Steve Cruz, who knocked him down on the way to a narrow points win. Near the end, McGuigan could he heard asking his manager to say a prayer for him. He didn't fight for another title and retired after being stopped by Jim McDonnell in 1989.
At the World Cross-Country Championships, the senior races were won by Portugal's Carlos Lopes and Carmen Valero of Spain. Kilometre by kilometre, Lopes stretched his lead over Britain's Tony Simmons and won comfortably. Simmons had finished an agonisingly close second in the 10,000 metres at the 1974 European Championships; this was his big chance of a global gold. He had to make do with the team title: Bernie Ford finished third and Britain had five runners in the top 16. Valero retained the title in 1977, Lopes won it again in 1984 and 1985.
After their first home match outside London, England became the first holders of the Calcutta Cup. At Whalley Range in Manchester, Henry Taylor scored a try after only five minutes and another before half-time. On a slippery pitch, England captain Lennie Stokes missed both conversions and kicked only two in the second half, so England won by just two goals to one despite scoring five tries to one.
Terry Spinks was born in West Ham. When he took part in the 1956 Olympics, he was 18 but looked about 12. And he was small even for a flyweight. Someone like that in a boxing ring - no wonder he was a crowd favourite. But babyfaced or not, he knew his trade. Before the Final, he was slightly overweight, so he skipped a rope for half an hour, but he had enough puff left to go three rounds with the rugged Romanian Mircea Dobrescu, who tried to throw bombs at him but ended up eating out of his left hand. Spinks won the gold medal easily on points. As a pro, he didn't kick on. After only one defeat in is first 28 fights, he suddenly lost three in a row. He did win the British featherweight title in 1960 but lost it to Howard Winstone the following year. No Commonwealth or European championship fights, let alone a sniff at a world title.