February 28, 2013
Whether it was at the London Olympics, the thrills of UEFA’s Euro football championship or the rollercoaster ride that was the Formula One season, team sport was a source of incredible excitement throughout 2012.
Now the world’s sports journalists have voted and their 2013 Laureus World Team of the Year Award Nominees are finalised. But who you do think deserves the honour on March 11 in Rio?
China Olympic Table Tennis Team
Once again China were the dominant force in table tennis in the Olympic Games, winning all the medals they possibly could - four gold and two silver medals. It means since 1988 when table tennis was added to the Olympics, China has won 23 out of a possible 27 gold medals. In the men’s individual competition, Zhang Jike won gold and Wang Hao won silver. Zhang and Wang teamed up with Ma Long to win the team gold. In the women’s individual competition, Li Xiaoxia took the gold and Ding Ning won silver. They were joined by Guo Yue in the women’s team event where they also won gold.
European Ryder Cup Team
Under the inspirational captaincy of Jose Maria Olazabal, Europe produced a stunning final-day fightback to win the Ryder Cup in Chicago. The United States needed only 4½ points from 12 singles matches to win, but it was the Europeans who won eight matches and halved another to secure a historic 14½-13½ win. The match came down to a thrilling climax when Martin Kaymer sank a five-foot putt on the 18th green to get his team to the 14 points needed to retain the trophy. Then a Tiger Woods bogey against Francesco Molinari gifted Europe a half point to clinch overall victory. It was a fitting tribute to the late Seve Ballesteros, the man who did so much to reinvigorate the event and whose trademark navy blue and white the European side wore on the final day. Top performers were Ian Poulter, who won all four matches he played, and Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose, who each won three matches.
Miami Heat (United States) Basketball
Miami Heat beat Oklahoma Thunder 4-1 in the NBA Play-offs to win their second NBA title. LeBron James was named MVP in the finals after averaging 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game. Under head coach Erik Spoelstra, the Heat have been driven by the ‘big three’ - LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh – for two years now. In the play-offs they beat New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics to reach the final. The highlight was Game 6 on the road at Boston. Losing the series 3-2, the Heat produced a remarkable 98-79 victory to go 3-3, James scoring 45 pts and 15 rebounds. They then won Game 7 by 101-88 to secure a place in the final.
Red Bull (Austria) Motor Sport
The Red Bull Formula One team won its third straight World Constructors Championship with a strong run towards the end of the year. Powered by a Renault engine and created by top designer Adrian Newey, the car was upgraded at the Singapore Grand Prix at the end of September which resulted in excellent qualifying performances and four straight Grand Prix wins from Sebastian Vettel in Singapore, Japan, Korea and India. Vettel also won the Bahrain Grand Prix in April, while his team-mate Mark Webber won in Monaco in May and the British Grand Prix in July.
Spain Men’s Football Team
Spain won the 2012 European Championship under coach Vicente del Bosque to become the first national team to win three major championships consecutively – Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and now Euro 2012. Such was the power and skill of their 4-0 win over Italy in the final that experts are asking the question: are they the greatest international football team in history? Spain conceded only one goal in Euro 2012 such was their supremacy and no fewer than ten of their players were named in the 23-strong Team of the Tournament, chosen by UEFA’s technical group – Alba, Alonso, Busquets, Casillas, Fabregas, Iniesta, Pique, Ramos, Silva and Xavi. Andres Iniesta was named Best Player of Euro 2012 and striker Fernando Torres won the Golden Boot as leading scorer with three goals.
United States Basketball Team
The United States won their 14th Olympic basketball gold medal in London as they beat Spain 107-100 in the final to defend the title they won in Beijing. Led by inspiring plays from LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and newcomer Kevin Durant, the US team have now finally buried the ghosts of 2004 when they lost to Argentina and won only the bronze medal. In the final, Durant, one of the world’s brightest stars, led the way with 30 points. James added 19 with seven rebounds and Bryant, the old head by now, played his best in the final two games, adding 17 points. Under coach Mike Krzyewski, who took over in 2006 when America’s basketball reputation was at its lowest, the US scored over 100 points in five of their seven matches, including a record 158 against Nigeria.