Whether it’s cycling, tennis, golf, rugby or cricket, athletes and teams from Britain or England have made this another summer to savor – just as the nation prepares to mark the anniversary of the London Games this week.
“There’ll never be another summer of sport like 2012, but 2013 is having a damn good try,” The Times of London said Monday in a wraparound supplement heralding Britain’s latest triumph – Chris Froome’s win in the Tour de France.
The sports surge started a year ago when Bradley Wiggins became the first British rider to win the Tour. Then came the London Games, where the host nation raked in 29 gold medals and 65 overall to finish third in the standings and piled up another 120 medals at the Paralympics.
With British sports seeming to feed off the momentum of 2012, the last few months have brought a flurry of new achievements:
• Justin Rose became the first English golfer to win the U.S. Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970.
• Andy Murray won Wimbledon, finally ending Britain’s quest for its first men’s champion at the All England Club since Fred Perry in 1936. Murray also won the U.S. Open in September.
• The British & Irish Lions won their first rugby test series against Australia in 16 years.
• England has won the first two tests of the Ashes cricket series against Australia.
“The run of British success at sport did not begin at the Olympic Games, but it certainly hasn’t ended there,” The Times said. “The knock-on effect of those games keeps on knocking on.”
Sunday had offered British fans the tantalizing possibility of an improbable trifecta: victories in the Tour de France, the Ashes test and the British Open golf championship. It was close, but not to be.
Froome crossed the finish line on the Champs-Elysees in Paris with the yellow jersey as Britain’s second consecutive Tour de France champion. England crushed Australia by 347 runs . But England’s Lee Westwood, who started the final round of the British Open at Muirfield with a two-shot lead, couldn’t hold up his end of the bargain.
“Two out of three ain’t bad,” said Monday’s headline in The Independent. It hasn’t all been rosy, though, particularly in England’s favorite sport of soccer.
England was humiliated at the Under-21 European Championship in Israel, failing to win a single game. The national women’s team fared no better, eliminated from the European Championship without a win and losing 3-0 to France in its final group match.
The England men’s team lies second behind Montenegro in its qualifying group for next year’s World Cup in Brazil. While England is likely to qualify, it is not considered a top contender for a title it has won only once – at home in 1966. Yet, overall, there is a sense that Britain is flying high.
“We have to get out of the mindset that we are forever grabbing victories out of the jaws of defeat,” Coe said in The Independent on Sunday. “We are not any more. ”
Overshadowing the sporting euphoria Monday was news that Kate, the wife of Prince William, had gone into labor. But the bookies could even find a sports angle in the royal baby stakes.
“As for our future king or queen, it’s a 5,000-1 shot they play professional football, cricket or rugby for England,” Ladbrokes said. “It’s only 100-1 that the heir to the throne participates for Britain at any future Olympic Games.”