ISTANBUL - The century-old Olympic motto of 'Citius, Altius, Fortius' (Swifter, Higher, Stronger) has rarely sounded this appropriate, as 2008 saw many impressive performances. Records were shattered, tremendous attitudes shown and sports were filled with more drama than ever. This is how heroes are made
Forget the ones saving the world on the popular sci-fi TV show, the real heroes with mind-blowing superpowers were busy achieving super-human sports feats this year.
One of them dominated the track with never-before-seen pace and confidence, while some other guy got out of the swimming pool with an unrivalled eight Olympic gold medals. A young man scored nearly 50 goals to lead his side to a treble of trophies, while another bunch always broke hearts, waiting till the last minute to score them.
All of them and many more forced their limits and reached the next level, which was believed to be impossible. But, after all, it was their performances that made 2008 a stage of multiple one-man shows, where miracles were made.
Of all the stars of the year, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt was the brightest, with three gold medals and three world records in sprints. All gathered in a just a couple of days, rewriting sports history and redefining presumptions of how fast a human being can go, rightly earning the nickname of "Lightning Bolt."
And there were many others that will can't be overshadowed by Bolt’s magical presence in 2008. Swimmer Michael Phelps successfully accomplished his mission in Beijing of winning in all eight disciplines he entered. Pole-vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva has soared to heights that no female athlete has before. Footballer Cristiano Ronaldo scored 42 goals to lead Manchester United to a treble.
But it was not all about solo shows. The Turkish national football team’s heroic comebacks in the European Football Championship were almost as riveting as the cup winning efforts of Spain. Turkey always managed to come back from defeats and wrote different fairytales every time. Maybe none of them was extraordinarily gifted as Bolt, Phelps or Ronaldo was, but each of them exceeded their potentials to act as a team and proved that the "never-say-die" attitude is always a winner in this game.
Jamaica's finest brand since Bob Marley, the athlete of the year celebrated his 22nd birthday in a way to remember, winning the 100-meter race in
world-record time at the Beijing Olympics, before taking gold again in the 200-meter in another world-record time, then completing a rare hat trick with victory in the 4-by-100 men’s relay, and yes, shattering another world record. His smiling face and on-track performances, who can forget the last meters of the 100 meter race, were icing on the cake.
Adding a sense of leadership and a touch of teamwork to his already strikingly classy games, the Portuguese attacker scored a stunning number of 42 goals in Manchester United’s walk to a hat trick of cups with the Premier League, Champions League and Club World Cup.
This Turkish athlete of Ethiopian origin won two silver Olympic medals for a country that has only boasted two bronze medals in more than 100 years. She may have been second best to Tirunesh Dibaba in the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter races, but Elvan was by far Turkey’s sports-person of the year.
Turkish National Team
Just when all hopes were fading, the Turkish team managed to turn the game in Euro 2008. Turks broke the hearts of Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Croatia with last-minute goals before being knocked out by the cold-hearted Germans in the semifinals.
A couple of years ago, Turkish basketball fans were happy to see a compatriot for a few minutes in the NBA. In 2007, Mehmet Okur was selected as an All-Star and last year, Hedo’s stellar performance with the Orlando Magic, raised the bar higher. Winner of the Most Improved Player award, Türkoğlu keeps promising more.
The Wimbledon final in July was the biggest face off of the year and the best match in tennis history, hands down. Roger Federer’s graceful talent was responded to by the determination of Nadal for seven hours. At the end of the match, even Federer, the best player ever, admitted the Spaniard was amazingly good.
His talents were obvious, but it was in 2008 that everyone admitted what a big player Kobe was. Stepping down from his one-man-show to share the job with his teammates, Kobe was duly awarded the Most Valuable Player prize and had his best year, until he was let down by the colossal presence of the Celtics in the finals.
How many firsts can one boy fit into a relatively short career? After becoming Formula One’s first-ever black driver and youngest race winner, the 23-year-old added becoming the youngest champion to his CV. With only a couple of hundred meters left in the Brazilian Grand Prix, he was behind home favorite Felipe Massa in overall standings, but Hamilton could not afford another last-day frustration. Maybe that extra sentiment helped him to try to pass Timo Glock to win the title and added a great moment to sporting history.