The 2016 T20 World Cup Final was as excruciating for English fans as it was joyful for supporters of the West Indies, won in the final over by four consecutive enormous sixes by Carlos Brathwaite off a distraught Ben Stokes. Considering the excellent position England had worked themselves into for that final over, it represented the return of the infamous sporting choke. The moment the wheels come off for an individual or team just as the finishing line comes into view. When the chance of glory crumbles in front of their very eyes as the nerves arrive and the composure disintegrate. Here we look at some other notable examples of the biggest chokes in sport.
The desire of Rory McIlroy to achieve the rare golfing feat of a Major Grand Slam continues. Yet, he would have already secured it if not for a hideous unravelling in the final round of the 2011 Masters at Augusta. With the eyes of the sporting world on the then 22 year-old Northern Irishman, McIlroy had a four-shot lead over the chasing pack after three brilliant and poised rounds of golf. Yet during a period that left fans with heads in their hands and brought tears to the eyes of McIlroy, he dropped seven strokes in 12 holes. Drives skewed across the fairways, putts missed their cups. A chance for a famous win disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. As a sport, golf has had a number of notable collapses. This implosion was up there as one of the biggest.
Pain in Spain
No couple of minutes defined the Sir Alex Ferguson era at Manchester United more than those injury-time moments during the 1999 Champions League Final in Barcelona against Bayern Munich, where two goals in a minute secured a 2-1 victory and brought the European Cup back to Manchester. It will be forever remembered not just as one of the most dramatic moments ever seen on a football field but as one of the most famous breakdowns. Bayern Munich had dominated the game, had all the chances and played the better football but couldn’t find the crucial 2nd goal. Ottmar Hitzfeld’s men were still frozen in a state of shock from Teddy Sherringham’s equaliser when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stabbed home the winner 30 seconds later. They were minutes away from celebrating with the trophy. Instead they were left sprawled on the floor in anguish, unable to comprehend what had happened. They are probably still trying to work it out to this very day.
South African Heartache
If you think England’s failure to get over the line in that T20 Final was bad, it is nothing compared to the stunning capitulation seen by South Africa in their World Cup semi-final against the tournament favourites Australia in 1999. As the game entered its final over, South Africa needed nine runs to win and had one wicket remaining. The first two balls brought boundaries from the bat of Lance Klusner, meaning the scores were level. One run was needed from the final four to take them to the final. After a dot-ball from the third, Klusner tried to run a quick single. The only problem was that Allan Donald, hardly known for his ability as a batsman, wasn’t ready. In fact he wasn’t even looking, instead watching the ball. With two men at one end of the wicket, Donald was run-out and Australia went through to the final due to their better position in the earlier Super Six Stage. They would go on to win the tournament – it would have been so different if not for South Africa’s moment of madness.
Before becoming a three-time Wold Champion things weren’t always so rosy for Great Britain’s Lewis Hamilton. His break-through season with McLaren was a wonderful story missing the ending it deserved as he fell apart at the end of the season. His inexperience of such high-pressured situations showed as he blew a 17 point lead with two races to go. Emotions and the on-going battle with teammate Fernando Alonso took their toll as the ice-cool Finn Kimi Riakkonen pipped them both in his Ferrari at the last race of the season, winning the title by the one point. Hamilton had thrown away points in China by sliding into a gravel trap when entering the pits. Going into the final race he still had a 4 point advantage but had a terrible start, made a costly mistake on the first lap and then had a technical glitch. Everything that could go wrong did and the dream of a World Championship-winning debut season was over.
Panic off the tee
Athletes can be haunted by their mistakes, irrespective of how successful their careers go on to be. That is certainly the case for Gavin Hastings, one of Scotland’s finest rugby union players but one who will always remember, and be associated with, a missed penalty against England in the 1991 Rugby Union World Cup semi-final. In an immensely tight contest, the Scottish full-back somehow contrived to miss a straight-forward penalty right in front of the posts to put his side in the lead as the game neared its climax. Scotland were shocked, England were spurred on. The old enemy went straight up the other end and stole victory from the jaws of defeat as Rob Andrew kicked the winning drop-goal. Hastings later claimed that he should never have taken the kick at all as he was still recovering from a big hit minutes before and should have instead left kicking duties to fly-half Craig Chalmers. It is on such crucial, pressurised decisions that matches, and indeed tournaments, can be won and lost.