Sporting Witness-logo

Sporting Witness


The inside and personal story of the key moments from sporting history


United Kingdom




The inside and personal story of the key moments from sporting history




Women's Marathon Agony

In 1984, the women's marathon was held in the Olympic Games for the first time. But to the horror of the crowd in Los Angeles, one of the runners, Gabriela Andersen-Scheiss of Switzerland, entered the stadium in a state of virtual collapse from heat exhaustion. The 40-year-old ski instructor was not used to the hot Californian climate. She had to hobble her way around the final lap of the race. The crowd of ninety thousand people in the LA Memorial Colosseum cheered her on as she made it to the finish line. Andersen-Scheiss tells Ashley Byrne about her ordeal. The programme is a Made-In-Manchester Production that first aired in 2016. (Photo: Andersen-Scheiss finishing the race in 1984. Credit: John W. McDonough/ Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)


International football's biggest ever beating

In April 2001, the small island nation of American Samoa took on Australia in the World Cup qualifiers. You could only play for the team if you held an American passport, which automatically ruled out the majority of the American Samoans, leaving them to resorting to picking schoolboys to play for them. What followed was the biggest defeat in international football – 31-0. Uma Doraiswamy speaks to goalkeeper Nicky Salapu about how he felt as the 31 goals the goals flew in past him. (Photo: Nicky Salapu in goal for American Samoa against Australia in 2001. Credit: Darren England/Allsport Getty Images)


Zamalek Stadium Disaster

It was supposed to be a friendly match between Egyptian giants Zamalek and Czechoslovakian side Dukla Prague, but before the game started there was a deadly crush in the crowds. The day before the game on 17 February 1974, the venue had been changed from the larger Cairo Stadium to Zamalek's home ground. It was reported that 48 people died and 47 were injured in a stampede. Josephine McDermott hears from retired Egyptian international player and Zamalek winger Mahmoud Al Khawaga who was there. Production and interpretation from Riham Eldeeb in Cairo. (Photo: Zamalek Stadium on the day of the disaster)


Victory for South Africa: The Africa Cup of Nations

In 1996, South Africa won the Africa Cup of Nations, bringing sporting joy to a country still recovering from Apartheid. It was the Bafana Bafana team's first victory at an international football tournament. In 2015, two members of the multi-racial side, Phil Masinga and Mark Fish, spoke to Will Yates. A Whistledown production for BBC World Service. (Photo: South Africa captain Neil Tovey lifts the Africa Cup of Nations. Credit: Gallo Images/Getty Images)


Lamine Gueye: Senegalese skiier

In 1984, Lamine Gueye of Senegal became the first black African skier to take part in the Winter Olympics. The grandson of a prominent Senegalese politician, Gueye founded his country's ski federation and for a long time was the only member. In 2017, he spoke to Tayo Popoola. A Whistledown Production for BBC World Service. (Photo: Lamine at the 1996 World Championships. Credit: Jerome Prevost/TempSport/Corbis/VCG/Getty)


Lin Dan: Badminton's all time superstar

Lin Dan has dominated badminton for several decades. The Chinese star nicknamed 'Super Dan' clinched the sport's Super Grand Slam - winning 9 major titles by the age of 28 and the first player to achieve the feat. But it was his Olympic Games Gold medals which are particularly special to him. He speaks to Wendy Tang about how he got to be a world great. This is a Made Manchester Production for the BBC World Service. (Photo: Lin Dan competing in the Australian Badminton Open in 2017. Credit: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)


The Elfstedentocht

The Elfstedentocht is one of the toughest sporting events there is. It’s an ice skating race around the lakes and canals of the northern Dutch province of Friesland – and it can only take place when it is particularly cold. The last one was in 1997, but the most notorious happened back in January 1963, when only 69 of the 10,000 skaters made it to the end of the 200 km course. The rest were stopped by the appalling weather conditions. One of the few to complete the race was the then 24-year-old skater Leffert Oldenkamp. He tells Matthew Kenyon about the extreme race. (Photo: Competitors in the 1963 Elfstedentocht. Credit: Eric Koch/Dutch National Archive)


Sven-Goran Eriksson: England's first foreign manager

In 2000, Sven-Goran Eriksson got the job as manager of England’s men’s football team. He was the first non-English person to do the job. Some in England were sceptical about an overseas coach when Sven moved from his post at Lazio in Italy to succeed Kevin Keegan as England boss. Sven tells Uma Doraiswamy about the media’s reaction to this sporting first, his quest to understand the Liverpudlian accent of some of his new players and how it felt to go out of tournaments on penalties. The Swede led England to the quarter-finals of the 2002 and 2006 World Cup and 2004 Euros. He spoke to Sporting Witness a few days ago, on the day he told the world that having been diagnosed with cancer he has, at best, a year to live. (Photo: England coach Sven Goran Eriksson at the 2002 World Cup. Credit: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)


Vanderlei de Lima and the sabotaged Olympic marathon

In the 2004 Athens Olympics, Brazilian Vanderlei de Lima was leading the Men’s Marathon with six kilometres to go. What happened next shocked the millions of fans watching and propelled Vanderlei into becoming a universal role model for sportsmanship. He relives those last kilometres with Uma Doraiswamy. (Photo: Vanderlei de Lima being attacked by Cornelius Horan. Credit: Jiro Mochizuki/ AFP via Getty Images)


The man who skied down Everest

In 1970, Yuichiro Miura became the first man to ski on Mount Everest, starting from the height of the ‘death zone’, an elevation where there isn't enough oxygen to survive for long. His daring ski run saw him reach a speed of 160 kilometres per hour, before he crashed into a boulder and narrowly avoided falling into a crevasse. Not satisfied with this achievement, he also became the oldest person to climb the mountain when he was 80 years old. He spoke to Emily Uchida Finch about his experiences on Mount Everest. This is a Whistledown production for the BBC World Service. (Photo: Yuichiro Miura at the summit of Mount Everest in 2013. Credit: Miura Dolphins)


Caster Semenya

Caster Semenya was just 18-years-old when she won gold in the 800 metres at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin. Her victory was controversial because the South African runner was facing questions over her gender. So much so, that she was made to take a gender test on the eve of the final. The test revealed that the teenager had been born with internal testes and no womb. It meant she had higher levels of testosterone; a hormone that increases muscle mass and strength. She has been speaking to Matt Pintus after the launch of her memoir, The Race to Be Myself. (Photo: Caster Semenya at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin. Credit: Getty Images)


Roger Federer's first Men's Wimbledon win

In 2003, arguably one of the greatest tennis players of all time, Roger Federer won the Wimbledon Men’s title. Aged just 21, it was his first major win and was the start of a record eight men’s single titles at the championships. Uma Doraiswamy goes through the BBC and Wimbledon archives where the Swiss champion looks back on his momentous win. (Photo: Roger Federer holds the trophy after his victory over Mark Philippoussis in the Men's Singles Final at the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships on July 6, 2003 at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, in Wimbledon. Credit: Getty Images)


The birth of the Fifa computer game

In December 1993, EA Sports released Fifa International Soccer, also known as Fifa 94. The football game sold half a million copies in its first month and went on to become a cultural phenomenon. Coder Jan Tian was the lead developer. He tells Vicky Farncombe how his devotion to the task landed him in hospital. (Photo: Fifa International Soccer, the first Fifa game. Credit: Fifa/EA Sports/ Moby Games)


When West Brom went to China

In 1978, first division football side West Bromwich Albion became the first professional British club to visit communist China. The visit came as the communist country wanted to improve relations with the West after the death of Chairman Mao Zedong. The team played five exhibition matches, including one against the Chinese national team in Beijing in front a crowd of 90,000 people. Alex Last spoke to West Brom legend, Brendon Batson, about his memories of the historic tour. (Photo: The team sightseeing at the Great Wall of China. Credit: BBC)


The lost tapes of a Manchester United hero

In 1994, Manchester United goalkeeper Les Sealey sat down to record his memoir. He'd played a key role in helping Alex Ferguson win his first trophy as United's manager in 1990. No takers were found for Les' story and the cassette tapes were stored away in a friend's attic. Les died from a heart attack in 2001 at the age of 43. More than twenty years on, the tapes have been re-discovered and turned into a book called "On Days Like These: The Lost Memoir of a Goalkeeper." Matt Pintus has been listening through the tapes for Sporting Witness. (Photo: Les Sealey raises his arms aloft. Credit: Getty Images)


The creation of chessboxing

In 2003, Dutch artist Iepe Rubingh, came up with the idea of combining two of his passions – chess and boxing. Using the cerebral strategy of chess along with the physicality of boxing, the winner is decided by either a checkmate or knockout. Ashley Byrne speaks to Jean-Louis Veenstra, who fought Rubingh at the inaugural World Chessboxing Championship in Amsterdam. This is a Made in Manchester production for the BBC World Service. (Photo: Ricky Rock and Jack Page in the ring during the Chessboxing 2012 Season Finale in London. Credit: Getty Images)


Lindsey Jacobellis: Almost

In 2006, Lindsey Jacobellis was riding high in the world of snowboarding and arrived at that year’s Winter Olympics in Turin in Italy, a firm favourite to win gold in the inaugural Snowboard Cross event. What followed was the most infamous moments of that year’s games, as Lindsey’s Olympic dream came crashing down in a split second. Nearly 20 years later, Lindsey speaks to Jorja McAndrew to talk through the events on the mountainside and whether she’s been able to move on from it. This is a TBI Media Production for the BBC World Service. (Photo: America's Lindsey Jacobellis in action on last jump during the Ladies' Snowboard Cross Finals at Bardonecchia in Italy. Credit: Getty Images)


Egypt’s Africa Cup of Nations hat-trick

In January 2010, Egypt beat Ghana 1-0 in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations to complete an unprecedented treble, having won in 2006 and 2008. It was also the seventh time they won the cup, a feat unmatched by any of their rivals in the African Confederation. Justice Baidoo speaks to Egyptian fullback Ahmed Fathy and Ghanaian defender Samuel Inkoom. This is a Made in Manchester production for BBC World Service. (Photo: Egypt celebrates beating Ghana 1-0 in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations at Universitaria Stadium on January 31st 2010 in Luanda, Angola. Credit: Liewig Christian/Corbis via Getty Images)


England win the Rugby World Cup

In 2003, England beat Australia in Sydney to win the Rugby World Cup. The match was famous for England's fly-half, Jonny Wilkinson, kicking the winning points in the dying seconds. England's coach, Sir Clive Woodward, and Australia's captain, George Gregan, recount that night to Ben Henderson. (Photo: Sir Clive Woodward lifts the Rugby World Cup trophy. Credit: Joe Mann/Offside via Getty Images)


Meeting Mr Pilates

Joseph Pilates developed a system of strengthening exercises which are now practised all over the world. He called it "contrology", but it's now better known as just Pilates. We hear from Mary Bowen, one of the Pilates Elders, who studied with Joseph Pilates and his wife Clara in New York in the 1950s. (Photo: Joseph Pilates, inventor, physical fitness guru and founder of the Pilates exercise method demonstrates a technique on his 'Bednasium' in his 8th Avenue studio on October 4, 1961 in New York City, Credit: I.C. Rapoport/Getty Images)