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Sporting Witness


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

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




Judit Polgar - the chess champion who defied stereotypes

In 1991, the Hungarian chess prodigy, Judit Polgar, became the youngest Grandmaster ever at the age of 15. She speaks to Robert Nicholson about her unconventional childhood and how her extraordinary career defied expectations for female players. This programme was first broadcast in 2015. PHOTO: Judit Polgar (EPA)


The 'Blind Maradona'

The Argentine blind footballer Silvio Velo is considered one of the greatest players of all time in his sport. Captain of Argentina since 1991, Velo has won two world championships, earning himself the nicknames “The Blind Maradona” and later “The Blind Messi”. He is still scoring goals in his late forties and is credited with boosting the profile of blind sport in South America. Silvio Velo talks to Dan Hardoon. The programme is a Whistledown Production. (Photo: Silvio Velo in action....


India's Queen of the Oceans

In 2004, the Indian long-distance swimmer Bula Choudhury became the first woman to complete the challenge of crossing straits of the world’s seven seas. Choudhury is a former Indian national swimming champion in the pool, who was inspired to switch to the open ocean by a traditional Bengali folk tale. Her challenge took her to five continents, although she says one of her hardest swims was in the cold waters of the English Channel. Bula Choudhury talks to Maya Mitter. The programme is a...


Natalia Partyka - Youngest paralympian

In 2000, Poland’s Natalia Partyka became the youngest ever athlete to take part in the Paralympic Games when she competed in the table tennis tournament in Sydney at the age of 11. Now established as one of the greatest para-athletes of all time, she’s gone on to win five gold medals and also to take part in competitions for able-bodied athletes, including the London 2012 Olympics. She talks to Steve Hankey about her remarkable career. The programme is a Whistledown Production. PHOTO:...


Viv Anderson - first black England footballer

In November 1978, Viv Anderson became the first black footballer to play a full England international. The son of Jamaican immigrants, Anderson had to endure racial abuse from opposing fans to achieve his dream of reaching the very top of the professional game. He went on to win the European Cup twice with Nottingham Forest and to become Sir Alex Ferguson’s first signing at Manchester United. Viv Anderson talks to Rebecca Kesby. PHOTO: Viv Anderson on his England debut (Hulton Archive/Getty...


Surfing the world's biggest waves

The story of how the legendary surfer, Garrett McNamara, pioneered riding the colossal 100ft waves at Nazaré on the Portuguese coast. At Nazaré in 2011 he broke the world record for the biggest wave ever surfed, officially judged to be 78ft (23.8m). Nazaré has since become a centre of big wave surfing. Garrett McNamara spoke to Alex Last about how he first came to surf Nazaré and why he risks his life to ride giant waves. Photo: Garrett McNamara riding his record breaking wave at Nazaré in...


Africa's football revolution

In 1999, ASECS Mimosas, one of the biggest teams in Ivory Coast, shocked the world of African football by fielding a team of youth players in the final of the African Super Cup. The youngsters had been handpicked and trained by French coach Jean-Marc Gillou, and with their speed and tactical sophistication they inflicted a shock defeat on the Tunisian side, Esperance. The ASECS Mimosas team is credited with modernising the African game, and bringing African talent to the attention of the...


South Africa's black rowing hero

At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Sizwe Ndlovu became the first black African to win a gold medal in rowing. Ndlovu grew up in a township in South Africa but then won a scholarship to a predominantly white high school where he embraced the sport as a way of dealing with his new environment. Ndlovu was part of the South African lightweight coxless four team in London, who clinched their victory with virtually the last stroke of the race. He talks to Darin Graham. PHOTO: Sizwe Ndlovu...


Cathy Freeman

In 2000, the aboriginal runner, Cathy Freeman, became the star of the Olympic Games in Sydney. After being given the honour of lighting the Olympic cauldron, she was under huge pressure to win the 400 metres in front of her home crowd. Freeman delivered in style - and went on an emotional victory lap parading both the aboriginal and Australian flags. Presented by Simon Watts Picture: Cathy Freeman celebrating her 400m victory in 2000, Credit: Getty Images


Cycling's 'Everesting' challenge

During the Coronavirus lockdown, many cyclists have become obsessed with a challenge known as Everesting, where riders go up and down their local hill until they’ve covered the equivalent to climbing the 8848 metres of the world’s highest mountain. One early Everesting ride dates back to 1994, when it was completed on a mountain near Melbourne by George Mallory, the grandson of the famous climber of the same name. Mallory’s achievement later inspired an Australian cycling club to turn...


Lucy Ejike - Nigeria's powerlifting hero

Lucy Ejike is Nigeria’s most successful female paralympian and the winner of gold medals in para-powerlifting at three different Paralympic Games. Ejike’s twenty-year career has been marked by her rivalry with her friend Fatma Omar of Egypt, whom she finally defeated with a world-record lift at the 2016 games in Rio. She talks to Iain Mackness. The programme is a Made-In-Manchester Production. PHOTO: Lucy Ejike in 2017 (Getty Images)


Tasha Danvers - motherhood and elite performance

In August 2008, Britain’s Tasha Danvers won a surprise bronze medal in the 400-metres hurdles at the Beijing Olympics. Danvers had been through years of emotional struggles – and public criticism – after deciding to have a child while at the peak of her career. She talks to Sharon Hemans about the pressures she faced as an elite athlete and mother. PHOTO: Tasha Danvers in action in 2006 (Getty Images)


Chak de India!

In August 2002, the Indian women’s field hockey team won an unlikely gold medal against the favourites, England, at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester. The players had struggled to be taken seriously in a country that prioritises men’s sport, but they fought their way past New Zealand and South Africa to reach a final that turned on a dramatic refereeing decision. The women’s story later inspired the hit Bollywood film, Chak De India (or Come On, India!), which is credited with improving...


Tears of a weightlifter

In August 2008, the weightlifter Matthias Steiner created one of the most emotional moments of the 2008 Olympics when he sank to the floor in floods of tears after winning a gold medal. Steiner had lost his wife in a car accident shortly before the games and dedicated the victory to her. He had to lift eight kilos more than his previous personal best in order to win. Matthias Steiner talks to Ashley Byrne. The programme is a Made-In-Manchester Production. PHOTO: Matthias Steiner taking gold...


The first woman to climb Everest

In 1975, the Japanese mountaineer, Junko Tabei, became the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest. As well as being an achievement in its own right, Tabei had to defy the cultural norms of a country where women were not expected to be world-class mountaineers. Louise Hidalgo talks to Setsuko Kitamura, who was on Tabei’s Everest climb, and to her friend and biographer, Yumiko Hiraki. Picture: Junko Tabei (left) with Ang Tsering standing in front of the southern wall of Mount Everest...


Coe vs Ovett

At the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, the world was gripped by the intense rivalry between the British middle-distance runners, Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett. Ovett won the 800 metres, which was Coe’s favourite distance; but just a few days later, Coe struck back by winning the 1500 metres, Ovett’s preferred event. Alex Capstick talks to Sebastian Coe, now Lord Coe, about his memories of the Moscow Games. PHOTO: Sebastian Coe win the Olympic 1500 metres in 1980 (Getty Images)


Afghanistan's cricket heroes

In 2010, Afghanistan’s national cricket team scored a historic first by qualifying for the World Twenty20 Finals in the West Indies. Started just a few years earlier, the Afghan side consisted mainly of players who’d learned the game while in refugee camps in Pakistan. Their success lifted the mood of their war-torn nation. Charlotte North talks to Afghan all-rounder, Raees Ahmadzai. The programme is a Whistledown Production. PHOTO: The Afghan team preparing for a match in the West Indies...


Beckham in Hollywood

In July 2007, David Beckham, then one of the most famous footballers in the world, made his debut for Major League Soccer team, LA Galaxy. The star-studded game attracted Hollywood royalty and huge media attention from around the world. Beckham would eventually win two MLS titles with LA Galaxy and he’s credited with raising the profile of his sport in America. Ian Williams talks to the man who signed Beckham, LA Galaxy president Alexi Lalas. PHOTO: David Beckham's presentation for LA Galaxy...


Andre Agassi

In July 1992, Andre Agassi became a tennis superstar when he won the Wimbledon men’s title at the age of 21. But beneath the showman image, Agassi was in private turmoil – in pain from a back problem, depressed and secretly hating his sport. Later in his career, Agassi would even smoke crystal meth. Simon Watts tells his story using BBC archive interviews. PHOTO: Andre Agassi in action at Wimbledon (Getty Images)


Greece's stunning football triumph

In July 2004, Greece pulled off one of the biggest shocks in football history by winning the European Championship with a 1-0 victory over Portugal. The Greeks had never previously scored a point in tournament football, but fought their way to the final thanks to set-pieces and a well-marshalled defence. Charlotte North talks to the Greek goal-scorer, Angelos Charisteas. The programme is a Whistledown Production. PHOTO: Angelos Charisteas celebraring with the Euro 2004 trophy (Getty Images)