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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




The woman who won the Paris-Dakar rally

In January 2001, the German driver, Jutta Kleinschmidt, became the first - and only - woman to win the Paris-Dakar rally, one of the biggest events in motorsport. She talks to Simon Watts. The programme was first broadcast in 2017. PHOTO: Jutta Kleinschmidt celebrating her victory in 2001 (Getty Images)


Brad Snyder - From the battlefield to Paralympic gold

In 2011, US Navy bomb disposal officer Brad Snyder was blinded by an IED while serving in Afghanistan. Formerly a successful college swimmer, Snyder used sport as part of his recovery and exactly a year later took two gold medals at the London Paralympic Games. He talks to Ashley Byrne. The programme is a Made-In-Manchester Production. PHOTO: Brad Snyder with one of his gold medals (Getty Images)


Cameron Hughes - sports entertainer

Since the 1990s, Canadian Cameron Hughes has entertained millions of sports fans with a unique routine based on dad-dancing in the stands and giving out t-shirts. He’s managed to make a professional career out of firing up teams in the NBA, the NFL and NHL ice hockey. Simon Watts talks to Cameron Hughes about his autobiography "King of Cheer", and a job that involves a surprising amount of training. PHOTO: Cameron Hughes in action in Las Vegas (L.E. Baskow/Lefteye Images courtesy of Cameron...


Joey Dunlop - Northern Ireland's motorsport hero

In 2000, the Northern Irish motorbike racing champion, Joey Dunlop, was killed in a high-speed crash in Estonia. Dunlop was loved by fans across the sectarian divide for his fearless riding and modest personality. Tens of thousands of people attended the funeral for a champion who also gave up his free time to take aid to orphanages in Eastern Europe. Matt Murphy talks to Stephen Watson, a friend of Joey Dunlop and BBC Northern Ireland presenter. PHOTO: Joey Dunlop at the Isle of Man TT in...


Stop the Springboks

In the winter of 1969 to 70, anti-apartheid campaigners disrupted 24 matches during a tour of the British Isles by South Africa’s Springboks rugby team. For the first time, the activists used direct-action tactics – running onto the pitch, throwing smoke bombs and even super-gluing the locks of the South Africans’ hotel rooms. The successful campaign forced the cancellation first of a planned tour by the South African cricket team later in 1970, and then of all future visits by South African...


Learie Constantine - West Indies cricket pioneer

In the 1920s, Learie Constantine became the first West Indian cricketer to sign a professional contract in England. He was a star of the domestic and international game thanks to his athletic all-round performances with bat and ball. Learie Constantine is also credited with helping improve race relations in Britain and later became the first black person to be awarded a peerage. Simon Watts introduces the memories of Learie Constantine as recorded in the BBC archives. PHOTO: Learie...


Maradona and the "Hand of God" goal

To mark the death of legendary Argentine striker, Diego Maradona, we revisit the 1986 World Cup and two goals which he famously scored against England in the quarter-final. The first is now known as the “Hand of God” and the second as the “Goal of the Century”. England forward Gary Lineker watched both goals go in and in 2012 he shared his memories with Fred Dove. The programme is a Whistledown Production. PHOTO: The "Hand of God" goal (Allsport/Getty Images)


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...