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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




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)


Cheerleading's first World Championships

In 2004 the first Cheerleading World Championships, or Worlds, were held at the Walt Disney World resort in Florida. It was a big moment for All Star Cheer – a new sport made up of demanding group routines of coordinated tumbles and stunts, rather than supporting a sports team from the sidelines. Lucy Burns talks to Ambrel Brannon, a member of the winning Cheer Athletics senior girls' squad, about a sport that’s becoming increasingly popular around the world. PICTURE: A cheerleader is thrown...


Clyde Best: A black footballing pioneer

Bermuda-born Clyde Best came to England as a teenager in 1968 and went on to play for West Ham United alongside the likes of Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst. Best made a name for himself as a talented goal-scorer in more than 200 appearances for the Hammers, but he faced constant racist abuse from fans, and on occasion, from opposition players. Now in his 60s, Clyde Best has been telling Mike Lanchin about how he stood up to the racists in English soccer. Photo: Clyde Best on the ball, 4th March...


Rulon Gardner - Wrestling Hero

At the 2000 Olympics, American Rulon Gardner pulled off the greatest shock in the history of modern Greco-Roman wrestling when he beat the Russian Aleksander Karelin. Karelin had not been defeated for 13 years and had already prepared a party to celebrate his latest gold medal. The win made Gardner a hero in America and is credited with sparking a boom in the popularity of his sport. He talks to Ashley Byrne. The programme is a Made-in-Manchester Production. PHOTO: Rulon Gardner (Getty...


Ibtihaj Muhammad - Fencing in a hijab

In 2016, the Muslim-American fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad made history by becoming the first US athlete to wear a hijab at the Olympic Games. After facing questions about her hijab and political views throughout her career, Ibtihaj was trailed by the global media throughout the Rio games. She overcame a shaky start to win a bronze medal in the team sabre event. Ibtihaj Muhammad has since written a popular autobiography and even inspired a hijab-wearing Barbie doll. She talks to Farhana Haider....


Tofiri Kibuuka - Africa's paralympic pioneer

The blind African paralympian Tofiri Kibuuka has the unique distinction of competing successfully for two different countries in two different events. In 1976, Kibbuuka represented Uganda in cross-country skiing at the inaugural winter Paralympics in Sweden. To escape the Idi Amin regime, Kibbuka then took Norwegian nationality and switched to middle-distancing running, taking part in three successive summer Paralympics. A pioneer of blind sport in Africa, he talks to Steve Hankey. The...


Fausto Coppi - Il Campionissimo

The Italian cyclist, Fausto Coppi, is considered one of the greatest riders of all time – known as “Il Campionissimo”, he was a two-time winner of the Tour De France and five-time winner of the Tour of Italy. But in his home country he is remembered equally for an affair with a married woman called Giulia Occhini, which scandalized the nation in the 1950s. Alicia Gioia talks to Faustino Coppi, Fausto Coppi’s son with Guilia Occhini, and to veteran Italian sports journalist, Gianpaolo...


The 'Crazy Gang' win the FA Cup

In May 1988, Wimbledon secured a shock victory over a great Liverpool side in the 1988 FA Cup Final. Known as the "Crazy Gang" because of their physicality and tough attitude, the Wimbledon players went one-nil up after 37 minutes and somehow kept the lead thanks to some typically uncompromising defending. Alex Capstick talks to Wimbledon goal hero, Lawrie Sanchez. (Photo: Lawrie Sanchez, centre left, celebrating with his Wimbledon team-mates. Credit: Getty Images)


Defying the Taliban

In December 2012, Maria Toorpakai Wazir reached the top 50 of women’s squash after an extraordinary struggle to become a professional player. Born in the tribal areas of Pakistan, Maria’s family disguised her as a boy until she was a teenager so she could try sport. After the Taliban discovered her true identity, Maria was threatened and she went into hiding until a Canadian former squash champion got her out of Pakistan. She talks to Ashley Byrne. The programme is a Made-In-Manchester...