Sporting Witness-logo

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 Gay Games

In 1982, the first ever Gay Games were held in San Francisco. Attracting a large crowd and featuring more than 1000 athletes from more than 100 countries, the event was organised by a group of LGBT activists, including former Olympians, to raise awareness about homophobia in sport. The Gay Games are now held every four years at venues around the world. Ashley Byrne speaks to organiser Sara Waddell Lewinstein and athlete Rick Tomin. This programme was first broadcast in 2010. PHOTO: An...


The first woman to play in the NHL

French Canadian Manon Rhéaume became the first, and only, woman to play in the National Hockey League. In 1992 she was signed by the Tampa Bay Lightning as a goaltender after a successful performance in training camp. Manon tells Rebecca Kesby how she started playing ice hockey at the age of 5 with her brothers, and why she loves playing in goal with pucks flying at her at well over 100km an hour. Manon Rhéaume played in the men professional league for 5 years and represented Canada in the...


Nova Peris - Australia's first aboriginal Olympic champion

In 1996, Nova Peris became the first aboriginal Australian to win an Olympic gold medal when the “Hockeyroos” women’s hockey team took victory at the Atlanta games. Peris’s mother was one of Australia’s so-called Stolen Generation – the aboriginal children separated from their families by the state – and Peris experienced racial abuse herself during her sporting career. After triumphing in hockey, she switched to athletics and took another gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in the 200...


The NFL's Rooney Rule

In 2003, the NFL introduced a landmark diversity policy requiring American football teams to interview ethnic minority candidates for positions as head coaches or general managers. Known as the “Rooney Rule”, the policy was the result of organised pressure from black coaches and former players, led by former NFL champion, John Wooten. Initially seen as a success, the Rooney Rule has been influential not just in sport, but in the corporate world. John Wooten talks to Farhana Haider. PHOTO:...


Mianne Bagger - Golf's transgender pioneer

In 2004, Mianne Bagger of Denmark became the first transitioned woman to play in a professional golf tournament when she played in the Australian women's open in Sydney. It was a landmark moment for trans sport and made headlines around the world. Mianne Bagger talks to Robbie Wojciechowski. PHOTO: Mianne Bagger in action in 2010 (Getty Images)


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...