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 athlete who changed the rules on sex tests

In the 1980s, the Spanish hurdler Maria-Jose Patiño was forced to quit athletics after a sex test revealed she had male chromosomes due to a rare genetic condition called Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. Often facing hostile press coverage, Patiño fought a two-year battle to change the international rules – successfully proving that her chromosome pattern did not improve her athletic performance and that her body was the same as any other woman’s. Patiño was allowed to compete again in...


Kuwait at the football World Cup

In 1982, Kuwait made their first and only appearance at the football World Cup, with their amateur side putting up respectable performances against France and England. But press attention focused on the Kuwaitis’ team mascot – a camel called Haydoo, who became such a fan favourite that he even inspired a hit song. Sumaya Bakhsh talks to Kuwait captain, Saad al-Houty, about how Haydoo came to represent national pride for a team that had been dismissed by the foreign media as a bunch of...


Ghana's runaway sprinters

In 1990, two of Ghana’s most talented sprinters, Gus Nketia and Laud Codjoe, escaped from their national team’s accommodation at the Commonwealth Games in Auckland. The pair had made friends in New Zealand and wanted to flee from a country with an increasingly repressive government. They were helped by an extended Maori family, who hid them in the New Zealand backcountry and helped them apply for citizenship. Gus Nketia later became the New Zealand record-holder at 100 metres. Tom...


Fighting for women's boxing

In the 1980s, the American boxer, Gail Grandchamp, launched a long campaign for the right to take part in amateur competitions in the USA. Representing herself and raising money through part-time jobs, Gail was eventually successful in 1992 - blazing a trail for women boxers the world over. She spoke to Rebecca Kesby in 2016. PHOTO: Gail Grandchamp squaring up (The Berkshire Eagle)


When Col Gaddafi's son played football in Italy's Serie A

In 2003, Italian top-flight side Perugia made a new and unusual signing: Al-Saadi Gaddafi, the son of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. It was seen as a publicity stunt by headline-hungry Perugia owner Luciano Gaucci, with Gaddafi making just one Serie A appearance, as a substitute in a win against Juventus in 2004. But Gaddafi made a big impression off the field and was renowned for his playboy lifestyle and outrageous spending habits. Former Perugia teammates Jay Bothroyd and Zeljko Kalac...


Zimbabwe's Paralympic pioneer

At the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney, Zimbabwean sprinter Elliot Mujaji won his country’s first ever Paralympic gold medal when he sprinted to victory in the 100 metres. Mujaji had been a promising runner as a teenager, but suffered severe burns and the amputation of his right arm while working in a part-time job as an electrician. Mujaji then faced a tough battle to get sponsorship in a country where there was virtually no support for Paralympic athletes. He talks to Ashley Byrne. The...


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....