It is known in the Chinese folklore that each of the 12 years in their zodiac cycle is represented by a specific animal; so for example, this is the year of the monkey. You may be thinking right now, why the hell have I started this article in regards to the Chinese zodiac cycle? Well that’s because it relates to the sporting world, still with me? Good. To explain further, each year, that specific animal is supposed to give guidance; path the way in someone’s life, similar to star signs you may say. Anyway, the reason why I am relating this to the sporting world is purely because, this is the year of the underdog, I mean, there has been so many shocks in a number of respected sports that they must be getting this guidance from somewhere, whether it be passion or belief, this year’s sporting upsets have truly been extraordinary. Since I can remember, it has been the norm for that sporadic sporting upset to happen now and again, the David beating the Goliath so to speak, but the trend has been a continuous effect this year, which is why I felt the need to single out the 5 of most fascinating sporting triumph thus far.
Leicester’s 5000-1 championship
Now I can honestly say that towards the latter part of the 2015/2016 Barclays premier league season, with Leicester still soaring high at the top of the table, looking almost certain to win the league, I was still in denial that they could defy all the odds and go and win the title. As an Arsenal fan, you can imagine that this season was pretty tough; tougher than most. Losing out on the title race and having your derby rivals (Tottenham) contending for top spot during the concluding part of the season. Still, Leicester proved everyone wrong and with a club costing less than certain individual players in the league, they managed to lift the trophy and shock the population world-wide. They showed that you don’t need a ton of money to win a league that’s so dominated by ever growing transfer fees, yet, experts and pundits believed that it was their raw team spirit and belief, whilst not discounting Claduio Ranieri’s tactics and counter attacking approach that won them their first ever title. Also, let’s not forget that, when Ranireri took the post at Leicester city at the start of the season, they instantly became favourites to get relegated due to his track record. However, I am sure will be seeing a statue of the Italian tinker-man out side the King Power stadium very soon.
2-weeks to become champ
Now in the lead up to UFC 199, the original main-event was between Luke Rockhold (Champion) and Chris Weidman (#1), a rematch after Rockhold took the belt off of Weidman. A very anticipating grudge match was on the cards, however it ended prematurely due to an unfortunate injury to Weidman; 2 weeks before the event took place, causing him to pull out. After all this, a match-up still needed to happen, so Danna White and the rest of the team at UFC went straight to work in finding a new opponent for Rockhold. A number of names popped up that would fit the bill, yet it was Britain’s own Michael Bisping whom seem most creditable to be the number one contender for this fight, this being months after Bisping recorded his emphatic win against the legendary Anderson Silva. With just two weeks notice he ceased on the opportunity and begun his preparation. Throughout Bisping career, he’s was always been known as a ‘soft’ puncher and at the age of 37 it seemed all that of an impossible task especially in regards to the fact the Rockhold, who was massive a favourite for the fight, seemed to be at a career best at the moment in time, already registering a win over Bisping and then there’s that bad omen of a Brit never becoming a UFC world champion. Nonetheless, as the main event commenced, it only took the 1st round to knock Rockhold to the ground allowing Bisping to captolise on his progession and become the first ever British champion.
The greatest ever comeback?
After 52 years of terrible luck, the Cleveland Cavaliers came into another NBA final having lost out in the previous season, at the same stage, to the same opposition- Golden State Warriors. Yet, this time seemed all but optimistic, they weren’t struck with an injury stricken squad like the last final and the man main himself: Lebron James provided an outstanding effort throughout the playoff stages. With this being said, they still faced a tremendous task due to the Warriors putting on one of the greatest runs in NBA history, following up a 67 win championship season with a record-breaking 73-win campaign. Anyway, the first two games of the finals showed a similar story from the previous one: Golden State were too talented, to versatile and to deep for the Cavs. As the series went on, it just seemed to big for Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love , whilst Lebron looking like he had no answer for the Warriors excellence. So when it got to game 5, most fans believed that the Cav’s had too much to do in securing an upset and coming back from a 3-1 deficit had never happened in NBA history, so you can see why the odds were firmly stacked against them. But that wasn’t the case, course it wasn’t, remember this is the year of the underdog. Game 5 to 7 represented the greatest comeback in NBA history and the Cav’s managed to claw their way back and win the series 4-3 defeating a solid team who never looked like losing and Lebron responded to all the disrespect and condescension that the Warriors threw his way, providing a variety of outstanding performances bringing his team from the depths of despair to the heights of championship glory.
A hat-trick of victories
In regards to the England rugby union team, things have been all that hot and cold in recent years. During the 2015 rugby world cup, England made history, but not the history you want to be remembered for. They were the first team NOT to qualify from the group stages when hosting the event in your own country. However, after a change of management and shift a round within the team, things soon got better for England; having won the 6-nations this year, recording a number of great results within the competition. Coming off of this amazing triumph, the big test came with the 3 day tour of Australia. England had never won a test series in Australia and the Wallabies have never lost all 3 home games since being ‘whitewashed’ in the 70’s against South Africa. Before the series started, Australia were ranked 2nd in the world, but as the series progressed, that soon started to change. The first game England won 28-39, then the second test, England made history by provding one of the best defensive efforts and winning the series 7-23. Now, a 3rd game still needed to be played and with England already winning the series, fans wanted that ‘whitewash’ which they truly devlivered in a nailbiting game; a game ending 40-44. After an emotional and draining few weeks in Australia, England can forget about the lows of 2015 and come home with their heads held high, doing something that hasn’t been achieved since 1971.
The Viking & The Dragon
So this years Euro’s has been a very odd tournament, the ‘big’ teams haven’t really wowed me, whereas the more ‘smaller’ nations have provided me with the most entertainment; I could pick out some examples but you’ll probably be here all day reading this article. What was so amazing during this years tournament, was both Iceland’s and Wale’s journey towards the latter stages of the competition. We kinda guess Wales would scrape through their group, but Iceland, man, I thought Iceland would get through but only by clinching that best 3rd spot. But again, how silly of me, remember, this year is for the underdogs and even though neither team got to the final, what a incredible run they both had, Iceland beating England to go into the quarter-finals and Wales! Wales getting to the last 4, showing everyone that you don’t need these highly paid, overrated players, just passion and desire. Nonetheless, both teams should be proud of their historic runs because their progression has been unreal. In 2011 Wales were ranked at 113, ranking below Haiti and North Korea, whereas Iceland were beaten 3-1 to Liechtenstein, so you can see that their remarkable fairy tale will be remembered in years to come.
Are we going to see more upsets as this year develops? What does the Olympic games have installed for us? Can Kell Brook overcome the force that is Golovkin? All I can say is that, I’ve truly enjoyed these underdogs defying the odds over and over again this year and hopefully, there will be more to come. If you have any perdictions for future events then let us know and to all those athletes our there, I salute you.