SINGAPORE — The 2010s are about to come to an end, and it has been an exhilarating ride for sports fans throughout the past decade.
Long-time records were broken, extraordinary score-lines happened, and fans could get their hands on any kind of sports results and live updates. This is truly news made for social media consumption.
Yahoo News Singapore recently polled our users on what they thought was the top sports news story of the 2010s. Here was how the poll went:
Without a doubt the transcendent NBA superstar of the 2010s, LeBron James reached the NBA Finals for a staggering eight straight years in the decade, from 2011 to 2018, and won three titles – two with Miami Heat and one of his home team Cleveland Cavaliers.
And it was that sole triumph with the Cavs in 2016 that proved to be James’ greatest achievement. While he had talented teammates in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, he was facing a dominant Golden State Warriors side that was loaded with sharpshooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, and had just set a regular-season win-loss record with 73-9.
During the best-of-seven-games Finals, the Cavs found themselves with a 1-3 deficit, but stunned the Warriors by winning three straight to take the title. Not only did they made history by being the first NBA team to climb out of a 1-3 hole in the Finals, but they also clinched the first sports title for the city of Cleveland in 52 years.
James’ stunning block in the dying seconds of Game Seven remains an iconic memory, and he will be forever adored in his home state for this achievement.
Singapore football has struggled mightily in the past decade, with two failed national coaching appointments (Bernd Stange and V. Sundram Moorthy) and numerous underwhelming performances at major tournaments.
It all makes the Lions’ 2012 triumph in the AFF Suzuki Cup all the more treasured, as few had predicted before the tournament that they had the ability to overcome what had been a talented Thailand side in the two-legged final.
The Lions – well coached by Serbian Raddy Avramovic – were resilient in defence and clinical in their counter attacks. Taking a 3-1 first-leg lead to the Supachalasai Stadium in Bangkok, they endured non-stop waves of attack from the determined Thais in the second leg, but let in just one goal to clinch the AFF Championship for the fourth time since 1998. It remains the high point for Singapore football this decade.
Lewis Hamilton was widely recognised as the next big thing in Formula One at the start of the decade, but had not been able to succeed in the McLaren team in the early 2010s.
That all changed in 2013, when he stunned the motorsports world by jumping ship to Mercedes. Yet it proved a masterstroke, as he won five out of six F1 drivers’ championships from 2014 to 2019, beaten only once by teammate Nico Rosberg in 2016 in a close battle.
It all but established Hamilton as the best driver of his generation, outstanding in any weather condition and tenacious in his numerous battles with his peers like Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen. Some may not like his aloofness and playboy attitude, but there can be no doubting his dominance.
He had already overtook Pete Sampras’ all-time record of 14 Grand Slam titles in 2009, but with age catching up on Roger Federer, few would have expected the Swiss maestro to continue to add to his Grand Slam collection.
Yet the 38-year-old continued to rack up Wimbledon and Australian Open titles this decade, even beating his younger “Big Four” rivals Rafael Nadal (2017 Australian Open final) and Andy Murray (2010 Australian Open and 2012 Wimbledon finals).
In 2018, Federer duly became the first player to reach 20 Grand Slam titles after beating Croatia’s Marin Cilic for his sixth Australian Open title. Not that he needed further validation as the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) tennis player, but his career longevity has added more mystique to his otherworldly tennis achievements.
For years, two of the greatest boxers of this century – Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao – have circled each other, sizing up their chances and building anticipation among their fan bases for a titanic, lucrative fight for the ages.
When the duo finally agreed on their welterweight fight in 2015, it was duly hyped up as the “Fight of the Century” by the boxing promotional machines. While it was undeniably a fascinating bout, pitting Mayweather’s unbeaten record and defensive greatness against Pacquiao’s lightning-fast offence and unremitting intensity, the two 30-something boxers were arguably past their peak powers.
Not surprisingly, the fight did not live up to the overwhelming expectations. Mayweather predictably went on the defensive after landing early blows, not allowing Macquiao any opportunity to rain punches on him. Pacquiao, who admitted after the bout that he was carrying a shoulder injury, struggled to impose himself and eventually lost the 12-round fight via unanimous decision.
Roger Federer may have more Grand Slam titles, Novak Djokovic may have more dominant seasons and Andy Murray may have the best moment with his first Wimbledon triumph in 2013, but Rafael Nadal has undoubtedly the single most impressive tennis feat among the “Big Four” tennis stars of this generation.
In the 10 years between 2010 and 2019, the Spaniard won eight French Open titles, adding to the four titles he won from 2005 to 2008. To give an idea of how extraordinary this sporting feat is: this is one of the toughest tennis tournaments to win consistently, given the presence of many clay-court specialists and the gruelling, long rallies that typify the slow courts on Roland Garros.
Bjorn Borg’s original record of six French Open titles in the 1970s was long considered unsurpassable, until Nadal came along and obliterated all past assumptions on dominance of a Grand Slam event. Together with his overwhelming intensity on the court – and humbleness off it – he has become a wildly popular sporting icon and an enduring debate lingers among fans on whether he or Roger Federer should be considered the greatest tennis player of all time.
Without a doubt, this is the darkest scandal to engulf the sporting world in the 2010s. Consider this: Before this decade, Lance Armstrong had been widely hailed as one of the most inspirational sporting figures ever, apparently overcoming testicular cancer to win a record seven titles at Tour de France – regarded as one of the most gruelling events in sports, let alone cycling.
The American had set up the Livestrong Foundation in support of cancer survivors, and many were inspired to pick up cycling – and to fight their cancer ailments – because of his feats. So it was a shattering blow to the sporting fraternity in 2013 when Armstrong finally admitted in an Oprah Winfrey interview that he had used performance-enhancing substances during his career.
He was subsequently stripped of all seven of his Tour de France titles and his sizeable sponsorship deals. Lawsuits ensued, as he was deemed a massive disgrace to the sport of cycling as well as the general sporting world. It was a monumental fall from grace which Armstrong – and the sport of cycling – has yet to recover fully from.
Brazil – the very word conjures footballing royalty, with the South American country winning a record five World Cups with their inimitable, stylish “samba football” and in their attractive yellow-and-blue jerseys.
And when it hosted the 2014 World Cup Finals, the odds were on the Selecao winning their sixth title, and wowing the world like they did in the 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002 editions when the likes of Pele, Garrincha, Jairzinho, Romario and Ronaldo dazzled the fans and won the sporting world’s most coveted trophy.
Yet the cracks were arguably visible amid their suspect defence, and against an in-form Germany in the semi-finals, the dam burst – again and again. In a stunning 1-7 capitulation, Brazil conceded five goals in the first 30 minutes en route to their biggest defeat at the World Cup, as their faithful fans wept at the humiliation.
Arguably, Brazil’s aura of invincibility was extinguished permanently after that thrashing, and they were no longer viewed as favourites at the next World Cup in 2018. They have become just another football team, and not the heroic fan favourites beating all comers at the top of international football.
Before the 2015/16 English Premier League (EPL) season, Leicester City were considered as a “yo-yo” football club – struggling at the top tier with the occasional relegation, but too good to stay long in the second tier. While they were under wealthy Thai owners since 2010, their targets were modest, and it seemed that mid-table respectability in the EPL would be all they could aim for with their resources.
At the end of 2015, the Foxes suddenly found themselves top of the EPL table, above traditional giants like Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea – all of whom had won the league in recent years but were going through transitional periods. Even under wily manager Claudio Ranieri, Leicester were expected to stumble and normal services to be resumed soon enough.
But when 2016 arrived, they refused to start losing, and as they clung heroically on to the top spot, neutral football fans sensed an unbelievable triumph for the underdogs and threw their support behind the unfashionable club. Against all odds – actually 5,000-1 odds by British bookmakers at the start of the season – Leicester secured the EPL title amid wild global celebrations at this fairy-tale ending.
It remains the best feel-good sports story of the decade, an extraordinary triumph by modest footballers with their collective will and togetherness, in a feat previously thought undoable with the sheer financial strengths of EPL giants. Leicester’s accomplishment is unlikely to be forgotten in history.
Since 1948, there have been athletes from Singapore competing at the Summer Olympics. After Tan Howe Liang won its first-ever medal in 1960 – a weightlifting silver – the country endured a 48-year barren wait for the next medal. Although it came in a rush of three women’s table tennis medals in two Games – a silver and two bronzes – Singapore’s sporting community had to endure criticism over the use of China-born paddlers to garner medals.
Then came local-born Joseph Schooling. The swimmer had been progressing steadily over the decade, first winning at the SEA Games, then the Commonwealth Games and finally at the Asian Games. Even so, he was hardly fancied to win an Olympic gold at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, given the depth of talent in his pet event, the men’s 100m butterfly.
On 12 August 2016, Schooling faced the likes of his swim idol Michael Phelps, former world and Olympic champion Chad le Clos as well as European champion Laszlo Cseh in the 100m fly final. The odds – as well as the decades of mental baggage – were stacked against the Singaporean, who was only 21 then.
When he exploded out of the blocks and into an early lead, many still expected Phelps, le Clos or Cseh to eventually catch up. While they did close the gap, Schooling managed one final surge at the end. When he touched the wall, Singaporeans held their collective breath – and cheered wildly as the live television footage showed that he had won just ahead of his three illustrious opponents, all of whom finished in an unprecedented joint-second.
And so the Singapore national anthem Majulah Singapura was played for the first time at the Olympics, and Schooling ensured his perennial historical significance in Singapore sports with that monumental 50.39sec swim in Rio.