Guardian writers on their favourite sporting moments of 2015

We recall golden landmarks of the past year from a poignant embrace in the Champions League final to Anthony Crolla’s remarkable boxing comeback


Any game featuring Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suárez is enough to make you quicken your pace on the way to the stadium. Barcelona’s front three helped take the sport to its highest levels during the Champions League final, the culmination of the Catalan club’s treble, but Juventus took great dignity in defeat. No team could have lived with Barcelona that night. Yet the most poignant memory came afterwards when Xavi Hernández and Andrea Pirlo, two of the sport’s authentic greats, embraced on the pitch, knowing it would be their last occasion for two clubs they have distinguished with their presence. Daniel Taylor


Edgbaston, 31 July 2015. If only as a reminder of the delicious, cruel fragility of being a professional sportsman, let’s recall the end of the Edgbaston Test against Australia. England prevail by eight wickets in front of a raucous capacity crowd – they don’t chant “Stand up if you’re 2-1 up” at Lord’s – and Ian Bell is cheered all the way back to the pavilion. On his home ground he hit a skittish 53 in the first innings followed by an unbeaten 65 in the second. Now in the brief hours of daylight he is pondering whether he will ever play Test cricket again, no doubt hoping that England perform well in South Africa without him, but not that well. Vic Marks

Ian Bell
Ian Bell acknowledges the crowd as he leaves the field after England won the third Ashes Test match at Edgbaston. Photograph: Philip Brown/Reuters

Rugby union

An easy choice, for once. The Rugby World Cup exceeded all (non-English) expectations, particularly for those of us lucky enough to be in Brighton on the tournament’s opening Saturday. To watch Japan beat South Africa – fair and square, no trace of a fluke – was to witness one of the more extraordinary upsets in the history of team sport. Technically, the Brave Blossoms were outstanding and, when it really mattered, they possessed the nerve and composure to finish off the flustered Boks. It was a result to encourage supposed underdogs everywhere – and earn Eddie Jones a highly lucrative contract as England’s new head coach. Robert Kitson


This year’s world athletics championships in Beijing had so many adrenaline-charged set pieces it could have been scripted by John Woo. There was Usain Bolt’s epic 100m duel with Justin Gatlin. Jessica Ennis-Hill’s remarkable comeback from childbirth to take heptathlon gold after Katarina Johnson-Thompson fouled three times in the long jump. The US women’s 4x400m team blowing a huge lead on the final lap to lose to Jamaica. Yet for pure excitement nothing matched the women’s 200m final, which looked certain to go to the Jamaican Elaine Thompson until the flying Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers stormed down the home straight to pip her on dip in 21.63sec, the third fastest time in history. Shortly afterwards Schippers was so dizzy she had to see a doctor. The rest of us knew how she felt, having watched the greatest women’s 200m in history. Sean Ingle

Dafne Schippers
Dafne Schippers celebrates victory in the women’s 200m final at the world championships. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA


It’s hard to beat Andy Murray’s lob over David Goffin to seal Great Britain’s first Davis Cup in 79 years. It was a sublime shot at the end of a high-quality rally against a determined and talented opponent playing in front of his home crowd. But what topped it was Murray’s reaction after celebrating victory with his team-mates: he first commiserated with his opponents and, for fully 45 minutes after that, stayed on court in the unlovely shed on the edge of Ghent that was the final’s venue to sign autographs and put his face in a hundred selfies for the many hundreds of fans who had ignored the obvious personal risk to their safety at a time of unprecedented high security in Belgium after the terrorist slaughter only a week earlier in Paris. Beyond sport. Kevin Mitchell


Golf isn’t exempt from the cynicism which so categorises sport at the top level. For that reason, a year marked by the brilliance of Jordan Spieth offered a Solheim Cup moment not to be forgotten. The 20-year-old debutant Alison Lee, involved in the controversial moment in the meeting of Europe and the United States, had earlier been a peripheral figure after being hit by food poisoning. During the post-event media conference, Lee broke down in tears of joy in front of her American team-mates. “I have been really quiet and just watching from the sidelines,” Lee said. “I’m still starstruck being on this team. A year ago I was watching them on TV. I was watching them from outside the ropes and now I’m here. I still can’t believe it.” Only those of a cast-iron heart wouldn’t have felt a flutter of emotion. Ewan Murray


The rainbow jersey of world champion is as hard to win in its own way as the maillot jaune of Tour de France winner; both this year’s elite titles in Richmond, Virginia, for Lizzie Armitstead and Peter Sagan, marked the end of lengthy quests for the arc-en-ciel. Against that backdrop, Armitstead created the moment of the year for her sangfroid in dealing with the nine-rider lead group in the final, suspenseful metres. The Yorkshirewoman looked poised for an agonising defeat as she opted to lead out the sprint, until she surged clear and it was suddenly obvious that she was on the front only because she had the total confidence that comes to an athlete on the very best of days. William Fotheringham


This time a year ago Anthony Crolla was in hospital with a broken ankle and fractured skull after attempting to apprehend burglars at his neighbour’s house in New Moston in Manchester. They bashed him with a concrete slab, left him unconscious and have never been caught. Crolla, remarkably, has forgiven the anonymous cowards. “He could have been killed,” his trainer Joe Gallagher said. Against all odds, Crolla recovered to win the WBA lightweight title in November, stopping the previously unstoppable Colombian, Darleys Pérez, in a stirring rematch. It was a triumph of the spirit that just pipped the year’s most unlikely victory, Tyson Fury’s over (some of) his critics – “If I offended anyone, I’m sorry” – after dethroning the 11-year heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko … then re-interpreting key tracts of Leviticus. Kevin Mitchell

Rugby league

So many to pick from in a quite remarkable year for rugby league, but the night where the League Leaders’ Shield was settled back in September was a true highlight for me. With the trophy on board a helicopter hovering over the M62 and three teams still capable of finishing top, it was Ryan Hall’s last-minute try which ultimately secured leg two of a historic treble for Leeds Rhinos. First place looked to be heading to both Huddersfield and Wigan at different stages throughout the night before Hall pounced on Danny McGuire’s kick to ensure Leeds claimed top spot: a moment which epitomised the RFL’s motto of every minute mattering in 2015. Aaron Bower

Ryan Hall
Leeds Rhinos’ Ryan Hall celebrates with the League Leaders’ Shield. Photograph: Lee Smith/Reuters

Horse racing

This has been the year of the long goodbye in horse racing, AP McCoy setting the template with his two-month farewell tour in the spring, followed into retirement by Richard Hughes in high summer and Hayley Turner as the leaves fell. All three gave plenty of notice, allowing us an enjoyably prolonged wallow in nostalgia, but racing’s instinctive preference is to look forward and nothing is more exciting than the emergence of The Next Big Thing. That’s why Vautour was so thrilling in victory at the Cheltenham Festival in March. Sure, it was only a novice chase and not an especially hot one at that, but he bounded over those fences and bolted clear. He hasn’t quite made good on the promise of that day so far this winter but there is always hope of a similarly impressive performance when he returns to the home of jump racing in three months’ time. Chris Cook

Formula One

In a generally unexciting season the few gems sparkled in the gloom. There was the sight of that great team, Williams, running one-two at Silverstone, and there was the wonderful atmosphere in Mexico, as F1 returned to the city for the first time in 23 years. Best of all, though, there was the US Grand Prix in Austin, the week before Mexico. It was where Lewis Hamilton won his third world title. This most unpredictable of races, featuring two safety cars, crashes and multiple overtakes, was great fun for everyone watching. The legacy of the rain which had so disrupted the weekend was a wet track, and that added to the thrill. There was even a late plot twist, when Nico Rosberg’s surprising mistake handed the race to Hamilton. Paul Weaver


Guardian sport

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Sporting moments 2011: Our writers pick their highlights of the year
Sporting moments 2011: Our writers pick their highlights of the year

Observer Sport writers

17, Dec, 2011 @10:55 PM

Article image
20 for 2020: the unmissable sporting events over the next 12 months
The Tokyo Olympics is the main event but with England in the Euros and Tiger Roll attempting an unprecedented third straight Grand National fans are spoilt for choice in 2020

Sachin Nakrani

31, Dec, 2019 @9:59 AM

Article image
Sport in 2016: 12 names to watch
From Sam Billings to Jolyon Palmer via Ardie Savea and Johanna Konta, here are the sportsmen and women for whom our writers are predicting a big year ahead

Guardian writers

01, Jan, 2016 @12:53 PM

Article image
21 for 2021: the unmissable sporting events over the next 12 months
The rearranged Tokyo Olympics and Euro 2020 feature in a crowded calendar capped off by the Ashes

Sachin Nakrani

29, Dec, 2020 @8:00 AM

Article image
The sporting year ahead: 18 dates for your diary in 2018
Russia’s ethical World Cup adventure, Nigeria’s bobsleigh stars at the Winter Olympics, and a welcome helping of London 2012 nostalgia

Observer Sport

31, Dec, 2017 @10:00 AM

Article image
Sport calendar 2017: your essential guide to the next 12 months
The British & Irish Lions are on tour, the world’s finest athletes head to London, the Ashes are at stake in Australia and there are international honours in women’s football, rugby league and one-day cricket

Guardian sport

01, Jan, 2017 @12:01 AM

Article image
Tom Jenkins’s best sports photos of 2021
The Guardian and Observer sport photographer Tom Jenkins selects his favourite images from the thousands of frames that he shot during 2021 and recalls the stories behind them

Tom Jenkins

31, Dec, 2021 @12:01 AM

Article image
Rio 2016: Guardian writers pick their favourite Olympic moments
From the brilliance of Michael Phelps, Simone Biles and the Fiji rugby team to a Ryan Lochte ‘sit-in’ and a selfie that reminded us all why the Games still matter

Guardian sport

22, Aug, 2016 @11:19 AM

Article image
19 for '19: unmissable sporting events to mark in your diary
World cups will feature prominently in what promises to be a spectacular sporting year

Sachin Nakrani

28, Dec, 2018 @6:22 PM

Article image
The year in numbers: from gold rushes to cricketing windfalls

From the Michael Phelps' eight gold medals to the £32.5m Man City paid for Robinho, these are the numbers that defined sport in 2008

28, Dec, 2008 @12:01 AM