Opinion

Greatest upsets of all time

by
May 03, 2016

Leicester City Football Club is on the precipice of the greatest rags-to-riches story in the history of sports.

By the time today’s paper hits the shelves the Foxes could already be crowned English Premier League champions for the first time in the club’s 132-year history.

This time last year Leicester supporters were dancing in the stands, but that was simply for surviving relegation after winning seven of its final nine games.

Nobody could have predicted what was to come, especially the bookies who pegged the lowly City at 5000-1, unaware of just how cunning the Foxes would be in 2015-16.

This fairytale got me thinking about the greatest sporting upsets of all time and everyone loves a good old top 10 list, so without further ado let’s get stuck into it.

10. Western Bulldogs v Essendon, Round 21, 2000

Spurred by a shock one-point loss to Carlton in the 1999 preliminary final, Essendon went through the opening 20 rounds of the 2000 AFL season undefeated.

With an average winning margin of more than 50 points a game, the Bombers looked poised to record the first perfect season in league history.

The Western Bulldogs had other ideas and stunned Essendon with a fourth quarter come-from-behind 11-point victory.

The Bombers had the last laugh winning the grand final against Melbourne by 10 goals, but missing a shot at perfection is an itch you can never quite scratch.

9. USA v Soviet Union, New York Winter Olympics 1980

Americans widely consider the Miracle on Ice at the 1980 Winter Olympics the greatest upset of all time, but most Yanks don’t know a world exists outside the land of the free so they tend to get ahead of themselves.

In the midst of the Cold War, the Soviets’ ice hockey team was packed full of tradition and experience and was the heavy favourite heading into its contest against the US.

The Americans were made up of a bunch of college players or nobodies, but somehow took Lake Placid by storm and downed the mighty Soviets 4-3 sparking pandemonium across the States.

Such was the significance of the victory it was made into the feature film Miracle (2004).

8. Steven Bradbury, Salt Lake City Winter Olympics 2002

Back to the Winter Olympics and we have the great Steven Bradbury’s gold medal-winning performance in 2002 at Salt Lake City — an iconic example of an underdog’s triumph.

After initially missing out on a semi-final spot in the 1000m short track event, Bradbury fortuitously qualified as a result of a disqualification to a faster opponent.

Realising his limitations (an inability to consistently skate very fast), a masterstroke suggestion from his coach saw Bradbury approach his semi-final race with a tortoise mentality, hoping the hares ahead of him would crash and burn.

They did.

He advanced to the final with the same mindset and the rest is history.

7. Legends hit the canvas, Las Vegas 1978 and Tokyo 1990

I’ve declared it a draw on the following two boxing upsets.

In 1978, Muhammad Ali stepped into the ring against challenger Leon Spinks looking to extend his record to a formidable 53-2.

Spinks was reluctantly given a shot at Ali in what many assumed was a foregone conclusion, but the underdog spirit prevailed as Spinks went the distance and clinched it in a split decision.

The rematch would prove the last win of Ali’s illustrious career.

The other boxing upset to rival Spinks is Buster Douglas handing Mike Tyson his first loss in a 1990 knockout.

Douglas was a 42-to-1 shot to take down the baddest man on the planet, but he was not afraid of the man who would bite off part of Evander Holyfield’s ear seven years later.

Douglas floored Tyson in the 10th and was wearing his heavyweight belt before Iron Mike knew what year it was.

6. Ireland v Pakistan, Cricket World Cup 2007

The fourth-ranked cricket team in the world, Pakistan, was knocked out of the 2007 Cricket World Cup following a defeat to lowly Ireland, on St Patrick’s Day, no less.

A magnificent performance from Irish wicketkeeper Niall O’Brien saw the men in green chase down 132 runs and progress to their first Super Eights.

The result became more shocking when that night Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer was found unconscious in his hotel room and pronounced dead less than 24 hours after the defeat.

5. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, Tennis Majors 2009

Rafael Nadal is the greatest clay court player of all time and in 2009 had never lost at the French Open until he ran into a then unknown Robin Soderling in the fourth round.

Nadal’s fifth straight title seemed a formality, but Soderling produced the impossible and sailed through to the quarters in a four-set effort that pundits still can’t explain.

The defeat also allowed Roger Federer to win his first and only French Open completing a career grand slam.

A few months later, then world number one Federer arrived at the 2009 US Open vying for his sixth straight title in New York, but he was stunned in the final by Juan Martin Del Potro.

Nobody gave the Argentinian a chance, but Del Potro played out of his skin to take down the greatest player of all time (solidified with that French Open win) in five sets.

Federer won 16 Grand Slam titles in the six years preceding this match, he has won one since.

It also was the only major not won by the big four (Federer, Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray) between the 2005 and 2014 Australian Opens.

4. Japan v South Africa, Rugby World Cup 2015

Last September, out of a clear blue English sky came a thunderbolt to eclipse anything the Rugby World Cup has ever seen as Japan downed the almighty South Africa 34-32.

Seven World Cup campaigns spanning 24 matches had returned just one win for Japan leading into this clash, while only three teams had ever beaten the Springboks at the cup.

But an after-the-siren try to winger Karne Hesketh saw the Brave Blossoms clinch one of the greatest upsets in world sport.

It was the kind of result that creates ripples beyond mere sport with a Japanese journalist reportedly weeping in the press box.

The result proved a timely one with Japan to host the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

3. Prince Of Penzance, Melbourne Cup 2015

The race that stops a nation almost stopped some horse owners’ hearts as 100-1 roughie Prince Of Penzance stormed home and won the $6.2 million Melbourne Cup (3200m).

A podiatrist, a couple of engineers, an IT consultant, a solutions expert and a producer at first kept the purchase of the yearling they nicknamed POP a secret from their wives and girlfriends.

The race will go down as not just one of the greatest upsets the race has seen but one of the most memorable results in the storied history as Michelle Payne became the first female jockey to ride a Cup winner.

‘‘I want to say to everyone else, get stuffed, because they think women aren’t strong enough, but we just beat the world,’’ Payne famously said post race.

2. America’s Cup 1983

The United States had defended the famous America’s Cup 25 times since its inception in 1851, but skipper John Bertrand and his Australia II crew didn’t worry about the history books in 1983.

Sailing with a cutting edge winged keel, Bertrand and his crew came back from 1-3 down to win 4-3 in what is widely regarded as the greatest victory in Australian sport. The upset also produced an almost-as-famous quote from Prime Minister Bob Hawke.

‘‘Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum,’’ Hawke quipped.

1. Leicester City, English Premier League 2015-16

If Leicester City can go on and win the English Premier League it will simply be as good as it gets in the sporting world. We only have to look at the Foxes’ match against 20-time champion Manchester United yesterday to reveal how phenomenal this feat is.

United midfielder Juan Mata arrived at Old Trafford in 2014 for a measly £39 million, Leicester’s entire first team squad this season was assembled for £19 million less, however, Mata was only good enough for a spot on the bench yesterday.

City’s talented forward pairing of Jamie Vardy (£1 million) and Riyad Mahrez (£400000) have been incredible value, notching 39 goals between them, while United has only scored 43 in total. If Leicester had won yesterday it would have clinched the title, it finished 1-1, but depending how its only rival Tottenham went against Chelsea this morning, the Foxes could already be champions.

If that result didn’t fall their way City still have two games to win the title.

But I’m going to go out on a limb and say Tottenham choked this morning and declare Leicester City not only English Premier League champions, but the greatest story in the history of sport!

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