It was a year of scandal and drought-breaking success which dominated the international sporting scene from miracles to murder mayhem. The following are our picks for the sporting heroes and villains in 2013.
What a difference 12 months can make. In July 2012 Andy Murray's voice cracked with tears as he congratulated Roger Federer on clinching a seventh Wimbledon crown, but the pain eased somewhat when he won Olympic gold on the same court - against the same opponent - two months later. On July 7, Murray ended a 77-year wait for a British men's singles champion by overcoming Novak Djokovic in straight sets in the final. The accomplishment won round any remaining doubters and secured him a place in history.
Justin Rose became the first English player to win a major since Nick Faldo in 1996 - and the first to win the US Open in 43 years - when he beat Phil Mickelson by two shots at Merion in June. The 32-year-old, who reached the clubhouse at one over par on a gripping final day, looked to the sky with tears in his eyes after holing his putt. He later paid tribute to his late father Ken, who died from leukaemia in 2002. Rose reached number three in the world rankings, equalling his career high ranking.
Oracle Team USA
September saw Oracle Team USA pull off the greatest comeback in America's Cup history to successfully defend their title. Larry Ellison's crew were at one point trailing Emirates New Zealand 8-1, but crushed their rivals in the final race, crossing the finish line in San Francisco 44 seconds ahead of the champions-elect. Skipper Jimmy Spithill was perhaps the greatest hero on the team, guiding the 72-foot catamaran across the choppy waters of San Francisco Bay at speeds approaching 50 miles per hour.
Victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix in November saw Sebastian Vettel become Formula One's youngest quadruple champion. At 26, the Red Bull driver is now third in the overall tally of pole positions behind Schumacher and Ayrton Senna. Vettel made a inconsistent start to 2013 with Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso threatening his dominance but, come his August triumph in Belgium, he never looked back and closed in on a fourth straight championship by storming to eight consecutive wins.
On February 24, Bradford lost 5-0 to Premier League side Swansea in the League Cup final. It was simply one game too far for the giant-killing Bantams, who had become the first ever fourth-tier side to reach a major Wembley final by stunning top-flight clubs Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa. Goalkeeper Matt Duke and captain Gary Jones proved particular bright sparks throughout the campaign and, despite the heavy defeat in London, the momentum carried Phil Parkinson's men toward promotion to League One.
On Valentine’s Day this year the ‘Blade Runner’ was again plastered all over the front pages, this time charged with murdering girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, in what he claims was a case of mistaken identity, in their home in Pretoria.Following the death of Steenkamp, more details about Pistorius emerged, details contrary to the image of the international hero he’d become. The history of violence, the disturbing affinity with firearms and the loaded 9mm Parabellum he kept underneath the bed; the same pistol with which he shot Steenkamp. The jury’s still out and the world now awaits the outcome of the biggest sports star murder trial since OJ Simpson.
In February the world waited with bated breath to hear one word from the mouth of the man who had won seven consecutive Tour de France titles and inspired millions of cancer sufferers. When Lance Armstrong finally uttered a terse 'yes' in a two-part television interview with Oprah Winfrey, he had admitted for the first time that his storied career at the top of cycling had been based on lies. It was a limited confession from the Texan, who had first been suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs when former team-mates turned on him, accusing him of cheating and bullying his way to success. Armstrong denied coercing fellow cyclists to dope and refused to confirm whether he would cooperate with an excoriating investigation conducted by American anti-doping agency USADA.
Paolo Di Canio
Paolo Di Canio played both hero and villain during his controversial playing career - one marked by spectacular goals and his lengthy ban for pushing referee Paul Alcock. The Italian's intense style of management worked at Swindon but he left under a cloud in February before arriving at Sunderland to a thunderous backlash from Black Cats fans. All was forgiven, briefly, when Di Canio slid on his knees to celebrate a famous 3-0 victory over Newcastle in April. Sunderland survived in the top flight and the arrival of 14 new players inspired optimism on Wearside. But on September 22, Di Canio was sacked in the wake of a 3-0 defeat at West Brom, amid a player revolt and with the club propping up the table.
Spot-fixing in cricket had last year seen three Pakistani cricketers jailed for their actions in a 2010 Test match at Lord's. In 2013 the corruption appeared to be spreading, and in September snooker player Stephen Lee was banned from the sport for 12 years following an investigation into suspicious betting patterns. Football, it seemed, was not immune. The National Crime Agency in December confirmed it had uncovered evidence of cheating in the non-league game before questioning six people over alleged fixing of matches in the English second tier. The threat posed was great enough for Whitehall to call representatives from five sports - football, cricket, tennis and the two rugby codes - to an emergency summit with ministers.
England's cricket team in August retained the Ashes against an out-of-sorts Australia side, who were without suspended batsman David Warner after he punched England counterpart Joe Root in a Birmingham bar. Australia struggled to make runs without the powerful opener and slumped to a 3-0 loss. Alastair Cook's side then headed Down Under looking for a smooth end to a year spent revelling in their fans' adulation. They were, however, in for a rude awakening as Australia romped to emphatic wins in the opening two Tests. Warner again courted controversy when he broke the unwritten rule of criticising a fellow professional by labelling Jonathan Trott's first-Test dismissal as "poor" and "weak".
For a while it seemed that all was right in the world of Luis Suarez, who had put his racist spat with Patrice Evra - and the lengthy subsequent ban - behind him with a 23-goal flurry to reignite Liverpool's hopes of returning to the Champions League. The Uruguayan was, however, handed a 10-match ban for biting the arm of Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic in an unprovoked April attack at Anfield. It seemed like the beginning of the end of the striker's time on Merseyside, and indeed Suarez led his own campaign to force through a big-money move elsewhere. Reds fans remarkably forgave their key player his apparent disloyalty, though. And, once he had been persuaded to stay, Suarez soon won any remaining dissenters back round by charging to the top of the goalscoring charts through the autumn.