26thThe boxing world was horrified when Texan Jack Johnson became the first black heavyweight champion of the world in 1908. He was not allowed to fight in his native America because of his colour so he travelled to Sydney, Australia, to challenge the Canadian Tommy burns for the title. The referee stopped the fight in the 14th round after Burns was knocked out for eight seconds. On this day in 1928 Johnny Weissmuller announced his retirement from amateur swimming. Tranmere Rovers and Oldham Athletic took part in the highest scoring game in Football League history at Prenton Park in 1935. In 1938 Tom Goddard took a cricket hat-trick for England v South Africa. Tranmere won 13-4 and the record score-line, in the 3rd Division North, still stands as such today. On this day in 1963 a staggering 66 goals were scored in the 1st Division of the Football League. The one-time golden girl of British athletics, Lillian Board, died of cancer in 1970 at the young age of 22. A silver medallist in the 1968 Olympics 400m, which she lost in the closing strides, she captured the European 800m title in Athens the following year. She died late in the afternoon in a Munich hospital after slipping into a coma on Christmas Eve. The Lillian Board Trophy, a memorial trophy provided by Irene Board and by Dame Marea Hartman, Chairwoman of the Woman’s Commission of the IAAF and of the Women’s AAA following Board’s death is awarded each year for outstanding fundraising for cancer. A crowd of 85,661 attended the 1st day of the Australia vs West Indies MCG cricket test on this day in 1975. Sheffield ‘Derby’ between Wednesday and United at Hillsborough in 1979 drew a crowd of 49,309, the then largest ever at a 3rd Division match (now League One). On this day in 1990 Garry Kasparov beat Antatoly Karpov to retain the chess championship. Ivar Formo, Norwegian cross-country skier who competed during the 1970s died today in 2006. He won four medals at the Winter Olympics. Formo also won two bronze medals at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in the 4 x 10 km relay (19741978). Formo also competed in orienteering, winning a bronze medal in the relay at the 1974 world championships. After retiring as an athlete he had a successful career as a businessman, and served as chairman of the cross-country committee (1983–1988) in the International Ski Federation.  He was found drowned in the lake Store Sandungen in Nordmarka, the forests surrounding Oslo. He had gone jogging and skating through the area and had most likely fallen through the ice.


27th On this day in 1831 Charles Darwin embarked on his journey aboard the HMS Beagle, during which he began to formulate his theory of evolution. John Charles, known as football’s ‘Gentle Giant’, was born in 1931. Superb at either centre half of centre forward, he played for Wales 38 times. He scored a one-time record 15 goals for his country. He started his career at Leeds united, making his debut in 1948. In 1957a big money deal took him to top Italian club Juventus where he spent five seasons before returning to Leeds. He had another spell in Italy, this time with Roma, before winding up his career at Cardiff City. His brother Mel also played for Wales. Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina was born today in 1934. Between 1956 and 1964 she won 14 individual Olympic medals and four team medals. She holds the record for the most Olympic gold medals by a gymnast, male or female, with 9. Her total of 18 Olympic medals was a record for 48 years, until Michael Phelps took that record on 31 July 2012. She also held the record for individual event medals with 14 for 52 years, until 2016 when Michael Phelps again bested that record. She is credited with helping to establish the Soviet Union as a dominant force in gymnastics. Latynina retired after the 1966 World Championships and became a coach for the Soviet national gymnastics team, a position she held until 1977. Under her coaching the Soviet women won team gold in the 1968, 1972 and 1976 Olympics.  She organized the gymnastics competition at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. Willy Polleunis was born today in 1947, a retired long-distance runner from Belgium, Polleunis won the silver medal in the 3000 metres at the 1973 European Indoor Championships. He competed in the 5000 and 1000 metres events at the 1968, 1972 and 1976 Olympics with the best achievement of sixth place in the 5000 metres in 1976. At the start of the final lap, he was in tenth place, but he accelerated, and possibly ran the final lap even faster than the winner, Lasse Viren. The Football League programme on this day in 1949 was watched by a then League record of 1,269,934 people, an average of 28,862 spectators at each of the 44 games played, this broke the previous record, set only 24hours earlier, on Boxing Day, when 1,226,098 people attended the matches on offer at grounds across England and Wales. The top attendance was at Villa Park, where 70,000 watched the Aston Villa/Wolverhampton Wanderers game. Four games attracted crowds of over 50,000, and in the 3rd Division (South) only Aldershot (7318) failed to register a gate of 12,000 or more. On this day in 1977, Star Wars fever hits the UK as thousands of people flock to the cinema to watch the long-awaited blockbuster. Bracing the cold weather, young and old queued from 7am in London at thee Dominion and Leicester Square cinemas, to snatch up non-reserved tickets which were otherwise boked until March. Birmingham city goalkeeper Tony Coton was called upon to face a penalty 1½ minutes into his debut, against Sunderland in 1980. He did his job and saved the spot-kick. Birmingham went on to win the match 3-2. Today in 1981 Dennis Lillee becomes the leading wicket-taker in Test cricket with 310. Milos Raonic, Canadian tennis player was born today in 1990.  He reached a career-high ATP world No. 3 singles ranking on November 21, 2016. His career highlights include a Grand Slam final at the2016 Wimbledon Championships; two Grand Slam semi-finals at the 2014 Wimbledon Championships and 2016 Australian Open; and three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 finals at the 2013 Canadian Open, 2014 Paris Masters, and 2016 Indian Wells Masters The gloriously monikered Meadowlark Lemon passed away today in 2015. He was an American basketball player, actor, and Christian minister (ordained in 1986). From 1994, he served Meadowlark Lemon Ministries in Scottsdale, Arizona. For 22 years, he was known as the “Clown Prince” of the touring Harlem Globetrotters basketball team. He played in more than 16,000 games for the Globetrotters and was a 2003 inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. When basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain was asked his opinion on the best player of all time, he responded, “For me it would be Meadowlark Lemon”. Fellow Wilmington great Jordan called Lemon a “true national treasure” and a personal inspiration in Jordan’s youth.


28th – Charles Bennett, British athlete was born on this day in 1870. He was the winner of the 1500m at the 1900 Summer Olympics and the first British track and field athlete to become Olympic champion. Bennett, a train driver born in Shapwick, Dorset, was one of the top British middle-distance runners in his years, winning the AAA 4-mile championship in 1897, and the cross country running title in 1899 and 1900. In the latter year, also the Olympic year, he won the British title in the mile, qualifying himself for the 1500 m in Paris. That distance had a rather weak field, and Bennett lead throughout the race, defeating local favourite Henri Deloge in 4:06.0. That time was an official world record, although many athletes had already run faster in competitions over the slightly longer mile. He died in 1948 aged 79.   His Olympic achievements were largely forgotten until his grandson discovered his abandon and overgrown grave in 2011. Bennett was commemorated with a proper headstone that was unveiled on the eve of the 2012 London Olympics. Born on this day in 1887 Sir John Layton Jarvis, born into a racing family and known as Jack Jarvis he had a brief but successful career as a jockey before taking up training. He was one of the most prominent British trainers of the mid-20th century, winning nine British Classic Races and being the British flat racing Champion Trainer on three occasions. In 1967 he became the first trainer to be knighted for services to horse racing. Victoria completed the highest innings in first-class cricket on this day in 1926 when they scored 1107 against New South Wales at Melbourne. Victoria won by an innings and 626 runs. The first women’s cricket Test between Australia and England, started on this day at Brisbane in 1934. Jewish German gymnast Alfred Flatow, who competed at the 1896 Athens Olympics died on this day in 1942. Flatow was a successful competitor in 1896. He won the parallel bars, was the runner-up in the horizontal bar, and was a member of the German team that took the gold medals in both the parallel bars and the horizontal bar team events. He also competed in the vault, pommel horse, and rings competitions. Flatow’s cousin, Gustav Flatow, was also a member of the German gymnastics delegation in 1896. After his return to Germany he and most of the other German gymnasts were suspended, because the Deutsche Turnerschaft (at this time the governing body of German gymnastics) boycotted the Olympic games with the reason that competing is “unGerman.”In 1903, Flatow assisted the founding of the Judische Turnerschaft, the historic and pioneering Jewish sports organization in Europe. A gymnastics teacher since 1890, he started writing books about his sport in the early 20th century. In 1933, Flatow was forced to “voluntarily” end his gymnastics club membership, as he was Jewish. He was prominently active in German gymnastics until expelled by the Nazis in 1936.  A co-founder of the Jewish Gymnastics Club, he was nevertheless honoured at the 1936 Olympics, where all German Olympic champions were invited. Flatow emigrated from Germany to the Netherlands in 1938 due to Nazi persecution of Germany’s Jewish community. The Netherlands was invaded by Nazi Germany in May 1940. On 3rd October 1942; Flatow was deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp in spite of appeals by the highly placed gymnastics official Christian Busch, where he died of starvation at the age of 73 before the end of the year. His cousin Gustav was also a victim of the Holocaust. In 1990 the readers of an Italian newspaper put Argentine footballer Diego Maradona at the top of their list of most hated people, above such worthy candidates as George Bush, Saddam Hussein and Madonna. The Irish Hurler Frankie Walsh died on this day in 2012, he played left wing-forward for the Waterford senior team. Walsh made his first appearance for the team during the 1956 championship and was a regular member of the starting fifteen until his retirement after the 1970 championship. During that time he won one All-Ireland medal, three Munster medals and one National Hurling League medal. In 1959 Walsh captained the team to the All-Ireland title. In retirement from playing Walsh became involved in team management. He trained the Waterford senior hurling team in the early 1970s before later serving as manager of the Mount Sion senior hurling team in the early 1990s.


29thUS heavyweight boxer Jess Willard was born in Potawatomie County, Kansas in 1881. Regarded as the ‘Great White Hope’ who would take the world heavyweight title from the black champion Jack Johnson, which he did in 1915. He lost his title to Jack Dempsey four years later after just one defence. British showjumper Harvey Smith was born in 1938. He stood out from the ranks of showjumpers because of his broad accent and blunt manner. His career was often controversial; in 1971 he was disciplined (overturned on appeal) after he gave a “V sign” to the judges following a near perfect round which won him the British Show Jumping Derby for the second year in succession and also a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ part in an advert for Victory V sweets with the slogan ‘They’ve got a kick like a mule!’ Smith became so famous that he embarked on a brief, but unsuccessful, singing career. His sons, Robert and Steven, also became equestrian champions. Competing in two Summer Olympics, Smith’s best finish was fourth in the individual show jumping event at Munich in 1972. He later became a television commentator for the British Broadcasting Corporation, doing equestrian coverage at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. In 1989 Smith was honoured for being the first man to have jumped in 100 Volvo World Cup Qualifying Rounds. During the 1970s in his spare time he competed in professional wrestling. In 1975 Smith also made a record titled “True Love”. In 1990, after retiring from competition, Harvey joined with wife and trainer Sue Smith, a former showjumper herself, to form a racing team at their Yorkshire base, Craiglands Farm. Their charge Auroras Encore won the 2013 Grand National. American jockey Laffit Pincay junior was born in 1946. His career earnings of more than $237 make him one of the highest earning jockeys of all time. Sir David Tanner, the performance coach for the British Rowing Team was born in 1947. He assisted the team to Olympic success from the 1984 Los Angeles games to the 2012 London games. This success has been paralleled by success in the World Rowing Championships. He first achieved a place in the vanguard of British rowing when he coached a team of 4 inexperienced boys from Ealing Grammar School and took them through to medal success in the World Championships and to a bronze medal in the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. In 1992 he was appointed team leader to GB rowing for the Olympic games of that year and then subsequently for 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012. Following the 1996 Olympic Games Tanner was appointed, with the support of lottery funding, a full-time position of Performance Coach to GB rowing. 2002 saw the introduction of Tanner’s initiative to find new rowers. Called “Start” it recruited half of the 10 Olympic champion rowers in the 2012 games. Rugby league player Martin Offiah was born in 1966. In 1992 he became the game’s most expensive player at the time when he moved from Widens to Wigan for £440,000. This figure remained a record for a total cash transfer until Wigan beat their own record, paying £450,000 for Stuart Fielden from the Bradford Bulls in 2006. Today in 1998 six people died as huge waves mashed into the yachts competing in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. British Olympic yachtsman Glyn Charles died after his safety harness snapped in winds of up to 90mph (144km/h), with waves of 40ft (12m) high reported by sailors in the prestigious Australian race. The annual race takes place over 630 nautical miles (1167km) from Sydney Harbour to Hobart on Tasmania. Tony Greig, England Test cricket captain turned commentator died today in 2012. Born in South Africa, Greig qualified to play for the English national team by virtue of his Scottish parentage. He was a batting all-rounder who bowled both medium pace and off spin. Greig was captain of England from 1975 to 1977, and captained Sussex.  His younger brother, Ian, also played Test cricket, while several other members of his extended family played at first-class level. A leading player in English county cricket, Greig is thought by some former players and pundits to have been one of England’s leading international all-rounders. He helped Kerry Packer start World Series Cricket by signing up many of his English colleagues as well as West Indian and Pakistani cricketers, a move which cost him the England captaincy. He is also noted for a controversial run-out of Alvin Kallicharran in a Test Match against the West Indies in 1974, and often clashed with Australian fast bowler Dennis Lillee on the 1974–75 Ashes Tour in Australia. His infamous “grovel” statement in the lead-up to the 1976 tour of England by the West Indies was met with severe criticism. Greig became a commentator following the end of his playing career, later emigrating to Australia. A long-term epileptic, he was diagnosed with lung cancer in October 2012. Greig died in Sydney, New South Wales, aged 66, from cardiac arrest due to an apparent heart attack.


30thToday in 1932 the great Don Bradman was put for a duck against England at the MCG. One of the best-known speedway stars, New Zealand’s Barry Briggs, was born in 1934. He won four individual world titles, in 1957, 1958, 1964 and 1966 and appeared in a record 18 finals between 1954 and 1972. Gordon Banks, probably England’s finest-ever goalkeeper, was born in 1937. He started his career with Chesterfield and moved to Leicester City and, finally, Stoke City. His career was tragically cut short after he lost an eye in a car accident. He played for England on 73 occasions. Dave Bedford, English former long-distance runner, whose athletic career spanned the early 1970s was born on this day in 1949. Bedford held the 10,000 metres world record, improving it by 7.6 seconds with his time of 27 minutes 30.80 seconds in 1973. He also held the British records for 3000 m steeplechase and 5000 metres. He usually ran in distinctive red socks, which later led to a well-publicised dispute about the use of similarly attired runners in advertisements. Post retirement he served as race director of the London Marathon until 2012, and is the Chairman of the IAAF Road Running Commission (since 2012), as well as sitting on the IAAF Cross Country Committee as the UK Athletics elected representative. Chris Chataway became the first recipient of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in 1954. Made annually in December, the winner is the sports personality who receives the most votes from a pole among BBC viewers. Latterly the BC has produced a shortlist for viewers to vote from rather than leaving them with an open choice. Disgraced Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson was born in 1961. Former world heavyweight boxing champion Sonny Liston died at his Las Vegas home in 1970, aged 38 (ish) – his actual birth is one of those mysteries that may never be solved, in fact Liston himself was never all that sure. jumper Phillips Idowu was born in 1978. He is a former World Outdoor and Indoor, European Outdoor and Indoor, and Commonwealth triple jump champion. He was also a silver medallist at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Despite his successes, Idowu has at times been accused of inconsistency and of failing to fulfil his potential, including his disappointing failure at the London Olympics 2012. His championship record since 2008, especially his gold medal at the 2009 World Athletics Championships, has addressed some of these criticisms; the Olympic Games is the only major championship to have eluded him, with a silver medal in 2008. Not sure if this is either sport or leisure history but it touched me so – on this day in 1986, the Coal Board announced that canaries would be made redundant. More than 200 canary birds were to be phased out of Britain’s mines, according to new plans by the government. Modern technology was being favoured over the long-serving yellow feathered friend of the miner in detecting harmful gases which may be present underground. New electronic detectors would be replacing the bird because they were considered to be cheaper in the long run and more effective in indicating the presence of pollutants in the air otherwise unnoticed by miners. The gas detectors would be hand-held and carry a digital reading which appeared on a screen alerting miners to the extent of the gases. The birds’ replacement will be introduced gradually next year. Miners are said to be saddened by the latest set of redundancies in their industry but do not intend to dispute the decision. The removal of the canaries will end a mining tradition in Britain dating back to 1911, since when two canaries have been employed by each pit. They were so ingrained in the culture that miners report whistling to the birds and coaxing them as they worked, treating them as pets. The New South Wales boat Loki was proclaimed as the winner of the 2011 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.


31st the former Surrey and England cricket captain Peter May was born in 1929. May later became chairman of the England selectors. Speed ace Sir Malcom Campbell died on this day in 1943 aged 62. Today in 1945 saw the first post-war century (112) by Don Bradman in a match between South Africa and the Australian Services. The former French rugby union flanker and captain Jean-Pierre Rives was born today in 1952. He played for Toulouse and RCF and represented his country 59 times between 1979 and 1984. He captained the side for a then record 34 times during the period. Today in 1964, Donald, the son of Sir Donald Campbell (see above), broke the world water speed record becoming the first man to break the world land and water speed records in the same year. He reached an average speed of 276.33mph (444.71km/h) in his speedboat, Bluebird, this afternoon on Lake Dumbleyung in Perth, Western Australia. The feat shatters his previous world record of 260.35mph (418.99km/h) at Lake Coniston, Cumbria, in 1959. Campbell had been trying to realise his record-breaking attempt for months at various locations in Australia. Each time he was frustrated. The weather at his first choice of location, Lake Bonney in South Australia, proved too unpredictable. Then, he moved to Lake Dumbleyung, near Perth, on 16 December, only to be delayed by wild ducks which could not fly away because they were moulting. The weather was the next setback, as persistent easterly winds raised waves up to 2ft (61cm) high, making any attempt impossible. With time running out for him to achieve his goal of breaking both speed records in the same year, he began considering a move to a third lake just south of Perth. Then suddenly, on the last possible day, the winds eased and the lake became flat calm. Conditions were rated 95% suitable, and the chief mechanic, Leo Villa, radioed to Mr Campbell, “I think it’s worth a try – let’s go, skipper!” Several hundred people gathered on the shores of the lake to watch, among them Mr Campbell’s wife, Tonia Bern. When she heard that he had done it, she dived into the lake and swam out to embrace him as he brought Bluebird in. Mr Campbell broke the land speed record in July on Lake Eyre salt flat in central Australia, with a speed of 403.1mph (648.72km/h). However, the record was short-lived: on 27 October an American, Art Arfon, drove his jet car across Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah at an average speed of 536.71mph (863.75km/h). The London Eye, the world’s largest Ferris wheel opened by the banks of the Thames this day in 1999. Belgian cyclist Raymond Impanis died on this day in 2010 aged 85. He won Paris–Roubaix, the Tour of Flanders, Gent–Wevelgem and three stages in Tour de France. He has been made an honorary citizen of the town of Kampenhout.


1st January – Today in 1788, The Times, London’s oldest running newspaper publishes its first edition. Pierre de Frédy, Baron de Coubertin was born on this day in 1863. A French educator and historian and founder of the International Olympic Committee. He is considered the father of the modern Olympic Games. Born into a French aristocratic family, he became an academic and studied a broad range of topics, most notably education and history. The Pierre de Coubertin medal (also known as the Coubertin medal or the True Spirit of Sportsmanship medal) is an award given by the International Olympic Committee to athletes that demonstrate the spirit of sportsmanship in the Olympic Games. An all-round sportsman he also was a top-class rugby referee and in 1906 took charge of France’s first international on home soil. In 1910 France were beaten 49-14 (59-16 on present day scoring) by Wales at Swansea, the then biggest win in the rugby union international championship, William Bancroft kicked a record nine goals for Wales. When Sunderland and Aston Villa met a Roker Park in this day in 1953 they became the first two Football League clubs to play each other for the 100th time in the League, the teams drew 2-2. In the 1965 honours list Stanley Matthews became the first footballer to receive a knighthood. Melaine Walker, Jamaican 400 metres hurdler was born today in 1983, she is the former Olympic 400m hurdles champion. She holds the Olympic record of 52.64s, set at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and her time of 52.42s at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin is the second fastest time in history In the 1989 New Year’s honours Eric Bristow became the first darts player to receive an honour – the MBE. Aleksandr Popov swam a world record time for the 100m freestyle (short course) in 1994, the time of 47.83s which seems almost pedestrian now as the current WR is 44.94s held by Frenchman Amaury Leveaux from 2008. Helen Newington Wills, also known as Helen Wills Moody and Helen Wills Roark, American tennis player passed away today in 1998 at the age of 92. She became famous around the world for holding the top position in women’s tennis for a total of nine years: 1927–33, 1935 and 1938.  She won 31 Grand Slam tournament titles (singles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles) during her career, including 19 singles titles. Wills was the first American woman athlete to become a global celebrity, making friends with royalty and film stars despite her preference to stay out of the limelight. She was admired for her graceful physique and for her fluid motion. She was part of a new tennis fashion, playing in knee-length pleated skirts rather than the longer ones of her predecessors. Unusually, she practiced against men to hone her craft, and she played a relentless game, wearing down her female opponents with power and accuracy. In 1933 she beat the 8th-ranked male player in an exhibition match. Her record of eight wins at Wimbledon was not surpassed until 1990 when Martina Navratilova won nine. She was said to be “arguably the most dominant tennis player of the 20th century” and has been called, by many, as the greatest female player in history. Today in 2002 the Euro became the official currency for most of continental Europe.