Tag Archives: #Sport


Ice-Dance Sensation

Incidents in the short program can have a dramatic effect on the overall standings, as US men’s skater Nathan Chen knows only too well. And the drama in this competition really began when Gabriella Papadakis suffered a wardrobe malfunction only seconds into her short routine, when her dress came undone. She completed the program with partner Guillaume Cizeron to score 81.93 for France, enough for second place overnight behind their training partners Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada with 83.67. The compulsory Latin music theme of the short program didn’t seem to suit the French couple quite as much as the classical piece they were at liberty to choose for their free routine. Papadakis & Cizeron performed to the ethereal piano Moonlight Sonata whilst Virtue & Moir in complete contrast skated to Moulin Rouge a full-on “in your face” ballsy number. In a way the music chosen by each couple seemed to reflect their personalities and partnership dynamics.

The Shibutani siblings for team USA looked to be really enjoying their Coldplay music inspired routine, and as always gave a technically sound performance, if a little clinical looking, compared to the French and top Canadian couples. That precisely executed program won Maia & Alex Shubutani the Bronze for the US (overall 192.59) with fellow Americans Hubbell & Donohue closely behind in 4thafter a slightly disappointing free program. Papadakis & Cizeron free performance was exquisite with a ballet-esque like quality yet displaying elements of contemporary dance as well. Similar to Hanyu in the men’s individual, the French couple seemed at one with the music, and more importantly with each other. They moved as one entity with an ebb and flow so quiet, delicate and beguiling, it was captivating to watch. Their routine scored 123. 35 a new World Record for a free program in ice-dance. Later Virtue & Moir took to the ice to perform like a couple possessed. They demonstrated passion, drama and athleticism that could make your head spin, but delivered subtlety in quieter moments too. Perhaps this light and shade element to the Canadians routine gave them the overall edge, as commentator Robin Cousins suggested both couples had the same base line score of 44.90 to begin with. But with a combined score of 206.07 (overall World Record) Virtue & Moir took Gold for Canada with Papadakis & Cizeron taking Silver for France with 205.28.

Virtue & Moir Passion Personified (Image credit @ISU_Figure)

Couples vying for places outside the medals that impressed me included 8th placed Gilles & Poirer of Canada who performed to Bond music and their teammates Weaver & Poje in 7th who gave a dramatic and powerful routine.  British couple Coomes & Buckland came in a credible 11th an impressive achievement considering Penny suffered a potential career ending knee injury in 2016.

Women’s Individual

OAR skater Evgenia Medvedeva suffered a broken foot that interrupted her Olympic preparations, and she changed her free program midseason to a routine that “made her feel something”. Having not been beaten in competition since November 2015, Medvedeva tasted defeat to her compatriot Zagitova in January 2018. Would the same thing happen again in PyeongChang over the top two spots, and who would fight for the Bronze?

After the short program the three Americans were ranked 9th-11th a little disappointing for them, especially after Nagasu fell on her triple axel jump having become the first woman to land it in the team US skate. The top six overnight included the two OAR athletes, two Japanese (Sakamoto 73.18 & Miyahara 75.94) the Italian Kostner with 73.15 (Celine Dion music) and Canadian Osmond 78.87 (Edith Piaf music). Evgenia achieved a world record in her short program with 81.61 only to watch her teammate Alina surpass this with 82.92, having performed the most difficult triple Lutz/triple loop combination in the women’s competition.

Kostner made several uncharacteristic errors in her free routine making her performance seem a little laboured, especially without any triple/triple combination jumps. But all credit to the Italian for still competing at age 31, more than double that of Alina Zagitova aged just 15. Both Japanese skaters put in beautiful routines, but neither could equal the achievement of Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond’s Black Swan performance that took Bronze (231.02). Her free routine scored a fantastic 152.15 a seasons best by a whopping ten points, duly rewarded for her quality skating, the speed and flow over the ice and the dramatic performance. Not as technically loaded as the OAR routines but terrific to watch, especially as the Canadian provided a stark contrast of style. When Zagitova took to the ice the difference was obvious, as Alina loaded her routine into two distinct parts, choreography, spin and steps concentrated into the first segment, followed by jumps in the latter half. She did this in the short program as well, a clever move as later jumps are given a 10% extra mark. Having watched the others who spread the technical elements throughout their routine, it did make the Zagitova free program look unbalanced. Alina showed some quick thinking however, when a triple Lutz/triple loop combination turned into a triple/single one, and she just added the original element of difficulty very late in the program. Her free score of 156.65 indicated that was probably a good move. Evgenia Medvedeva was the last to perform in the Olympic figure skating competition. Her routine was wonderful to watch, seemed more balanced as a whole, the skating was faster, the jumps a little higher, and more ice was covered than Zagitova. But the biggest difference between the OAR performances was the facial expressions of Evgenia, so distinctive, illuminating and emotive. She told a story through her expression and body language. For me and much of the audience Medvedeva was the gold medallist. But alas the judges deemed Evgenia’s free program equal to Alina’s and scored it 156.65 as well. So the two world record short program’s decided the final outcome with Alina Zagitova taking Gold and Evgenia Medvedeva the Silver for OAR.

                 Women’s Podium (Image credit @Olympics)

In closing, the Pairs winners Shavchenko & Massot had completeness within their free program, with a seamless quality between transitions. Hanyu inhabited his music in the men’s individuals as did Papadakis & Cizeron in the ice-dance. But the extra dimension of light and shade from Virtue & Moir brought them gold. The women’s individual program had light & shade, storytelling & emotion through Osmond and Medvedeva and technical awareness and grace from Zagitova. But the small age difference between the medallists was telling, as 18 year old Medvedeva and 21 year old Osmond had the extra maturity to express their programs better. Yet Zagitova had that youthful fearlessness where the technical elements were concerned. Alina’s emotional expressiveness can only get better through maturity and Kaetlyn can add to her technical diversity. But for me the winner in PyeongChang was Evgenia Medvedeva who said in an interview with the BBC “I left all my soul in the competition”. It showed and I felt it. Wow!!!



Pairs: 5-4-3-2-1 Germany Get Gold

The German figure-skating Pairs couple Aljona Shavchenko & Bruno Massot triumphed to become only the second non Russian outright winners (China 2010, shared RUS/Canada-Sale/Pelletier gold 2002) since 1964.  The last time Germany topped the podium in the Pairs was in 1952 with Ria Falk & Paul Falk. Ukrainian born Shavchenko now 34 years old was competing in her 5th Olympics and was in 4th place after the short program with her 3rd career partner. French born Massot found German his fourth language (after French, English & Italian) a little harder to master, taking three attempts to pass the language proficiency test for German citizenship. Bruno became a German national only weeks before the PyeongChang games began. Interestingly Shavchenko gained her German citizenship through her work with previous partner Robin Szolkowsky, securing two Olympic Bronze medals for Germany her second country in the 2010 & 2014 games.  Aljona had already represented Ukraine at her inaugural Olympics of 2002 where she was placed 15th.    But with Massot competing in his 1st Olympics, the German pair ranked fourth overnight pulled off the seemingly mission impossible, with a World Record free program score of 159.31 to be crowned Olympic champions (235.9)

When Shavchenko & Massot first took to the ice, from their costumes and initial start to their free program, I couldn’t help thinking of Bolero, especially as the couple used one continuous piece of music from Armand Amar. As the routine progressed there were distinct Torvill & Dean “moments”, so it came as no surprise to discover Christopher Dean had helped the German’s with the choreography. They had sought Dean’s help as Aljona & Bruno hoped to create an ice-dance feel within their pairs program, and the result was a scintillating routine of subtle beauty and tremendous athleticism, mixed with some Christopher Dean fairy dust.

Finale to Shavchenko & Massot Pairs routine. (Image credit @ISU_Figure)

Chinese pair Wenjing Sui & Cong Han first in the short program secured the Silver (235.47) medal and Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford maintained their overnight third place to take Bronze for Canada (230.15). OAR athletes Tarasova & Morozov executed a below par free routine to fall from second to fourth place overall. The Italian’s Marchei & Hotarek who I said could be a future prospect having seen them in the team event were sixth.

Men’s Individual

Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu suffered an ankle injury in October 2017 and had not competed since, having opted out of the team skating competition. Not since the American Dick Button in 1952 had a man defended his Olympic champion status, but Yuzuru hoped to create his own piece of history.

After the short program only four routines scored over a hundred points, with Hanyu in first place (111.68) followed by Spain’s Javier Fernandez (107.58), Shoma Uno (104.17) another Japanese competitor and China’s Jin Boyang (103.32). America’s poster boy Nathan Chen had a nightmare performance trailing in 17th place scoring 82.27, which was actually a higher score than he received in the team event (80.61). The Israeli Alexei Bychenko who impressed me so much during the team event where he placed second, scoring 88.49 in this short phase, could only manage 13th place here with 84.13. Had he posted a similar mark to the team event he would have been 7th overnight. At the end of competition Bychenko’s overall ranking was a credible 11th having laid down a solid free routine.

Nathan Chen stunned the audience with a free program featuring six quadruple jumps, with only one being judged less than perfect. This gave him a free routine score of 215.08 an unassailable benchmark which only the Japanese came close to matching. Despite his Herculaneum efforts Chen took fifth place overall, the short program being his undoing, although paradoxically this may have helped Nathan perform his free routine more relaxed. Japan’s Shoma Uno scored 202.73 with a bubbly, athletic, free spirited routine to win Silver (306.90), whilst Yuzuru Hanyu scored 206.17 to retain his Olympic title (317.85). Only three competitors posted free routine scores in the 190s range and Javier Fernandez with 197.66 did enough to secure a Bronze for Spain (305.24).

Men’s Podium (Image credit @Olympics)

Yuzuru Hanyu with his golden sash waistband and black gloved hands performed with a delicacy to every movement that felt theatrical in its essence. He seemed at one with the music, like an actor totally inhabiting a character, yet the essential elements of power and athleticism were in evidence too. I wasn’t at all surprised to hear Hanyu edits his own music so that he can control the audio to match the elements he sees in his head. The result is a beautiful musicality between the creativity in Yuzuru’s head and his performing feet.


The team skating competition had already got underway before the opening ceremony took place in PyeongChang on February 9th. With the time difference between South Korea and the UK being 9 hours, the action took place in the small hours of the morning, and I relied on replays and highlights to catch the event. This has been made easier for me due to improved signal on my mobile phone, and having a greater data allowance on my contract. So I’ve delighted in finding coverage on the BBCiPlayer and unearthing full result details on the BBC Sport app. We don’t have internet/Wi-Fi connections at home, so catch-up services or paid for sport channels are not an option.

So the team results would be given a points allocation, with the highest score receiving 10 points down to the lowest receiving 1 point. Medals would be awarded to the nations with the highest amount of points accumulated. Initially ten teams began the competition all taking part in the short program, before the top five nations progressed into the free program. All four disciplines (Men’s singles, Women’s singles, Pairs & Ice-Dance) were represented, so obviously nations with a greater depth of talent had a better chance of medal success.

After the short program the following nations sadly took no further part: China 6th (18 pts): Germany 7th (16 pts): Israel 8th (13 pts): Korea 9th (13 pts): France 10th (13 pts). Going into the final phase in order were Team Canada 1st (35 pts), OAR (31 pts), USA (29 pts), Japan (26 pts) and Italy (26 pts). Each country had the opportunity to switch a maximum of two performers over all four disciplines.


Gold CANADA (73 pts): Silver OAR (66 pts): Bronze USA (62 pts)

Team Figure Skating Individual Section Winners


PAIRS: Free Program: MEGAN DUHAMEL & ERIC RADFORD (Canada) Score 148.51 pts

WOMEN’S: Short Program: EVGENIA MEDVEDEVA (OAR) Score 81.06

WOMEN’S: Free Program: ALINA ZAGITOVA (OAR) Score 158.05 pts

MEN’S: Short Program: SHOMA UNO (Japan) Score 103.25 pts

MEN’S: Free Program: PATRICK CHAN (Canada) Score 179.75 pts

ICE-DANCE: Short Program: TESSA VIRTUE & SCOTT MOIR (Canada) Score 80.51 pts

ICE-DANCE: Free Program: TESSA VIRTUE & SCOTT MOIR (Canada) Score 118.1 pts

Canada triumphed by not having any competitor below third place in each program, with Patrick Chan not fully showing his prowess, suffering uncharacteristic falls in both his short and free routines. I was greatly impressed by the Israeli men’s competitor Alexei Bychenko in the short program who came second, between Uno & Chan. Bychenko skated out of his skin and pulled off a complex routine nailing his quadruple jumps, unlike many others. Could he be a dark horse for a podium place in the individual competition? It all depends on the strength of his free routine, which viewers didn’t get to see as Israel failed to progress. Another surprise came from the Italy Pairs free routine from Valentina Marchei & Ondrej Hotarek who placed second behind the Canadians. Unlike Duhamel & Radford however, the Italians have only been a partnership for a short time, both having placed 11th in Sochi, Marchei as an individual and Hotarek with another partner in Pairs. Their jaunty joyful routine was fantastic to watch, and I thought they could be a real force in the future, if not today. Where medals are concerned the Canadians in Pairs are dominant, whilst the OAR, Germany and USA are snapping at the heels, with Japan and China lurking. Italy used a different partnership in the short program, so it’s difficult to really measure how Marchei & Hotarek fully compare against Duhamel & Radford. But it could make the Pairs competition a lot more interesting! In the Women’s short program Evgenia Medvedeva for OAR produced an elegant, powerful and very precise routine, whilst another OAR skater Alina Zagitova aged 15 a vision in red, pulled off with aplomb the most difficult combination of any woman, a triple lutz followed by a triple loop in her free routine. Alina reminded me of a ballerina spinning round in a jewellery box, she looked so delicate yet dedicated to her dance, and looked from her skating far more mature than her years suggest. Behind Zagitova came American Mirai Nagasu who gave a lovely performance and Canadian Gabrielle Daleman came third with her Rhapsody in Blue free routine. Her fast footwork and spins into the finale were fantastic. Rounding off the team competition Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir of Canada expressed perfectly why they are at the top of their game in Ice-Dance competition. Their synchronicity, power and passion flowed with the Moulin Rouge music, yet an equally beautiful subtlety and delicacy emerged through the slower movements, making an absolutely sublime viewing experience.

Team Canada top the podium (image credit abmj taken from BBC TV coverage)

A Year of Firsts In 2016

I managed to achieve a few personal “firsts” in 2016 which I feel should be acknowledged, and it all began in January at the Burns Night Supper, where I recited two poems in public for the first time ever. I felt a nice sense of accomplishment after that. You can hear my efforts from both 2016 and 2017 Suppers here:



On a regular basis I attend exhibitions but I NEVER thought I would witness the technology that effectively began the space race. Seeing the “Cosmonauts Birth of a Space Age” in the Science Museum London was incredible. Viewing Sputnik, hearing the signal she sent and seeing all that pioneering technology and reading about the history was amazing. That was definitely a once in a lifetime experience. I also managed to see the 175 Faces of Chemistry exhibition at the Royal Society of Chemistry. Here I had the surreal experience of knowing about six of the faces through Rob’s work as a chemistry lecturer. But my “first” was considering one of them a good friend who is still only in the “first phase” of her career. Dr Suze Kundu has achieved so much for her tender years and I’m sure will continue to fly high. I felt quietly proud of knowing this clever young woman who I first met as a bubbly PhD student at the Aberdeen Science Festival 2012.

During the spring I saw The Three Degrees perform at the Crewe Lyceum Theatre for the first and probably only time. Although I’ve attended many concerts and theatre shows, I never cease to marvel at seeing acts I’ve known about since childhood. I still pinch myself at the wonder of it. The Three Degrees were as beautifully attired as I remembered, with vocals as wonderful as ever, and a real class act. At the same theatre in the autumn I witnessed a Q&A with Dame Joan Collins a style of show I hadn’t seen before, although I had seen Joan do pantomime a few years ago.

Toward the end of the football season 2015/16 I decided to get into “pre-season” training immediately. I had thought of doing it before but dismissed the idea fairly quickly. But doing football commentary from the top end of the main stand at Gresty Road needs stamina, and a three month layoff is no good for the body at the start of a new campaign. So I began a proper exercise routine the day after Crewe Alexandra’s last home match. With the aid of a few home exercise DVDs’ I devised my own workout sequence and kept at it, even when I discovered muscles I didn’t know existed and found general movement (especially sitting down/getting up) difficult. Gradually the shock left my system and come August I bounded up the main stand stairs like Rocky in the film. It was with great restraint I didn’t throw my arms aloft and start dancing around. But I did emulate Rocky inside my head which felt good.

The big sensation of the summer was the Pokémon Go craze and Rob jumped on board within a few short weeks. It got him into exercise as well because walks were suddenly on the agenda and I joined the Pokémon bandwagon the third week of August. I had never done any kind of real computer gaming before, and my coordination is such I don’t use the phone much whilst walking, as something is bound to come a cropper. So I learned a new game and by doing so vastly improved my general coordination. And a bonus is the wonderful sunrises, sunsets and morning/evening birdsong I’ve enjoyed witnessing so much. For a while the walks replaced the workout sessions, although I’m trying to mix the two together now, because each has its place. The added bonus to all this activity is I’ve managed to shave a number of inches and pounds off my frame as well.

Captured on Camera Keele Squirrel
                                Captured on Camera Keele Squirrel

I finally got around to visiting the observatory for the first time, to witness the transit of Mercury in May, a few months short of my 25th Keele arrival anniversary. The observatory was always somewhere I was going to visit but never got round to it. Another Keele first was finally getting a really good photo of the areas main resident, the grey squirrel. Armed with a new digital camera with a huge optical zoom, I at last captured decent images of these distinct Keelites. I’m also working on some bird photography too.

Little Robin Redbreast
               Little Robin Redbreast

Last year was particularly good for moon watching and I can hardly believe I’ve got images which make me think of films from the lunar landings. It was the first time I had ever considered turning my camera toward the moon, but I’m so glad I got the idea.

Super Moon
                                                           Super Moon

In November I had the pleasure of being a volunteer at the local Fenton Manor Sports Complex. My first time ever at a table tennis event, and it was an international European qualifier match England v Greece. I know absolutely nothing about the game but learned quickly as I undertook my duties as a “live scorer”. England was victorious after a nail biting tie-break set and as we wrapped up the evening, I discovered that 600 had been in the venue and 2.2 million had watched on Bible Sport!! Next day I Googled the site and came across footage of the match (with me in it from a distance), and managed to glean some screen shots for the photo album, another first from the experience.

I’ve always felt privileged to have seen Torvill & Dean perform their Olympic winning routine Bolero after they turned professional and went on tour. I didn’t think I would see another Olympic performance again. But at the London International Horse Show at Olympia I witnessed Charlotte Dujardin & Valegro perform their Gold medal routine from London 2012. I didn’t see it at the time nor afterwards. What an honour to see this pair perform together for one last time to say goodbye. My first ever equine Olympic experience was simply sublime to witness and a glorious way to end my year of “firsts”.

Valegro's Last Performance
                                 Valegro’s Last Performance
Goodbye Charlotte Dujardin & Valegro
                        Goodbye Charlotte Dujardin & Valegro


Four years ago I fulfilled my London 2012 Olympic volunteering duties at Old Trafford. The next day I was doing my regular shift for hospital radio, gathering requests and airing my “Angie’s Allsorts” music show. This is my very own dedicated tribute to the Olympic Games ideal, with Olympic year hits, Olympic sports trivia and musical references to every decade of the modern day games since the 1900s.


ELBOW with FIRST STEPS (2012 BBC theme tune- 2010s)

Request (outside usual time slot): BUDDY HOLLY with IT DOESN’T MATTER ANYMORE (1950s)

ELVIS PRESLEY with IT’S NOW OR NEVER (best seller of 1960-Rome games- 1960s)

Linking Lyrics Artist of the Week: ENYA

ENYA with ANYWHERE IS (2000s)

ENYA with ON MY WAY HOME (2000s)

Rarity Record of the Week:

OLYMPIA BORONAT with LES HEUGENOT from Meerbeer (recorded 1908-London’s 1st games)

CELINE DION with MY HEART WILL GO ON (reference to 1912 and Titanic sinking-1990s)

AL JOLESON with I’M SITTING ON TOP OF THE WORLD (1920s- big star in 1910s as well)

BANGLES with ETERNAL FLAME (for the Olympic torch/flame-1980s)





THE NEW SEEKERS with I’D LIKE TO TEACH THE WORLD TO SING (best seller 1972-Munich)

GARY BARLOW/COMMONWEALTH SINGERS with SING (2012-London’s 3rd games)

Duration: 1 hr 18m 27s

If you would like to listen to my show you can stream it from here:



My Historical Euro All-Star X1

Twenty-four teams will contest the European Football Championships in France this year. Surprisingly only nine teams have won the tournament with twelve finalists in total, since the contest began in 1960.

I have come up with an all-star team selection of players spanning the lifetime of the championships. My inspiration was a select UEFA 50 list used for a competition, and members of the list had to fulfil at least two of the following criteria:

Featured in at least a semi-final

Featured in a team of the tournament (ref: ToT)

Featured as the Euro top scorer (ref: TS)

Featured in an iconic moment (ref: IM)

From 1960-1976 only four nations competed for the title of European Champions. This increased to eight from 1980-1992 and then sixteen from 1996-2012. As a result some names I expected to see as a UEFA option were not offered, for example Cruyff and Kahn.

Anyway, I’ve decided to comprise my team of players who can represent every winning country and two other finalists. My players represent every decade the tournament has been played. So here is my All-Star XI team using a 4-3-3 formation:

PETER SCHMEICHEL: Goal Keeper: 1992 winner Denmark (ToT)

I thought about having Yashin the Soviet Union keeper for 60 & 64 instead of Schmeichel but wanted the big Dane between the posts. Interestingly from the keeper options; (Buffon, Casillas, Yashin, Schmeichel and Zoff); Yashin has been the ONLY keeper EVER named European Player of the Year, which is a travesty.

GIACINTO FACCHETTI: Defender left-back: 1968 winner Italy (ToT)

FRANZ BECKENBAUER: Defender centre-back/sweeper: 1972 winner Germany (ToT). Germany has also won in 1980 & 1996.

ANTON ONDRUS: Defender centre back/sweeper: 1976 winner Czechoslovakia (ToT).  He also won the bronze medal in 1980.

SERGIO RAMOS: Defender right back: 2008 & 2012 winner Spain (2012 ToT). Spain’s previous win was in 1964.

MICHEL PLATINI: Midfielder: 1984 winner France-(ToT), player of tournament & TS (9). France won again in 2000. I had grave reservations in naming Platini due to his recent fall from grace in the game, but I wanted another player from the 80s. My more natural French choice is, and always will be, Zinedine Zidane the French captain in 2000.

THEODOROS ZAGORAKIS: Midfielder: 2004 winner Greece-(ToT), player of the tournament.

DRAGAN DZAJIC: Midfielder (left winger): 1968 finalist Yugoslavia-(ToT in 68 & 76). Yugoslavia was also a finalist in 1960.

MARCO VAN BASTEN: Striker: 1988 winner Netherlands-(ToT), best player of the tournament, TS (5), IM (volley against Soviet Union in final)

VALENTIN IVANOV: Striker: 1960 winner Soviet Union-joint TS (2). Also a finalist in 1964.

CRISTIANO RONALDO: Striker: 2004 finalist Portugal-(ToT 2004 & 2012). He has scored six goals in the Euro Championships so far.

I liked the idea of having strikers from the infancy of the European Championships through to its more mature years. Van Basten was the obvious choice to me for the “middle years” and so I avoided Denmark’s Brian Laudrup from 1992 and picked Schmeichel instead. This meant Ivanov for the Soviet Union could represent the early years in my strike force.

The only Euro finalist without a representative is Belgium from 1980 beaten 2-1 by Germany. There wasn’t any player from that country mentioned in the list of fifty.

My substitute’s bench would include at least one player to cover each position.

Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon (Italy finalist 2012, (ToT 2008 & 2012).

Midfielder: Pavel Nedved (Czech Republic finalist 1996, (ToT 2004))

Defender: Paolo Maldini (Italy finalist 2000, (ToT 1988, 1996 & 2000)

Striker: Alan Shearer (England semi-finalist 1996-(ToT, TS (5) and second most prolific scorer in the Euro championships with a total of seven goals. Only Platini has scored more goals (9) but Cristiano Ronaldo may over take both men if he has a good 2016 tournament!


Muhammad Ali a Sporting Icon of Our Time

The great boxing icon Muhammad Ali passed away on June 3rd 2016 aged 74, the news heralding worldwide tributes to his legacy. I would like to add my own thoughts on the subject, having seen and heard only a little of the “official” news tributes.

At a very young age I began taking an interest in the noble art of boxing, and Muhammad Ali was probably the first “big name” I can remember hearing about and watching. Ali graced the ring with a swagger and an elegance that belied his heavyweight fighting category. Some of his battles would enter into boxing folklore legend, “Rumble in the Jungle” (Foreman v Ali: Zaire: 30th October 1974) and “Thrilla in Manila” (Ali v Frazier: Philippines: 1st October 1975). These took place well before my sixth birthday and helped foster in me a love of boxing as a sport. To me, no one could match Muhammad Ali’s greatness in the heavyweight ring.

I have always enjoyed good interview programs and Michael Parkinson’s encounters with Ali were particularly memorable. Muhammad Ali always came across as a supremely confident man (some would say arrogant), who was like a breath of fresh air, as he spoke his mind in a most articulate and mesmerising way. On discovering Ali threw his 1960 Olympic gold medal into a river after being disrespected in his native US, I felt he was a man of principal. That same principal saw him change his “slave name” Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali on his conversion to Islam. Ali also refused to fight in the Vietnam War in the late 60s, and consequently the boxing authorities shamefully banned him from the sport for 3.5 years, and stripped away his boxing titles. All these actions highlighted Ali as a man of principal in an era when the United States of America was still in the grip of deep racial inequality. Muhammad Ali was a man of his time and of his people, who managed to transcend the shackles of his country’s treatment.

Muhammad Ali was a once in a generation athlete. Like Eric Liddell a man who didn’t sacrifice his religious principles during the 1924 Olympics. Yet Eric ran to feel God’s pleasure in a 400m gold winning effort. Like Jesse Owens who by winning four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics, singularly routed Adolf Hitler’s belief in white supremacy. Ali was a man of his people, in a similar way I guess, to Cathy Freeman representing her Aboriginal heritage in the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Ali was a man with an incredible aura who earned hard won respect from the sporting fraternity, rather like Sir Alex Ferguson. The boxer who described himself as “The Greatest” clearly had an ego as big as “The Special One” Jose Mourinho. In these two iconic men of football we see glimpses of the qualities of greatness that made Ali unique and a worldwide sporting phenomenon.

Muhammad Ali spoke his mind and didn’t give a damn who heard, or what they thought. Today’s sport is extremely sanitised and demands a universal conformity that makes athletes appear bland to the point of insignificance. As a result we can truly say there will never be a sports person like Ali again. And the world will be a poorer place for it. RIP Muhammad Ali your legacy will live on.