Feature

Review of the Year 2020

Take a look back at the stories and action which made the sporting headlines in a unique year.

By Rory Jiwani ·

The year 2020 has been overshadowed by the global coronavirus pandemic, which took the lives of over a million people.

Sport was hit hard by the virus, with Tokyo 2020 delayed by a year, the first time the Olympic Games have been postponed in their history.

In spite of that, 2020 still managed to produce a number of outstanding performances.

Mondo Duplantis, Yulimar Rojas ,and Joshua Cheptegei were among those breaking world records in athletics, while tennis star Naomi Osaka won a second US Open and Rafael Nadal an incredible 13th title at Roland Garros.

In basketball, LeBron James inspired the LA Lakers to their first NBA title in a decade following the tragic death of Kobe Bryant.

Elsewhere, Tadej Pogacar won cycling's Tour de France in dramatic fashion, and Christine Sinclair became the leading goalscorer in international football history.

Let's take a look back at what happened in 2020.

January

From an Olympic perspective, the highlight of the start of the year was the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games.

Teenagers from 79 National Olympic Committees competed in 16 disciplines across eight competition venues, six in Switzerland and two in neighboring France.

There was full gender parity for the first time in Winter Olympic history with over 600,000 spectators taking advantage of free entry to the events.

New stars emerged in figure skating where Kagiyama Yuma, who had finished third in December's Japanese senior national championships, dazzled, with his quad jumps to take the men's singles title ahead of Andrei Mozalev.

Having already finished on the podium in the senior ISU Grand Prix, You Young of Korea took the ladies' singles.

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Some of the best freeskiers in the world assembled in Leysin with three-time X Games champion Kelly Sildaru winning Slopestyle gold.

The Estonian did not compete in Big Air or Halfpipe, with Gu Ailing Eileen taking gold in both to add to her Slopestyle silver.

For Gu, born in San Francisco but now representing China, it was a breakthrough competition, and she soon followed this success, with two victories on the World Cup circuit.

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Russia won a hotly-contested men's ice hockey tournament with Matvei Michkov scoring nine goals, including two in the final against the USA, to attract the attention of NHL scouts.

There were plenty of competitors from countries without winter sports traditions, and Diego Amaya won mass start speed skating silver for Colombia, having finished fourth in both the 500m and 1500m.

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January was a tragic month for basketball.

It started with the death of former NBA Commissioner David Stern ,who grew the sport worldwide and was instrumental in allowing professional players to compete at the Olympic Games resulting in the iconic USA' Dream Team' at Barcelona 1992.

Then on 26 January, news filtered through that a helicopter carrying two-time Olympic champion Kobe Bryant had crashed in heavy fog close to Los Angeles.

Bryant, his daughter Gianna, six family friends, and the pilot were all killed.

His passing provoked an outpouring of grief across all of sport with the LA Lakers, the team where he spent his entire NBA career, postponing their game with city rivals the Clippers two days later. It was the first time a team had postponed an NBA game since 2013 when the Celtics did so after the Boston Marathon bombing.

Franchises across the league paid their tributes to Bryant on the court, starting games with either a 24-second shot clock or eight-second backcourt violation to mark the two jersey numbers he wore during his career.

During their first game since the passing of Kobe, Lebron James vowed to "continue his legacy not only for this year but as long as we can play the game of basketball that we love because that's what Kobe Bryant would want."

Bryant was an 18-time All-Star and helped the Lakers to five NBA titles, the last coming in 2010.

'Black Mamba' also enjoyed his time as an Olympian, describing Beijing 2008 as a "surreal experience".

There and at London 2012, he showed why he would be remembered as one of the greatest basketball players in history.

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In senior figure skating, Alena Kostornaia backed up her victory in December's Grand Prix Final with her first European title ahead of training partners Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova.

The men's title went to another Russian, Dmitri Aliev.

In tennis, Novak Djokovic outlasted Dominic Thiem to win his eighth Australian Open title in Melbourne, and take his Grand Slam tally to 17, three behind Roger Federer.

The women's singles went to American Sofia Kenin, who defeated home favorite Ashleigh Barty in the semi-finals before beating Garbine Muguruza for her first Slam title.

Badminton world number one Momota Kento cheated death in a car crash in Kuala Lumpur.

After winning the Malaysia Masters, the van taking him to the airport slammed into the back of a truck.

Momota's driver was killed with two Japanese team officials injured, and the reigning two-time world champion left with lacerations to his face.

There was history in football as Christine Sinclair became the highest goalscorer - man or woman - in international history.

The Canada striker scored twice in 2020 CONCACAF Olympic qualifying against St. Kitts and Nevis to go to 185 goals, one clear of Abby Wambach.

Days later, she found the net against Mexico to take her tally to 186, with Canada securing passage to Tokyo 2020, where Sinclair will make her fourth appearance at the Olympic Games.

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February

World records fell during the indoor athletics season, with two stars of field events taking centre stage.

Mondo Duplantis just failed to add one centimeter to Renaud Lavillenie's absolute pole vault world record of 6.16m in Dusseldorf at the start of the month, but, then succeeded in Torun, Poland.

A week later in Glasgow, Scotland, the 20-year-old needed just one attempt to clear 6.18m ,with daylight between him and the bar.

The European champion was second to Sam Kendricks at last year's World Championships, but his start to 2020 signaled that he was more than ready to take over at the top.

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In February, world champion Yulimar Rojas broke the world indoor triple jump with a leap of 15.43m in the Spanish capital Madrid.

Venezuela's Olympic silver medalist eclipsed Tatyana Lebedeva's mark from 2004 by seven centimetres and was just seven centimetres shy of Inessa Kravets' absolute world record set outdoors at the 1995 World Championships.

Rojas was just two months old when Ukrainian Kravets, Olympic champion at Atlanta 1996, made that jump in Gothenburg.

There was a considerable shock in judo as Teddy Riner lost his 10-year unbeaten run.

After 154 consecutive wins, France's two-time Olympic super-heavyweight gold medalist tasted defeat at the hands of Japan's Kageura Kokoro in the third round of the Paris Grand Slam.

The home crowd was stunned as their hero conceded a waza-ari 40 seconds into golden score time.

Riner was philosophical in defeat, saying on social media, "We go back to work, find out why it went wrong and, above all, continue to stay focused on Tokyo."

After finishing second to Uno Shoma at December's Japanese nationals, Hanyu Yuzuru reverted to the programs which won him his second consecutive figure skating Olympic gold at PyeongChang 2018 for the Four Continents in Seoul.

The move proved to be a good one as Hanyu completed a full set of major international titles at junior and senior level for a career 'Super Slam', setting a new short program world record in the process.

Training partner Jason Brown was second with Lausanne 2020 gold medallist Kagiyama third.

In the ladies singles, home favorite You took second place on home ice behind reigning champion Kihira Rika with the USA's Bradie Tennell rounding out the podium.

Hanyu Yuzuru celebrates his 2020 Four Continents triumph with runner-up Jason Brown (R) and third-placed Kagiyama Yuma (L)

In 2019, governance issues with boxing's international federation AIBA prompted the IOC to take over the running of qualification for Tokyo 2020 through the Olympic Boxing Taskforce.

Things did not get off to an ideal start as January's scheduled Asia and Oceania Boxing Olympic Qualification Tournament was postponed and moved from its original venue Wuhan due to an outbreak of something called coronavirus.

That meant the African qualifiers were the first to take place in Dakar, Senegal, with Olympic Channel providing live coverage of every bout and stories of some of the boxers taking part.

One woman who eventually made it through to Tokyo was Kenya's "ghetto girl" Christine Ongare, who told her emotional story of being a young mother whose life has been transformed by boxing.

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Dominant alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin took a break from the sport after her father Jeff died following an accident at home in Colorado.

The double Olympic champion was leading the overall World Cup standings when she returned to the United States, but Federica Brignone soon went above her, with long-time rival Petra Vlhova taking the top spot in slalom.

A long-awaited return to action in February was 400m Olympic champion and world record holder Wayde van Niekerk.

Niekerk then won the 100m on a grass track in Bloemfontein after tearing his ACL playing touch rugby in October 2017. 

His previous competitive outing was the 2017 World Championships in London, where he retained his 400m title and took silver in the 200m.

March

COVID-19 started to spread worldwide, with the alpine skiing season ending early due to significant outbreaks in Italy's north.

Shiffrin had planned to make her return at the finale in Sweden, but those races were cancelled with Brignone becoming Italy's first overall World Cup champion - she also won the giant slalom title - and Vlhova claiming her first Crystal Globe.

Corinne Suter of Switzerland won both the downhill and Super-G titles, her first World Cup triumphs.

On the men's side, Norway's Aleksander Aamodt Kilde took over from the retired Marcel Hirscher as overall World Cup champion after the Austrian's eight consecutive successes.

Beat Feuz retained his downhill crown, with fellow Swiss Mauro Caviezel taking the Super-G and Henrik Kristoffersen winning the slalom and giant slalom Crystal Globes.

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Martin Fourcade stunned the biathlon world by announcing his retirement aged 31.

France's five-time Olympic gold medallist signed off on a winning note with his 83rd career World Cup victory in Kontiolahti, but Johannes Thingnes Boe pipped him to the overall title by just two points.

Fourcade bowed out as one of the most successful biathletes in history, winning 13 World Championship golds and seven consecutive overall World Cup titles.

The World Figure Skating Championships scheduled for mid-March in Montreal were cancelled due to COVID-19.

Before that, Andrei Mozalev reversed placings with Kagiyama Yuma from Lausanne 2020 to take gold at the World Juniors in Tallinn.

The 16-year-old performed to his best as his Japanese rival had a rare off-day with his jumping, and impressive performances throughout the season marked the Russian out as one to watch on his ascent to the senior ranks.

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Viktor Axelsen won badminton's All England Open, the last tournament before the BWF World Tour suspension.

After his car crash the previous month, Momota Kento missed the event, having suffered double vision and dizziness when returning to training in February.

The Japanese left-hander was found to have an eye socket fracture and said he hoped to make his comeback before July's Olympic Games.

Chinese Taipei's Tai Tzu-ying won her third women's singles title in Birmingham.

The Asian Olympic Boxing Qualifiers were rescheduled to Jordan's capital Amman with India's hero Mary Kom making Tokyo 2020 after missing out on Rio 2016.

The six-time world champion at -48kg has long struggled to repeat that dominance at the Olympic level, with the minimum weight category being flyweight (-51kg).

And her unanimous points defeat in the semi-finals to China's eventual winner Chang Yuan suggests she faces an uphill task to add to her bronze from London 2012.

Li Qian went on to win the bronze medal in the middleweight competition in Rio.

The tall Chinese is looking forward to returning to the Olympic Games and, this time, hopes to be on the top step of the podium.

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The European qualifiers got underway in London, but they were suspended after four days as COVID-19 measures started to come into force across the continent.

Several countries imposed strict lockdowns to stop the virus's spread, with athletes unable to train normally.

However, many were able to adapt and improvise, like 2018 Youth Olympic Games breaking gold medallist Bumblebee and four-time judo world champion Clarisse Agbegnenou.

As scheduled, the Olympic Flame was lit in Athens and transported to Japan to start the Torch Relay ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

But with four months to go until the scheduled Opening Ceremony, it became clear that the developing global situation regarding COVID-19 would necessitate a postponement of the Games.

The IOC and local organising committee agreed that the Games would keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 and that the Olympic Flame would stay in Japan.

A week later, it was confirmed that the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games would be held from 23 July to 8 August 2021, almost exactly a year after its original dates.

IOC President Thomas Bach explains why Tokyo Games must be rescheduled

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April

Sport pretty much ground to a halt in April with the virus wreaking havoc worldwide.

The Olympic Games' postponement meant some athletes had to weigh up whether to continue training for another year or quit in 2020 as initially planned.

Cuba's three-time Greco-Roman wrestling gold medallist Mijain Lopez stated he would go for a fourth title in Tokyo, while artistic gymnastics hero Simone Biles quickly dispelled thoughts of retiring early, saying,

"I want to be the one who makes the decision if I'm done with the sport or not."

Spanish basketball hero Pau Gasol will be 41 in Tokyo, but he told Olympic Channel he would keep going to end his career in style.

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Malaysian diving star Pandelela Rinong spoke to the Olympic Channel Podcast while in lockdown.

At London 2012, Rinong became the first woman and non-badminton player from her country to win an Olympic medal.

But that success has come at a price, with the 27-year-old spending at least her last ten birthdays away from home. Indeed, she was using lockdown to have some well overdue family time with her brother.

Rinong also tells how she started in the sport despite not being able to swim, the effect fame has had on her life, and what motivates her as she aims for a fourth Olympic Games.

May

Athletics returned with a novel pole vault competition organised by London 2012 gold medallist Renaud Lavillenie.

The Frenchman trains at home in his back garden in Clermont-Ferrand, and he decided to get his friends Mondo Duplantis and Sam Kendricks to take part in a virtual event from their training bases.

In the Ultimate Garden Clash, the trio had to clear 5.00m as many times as possible in 30 minutes.

Lavillenie and Duplantis, in Lafayette, Louisiana, both had 36 clearances, with Kendricks managing 26 at his base in Oxford, Mississippi.

Despite the young Swede wanting a jump-off to decide the winner, it was declared a tie.

Ahead of the competition, Lavillenie told Olympic Channel about his relationship with the man who took his world record and how he wants to race motorbikes when he retires from athletics.

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Two weeks later, three top female pole vaulters held a similar contest, with Rio 2016 gold medallist Katerina Stefanidi coming out on top in Athens.

She cleared 4.00m 34 times to win from Katie Nageotte (30 clearances) and Alysha Newman (21).

Olympic Channel caught up with some of the world's top athletes while they were in lockdown.

One was Jerry Tuwai , who was part of Fiji's rugby sevens team, which won a historic gold at Rio 2016.

Tuwai talked about his rise from poverty to become one of the best sevens on the planet and how he hid from then-coach Ben Ryan in a ditch during training.

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Another was double Olympic kayak sprint champion Lisa Carrington.

The New Zealander explained what it felt like to be off the water during the lockdown in her country and why she wants girls to be proud to be healthy.

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June

Athletics got back on track with the Impossible Games based primarily in Oslo.

The hybrid virtual Diamond League exhibition event featured men's team 2000m with Team Ingebrigtsen. This was led by the three Ingebrigtsen brothers inside the Bislett Stadium, taking on Team Cheruiyot, headed by reigning 1500m world champion Timothy Cheruiyot, running at the same time in Nairobi.

The Kenyan team struggled at altitude as the youngest of the Ingebrigtsen trio, double European champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen, clocked a new European record of 4:50.01.

Mondo Duplantis met Renaud Lavillenie in another virtual pole vault showdown with the Swede in Oslo and the Frenchman at home.

Both men cleared 5.81m at the first attempt, but Duplantis came out on top again with a third-time clearance of 5.86m.

But the highlight was Karsten Warholm's wondrous world best in the 300m hurdles.

The reigning two-time world 400m hurdles champion ran solo in lane eight and fairly blasted out of the blocks.

He barely broke stride or slowed down as he crossed the line in 33.78s, seven-tenths inside Chris Rawlinson's mark set in June 2002 despite it being his first competitive appearance of the season.

Archery was another sport that found a remote solution to competition.

After a successful first 'Lockdown Knockout' in May with the compound bow won by Colombia's Sara Lopez, exponents of the recurve bow - as used in Olympic competition - had their chance in June.

Men and women were placed on opposite sides of the draw, meaning they would meet for the first time in the final.

Three-time Olympic medallist and reigning world champion Brady Ellison was the big name in the field but went out in the quarter-finals to European champion Steve Wijler.

The event was won by Crispin Duenas of Canada, who defeated Mexico's London 2012 silver medallist Aida Roman 7-1 in the final.

As well as training and competing virtually, Ellison starred in the sport's first feature-length documentary entitled 'Believe: Brady Ellison'.

It goes behind the scenes with the American who wants to leave an unbeatable legacy having almost quit the sport in 2018 due to persistent pain in his hand.

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July

One of the greats of world sport, Lin Dan, announced his retirement from badminton.

The double Olympic gold medallist and five-world time champion ended his bid to reach a fifth Games with reigning champion Chen Long and Shi Yuqi well clear of him in the race for China's two spots in Tokyo.

Lin beat Lee Chong Wei in two Olympic finals, including an epic encounter at London 2012.

The Malaysian, who retired last year after undergoing cancer treatment, was among those paying tribute to 'Super Dan' who said his body would "no longer allow me to fight alongside my team-mates."

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World 200m champion Noah Lyles made a low-key return to Florida as athletics meets started to pop up around the world.

Lyles won his 100m heat in a wind-assisted 9.93s from Olympic champion Justin Gatlin Still, both men skipped the final where Kenny Bednarek took victory from Canada's three-time Olympic medallist Andre De Grasse.

Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo completed a double over 200m and 400m.

Later in July, 400m star Michael Norman ran what turned out to be the fastest 100m of the year in Fort Worth, Texas.

In his first 100m for four years, Norman clocked a legal 9.86s to join Wayde van Niekerk as the only man to break 10 seconds for 100m, 20 seconds for 200m, and 44 seconds for 400m.

After winning the Best Newcomer award at the inaugural ISU Skating Awards, Alena Kostornaia stunned the world of figure skating by leaving coach Eteri Tutberidze to work under double Olympic gold medallist Evgeni Plushenko.

Kostornaia followed Alexandra Trusova, who made the same move back in May.

Hanyu Yuzuru was named Most Valuable Skater for 2019/20 at the virtual awards ceremony.

There was sad news from the sport as former pair's world junior champion Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya died suddenly in Moscow aged 20.

Russian-born Alexandrovskaya and Harley Windsor represented Australia at PyeongChang 2018 after winning gold at the 2017 World Junior Championships and the 2017/18 Junior Grand Prix Final.

'Katia' retired in February due to ill health and suffered from depression.

Alexandrovskaya's passing came shortly after another Australian Olympian, two-time snowboard cross world champion Alex Pullin.

The 32-year-old, known affectionately as 'Chumpy,' drowned while spearfishing in an artificial reef off the Gold Coast.

Pullin carried his country's flag at the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony and appeared at three Games.

The Olympic family also lost alpine skiing slalom gold medallist Finn Christian Jagge in July.

The Norwegian claimed a shock victory at Albertville 1992, denying hot favorite Alberto Tomba a fourth Olympic title.

Jagge won seven World Cup races and later coached the Norwegian women's ski team. He died aged 54 after a short illness.

With the pandemic in retreat in some countries, athletes managed to get back to training and set about preparing for the delayed Olympic Games.

One was five-time Olympic gold medallist Nathan Adrian, diagnosed with testicular cancer at the start of 2019.

Just six months later, after surgery and treatment, the freestyle swimming star helped the USA win two relay golds at the World Championships in Gwangju.

Adrian said he felt well-equipped to deal with whatever COVID had to throw at him, having come through one recent life-changing experience.

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August

There was great news to report from swimming as Ikee Rikako made her competitive return after leukemia treatment.

Ikee, who won six golds at the 2018 Asian Games, was the poster girl for Tokyo 2020 when she was diagnosed with blood cancer in February 2019.

The 20-year-old - who was noticeably thinner than before her illness - won the 50m freestyle in 26.32s, more than two seconds outside her Japanese record but good enough to qualify for October's national collegiate championships.

Having initially targeted Paris 2024, the postponement of Tokyo 2020 by a year means Ikee now has a chance of competing at a home Olympic Games.

Ikee Rikako returned to competitive swimming in style.

Athletics' Diamond League started with a bang in Monaco as Uganda's Joshua Cheptegei broke the 5000m world record for 16 years.

Aided by Wavelight's pacemaking technology to keep him on schedule, the reigning 10,000m world champion clocked 12:35.36 to take almost exactly two seconds off Kenenisa Bekele's mark from May 2004.

Cheptegei ran almost the entire second half of the race on his own to claim his second world record of the year, having set a new 5km road record, also in Monaco, back in February.

Noah Lyles clocked a season's best 19.76s in the 200m, and Jakob Ingebrigtsen set a new European record over 1500m despite having to settle for second behind world champion Timothy Cheruiyot.

Just over a week later in Stockholm, Karsten Warholm came agonisingly close to breaking Kevin Young's 400m hurdles world record.

Setting off at a breakneck speed from lane eight, Warholm did not see a rival as he flew around the track.

But the Norwegian clipped the last hurdle on his way to the second-fastest time in history, 46.87s.

He was just nine-hundredths of a second outside Young's performance in the Barcelona 1992 Olympic final and would surely have bettered it had it not been for that final-flight mistake.

Before COVID-19 struck, Egypt won the African Men's Handball Championship to book their place at Tokyo 2020.

Star player Mohammad Sanad was inspired by the 'Dream Team' that reached the 2001 World Championships' semi-finals and played a significant role in their shock win over Sweden at Rio 2016.

Sanad told Olympic Channel that he believes the current line-up can win the nation's first global handball medal next year.

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European football's premier club competitions adapted to the COVID pandemic by holding its closing stages in single locations, the men's Champions League in Lisbon and the women's in San Sebastian.

From the quarter-finals onwards, ties were played over just one leg, with German champions Bayern Munich thrashing Lionel Messi and Barcelona 8-2 to reach the semi-finals.

Bayern was joined by Bundesliga rivals RB Leipzig in the last four with French duo PSG and Lyon completing the semi-final line-up at the expense of clubs from Europe's top leagues in England, Spain, and Italy.

In the end, it was Bayern who beat PSG 1-0 in the final to claim their sixth European Cup and their first since 2013.

In the women's Champions League, Lyon maintained their dominance of Europe with their fifth consecutive triumph.

Wendie Renard lifted the trophy once more as the French giants beat Wolfsburg 3-1 in San Sebastian, preventing Pernille Harder from ending her career at the German club on a high.

Following its successful debut in Rio, the Refugee Olympic Team will again take its place at Tokyo 2020.

Former marathon world record-holder Tegla Loroupe is in charge of the squad for a second Game and continues to help athletes on a day-to-day basis through her Peace Foundation in Kenya.

She outlined the challenges COVID has presented to refugees, with some of her runners returning to Kukuma Refugee Camp, where the risk of infection is more significant.

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September

After Wimbledon was cancelled and the French Open delayed due to the pandemic, the US Open was the first tennis Grand Slam since the pandemic.

August saw the resumption of the tour with the Cincinnati Open moved to New York City to ensure a bio-secure environment with the US Open following almost immediately.

Naomi Osaka made headlines at that tournament, joining NBA basketball players in going on strike after the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Minnesota.

This followed the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, which triggered the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Osaka eloquently explained her reasons for refusing to play on social media, saying, "As a black woman, I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis."

Tournament organisers agreed to postpone that day's action with Osaka beating Mertens before pulling out of the final against Victoria Azarenka due to injury.

At the US Open, Osaka wore a face mask bearing the name of a victim of racially-motivated violence or police brutality before each match she played.

She needed seven of them as she met Azarenka in the final, coming from a set down to claim her second US Open and third Slam title.

With Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal skipping the event, world number one Novak Djokovic was a hot favourite in the men's singles.

But the Serb sensationally defaulted in his fourth-round match with Pablo Carreno-Busta for hitting a ball, which struck a line judge on the neck.

In his absence, Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev reached the final, with both men seeking their first Slam triumph.

The occasion appeared to get the better of them at the time, but Thiem eventually prevailed in five sets to become the first man outside the 'Big Three' to win a major since Stan Wawrinka at the 2016 US Open.

There was a dramatic finish to cycling's Tour de France, which started in late August, seven weeks later than initially planned.

Primoz Roglic looked like justifying his pre-race favourite's tag, but Tadej Pogacar produced a superb time trial on the penultimate stage to overhaul his fellow Slovenian and seize the yellow jersey ahead of the Paris processional finale.

The World Road Race Championships also took place in September, with Anna van der Breggen doing the time trial and road race double.

The Rio 2016 road race gold medallist led a dominant Dutch team in Imola with Annemiek van Vleuten taking road race silver and Ellen van Dijk time trial bronze.

France's Julian Alaphilippe scored an emotional triumph in the men's road race, attacking late on to win from Wout van Aert.

It was Belgian van Aert's second silver medal of the week after he was second in the time trial to home favourite Filippo Ganna.

Reigning Olympic figure skating champion Alina Zagitova pulled out of the Russian test skates in Moscow, opting to concentrate on fronting a skating TV show entitled 'Ice Age'.

Evgenia Medvedeva took part with coach Brian Orser passing on instructions via phone, but a day later decided to rejoin Eteri Tutberidze, citing the COVID pandemic.

Yet more world records fell in athletics.

On the track, the women's and men's one-hour records were both eclipsed on one night in Brussels with the Netherlands' double world champion Sifan Hassan covering 18.930km and four-time Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah running 21.330km.

And Mondo Duplantis finally broke Sergey Bubka's outdoor pole vault mark at the Rome Diamond League.

The Ukrainian jumped 6.14m in Sestriere back in July 1994, but the young Swede surpassed it by one centimetre to best add the outdoor to his whole world.

October

Eliud Kipchoge suffered a rare defeat at the London Marathon, finishing only eighth behind Ethiopia's Shura Kitata on a unique looped course closed the spectators.

The race was billed as a duel between the Olympic champion and Kenenisa Bekele, but the track legend withdrew two days before the race due to a calf injury.

Sub-two-hour man Kipchoge struggled with a blocked ear and cramping in the cold conditions as Kitata took the biggest win in his career.

No such problems for women's world record holder Brigid Kosgei who took a convincing win in St James's Park with American Sara Hall finishing strongly to take a surprise second place.

On the track, Joshua Cheptegei smashed Bekele's 10,000m record on NN World Record Day in Valencia.

It was again aided by Wavelight pacemaking technology, the 24-year-old Ugandan clocked 26:11.02, six seconds inside Bekele's mark, which had stood for 15 years.

Before his third world record of the year, Letesenbet Gidey set a new women's 5,000m world record in the Turia Stadium.

Tirunesh Dibaba had held the record for 12 years, but 22-year-old Gidey ran 14:06:65 to eclipse her fellow Ethiopian's time by precisely four and a half seconds.

events

7 Oct 2020

NN Valencia World Record Day

Spain

Just ten days later, Cheptegei was fourth in the World Half Marathon Championships in Poland with his fellow Uganda, 19-year-old Jacob Kiplimotaking the victory.

In the women's, Kenya's Peres Jepchirchir broke her women-only world record to regain the title she won for the first time in 2016.

In basketball, Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird led the Seattle Storm to their fourth WNBA title.

Despite having league MVP A'ja Wilson in their ranks, the Las Vegas Aces had no Finals response as the Storm swept the series 3-0.

Injuries had dogged Bird during the season, but the four-time Olympic gold medallist had a WNBA post-season record of 16 assists in Game 1, smashing the previous best of 12, with Seattle winning 93-80 in the Bradenton 'Wubble'.

Stewart scored 37 points in the opener and led all players for points in all three games to clinch a second Finals MVP award, her first coming when the Storm was victorious in 2018.

As well as shining on the court, Stewart made herself heard off it, and the 26-year-old was one of five joint-winners of Sports Illustrated's Sportsperson of the Year.

A tribute to her for the magazine was written by Bird's partner, football Olympic champion and World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe.

Nine months after Kobe Bryant's passing, the LA Lakers defeated the Miami Heat 4-2 to draw level with the Boston Celtics record 17 NBA titles.

The twin threat of LeBron James and Anthony Davis proved irresistible, although Jimmy Butler fought to the end, not least his Herculean effort in Game 5 in which he played 47 out of 48 minutes and came up with big plays late on.

But the Lakers were not be denied, with James claiming his fourth NBA title and fourth Finals MVP award with his third different franchise having won previously with the Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

James turns 36 just after the start of the new NBA season in December and may sit out early games to look after his body with a potential fourth Olympic Games - 17 years after his first when the USA was stunned by Argentina at Athens 2004 - in the pipeline.

Already assured of his place as one of the all-time greats, a third Olympic gold would further enhance his reputation for excellence and longevity.

Rafael Nadal won an incredible 13th French Open title in the autumn cold of Paris.

The 'King of Clay' lived up to his nickname once again at Roland Garros. Nadal scorching to victory without dropping a set all fortnight (for the fourth time in his career) and hammering Novak Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 in the final.

This triumph placed him level with Roger Federer at the top of the all-time men's list on 20 Grand Slam titles, with Djokovic third on 17.

At the other end of the scale, Iga Swiatek became Poland's first-ever Grand Slam singles winner.

Just two years after winning doubles gold with Kaja Juvan at the Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games, the teenager defied her pre-tournament ranking of 54 to beat Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin 6-4, 6-1 in the final.

With Naomi Osaka missing through injury, world number one Ashleigh Barty choosing to stay in Australia, and Serena Williams forced to pull out with an Achilles problem, Swiatek took full advantage to spring a huge surprise.

Badminton returned briefly with the Denmark Open, seeing some of the biggest names go head-to-head for the first time since March's All England Open.

Despite the absence of stars from China, Korea, Indonesia, and Malaysia and the likes of Momota Kento and P.V. Sindhu choosing to skip the event, there was some high-class action with Okuhara Nozomi defeating Olympic champion Carolina Marin in the women's final.

The men's was an all-Danish affair with world number three Anders Antonsen coming from behind to beat Rasmus Gemke.

Two weeks later, Marin was surprisingly beaten by Kirsty Gilmour in the SaarLorLux Open's semi-finals in Germany, with the Scotswoman winning the final against home player Yvonne Li.

The 2020 season is scheduled to resume in January with two back-to-back editions of the Thailand Open, followed by the BWF World Tour Finals and Bangkok.

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International judo started again, too, at the Grand Slam Budapest.

Ukraine's two-time -48kg world champion Daria Bilodid moved up a weight class and was beaten by former European champion Andreea Chitu.

The Romanian and Bilodid both ended up with bronze as France's Amandine Buchard claimed victory.

In Bilodid's absence, Kosovo's Distria Krasniqi defeated Olympic champion Paula Pareto in the -48kg final.

Another Rio 2016 gold medallist, Slovenia's Tina Trstenjak, won the -63kg division as Russian men took five out of the seven titles on offer capped by Inal Tasoev +100kg.

The 2020/21 Alpine Ski World Cup got underway as scheduled in Soelden, Austria, without Mikaela Shiffrin, who was sidelined with a back problem.

In her absence, Italy's Marta Bassino won the women's giant slalom with Norwegian youngster Lucas Braathen taking the men's.

Figure skating's ISU Grand Prix did get underway, although competitors were limited to just one event taking place in either their homeland or within easy reach of their training base.

Skate Canada and the Grand Prix of France in Grenoble were cancelled, but Nathan Chen managed to win a fourth consecutive Skate America in Las Vegas with Mariah Bell taking the ladies' singles.

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November

The Friendship and Solidarity artistic gymnastics competition in Tokyo was a big moment for fans of Olympic sport.

While it was not an official Tokyo 2020 test event, it was the first international contest held in Japan since the pandemic with athletes visiting from Russia, China, and the United States.

Three-time Olympic gold medallist Uchimura Kohei was eventually cleared to compete after a false positive test for COVID and showed he could make a successful switch from all-around king to the specialist with victory in the horizontal bar.

Nikita Nagornyy showed why he's the man most likely to take the Japanese hero's all-around crown in Tokyo while his Russian compatriot Angelina Melnikova, one of the stars of Olympic Channel'sAll-Around series, also demonstrated her medal credentials.

Melnikova's All-Around co-star Morgan Hurd has been using the time away from competition to use her voice to call for social justice.

The 2017 all-around world champion, born in China and adopted as a baby, told Olympic Channel about the racism she has received with US President Donald Trump calling COVID the "China virus".

She also discussed going out on protest marches, her support for Black Lives Matter, and why "silence is compliance".

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The remaining three figure skating Grand Prix series events took place in November, with Jin Boyang winning back-to-back Cup of China men's singles competitions as Chen Hongyi took the women's.

There was a shock in the Rostelecom Cup as 2015 world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva took victory ahead of last season's dominant skater Alena Kostornaia with Alexandra Trusova fourth.

Evgenia Medvedeva was sidelined with a back injury, and the two-time world champion then contracted COVID, which would rule her out of December's Russian nationals.

The men's event went to Mikhail Kolyada, whose fine free skate saw him overhaul short program leader Morisi Kvitelashvili.

In the NHK Trophy, Lausanne 2020 gold medallist Kagiyama Yuma claimed his first victory in the senior ranks ahead of Tomono Kazuki.

Sakamoto Kaori took the ladies' singles from Higuchi Wakaba.

The table tennis tour made a brief return with China resuming its dominance.

World number one Chen Meng triumphed in the Women's World Cup, beating fellow Chinese Sun Yingsha in five games.

Fan Zhendong won an all-Chinese Men's World Cup Final against Ma Long but 'The Dragon' exacted revenge a week later in the ITTF Finals where Chen was victorious again, this time getting the better of Wang Manyu.

Primoz Roglic bounced back from his crushing disappointment at the Tour de France to complete back-to-back victories in the Vuelta de España.

Weeks after having to self-isolate in Las Vegas due to a positive COVID test, world number one golfer Dustin Johnson won the Masters for the first time at Augusta to claim his second major title.

Judo's European Championships took place in Prague in what turned out to be a fantastic event for the French women.

They took home no fewer than five golds starting with Shirine Boukli at -48kg in the absence of reigning champion Daria Bilodid who did not travel due to a cold.

The 21-year-old stunned pre-tournament favorite Distria Krasniqi in the quarter-finals and defeated Serbian youngster Andrea Stojadinov in the final.

World champion Clarisse Agbegnenou secured her fifth European title at -63kg with team-mates Margaux Pinot, Madeleine Malonga, and Romane Dicko sweeping the higher weight classes.

Russia won three golds in the men's competitions, with Tamerlan Bashaev beating home favorite and reigning -100kg Olympic champion Lukas Krpalek on his way to taking the +100kg crown.

Mikaela Shiffrin made her long-awaited return to the slopes in Levi, Finland.

The American showed little rust on her comeback, finishing second behind Petra Vlhova in the first slalom of the new season.

The Slovakian ace then completed back-to-back wins in 24 hours, with Shiffrin back in fifth, to make an early claim for this season's overall World Cup title.

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic both found Daniil Medvedev too hot to handle at the season-ending ATP Tour Finals in London.

The Russian beat Djokovic in the group stages, Nadal in the semis and then US Open champion Dominic Thiem to claim the biggest win of his career so far.

The month was marred by the passing of football hero Diego Maradona aged 60.

Argentina's playmaker extraordinaire died from a heart attack at home in Tigre, two weeks after surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain.

His successor in the country's no.10 shirt, Lionel Messi, was among figures from across the sport paying tribute to one of the most iconic athletes of the 20th century.

December

December started with a dramatic rescue in the Vendée Globe single-handed round-the-world sailing race.

Veteran yachtsman Jean Le Cam, who was himself saved by a fellow competitor in the 2008-09 edition, came to the aid of Kevin Escoffier, whose boat was broken by a wave near South Africa's Cape of Good Hope.

The 'second wave' of COVID hit sport hard, with several athletes and competitions affected.

After her surprise Grand Prix of Russia win, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva was ruled out of the final stage of the Cup of Russia when she tested positive along with reigning European men's champion Dmitri Aliev.

Then Alena Kostornaia was found to have contracted the virus, with Evgenia Medvedeva recovering well enough to return to light training.

Kostornaia and Aliev were forced to join Medvedeva on the sidelines for the Russian nationals with Tuktamysheva electing to compete.

Having missed out on selection for the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics, 24-year-old Tuktamysheva is determined to get the better of her younger rivals and make the team for Beijing 2022.

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Those Russian nationals would have been the primary basis for selection for the European Championships. However, January's event in Zagreb was cancelled by the ISU along with the Grand Prix Final due to the global pandemic.

Tuktamysheva was unable to show her best in Chelyabinsk, finishing seventh, with Anna Shcherbakova completing a hat-trick of national titles despite being below 100 percent after a bout of pneumonia.

World junior champion Kamila Valieva was second ahead of Alexandra Trusova with the top three all producing memorable free skates.

Mikhail Kolyada won the men's title in style and looks set to challenge for his second medal at the World Championships in March after taking bronze in 2018.

Hanyu Yuzuru unveiled two new programs at the Japanese Championships and was rewarded with his fifth title, regaining the crown from Uno Shoma.

Kihira Rika retained her ladies' singles title, landing a quad Salchow for the first time in competition to make her a genuine medal prospect at the Worlds in Stockholm.

Hanyu Yuzura and Kihira Rika at the 2020 All Japan Championships (Photo: Aflo/JSF)

Momota Kento made a triumphant return to action after 11 months out following his January car crash, winning his third consecutive All Japan title.

The world number one came from beat Tsuneyama Kanta in the final with Okuhara Nozomi beating Yamaguchi Akane to retain her women's crown.

They will go to Thailand for the resumption of the BWF World Tour next month, but Chinese players won't due to COVID concerns.

There was a double blow to the start of the new World Surf League season in Hawaii.

The women's Maui Pro was postponed during the quarter-finals after a nearby shark attack, with the victim later dying in hospital.

And an outbreak of COVID among WSL staff led to the men's Pipe Masters being suspended in its early stages.

The two competitions resumed over a week later with the women competing for the first time at the iconic Banzai Pipeline on Oahu.

In just her second event since coming back from Post Viral Syndrome, two-time world champion Tyler Wright beat Carissa Moore to take victory.

In the men's, John John Florence defeated 11-time world champion Kelly Slater in the semi-finals with the 48-year-old making his 28th Pipe appearance.

Before the competition, the two spoke about their relationship, with Slater saying he was "like one of his uncles" when Florence was a youngster.

A year ago, Florence beat Slater to a spot at Tokyo 2020, where surfing will debut at the Olympic Games.

Florence bested Gabriel Medina in the final to claim a long-awaited first victory on his home break.

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Another athletics world record fell in Valencia, this time on the road, as Kibiwott Kandie clocked 57:32 for the half-marathon.

He was a full 29 seconds inside the mark set by his fellow Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor in Copenhagen in September 2019.

Kandie was second to Jacob Kiplimo in October's World Half Marathon Championships but exacted revenge on the 20-year-old Ugandan in Spain.

Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia won the women's race in a course record 1:05:18.

Mikaela Shiffrin returned to winning ways in alpine skiing, scoring her 67th World Cup win in the second giant slalom at Courchevel.

In the men's World Cup, Aleksander Aamodt Kilde claimed the Val Gardena Super G and downhill in the space of 24 hours on the famous Saslong to emulate his compatriot and idol Aksel Lund Svindal.

Halvor Egner Granerud established himself as the man to beat in ski jumping with five consecutive World Cup wins.

The 24-year-old also led Norway to a third consecutive team title at the Ski Flying World Championships in Planica, having finished second to Germany's Karl Geiger in the individual event.

Geiger missed the two Engelberg competitions, which Granerud won, after testing positive for COVID but bounced back in style to win the Four Hills Tournament opener in his home town Oberstdorf.

December also saw Norway shine in a summer sport with their women clinching a record eighth European handball crown in Denmark.

After no fewer than nine knee surgeries, Nora Mørk was the tournament's top scorer as her team beat defending champions France in the final.

Gold medallists at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, Norway will seek to regain their Olympic title in Tokyo, having taken bronze at Rio 2016.

In men's handball, THW Kiel beat Barcelona in the final of the rescheduled 2019-20 European Champions League, their third triumph since the tournament adopted the Final4 format a decade ago.