Sporting highlights of 2019: Kipchoge’s moon-landing moment, Biles defies gravity and belief

A look back on the best sporting moments of 2019, including Eliud Kipchoge’s sub two-hour marathon and Simone Biles’ record-breaking display at the gymnastic World Championships.

By Michael Hincks ·

Kipchoge's feat in Vienna

Where to start a recap of 2019? In October, of course…

We’ll get to January shortly, but we have to recall the events of October first.

Saturday, October 12 2019 is a date which will live long in the memory after Eliud Kipchoge’s historical sub two-hour marathon.

The Kenyan clocked 1:59:40 to become the first runner ever to go under two hours. An astronomical feat, and one Kipchoge compared to landing on the moon.

"We have made history together, and together we can make this world a beautiful world... No human is limited, and I’m expecting more people to do it after today." - Eliud Kipchoge

If that wasn’t enough, a day later, Brigid Kosgei then broke the women’s marathon world record, which had been standing for 16 years.

Eliud Kipchoge's gift to the world, and Tokyo 2020 to come!

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Biles makes history

October proved to be the gift that kept on giving, and another athlete who continued to defy belief, as well as gravity in her case, was Simone Biles.

Biles became the most decorated gymnast in World Championship history, taking her haul to 25 medals - including 19 golds - after winning five disciplines in Stuttgart.

The American will therefore be one of the headline names heading to Tokyo 2020 next year, but she told Olympic Channel her focus is just on doing her job.

“Going into the Olympics, I will be one of the biggest household names but I never really think about,” Biles admitted to Olympic Channel.

“I just try to go in there and do what I came to do, do my job. But it will be kind of crazy that I'll be one of the biggest names out there.” - Simone Biles

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Historic day for British Athletics

The month began with Dina Asher-Smith becoming the fastest British female sprinter when winning gold in the 200m at the World Athletics Championships.

Allyson Felix then became the most successful athlete ever at the World Athletics Championships with a record-breaking 12th and 13th gold medal.

Felix, a six-time Olympic champion, won gold in the 4x400m women’s and mixed relay – her first titles since becoming a mother.


Back to January: Trailblazer Osaka

Right then. Now we’ll wind the clock back to January, which proved to be a memorable month for Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka in the world of tennis. Both players secured back-to-back Grand Slams when winning the Australian Open in Melbourne, and for Osaka it was a history-making moment.

The Japanese 22-year-old became the first Asian player to reach world No 1 in singles.

A trail-blazing moment for the sport and Osaka, who will have an eye on Tokyo 2020 gold at her home Olympics next year.

Exclusive: Naomi Osaka aiming to win gold for Japan at Tokyo 2020

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Chloe Kim shines again

We head to the slopes for our February throwback, with both the Alpine World Ski Championships, and Freestyle Ski and Snowboarding World Championships, taking place that month.

Having gone on to hang up his skis in September, Marcel Hirscher added one last world title to his packed trophy cabinet when winning the Slalom in Sweden. Mikaela Shiffrin, meanwhile, secured double gold in the Slalom and Super-G.

Chloe Kim dazzled again in the snowboarding, winning her first world title in the halfpipe a year after her gold at Pyeongchang 2018.

Away from the slopes, New England Patriots won a sixth Super Bowl, while cyclist Mathieu van der Poel continued to show off his multi-discipline talents when storming to the men’s cyclo-cross world title.

Chloe Kim aiming to stay grounded after stratospheric rise

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15 wins for Shiffrin

In March, Shiffrin rewrote history when becoming the first skier, male or female, to win a 15th World Cup event in a single season. Victory in the Czech Republic helped the American surpass Vreni Schneider’s record, which the Swiss held for 20 years.

On the ice, after Alexandra Trusova defended her junior world title, Nathan Chen fended off Yuzuru Hanyu at the senior World Figure Skating Championships.

A record-breaking display in the free skate helped Chen win back-to-back titles, while Russian Alina Zagitova became world champion for the first time, a year after winning Olympic gold.

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Tiger roars back

April was the month where a sporting legend rolled back the years.

In roaring his way to Masters glory, Tiger Woods ended an 11-year wait to secure his 15th major, moving him three behind record-holder Jack Nicklaus.

It ranks as one of sport’s greatest comebacks, given Woods himself thought injuries had beaten him.


He was ranked 1,199th in the world in December 2017, having endured four years without a title, but defied back problems to steadily he rise back up the rankings before the Masters win took him to sixth.

Woods received the Presidential Medal of Freedom after this remarkable feat, becoming just the fourth golfer to do so after Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Charlie Sifford.

The King of Clay continues his reign

Come May, Canada were curling their way to World Cup wins in the men’s and women’s events before Norway won the mixed doubles.

Finland were crowned men’s ice hockey world champions, while in football, Lyon secured a third straight women’s UEFA Champions League title.

Liverpool then won the men’s UEFA Champions League final in June, a month which saw 2012 Olympic boxing champion Anthony Joshua lose his world heavyweight titles in a shock defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr.

There was a familiar sight in tennis at the French Open as Rafael Nadal lifted his 12th French Open trophy, while Ashleigh Barty clinched her first Grand Slam in a year where she also ended world No 1.

A summer to remember for Gauff, Rapinoe and Dressel

July heralded the breakthrough of a superstar in the making, with 15-year-old Coco Gauff becoming the youngest tennis player ever in the Open Era to qualify for Wimbledon.

In the first round she beat her idol, Venus Williams, who was already a four-time Grand Slam singles champion by the time Gauff was born in 2004.


Gauff went on to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon, and in October she won the Linz Open in Austria to make her the youngest WTA winner since 2004.

Simona Halep won the Wimbledon women’s singles title, while Novak Djokovic ousted Roger Federer in an epic men’s final on the same day England pipped New Zealand to win the Cricket World Cup.

A packed month also saw the U.S. women’s football team conquer once more at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Megan Rapinoe celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the final from the penalty spot

A fourth title saw the U.S. defend their crown, with Megan Rapinoe named the tournament’s best player after joint-top scoring with six goals alongside team-mate Alex Morgan and England’s Ellen White.

In the pool, swimmer Caeleb Dressel won a record eight medals (six gold) at the 2019 World Aquatics Championships.

And on the road, Egan Bernal became the first Colombian ever to win a Tour de France title. At 22, he was the youngest champion in more than 100 years.


Back-to-back Bilodid

At the World Judo Championships in August, Daria Bilodid became the youngest judoka to win back-to-back world titles.

The extra-lightweight was 18 when recording the feat, adding to the gold the Ukraine-born judoka won at the European Championships in June.

The FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 kicked off at the end of August, and by mid-September Spain were celebrating their first victory since 2006.

It meant Pau and Marc Gasol became the first brothers ever to win an NBA title and a FIBA World Cup title.


Records tumble at World Para Athletics Championships

We’ve already covered October, so to November, where Nour El Sherbini won her third squash World Championship.

The World Para Athletics Championships saw China take home a remarkable 59 medals, including 25 gold.

World records tumbled in Dubai, with GB’s Hannah Cockcroft among those reaching new heights when breaking the T34 100m record for her fifth title.

After a change of format, the week-long Davis Cup Finals was won by Spain, with Nadal inspiring his nation to victory on home soil.

Chen does it again

Last but not least, December. The month where Nathan Chen and Alena Kostornaia were crowned Grand Prix champions in the figure skating.

Anthony Joshua reclaimed his world boxing titles from Ruiz Jr, while Lewis Hamilton capped a sixth Formula One championship when winning the season-closer in Abu Dhabi.

What will 2020 bring?

More of the same, hopefully.

Lausanne 2020 kicks the year off in style, while the countdown to Tokyo 2020 is very much on.

We can’t wait.