Best Of Sport 2021

Tokyo 2020 and the 2020 European Football Championships both became 2021 events (surely a pub quiz question of the future?) so a lot of sport was packed into this year. The LAPS team got our heads together to come up with some of our highlights from the disrupted fixture calendar, and it’s fair to say we couldn’t agree on one. Let us know your sporting highlights in our community.

First up, our CEO Rob Steed argues for Cambridge United’s feats on the pitch: “Despite it being an Olympic year, the GB Ice Hockey team surviving in the World Group (again) and some amazing Test cricket, my sporting highlight of the year is really easy as the mighty Cambridge United achieved promotion to League One for the first time this century. Covid meant almost every game was played behind closed doors so I didn’t see a single game live.”

Partnership Manager, former rugby player turned referee and newly-wed (congratulations!) Holly Wood picks out a number of memories from 2021, but settles on the Formula 1 title battle.

“This year my husband started working in F1. Having no prior passion for or knowledge of F1, I watched Netflix’s Drive to Survive to show some sort of interest in his new job and thought; actually, this is pretty interesting. So, this season, I started following the series and whether you’re a Max or a Lewis fan, will determine how you thought the season ended. I found myself to be a Max fan, and loved the way the race finished, it was so exciting and all of the controversy that has followed has made me even keener to watch and follow the sport more.

“Two athletes, at their peak, battling it out on the world stage, and it all went down to the wire.”

Ben Mercer has now departed as Content Manager (replaced by yours truly) but as a professional rugby player in his previous life, it was the Lions Tour to South Africa that he was most anticipating in 2021. “Given the situation, I felt that two of my favourite sporting occasions in the Lions Tour and the Olympics probably shouldn’t be going ahead. Given the dross that was served up on the field, it would have been better if the Lions hadn’t but by the end of the Olympics I was a full convert, struggling not to cry when Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi shared the high jump gold medal. That and England footballer Bukayo Saka riding an inflatable unicorn brought me immense joy in a tough year.”

Robbie Simpson, Managing Director: “The sporting moment that really stands out is Denmark v Greece at the Euros. Greece won 1-0 however it was Denmark’s team that really stood out in a shocking moment for the world watching. Christian Eriksen collapsing with no one around him with which what now has been disclosed as a cardiac arrest.

“A few years back I had spoken to Christian on the phone as he is friends with the manager that was trying to sign me at the time. A lovely, gentle, kind man and you could see the admiration his Danish team mates had for him as they formed a circle around him whilst he got treatment on the pitch. Meanwhile the captain found Christian’s wife and consoles her. Although Denmark went on to lose that game, you could see that they had a tight bond and that would take them far in the competition.

“To me it showed what playing team sport was all about. Denmark were a team that loved each other and even in a moment of such shocking nature for them, they came together.”

Recently crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year winner, Emma Radacanu, now receives an even bigger accolade by being nominated by our own Partnership Manager Terry Moor as his sporting moment of the year. “I don’t really bother with Wimbledon, but as the US Open women’s singles progressed I got caught up in the excitement around Emma Raducanu’s run through to the final without dropping a set! I found myself laying down the law at home, insisting we watch the final live…Instant groans around the house.

“As the match against Leylah Fernandez progressed, the nails became bitten to the quick…long rallies, break points, holds of serve and the slowly dawning feeling that I was watching a champion evolve, one who could compete at the highest level for the next ten years! Ice cool temperament, steely resolve all the old cliches but what a performance! Complete euphoria when she won: the biggest upset in sport in 2021. A complete surprise, but even now hard to believe a British woman, teenager at that is the US Open Champion.”

Jessie Edwards joined us on a six month placement earlier this year whilst continuing to train as a full time judo athlete.

“My sporting highlight of the year has to be watching my teammates work unbelievably hard over the last year and a half, in and out of lockdowns, facing all kinds of physical and mental challenges, to finally be able to start competing again and absolutely smashing it. Seeing the people who give their everything to become the best possible versions of themselves and begin to see it paying off is the best feeling and I’m so excited for another year with team Camberley Judo Club (CJC).”

[EDITOR: We think Jessie is being a bit modest here as one of the highlights for the rest of the LAPS team was watching Jessie win the silver medal at the British Championships earlier this month.]

Head of Talent James Craigen picks out a moment from his own sporting life: “On a personal level in a very strange Covid-affected football season, helping Arbroath FC avoid relegation was fantastic. At the turn of the year, we looked all but doomed for relegation from the Scottish Championship but a great turn of form saw the team escape the drop in the last game of the season. This season we have kept that form going and are now sitting third in the table in the promotion play off positions.”

Gateshead FC striker Adam Campbell, Partner Support Manager, remembers the events of the summer by focussing on England’s Euro 2020 campaign: “Football is my sport anyway, so I naturally gravitate towards it when it comes to special moments, but I love the way that the whole nation came together to celebrate.

“I genuinely feel like football brings people together like no other sport in the world and this year was another way of seeing this.

“Families, kids, men and women all together in houses, pubs and gardens, all with their faces painted, shirts on, drinks in their hand and coming together to get behind a football team. And what a show they put on! What a summer. Here’s to going one step further in the Qatar World Cup 2022!”

Judoka Ben Caldwell joined us earlier this year as a Business Development Assistant, but has since decided to commit to his sport full-time. We wish Ben masses of luck as he looks forward to 2022. “Having made the decision to become a full-time athlete in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, lack of contest has been a tough challenge this last year. However, the second half of 2021 saw the return of competitions for myself. While I didn’t get all the results I wanted it’s such a great feeling to be steaming forward with competitions.”

Newest member of the LAPS team, Event Manager Miriam Instone, has a background in gymnastics and trampoline. She says that American gymnast Simone Biles’ performances in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games resonated with her.

“This summer, Simone Biles displayed incredible sportsmanship. After years of anticipation and intense exposure by the international media, Simone Biles didn’t compete in the events she was meant to at the Olympic Games. Critics called her inconsistent and negative, while comments sections were flooded on social media platforms with people calling her ‘lazy’, ‘a failure’ and that she let her team and country down.

“In 2016 we were all mesmerised by her ability. It was astonishing and exhilarating watching her. So why couldn’t she just do it again?

“Psychologically she was suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Disorientation when in the air meant she was not able to execute her twisting moves safely. All four pieces (floor, beam, bars and vault) rely on enhanced spatial awareness. Due to, I assume, intense pressure her anxiety increased and therefore her disorientation when twisting increased.

“The fact that Simone Biles trusted in herself and her ability to safely perform, despite intense pressure and scrutiny, shows leadership and courage.”

And finally… as a former Cambridge University and Great Britain rower, my own highlight was to see Cambridge win both men’s and women’s Boat Races. Due to Covid and building works on Hammersmith Bridge, they were held on the Great Ouse at Ely this year, a place I spent more time training in my student years than I would like to remember. It’s a bleak stretch of water, running in a straight line through featureless Fenland with barely a tree to break up the monotony. It was strangely emotive seeing it covered with BBC cameras and sponsors’ logos as it temporarily played host to one of the world’s most historic sporting events. It was where I cut my teeth as a young student rower. The hours spent training here on my own with only freezing winter weather for company were when I fell in love with my sport, and it will always have a special place in my heart.

And now… over to you! Comment in our community and tell us if we’ve hit the mark or missed the goal.