Lining up on the 100m start line like Usain Bolt and five other most nerve-wracking moments in sport

The 100m final at London 2017 got us thinking about sporting instances which turn the stomach the most.

Stuart Appleby
by Stuart Appleby
6th August 2017

article:6th August 2017

Runners on the 100m start line on Saturday night in London.
Runners on the 100m start line on Saturday night in London.

Boxing, cricket, football, golf, athletics and tennis – all six of our featured sports have their own way of creating nerves and delivering memorable sporting moments.

In no particular order, here’s six sporting instances when immense bottle is required to deliver the goods.

What do you make of our picks?

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Cricket kicks us off…


KOLKATA, WEST BENGAL - APRIL 03: Carlos Brathwaite of the West Indies celebrates hitting the winning runs during the ICC World Twenty20 India 2016 Final match between England and West Indies at Eden Gardens on April 3, 2016 in Kolkata, India. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Powerhouse: Carlos Brathwaite.

T20 cricket can go either way, it’s the nature of the beast.

But boy, when it doesn’t go your way, you want the ground to swallow you up.

When England were on the brink of securing the World T20 title in Kolkata last April, Ben Stokes was just the man to call upon to bowl the last over and sew up victory.

West Indies needed 19 to win and Stokes’ job was to restrict the free-flowing bat of Carlos Brathwaite.

The next four balls – which weren’t bad deliveries at all by the Englishman – were all smacked out of the ground for sixes to help the Caribbean side to victory.

International cricket is decided by fine margins and when the pressure is really on, like it was in India for the Durham man, it boils down to who can execute their skills the best (a little luck helps too).


LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 29: Anthony Joshua (White Shorts) catches Wladimir Klitschko (Grey Shorts) with a right hand upper cut in the 11th round of their IBF, WBA and IBO Heavyweight World Title bout at Wembley Stadium on April 29, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Famous image: Joshua catches Klitschko with an upper cut.

A big heavyweight boxing clash between two brutes of the sport captures the imagination like no other contest.

Whether you’re supporting one side or the other, or are a complete neutral, the power of two giants hitting each other blow-by-blow makes you glued to the TV set. It must feel like you’re part of the action ring-side.

The thing with heavyweight boxing is you never know when that bout-ending uppercut (think Anthony Joshua against Wladimir Klitschko in April at Wembley Stadium) or a devastating left hook is going to come, that’s what really keeps you on edge.

It’s a feeling that few sports can replicate.


LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 05: Usain Bolt of Jamaica points to the sky prior to the mens 100m final during day two of the 16th IAAF World Athletics Championships London 2017 at The London Stadium on August 5, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by David Ramos/REMOTE/Getty Images)

100m stars line-up for the final in London on Saturday night.

When it comes down to the crunch in professional sport, a split second decision, right or wrong, or a moment of genius can decide the outcome.

For 100m sprinters this is perhaps exaggerated even more given years of training and dedication is boiled down to roughly 10 seconds – or even less if you get a false start and get disqualified from the race.

Mentally – knowing that everything is about that one very moment and nothing else – must be extremely difficult for world-class athletes.

In sprinting, especially, you don’t get too many cracks in what is a short career at securing a World Championship or indeed Olympic medal. Imagine if it doesn’t go to plan and you’ll left to rue a mistake out of the blocks for years? That’ll be too much for most.

Indeed, we felt the nerves just watching the final…and we were thousands of miles away at Sport360 HQ in Dubai on Saturday.

The wait for the starting pistol, and then “On your marks”, “Set”, probably feels like an eternity for the sprinters trackside.

Heart and adrenaline must be going into overdrive.

As we saw with the great Usain Bolt, if your start isn’t up to scratch if can affect you for the rest of the race.

It is without doubt one of the most difficult sporting actions to master.


LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM: Croatian player Goran Ivanisevic celebrates after winning Men's Single Final against Patrick Rafter of Australia at the All England Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, 09 July 2001. Ivanisevic won 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7. AFP PHOTO/GERRY PENNY (Photo credit should read GERRY PENNY/AFP/Getty Images)

What a remarkable way to win Wimbledon: Ivanisevic.

For a tennis player – winning a Grand Slam, particularly Wimbledon, is the ultimate goal. Few people get the chance to achieve the ultimate – and if you do – you don’t want to blow it with a bundle of nerves.

After three previous Wimbledon final defeats, who could blame Goran Ivanisevic for feeling more than a few jitters when he had the chance to serve-out a five-set epic 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 7-8* against Pat Rafter and win the SW19 crown for the first time.

Indeed, the Croatian fan favourite admitted he could barely feel his left-arm when sending down his famous serve.

Ivanisevic blew three match points and sent down two double faults, before finally winning a dramatic final game which lasted over five minutes. 9-7 in the fifth.

The video below does it more justice than words.


AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 09: Sergio Garcia of Spain celebrates after defeating Justin Rose (not pictured) of England on the first playoff hole during the final round of the 2017 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 9, 2017 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Sergio the Major: Garcia finally got that elusive Green Jacket in April.

Sergio Garcia made it look all too easy when he fired in a birdie putt on the final hole of his thrilling play-off victory over Justin Rose to win at the Augusta National Golf Club earlier this year.

While the Spaniard is one of the most experienced pros around, that putt was the difference between his first-ever major title victory or once again being labelled as the nearly man.

The mental toughness, concentration and coolness needed to slot away a winning putt like that takes guts and world-class skill.

Many players have blown huge chances before – Dustin Johnson a couple of years ago and Greg Norman way back in the 1990s springs to mind – which goes to show finishing the job when it comes to golf is far from easy.

You definitely don’t want a case of the yips.


MOSCOW - MAY 21: John Terry of Chelsea misses a penalty during the UEFA Champions League Final match between Manchester United and Chelsea at the Luzhniki Stadium on May 21, 2008 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

A picture that Manchester United fans just love to see.

It doesn’t matter how good you are or have been as a player, a penalty shoot-out miss can really define you…especially as they normally come in big games.

While England fans know all too well about penalty failures down the years, is it unfair a talent like Roberto Baggio is arguably best remembered for his ballooned spot-kick which cost Italy the 1994 World Cup against Brazil?

Probably not – but unfortunately what you do in one kick from 12 yards carries with it a big weight of history, whether you score or miss.

Just ask John Terry.

For all the trophies in his cabinet, the ex-Chelsea skipper will forever be haunted by his slip-up in Moscow and how he blew the chance to gift the Blues a European Cup by the hair’s width of a post.