2017 was a banner year for sports. There were women’s World Cups in both cricket and rugby, performances that saw two men pad their resumes for the title of “greatest of all time” in tennis and athletics, and a legend who once declared himself the greatest called time on a storied career.
So picking the winners for our Sporting Oscars wasn’t easy, with several superlative performers staking their claims. In the end, it came down to five truly great stars who lit up 2017 with their displays.
Without further ado, the Oscars go to…
Actor in a leading role – Roger Federer (Comeback)
Federer entered 2017 seeming like a spent force. He was 35, hadn’t won a Grand Slam in nearly five years, and had missed the latter half of the previous season to injury. Even for him, a successful comeback seemed like a step too far.
How wrong we were. The Swiss great cemented his status as the greatest men’s tennis player of all time, starring in the Australian Open and Wimbledon to add to his current collection of 20 Grand Slam titles. His thrilling victory over Rafael Nadal in the final in Melbourne deserves a movie of its own.
He should also win the award for best original screenplay – because who else could write this script? No one. Federer writes his own scripts, then stars in them.
Best supporting actor – Kevin De Bruyne (Assist King)
This award can only go to one person: Europe’s new assist king. De Bruyne was solid in the first half of 2017, ensuring Manchester City made the top four.
The goalscorers usually milk the headlines because they’re always the stars of the show, but De Bruyne’s body of work for City over the past 12 months outshines his teammates, as he continues to excel in setting them up for glory.
His manager Pep Guardiola believes he’s second only to Lionel Messi in the list of best players in the world, and while that might be a slight exaggeration, there’s no overstating how good De Bruyne was in 2017.
Actress in a leading role – Portia Woodman (NZ in Rugby World Cup)
Imagine scoring eight tries in one game, and that being only your second-best performance of a tournament.
That’s what Portia Woodman did. Eight tries against Hong Kong in New Zealand’s dominant 121-0 win, and then four tries in the semi-final against the USA.
Unsurprisingly, the 26-year-old topped the tournament tables for tries (13) as well as points (65).
New Zealand went on to beat England 41-32 in an enthralling final in Belfast.
Best supporting actress – Anya Shrubsole (England in Cricket World Cup)
Player of the match in a World Cup final. It’s the sort of performance people dream of, and on July 23, 2017, England’s Anya Shrubsole produced one of the most memorable displays in women’s cricket history.
Six wickets, and a run-out, saw Shrubsole lead England to a thrilling win in a match where they seemed down and out, as for much of the final it seemed like India were in cruise control.
But her tight, accurate bowling induced panic in the Indian ranks, leading to an epic collapse that handed England the cup.
Other players had better tournaments overall, but on the day that mattered most, Shrubsole reigned supreme.
Best picture – New England’s comeback against Atlanta (Super Bowl 2017)
28-3. That scoreline will go down in the annals of Super Bowl history as no team with such a comprehensive lead had gone on to lose an NFL title.
Of course, no other team has had to face Tom Brady when in a comfortable winning position. The Atlanta Falcons came up against the greatest player of all time – and the 40-year-old crushed their dreams while inspiring the Pats to a comeback win.
As Pats reeled their way back into the contest, the Falcons froze like a deer in headlights. A dropped catch by Julio Jones, arguably the NFL’s best receiver, and then a bizarre play call when the Falcons could have run down the clock gave Brady a chance to take the game to overtime. The rest, as they say, is history.
Best director – Zinedine Zidane
Zinedine Zidane won the Champions League in his first full season in charge of Real Madrid. How was he supposed to top that?
The Frenchman led Los Blancos to their first La Liga victory in five years 12 months later, and then topped it off by retaining the Champions League title in the same month – no team had ever won the European crown twice in a row.
It was also Real Madrid’s first league and European double in 59 years.
A director’s role is to get stars to perform their roles as best as they can, and to ensure the whole team is staying on script.
In 2017, Zidane showed the world how that’s done, guiding the Bernabeu outfit to five trophies.
Honorary Award – Usain Bolt
“I am the greatest.” That’s what Usain Bolt said after clinching his third gold medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016 – the third time he’d won three golds at an Olympic Games.
The Jamaican sprint king called time on his glittering career in 2017, bowing out in heartbreaking fashion with a hamstring injury in the 4x100m relay at the World Championships.
Three days before his injury, he’d slipped to a bronze in his last-ever 100m race. Not every sports legend gets the perfect ending.
But what he achieved over the course of his career meant that when he uttered those famous words in Brazil, there weren’t many who questioned the sincerity of his claim.
It was a phrase first made famous by Muhammad Ali. Bolt deserves his place alongside the boxer in the pantheon of legendary athletes.
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