In 2020, the world came to a standstill, including sports. Competitions such as the Tokyo Olympics, the world’s soccer leagues and tournaments, the NBA and other major events were postponed due to the pandemic. Once they were restarted, under strict protocols, the stadiums looked desolate and sad; with no public to cheer, applaud and shout excitedly. But in 2021 everything was different. Little by little, with the reduction of hospitalizations and deaths and the progress of the global vaccine process, people returned to the stadiums, giving color and joy to sporting events. And it came at the best time because this year had unforgettable feats that will go down in the history of sports.
The Tokyo 2020 gentlemen’s agreement
August 1 was one of the most emotional days of the year, with the athletics day of the Tokyo Olympics taking center stage. On the same day, at least three historic events took place. The first one starred a Qatari, Mutaz Essa Barshim, and an Italian, Gianmarco Tamberi. Both athletes recorded equal marks in the final and had two options: jump to a tiebreaker or make a deal to both win the gold medal. Without hesitation, both made a gentleman’s agreement and left a spectacular postcard that encompasses everything that represents the spirit of sportsmanship.
At the same time that the pact between Tamberi and Barshim was taking place, a Venezuelan, Yulimar Rojas, was breaking all possible records in the Triple Jump discipline. An exhibition that will live on in the history of the Olympics. Minutes later, in the final of the 100-meter dash, another Italian, Lamont Marcell Jacobs, surprised the world by becoming the fastest man in the world.
The EURO 2021 with full stadiums and Messi finally wins a title with Argentina
If there was a sporting event that excited the whole planet besides the Olympics, it was the European Championship. Firstly, because of the high level of soccer shown by most of the teams, and secondly, because of the spectacular frames. Danes, Italians, Hungarians, Poles, Scots and so many other nationalities gave us epic moments accompanying their teams in the various venues of the tournament. Many of us were moved by the Italians singing their national anthem or the Danes applauding Denmark’s great tournament.
Shock for Eriksen. However, not everything was pretty in the Euro, during Denmark’s debut against Finland, the best Danish player in the world, Christian Eriksen, collapsed on the field forcing the doctors on the field to perform resuscitation. We were all in shock, worried by the images coming from Copenhagen’s Parken Stadium. Fortunately, Eriksen survived. The episode affected his soccer year, missing the Euros and now leaving his club, Inter Milan, because he cannot play in Italy with the internal defibrillator he was fitted with as a precaution. However, we all hope that Christian will be back on the field soon.
Italy’s year. Italians have many reasons to be happy, not only because of the great Olympics their delegation did, but also because their national team won the Euro with a high level of soccer, with brilliance in offense and solidity in defense. A well-deserved title for the Azzurri after the hard blow they suffered when they were left out of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Messi, between tears of joy and sadness. The emotional roller coaster for the best player in the world was indescribable. First, winning the title he most longed for with his beloved Argentina National Team, which had not been crowned champion for decades, left a full smile on his face as he lifted the Copa América 2021. Then came the unexpected for him: leaving the club of his love, Barcelona, due to the institutional-economic mismanagement of the club itself and the rules of the BBVA League. Messi’s tears during the press conference, confirming his departure from the culé club after a life in Catalan lands, will remain forever in the minds of the culé fan.
The Greek year in the NBA. If we are talking about feats, we must not forget the Milwaukee Bucks, champions of the best basketball tournament in the world thanks to the Greek Giannis Antetokounmpo, who destroyed the Suns in the championship game by scoring 50 points. Curiously, Giannis’ points coincided with the time the Bucks had gone 50 years without lifting the champion’s trophy.
The F1 last lap of the year. Dutchman Max Verstappen and Briton Lewis Hamilton gave us an impressive season for the Formula 1 world title that ended with a heart-stopping finish: a final lap between Max and Lewis, hand in hand, to define the champion. Verstappen managed to overtake Hamilton in a formidable maneuver and snatched the title in extremis. F1 already has a new great rivalry. We are all looking forward to 2022.
Latino Power in the UFC. Latinos also have a lot to be proud of in 2021 in the fight world. Mexican-born Brandon Moreno became the first Mexican to win a UFC title, this time at flyweight. Likewise, Venezuelan-American Julianna Peña shocked the world in perhaps the biggest upset in the history of the sport, defeating Brazilian Amanda Nunes -considered the best fighter in UFC history- by submission to win the bantamweight belt.
I do not want to forget the many other epic moments of this 2021. Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United, Simone Biles’ retirement and recovery, Chelsea’s second Champions League title and Palmeiras’ two-time championship in South America; Djokovic’s titles, the Atlanta Braves’ triumph in the MLB, Venezuelan Miguel Cabrera’s 500th home run in the MLB and the global appeal to the Chinese regime for the disappearance of tennis player Peng Shuai; all this in just one year.
Sports lovers can only say: Thank you 2021! You set the bar high for 2022, which also comes loaded: the World Cup in Qatar is just around the corner and we are looking forward to another great sporting year. Let’s go!