Is this as good as it gets?

  • By: Frank Malley, Chief Writer, Press Association Sport
  • Last Updated: December 24 2012, 10:19 GMT

Frank Malley reflects on 2012, which goes down in history as perhaps the greatest-ever year in British sport.

Bradley Wiggins: Olympic champ and Tour winner

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Where do you start to tell the remarkable story of arguably the greatest-ever year in British sport?

The grounds of Hampton Court Palace, perhaps, where on August 1 Bradley Wiggins secured Olympic gold in the cycling time trial just 10 days after becoming the first Briton to win the Tour de France, the race generally regarded as the most gruelling in sport.

After Wiggins had received his medal and saluted his adoring fans on a sun-splashed afternoon he took a lingering look at the magnificent palace where heads used to roll under the reign of Henry V111 and was gripped by sadness.

"There is almost slight melancholy," he admitted. "I realised on the podium that that is it for me. I don't think anything is going to top that. To win the Tour and then win Olympic gold in London at 32. I'll look back in 10, 15 years and think that was as good as it got."

  • The jersey winners lined up early on to celebrate their achievements
  • No prizes for guessing who was the centre of attention before the start...
  • Bradley Wiggins signed plenty of autographs...
  • ...A very special day awaited the champion-elect
  • The Team Sky cars were rebranded yellow to mark the win
  • Wiggins looked slightly pensive on the start line...
  • ...But he was soon all smiles as he saluted his magnificent team
  • Wiggins gets a well-deserved glass of champagne after an epic performance over the last three weeks
  • Wiggins' achievement was also acknowledged from Sports Directors of the other teams
  • Outgoing champion Cadel Evans chats to Chris Froome
  • A welcome view for every rider as the Eiffel Tower comes into focus
  • The British fans turned out in force
  • The pace was increased as the Arc de Triomphe came into view
  • The Team Sky train got into position
  • Onto the Champs-Elysees and Wiggins was part of the leadout for Cavendish
  • Cavendish went for a long sprint and held on for his fourth straight win on the Champs-Elysees
  • Wiggins celebrates his win as he crosses the line with Mick Rogers
  • Cavendish celebrated the 23rd Tour de France stage victory of his career with a kiss from his daughter
  • The top two in the GC, Wiggins (right) and Froome, were soon stepping onto the podium
  • They were joined by third-placed Vincenzo Nibali (right)
  • Wiggins is embraced by his wife Cath
  • Peter Sagan, winner of three stages, claimed the green jersey
  • And Thomas Voeckler upheld French pride as King of the Mountains
  • Tejay van Garderen was best young rider
  • Wiggins offered his thanks to the British fans who had travelled over, or under, the Channel to witness his victory
The pick of the images from a perfect final stage of the Tour de France for Team Sky.

For so many sportsmen 2012 truly was as good as sport gets.

Such as Andy Murray who won silver and gold at the Olympics following his loss to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final and then went on to rewrite 76 years of tennis history by becoming the first British man since Fred Perry in 1936 to win a Grand Slam singles title when he beat Novak Djokovic in five dramatic sets at the US Open.

  • Andy Murray lifts the US Open trophy and becomes the first Briton for 76 years to win a grand slam title.
  • Andy Murray was looking to win his first Grand Slam title with victory in the US Open final against Novak Djokovic.
  • Djokovic hoped to defend his crown at Flushing Meadows.
  • Sean Connery couldn't stay away as he hoped for Scottish success.
  • Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was also wishing for some Murray magic.
  • It was a tough start for Djokovic.
  • But Murray couldn't keep his opponent down as the first set went to a tie-break.
  • The tie-break was a cracker and Murray won it 12-10.
  • The reigning champion found himself on the back foot in the second set...
  • as the British number one doubled his lead, meaning for the first time he had won two sets in a slam final...
  • leaving Djokovic on his knees.
  • The Serbian wasn't done just yet, however, as he launched a fightback in the third...
  • as Murray became more and more frustrated.
  • Flushing Meadows looked a picture with the lights on as an epic final moved into a fifth hour...
  • Djokovic played some sublime tennis to take the fourth set, meaning a decider was required to find out who would lift the trophy.
  • Murray's girlfriend Kim Sears enjoys the final set action from the players' box.
  • The British no.1 closes the deciding set out on his serve and is in disbelief after realising he has just won the US Open.
  • The Australian Open champion Djokovic congratulates his good friend Murray at the net after four hours and 54 minutes of gruelling action.
A look at the best pictures from day 15 of the US Open at Flushing Meadows.

In any other year Murray would be the undisputed king of British sport. In 2012 he merely joined an array of sublime performers across a multitude of disciplines. In rugby union, Wales, with an exciting blend of youth and experience, won the Six Nations Grand Slam for the third time in eight years.

In rugby league Wigan finished top of Super League, Warrington won the Challenge Cup final and Leeds took the Grand Final prize with a blistering display to eclipse Warrington.

Football saw the arrival of moneybags Manchester City as a major force, wrenching the Premier League title from neighbours Manchester United >with a last-ditch winner from Sergio Aguero against QPR in as dramatic a finale as you are likely to witness.

As if to prove money makes football's world spin like never before Chelsea won the FA Cup and then lifted the Champions League trophy for the first time, winning a penalty shoot-out 4-3 against Bayern Munich, with departing star Didier Drogba slotting the decisive spot kick.

It was the stuff of dreams and yet football, with its penchant for controversy and cheating, was the biggest loser in 2012. England once more failed to achieve at a major tournament, going out on penalties, how else?, against Italy at Euro 2012 under new manager Roy Hodgson.

The English game, however, was dominated by the accusations of racist language against Chelsea's John Terry which saw him acquitted in a court of law but found guilty by the Football Association. The punishment of a four-match ban and a £220,000 fine was debated as heatedly as the fact that he continued as Chelsea captain. There was even talk of a breakaway union for black players. In truth, however, football was simply overwhelmed by sports and characters determined to play hard but fair.

That was evident in golf where Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy polished his aura as the 'new Tiger' by winning his second major, the USPGA, at the age of 23, by a record eight shots. If that was stunning then the events at Medinah Country Club, Illinois, in September were extraordinary.

  • The European team get it's hands on the Ryder Cup after one of the most dramatic turnarounds in the history of the tournament.
  • As Martin Kaymer holes his putt on the 18th to seal a 1up victory over Steve Stricker, the celebrations begin for Europe.
  • Paul Lawrie hoists the flag of Scotland and celebrates victory with his wife and caddie.
  • Great spirit between the teams is shown as Tiger Woods congratulates Rory McIlroy.
  • Lee Westwood flies the St. George's Cross and did Europe proud with a big performance today.
  • Many of the European players attribute the victory to their captain Jose Maria Olazabal.
  • As always, Mr Ryder Cup himself, Ian Poulter leads the celebrations.
  • Lee Westwood and Luke Donald pop the champagne corks.
  • The fans are showered in the fizz and will be celebrating well into the night.
  • Inside the European locker room Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy continue the party.
  • Martin Kaymer comes to terms with what he and Team Europe have achieved.
  • Vice-captain Darren Clarke enjoys the moment with his team.
  • Sergio Garcia gets in on the action.
  • The European team captain attempts to compose himself before an emotional speech.
  • Jose Maria Olazabal kisses the trophy after guiding Europe to a second consecutive victory.
  • The Spaniard hoists the trophy to the cheers of the European supporters.
  • The English boys pose for a photo with Jose Maria Olazabal.
  • Ian Poulter celebrates his third Ryder Cup success.
  • Martin Kaymer smuggles the Ryder Cup back to Europe after holding his nerve on the final day.
Pictures from the celebrations at Medinah as Europe complete a remarkable comeback to clinch victory.

Trailing by 10-6 going into the final day singles Europe appeared to be playing for pride alone against the USA in the Ryder Cup. McIlroy and the rest had other ideas and inspired by a day dedicated to the memory of the late Seve Ballesteros they produced a recovery in the swashbuckling tradition of their former captain. Eight singles matches won, one halved, to deliver a 14.5-13.5 victory which deserves its place in the pantheon of great sporting comebacks.

Yet, despite such wondrous moments, for centuries to come 2012 will be remembered for what took place during six weeks in which the London Olympics and Paralympics captured the hearts and minds of a nation.

  • A spectacular Opening Ceremony came to a fitting end, as seven young athletes were handed the responsibility of lighting the Olympic Cauldron
  • Archer Im Dong Hyeun of South Korea broke a World Record before the Olympic ceremony had even begun. He is legally blind in one eye
  • Michael Phelps did not quite match his haul in 2008, but the American won his 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th Gold Medals to become the greatest Olympian ever
  • Chinese prodigy Ye Shiwen blew away the competition in the pool, overcoming false accusations of foul play to smash the 400m Medley World Record
  • Tour de France hero Bradley Wiggins became the most decorated British Olympian of all time as he cruised to Gold in the Time Trial
  • After so many near misses veteran rower Katherine Grainger finally won her first Olympic Gold alongside partner Anna Watkins
  • Zhou Lulu of China shattered the Women's weightlifting World Record by lifting 333kg, more than four times her own bodyweight
  • Cycling great Chris Hoy took up the mantle of Britain's greatest ever Olympian, as he secured his sixth gold medal in the Keirin
  • Victoria Pendleton's loss to Australian rival Anna Mears in the Sprint final proved a poignant moment, as the great cyclist took her final bow
  • Laura Trott however proved that women's cycling in Britain is by no means on the decline, as the 20 year old took double gold in the Velodrome
  • Britain's men's gymnastics team made history, as they became the first Brits for 100 years to win a team gymnastics medal
  • The American Women's team blew away the field in the women's event, with McKayla Maroney and Gabrielle Douglas leading the way
  • Golden Girl Jessica Ennis' Heptathlon win was celebrated the nation over, as she set World Records and Personal Bests on her way to Gold
  • Mo Farah sent the crowd in the Olympic Stadium wild, as his Gold in an enthralling 10k Final capped the most successful day in British Olympic history
  • Usain Bolt silenced any doubters, proving he is the fsastest man ever with convincing wins in the 100 and 200 metres
  • Double amputee Oscar Pistorious of South Africa makes history as he competes in the 400m heats
  • The USA's women's 4x100m team broke one of the longest standing world records, as their time of 40.82 seconds shattered the 1980 record set by East Germany
  • One gold was not enough for Mo, as he became the first Brit to win both the 5000 and 10,000 metres; becoming a national hero
  • Bolt and Blake were on hand to guide the Jamaican men's 4x100m team to another Gold Medal and a World Record time
  • British Super Heavyweight Anthony Joshua announced himself as the new star of World Boxing with a Gold Medal winning performance
Pictures rounding up the greatest moments of a memorable Games; as London 2012 reaches its conclusion

Who can forget the Saturday night it rained British gold in the Olympic stadium for heptathlete Jessica Ennis, the poster girl of the Games, plus long jumper Greg Rutherford and the incomparable Mo Farah in the 10,000m, all swept on by jet-engine roars from a crowd whose passion brought a lump to the throat?

Who can forget Farah making it a golden double in the 5,000m and celebrating zanily trackside with Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter who successfully defended his 100m, 200m and relay sprint titles?

The velodrome, meanwhile, rocked as Britain's Jason Kenny and Laura Trott won double gold and Victoria Pendleton won gold and silver before bidding farewell to the sport in a river of tears.

Sir Chris Hoy was there, too, embracing Sir Steven Redgrave after surpassing him as Britain's greatest Olympian, the cycle king's victories in the team sprint and the keirin taking his golden tally to six over four Games.

Truly that was the night of knights and while cycling was to be rocked when America's Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles later in the year after compelling evidence emerged of systematic drug cheating there was a growing conviction that the sport currently has never been cleaner.

At the Paralympics the four gold medals of wheelchair athlete David Weir and the irrepressible charm of blade runner Jonnie Peacock as he won the 100m epitomised a Games with the emphasis on ability, not disability. So what will we remember most from 2012, apart from 29 Olympic and 34 Paralympic gold medals?

It has to be the pride and the sound of patriotic fervour, which prevailed on land and sea from Wembley to Weymouth in those six sumptuous weeks.

To paraphrase Wiggins, it was as good as sport gets.


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