Saturday 18 November 2017

7 sporting figures we'd love to see follow in Sergio Garcia's glorious footsteps

By Max McLean

Trophies and medals for these sportspeople would mean the world.

Who could begrudge Sergio Garcia his first major golfing title at the age of 37?

It seems just about everyone, including runner-up Justin Rose, was pleased to see the Spaniard win the Masters this weekend – after 74 attempts at a major, this is what it means.

But who else would the world be delighted to see claim an elusive trophy?

Arsene Wenger

The Champions League

Well, perhaps not everybody wants Arsene Wenger to win the European Cup, but most would probably not begrudge him the jug-eared trophy.

Arsenal’s manager is up there as the best never to win Europe’s most coveted silverware, having finished as runner-up in 2006.

A maiden title seems more unlikely now than ever, but should the improbable happen for the 67-year-old, you can expect celebrations in the style of Sergio Garcia’s on the 18th at Augusta.

Elise Christie

Winter Olympic speed-skating gold

Perhaps you remember speed-skater Elise Christie’s 2014 Winter Olympics, or perhaps it’s faded from memory – we’re sure it remains firmly with the 26-year-old.

At the Sochi Games, Christie went into her three events with high hopes of a medal, but left with only bitter disappointment after three disqualifications.

The Scot recently won three world championship golds, so it’s not all bad, but a medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics would taste pretty sweet for Christie.

Rory McIlroy

The Masters

Here’s a man who would dearly love to be wearing Garcia’s green jacket right now – Rory McIlroy has never worked so hard for an item of clothing.

The Northern Irish golfer has four majors to his name, but lusts after the Masters, a tournament which he came so close to conquering in 2011, but which instead conquered him.

Then 21, McIlroy led by four shots going into the final round, but proceeded to unravel like a poorly made Christmas jumper, finishing 10 shots off the lead with an eight-over-par 80. The green jacket continues to evade him.

Rafael Nadal

A 10th French Open

Some might say it’s hard to feel sorry for someone who has achieved a career grand slam and 14 major titles, but we reckon a 10th French Open title for Rafael Nadal would be a tearjerker.

The Spaniard is beloved by the fans, but injury has prevented the left-hander from challenging at the highest level for the last three years – a renaissance appears to have materialised however in the form of an Australian Open final defeat against long-time rival Roger Federer.

The French Open is the next slam on the calendar – if the 30-year-old can sustain his recent form, he might just become the first tennis player ever to win the same major 10 times.

Felipe Massa

The Formula One drivers’ championship

One of a long list of excellent F1 drivers to never achieve the big prize, Brazilian Felipe Massa came a couple of corners from the title at Interlagos in 2008.

Competing in his home grand prix in the final race of the season, Massa finished first, and had the title in his hands. He didn’t bank on Lewis Hamilton overtaking Timo Glock on the penultimate corner however, stealing the title from under Massa’s nose in the process.

The 35-year-old planned to retire at the end of the 2016 season, but has returned in 2017, although a title this year looks as far away as ever.

Louis Smith

Olympic gymnastic gold

Louis Smith, along with Beth Tweddle, could be described as the figurehead of the British gymnastic boom – historically not a gymnastics country, Team GB excelled at Rio 2016 winning seven medals.

And while Smith was a key component at the Games last summer, winning a silver medal in the pommel horse, he struggled to hide his emotions after losing out on gold to fellow Brit Max Whitlock – four years previously he had scored the same as Hungarian Krisztian Berki in the Olympic pommel, but came second by virtue of difficulty.

Smith has two Olympic bronze medals and two Olympic silvers to his name, an astonishing haul for a gymnast from Britain – will he be back for gold in 2020?

Jimmy White

The snooker World Championship

And now for something that, unfortunately, will almost certainly never happen.

Jimmy White can lay claim to being the most unfortunate sportsperson on this list, having lost an incredible six World Championship finals, including five in a row between 1990 and 1994.

White lost to Stephen Hendry four times, as well as once to John Parrott and Steve Davis – the last final he competed in was perhaps the most disappointing, losing as he did 18-17 to Hendry.

Having recently lost his tour card after 37 years as a professional, it looks incredibly unlikely that White will ever win the worlds – if he did, it would probably be the greatest sporting story of all time.

Press Association

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