Yearender: Five best sporting performances of 2014
Five best sporting performances of 2014:
1. MADISON BUMGARNER (BASEBALL)
San Francisco pitcher Madison Bumgarner saved the day and the World Series for the Giants with a Game Seven effort that capped a record-breaking performance in the Fall Classic.
The 25-year-old country boy from North Carolina put a spell over the Kansas City Royals, pitching five shutout innings of relief to preserve a deciding one-run win on two days rest after winning twice as a starting pitcher.
The 6-foot-5 lefty was credited with the longest save in Series history and totalled 21 innings, nine hits, one run, 17 strikeouts and one walk in the best-of-seven. In winning a third championship ring he set all-time career World Series marks for lowest ERA (0.25) and fewest hits per nine innings (3.5).
2. LIONEL MESSI (SOCCER)
More milestones fell in 2014 to Lionel Messi, who in typically breathtaking fashion became the all-time leading scorer in La Liga and the Champions League with two hat-tricks in the space of four days.
Three goals against Sevilla took his La Liga total to 253, before a treble against APOEL Nicosia set a Champions League scoring record of 74 goals.
The four-times World Player of the Year surpassed the previous La Liga mark of 251 set by former Athletic Bilbao striker Telmo Zarra in 1955 and the Champions League record of 71 he jointly held with former Real Madrid striker Raul.
It was a superb way to crown a year in which he won the Golden Ball award for best player at the Brazil World Cup having led Argentina to the final.
3. ROHIT SHARMA (CRICKET)
Rohit Sharma, playing his first match for India in 10 weeks after suffering a finger injury and shoulder strain, shattered the one-day world record for a batsman with a monumental opening knock of 264 against Sri Lanka.
Sharma`s boundary runs alone amounted to 186 as he blitzed nine sixes and 33 fours from 173 deliveries in racing past the previous record 219 set by compatriot Virender Sehwag in 2011. Sri Lanka responded with 251 in the match.
The remarkable run made Sharma the first to register a second ODI double hundred, having scored 209 against Australia last year. Sehwag and former team mate Sachin Tendulkar are the only others to reach 200 in one-day internationals.
4. VIKTOR AHN (SPEED SKATING)
Eight years after his previous Olympic appearance, Viktor Ahn competed under a new name and for a new country but was the same dominant force in short track as he skated to three gold medals at the Sochi Olympics for Russia.
Ahn took his Olympic haul to a short track career record six golds with wins in the 500m, 1,000m and 5,000m relay after being a triple champion for South Korea as Ahn Hyun-soo at the 2006 Turin Games.
The 29-year-old missed the 2010 Olympics due to a knee injury and a falling out with the Korean Skating Union that led him to switch allegiance to Russia in his drive to become short track`s most successful Olympic racer.
5. SAN ANTONIO SPURS (BASKETBALL)
With an inspiring display of teamwork and skill, relentless ball movement and dedicated defense, the San Antonio Spurs ended the two-year reign of the Miami Heat and LeBron James as NBA champions with a sublime run to the title.
The selfless Spurs, with a roster full of international players led by an ageless core of Tim Duncan, French point guard Tony Parker and Argentine swingman Manu Ginobili, won in five games, taking each of their four wins by 15 points or more.
Kawhi Leonard, 23, was named Finals MVP after successfully duelling James, who left Miami to return home to the Cavaliers after the Heat`s streak of 11 straight playoff series wins was snapped by the Spurs, whose 70-point differential and 52.8 percent shooting from the field were both Finals records.