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Sunday, 25 December 2011





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Leading sports deaths of the year...

SPORTS: PARIS, Dec 24 (AFP) - Leading sportspeople who died this year:

Automobile racing Dan Wheldon

Two-time Indianapolis 500 champion killed as a result of injuries suffered in a crash in the Indy 300 race at Las Vegas on October 16 aged 33. Born in England Wheldon moved to the United States in 1999 and six years later became the first Englishman since Graham Hill in 1966 to win the Indianapolis 500 and went on to win it again this year. In the Vegas race he was racing from the back of the field in pursuit of a $5 million prize offered by IndyCar to a non-series driver who could win the finale.

Boxing Sir Henry Cooper

Much-loved British heavyweight champion who died two days before his 77th birthday on May 1. Best known for his 1963 non-title bout with Muhammad Ali when he landed 'Enry's Hammer' felling his opponent. Some gamesmanship by Ali's trainer Angelo Dundee probably saved his young star from defeat. Cooper retired in 1971 and went on to do an enormous amount for charity as well as a kitsch series of adverts alongside Kevin Keegan for an aftershave.

Joe Frazier

World heavyweight champion known as 'Smokin Joe' died of liver cancer aged 67 on November 8. The former farmworker from South Carolina fought a legendary triology of title fights with Muhammad Ali in the 1970's - Frazier won the first but lost the next two, Ali describing the final bout 'The Thrilla in Manila' as "the closest thing to dying that I know of". Outside the ring the two never made up as Frazier felt slighted by Ali's taunts of 'Uncle Tom and gorilla'. Eventually Frazier did forgive his old rival in 2009 and a frail Ali turned up for his funeral.

Cricket Mansur Ali Khan 'Tiger' Pataudi

Former Indian cricket captain died aged 70 of lung disease on September 22. The Nawab of Pataudi nicknamed 'Tiger' because of his excellent catching and throwing in the outfield. He played most of his career without his right eye, which he lost in a car accident in England shortly before he became the first Indian to captain Oxford University. Pataudi became India's captain at the age of 21 and led them in 40 of his 46 Tests - retiring from test cricket in 1976 - winning nine and securing the country's first series win abroad on the 1967/68 tour of New Zealand.

Peter Roebuck

Controversial former Somerset county captain who found a more successful career as an outstanding cricket correspondent allegedly committed suicide aged 55 on November 12. Was apparently about to be detained by Cape Town police - he was covering the South Africa Australia test series - over an alleged sexual assault on a Zimbabwean man when he threw himself from his hotel room window. His period as Somerset captain was overshadowed by his decision to break up a successful side by not having the contracts of West Indies greats Viv Richards and Joel Garner not renewed prompting Ian Botham to move to Worcestershire.

Football Florian Albert

Hungary's only ever ever footballer to be awarded the 'Ballon d'Or' prize as the European Footballer of the Year died on October 31 aged 70 following heart bypass surgery. Outstanding striker who won the Ballon d'Or in 1967 beating Manchester United and England star Bobby Charlton into second place by 68 votes to 40. Albert scored 31 international goals between 1959 and 1974 and 255 goals in 351 league matches for his sole club Ferencvaros.

English international striker known as the 'Lion of Vienna' died aged 85 on January 15. Earned his nickname for his performance in England's 3-2 win over Austria in 1952 and ended his international career with 30 goals in 33 appearances. He was voted Bolton's greatest ever player four years ago as he made more than 450 appearances for the Trotters, scoring 285 goals for the club between 1946 and 1960.


Brazilian football icon died on December 4 aged 57 of an intestinal infection. Captained the great 1982 Brazilian side which was widely-regarded as the finest team never to win a World Cup and also played in 1986 edition but was not fully fit and missed a penalty in the quarter-final defeat by France. Rare among Brazilian football stars in coming from a middle class background and qualified as a doctor. Was a self-confirmed bon viveur and he later admitted his failing health was linked to his love of alcohol.

Gary Speed

Wales manager and former graceful midfielder committed suicide on November 27 aged 42. His death left many stunned as he had been in the best of form when he appeared on the BBC on the day before his death. Enjoyed a distinguished playing career and was a member of the Leeds side that won the last First Division Championship in 1992. Played 85 times for Wales and also captained them 44 times. Took over coaching the national side last year and was credited with reviving their fortunes recently leading them to three successive wins for the first time since 2008.

Golf Severiano Ballesteros

Charismatic Spanish golfer 'Seve' died on May 7 aged 54 after years of ill health following a brain tumour operation. Led the surge in European golfers challenging the supremacy of the Americans and won five majors with his play littered by audacious strokes from impossible lies. Name forever associated with Europe turning the tables on previously unbeatable Americans in Ryder Cup. Despite retiring in 2007 and his subsequent health problems his influence never waned and his phone call last year roused the European team and they went onto edge the Americans in Wales to regain the Ryder Cup.

Motorcycling Marco Simoncelli

Fast rising daredevil MotoGp rider died as a result of injuries suffered in a crash in the Malaysian MotoGp on October 23 aged 24. Ironically it was at the same Sepang track the mop-haired Italian rider had enjoyed his sweetest moment finishing third in the 2008 250cc race to take the world title. His devil may care tactics did get him into trouble such as when he was involved in a controversial crash with Dani Pedrosa at the French GP in May which left Pedrosa requiring surgery on a shoulder fracture. He achieved his best result in MotoGP with a second place to world champion Casey Stoner in Australia the week before his death.

Rugby Union Albert Ferrasse

First French president of the International Rugby Board (IRB) and former president of the French rugby federation (FFR), died on July 28 aged 93. He may have been a run of the mill player but he was a tough as teak administrator as president of the FFR from 1968-91 and the IRB from 1979-87 and played a huge role in getting the World Cup up and running, presenting the trophy at the inaugural final in Auckland in 1987.

Vasily Alekseyev

Two-time Soviet Union Olympic super heavyweight champion died of heart disease aged 69 on November 25 in a clinic in Munich, where he had won the first of his two Olympic titles. While gold also followed in Montreal sadly he was unable to make it a threepeat in his 'home' Olympics the Moscow edition in 1980. One of the true greats of a sport usually tainted by doping he also won eight world crowns and set 80 world records.



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