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50 Greatest British sports stars of all-time: 30-21

In the third part of the series, Kureen counts down the best of British sport from 30th to 21st place. To view the first two editions simply click on the links below;

Part one: 50-41
Part two: 40-31

30: Sebastian Coe

Seb Coe

His post-athletics foray into politics has make it easy for detractors to overlook a sensational spell during the late 1970’s to mid-1980’s when Seb Coe not only broke three world records in the space of 41 days, but also became the undisputed king of 1500m running.

This was much to the chagrin of British team-mate and arch nemesis Steve Ovett, who pre-1980 had been undefeated at the distance for three years, only for Coe to win consecutive Olympic titles in 1980 and ’84 to go alongside a brace of 800m silvers.

29: Mo Farah

 At 5 foot 6, and carrying a little over 55kg on a slim frame, Mo Farah isn’t your archetypal sporting hero. Born in Somalia in 1983, he joined his father in Britain at the age of eight, barely able to utter a word of English.

He soon found his purpose, becoming a top junior middle and long distance runner, culminating with a clutch of national records and, more notably, double gold at 10,000m and 5000m in both the 2012 London Olympics and 2013 Worlds – Farah rewarded with a CBE and lucrative endorsement deal with vegetarian food behemoth Quorn.

28: Steven Hendry

‘The golden boy’ was the fresh, acne afflicted face of snooker throughout the 1990’s, winning seven world and five UK titles over the course of the decade, remaining world number one for an unprecedented eight consecutive seasons between 1990 and 1998.

An attacking, fiercely competitive player, Edinburgh born Hendry revolutionised the game with offensive shot selections that put fear into opponents, most notably Jimmy White who was traumatised irreparably by a series of major final defeats at the hands of the Scot. 

27: Lester Piggott

Nine Epsom Derby wins and 11 British flat racing championships in a high-calibre era of horse racing made Piggott the Queen’s favourite jockey.

That cosy propinquity rapidly fell into decline in 1987 however, with Piggott jailed for more than a year as a result of tax fraud, her maj’ swiftly withdrew his OBE, and although a return to the saddle provided a few career twilight highlights, his reputation amongst racing fans was in tatters. 

26: Ronnie O’Sullivan

Ronnie O’Sullivan burst onto the snooker scene in 1993, beating the great Steven Hendry 10-6 in the final of the UK Championships at the tender age of 17; the crowd wooed by his attacking style and dismissive attitude towards the game’s hierarchy, an ardent support that endures to this day.

That early hype seemed to weigh heavily on the shoulders of ‘The Rocket’, with severe depression and patchy form undermining his remarkable talent. A new training regime, lightened schedule and adjusted mindset allowed O’Sullivan to find consistency, his five world titles placing him third on the all-time list.

25: Martin Johnson

A World Cup winning captain, British Lions staple, and world class player, 6 foot 7 inch, 260 pound lock Martin Johnson was the proud, fearless chief who stood at the front of England’s 2003 main stage success.

If that World Cup glory was inevitably the pinnacle of a glittering career, it was for the 1997 Lions tour to South Africa that Johnson arguably reserved his finest form, the Spring Boks unable to snuff out his threat at the line-out on the way to a 2-1 series victory for the British team.

24: Fred Trueman

A stoic Yorkshireman, ‘fiery’ Fred Trueman is etched in the annuls as England’s all-time premier fast bowler, with his 307 Test match wickets (at the time a world record) coming at just 21.57 a piece, a miserly average befitting a man never ashamed of his thrifty habits on or off the field.

That superlative international record would have undoubtedly been even more impressive had Trueman not been in conflict with the MCC so often, leading to him being omitted from a number of England’s matches. Surprisingly, considering the velocity of his bowling, Fred stood at only 5 foot 10 inches tall in his spikes.

23: Jonathan Edwards

Edwards’ talent was obvious from a young age, but the embryonic stages of his athletics career were affected by devout Christian beliefs which prohibited the triple-jumper from competing or practising on Sundays. Relenting, he eventually decided to work around his religious convictions, his career almost immediately prospering as a result.

Early in the 1995 season he broke the world record by a centimetre, and later that year added another 31cm to the mark as he took World Championship gold with a humongous leap of 18.29m. Olympic glory took longer, eventually arriving in Sydney in 2000, with Edwards bowing out of the sport a year later, having secured a second world title. As an interesting aside; in 2007 Edwards announced that he was no longer a Christian.

22: Andy Murray

2012 was a career defining year for Andy Murray. The Scottish tennis player became the first British man to reach the Wimbledon singles final since Bunny Austin in 1938, losing to Roger Federer. The tears he shed in his post-match interview saw him accepted by reticent sections of fans still lamenting the retirement of the milder mannered Tim Henman.

Andy Murray

Later that summer Murray won the Olympic singles title. He started 2013 by gaining his first Grand Slam at the US Open, and, having qualified for a second successive Wimbledon final, secured the trophy in front of a fervent, partisan crowd, defeating Novak Djokovic in straight sets. All that remains on the career bucket list is to win the French and Australian slams, and become world number one before the inevitable knighthood… Watch this space.

21: George Best

The most talented footballer that Britain has ever produced was also one of the most troubled. Discovered at 15 playing in Belfast, Manchester United manager Matt Busby received a telegram from one of his scouts which read “I think I’ve found you a genius.”

That genius was never more obvious than during the 1967-68 season, when a 22 year-old Best struck 32 goals, helping United to secure the European Cup and becoming the youngest player ever to receive the FWA player of the year award. By 26 alcohol addiction and a nocturnal lifestyle ensured that Best’s peak years were behind him; a flurry of different clubs brought fleeting highlights, before he received a liver transplant, drinking the newly fitted organ into submission within three years, and passing away in 2005.

Tomorrow we’ll reveal the first half of the top-20, who could be better than Best? Tune in tomorrow to find out!

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.

6 feats sports fans are hoping to see

Neil Robertson became the first professional snooker player to make a century of century breaks in a single season last weekend, when the world number one vanquished Judd Trump in his quarter-final match at this year’s World Championships.

Dom Kureen takes a look at half a dozen other feats sports fans are hoping to see in the near-future.

1. Ryan Giggs reaches 1000 first-team matches for Manchester United (currently: 963)

Ryan Giggs 2
Since snubbing Manchester City for rivals United in 1987 aged 13-year old, Ryan Giggs has gone on to become one of the club’s greatest players of all time, notching up 963 first-team appearances, to easily leave Sir Bobby Charlton’s previous record of 758 trailing in his wake.

Amazingly, at an age when most players have long since hung up their boots, the Welsh maestro remains capable of inspiring his team to unlikely victories, albeit mainly against the lesser lights of Premier League and European football.

How likely is it?
Aged almost 41 years old and with an uncertain future at Old Trafford, Giggsy would seem destined to fall agonisingly shy of the remarkable four figures. Additionally, his current rate of around 20 matches per season would require him to play on until close to 43 to get there.
3/10

2. Serena Williams passes Margaret Court’s 24 women’s singles Grand Slams (currently: 17)
Serena Williams

Bursting onto the professional tennis scene as a teenager, the younger Williams sister soon surpassed the achievements of her legendary sibling, Venus.

The singles slam success began with a 1999 US Open victory at the tender age of 17, followed by a consistent trophy haul until the mid-2000’s, when injuries began to blight her progress. Happily in 2012 she returned to her forceful best, allowing fans to believe that she might be able to overhaul Court’s intimidating collection of majors.

How likely is it?
As with Giggs, Williams Jr has age against her, a relative tennis O.A.P at 32. With eight more slams needed, she will probably require 3-4 years minimum to get there, but knowing Serena and the dearth of credible opponents currently in the female game, she might just do it.
5/10

3. Ronnie O’Sullivan rockets past Stephen Hendry’s 775 century breaks (currently: 747)
Ronnie O'Sullivan

While Neil Robertson’s 100 centuries in a season is a miraculous effort that will probably never be equalled, O’Sullivan has been consistently churning out the tons for decades.

An unpredictable temperament means that ‘The Rocket’ could sulk into retirement at any given moment, but he seems to have belatedly straightened out those issues between the ears and at 38 years of age is playing just about as well as ever.

How likely is it?
Ronnie should get there, probably next season – then he can set his sights on 1000 centuries and eight world titles!
9/10

4. Floyd Mayweather Jr makes it 50 wins in a row to K.O Rocky Marciano’s long standing record of 49-0 (currently: 46-0)

Floyd Mayweather

The current WBA and WBC Welterweight champion is a phenomenon who has fought in five different weight categories over the past two decades.

There will always be dispute amongst some fight fans over where he stands in the all-time list, after ‘Money’ seemingly ducked a bout against Manny Pacquiao in 2010 – The fight everyone wanted to see.

That shouldn’t take the shine off a career that has witnessed the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto and Shane Mosely’s defeated and British hopeful, Ricky ‘The Hitman’ Hatton, taught a lesson in the art of pugilism.

How likely is it?
A lot depends of Mayweather’s desire to reach that target. He’s saved his money, earns tens of millions per annum in endorsements and has hinted at a full-time transition into promotion. If he wants to get to 50-0 he probably can, particularly with overrated fodder like Amir Khan waiting in the wings.
7/10

5.  Simona de Silvestro becomes the first woman to make the F1 podium.

Simona de Silvestro

Having witnessed de Silvestro record a podium finish in the IndyCar 2013 Grand Prix of Houston, Formula One team Sauber took a punt on the young Swiss driver, snapping her up to a long-term contract, with the aim of getting her into the car for the 2015 season.

Her efforts in testing have been steadily improving and after a successful motor sports career at other levels, there seems little reason why she shouldn’t be able to prosper when facing off against the elite of her profession.

How likely is it?
It remains a long shot. Despite promising results behind the scenes, de Silvestro remains far from the finished article. With time, application and a decent car it’s not impossible.
3/10

6. Usain Bolt runs under 9.5 seconds for the 100m and under 19 seconds for the 200m (Current records: 9.58s and 19.19s)

Usain Bolt

Nobody has ever exhilarated the sprints quite like Usain Bolt, with his zealous celebrations 10 metres before the finish line and exuberant persona.

In 2009 the Jamaican set the current world records at 100 and 200 metres, since then he’s remained the dominant force in both events, without really threatening to shave a millisecond off the quickest times.

How likely is it?
Not likely. Bolt is gradually slowing down (a little bit!) and there’s nobody in the wings who can legally run within a tenth of a second of him at his best. Expect the two current world records to remain untroubled for the foreseeable future.
1/10

What sporting records and feats would you like to witness? Let us know in the comments section below!

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.