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50 Greatest British sports stars of all-time: 40-31

In the second part of Kureen’s top 50 British sports stars countdown we look at numbers 40-31. Check out 50-41 by clicking here.

*Article profile picture courtesy of Louis Swann.

40: Christine Ohuruogu

Christine Ohuruogu

Revelling on the big stage, London born Ohuruogu has won 400m gold and silver medals at the last two Olympic games, adding to two World titles gained in 2007 and 2013.

Her career was in danger of going horribly awry in 2006, with a one year suspension from athletics the result of three missed out-of-competition drug tests. A 2009 MBE reflected her figurative rehabilitation in the eyes of her peers.

39: Steve Davis

A perceived lack of personality held Davis back from super stardom, as he romped gleefully towards half a dozen world title wins during his 1980’s pomp.

Conversely it is for defeat that he is best remembered by casual fans, his 1985 epic with Dennis Taylor ending 18-17 to the bespectacled Northern Irishman, as Davis crumbled from 8-0 up, eventually missing a decisive final frame black, with a still unrivalled 18.5 million BBC 2 viewers tuning in until almost 1am for the climax.

38: Gary Lineker

The ‘Match of The Day’ anchorman came within a spot-kick of equalling Sir Bobby Charlton’s England goalscoring record, fluffing a penalty against Brazil that would have drawn him level with the 49 scored by the Manchester United legend.

Still, 48 goals in 80 international games, a World Cup golden boot, and prolific scoring stints with Barcelona, Spurs, Everton and his beloved Leicester City all contributed to a wonderful football career that ended prematurely due to a toe injury.

37: WG Grace

‘Doctor’ William Gilbert Grace was the first celebrity of cricket, once refusing to walk when bowled out in a friendly match, replacing the bails and telling a disgruntled bowler “they’ve come to see me bat, not you bowl!”

Beyond the bravado Grace was a terrific all-rounder, whose First Class batting average of around 40 accompanied a bowling average of 18, and was all the more impressive due to the state of the uncovered pitches of the time. He played his final Test match in 1899, finally hanging up his whites in 1908, aged 60.

36. Phil Taylor

Depending on which side of the bed you lay upon ‘The Power’ either shouldn’t make the list due to a lack of perceptible athleticism, or should be placed far higher due to an unrivalled 14 world championship titles.

It is for his relentless quest for perfection at the oche that he deserves to be recognised, in total securing 40 major title victories. At the age of 55 his skills finally appear to be diminishing, but with a brimming trophy cabinet and 10 televised nine-darters in the bag his legacy, and financial security, have long been assured.

35: Sir Leonard Hutton

One of England’s most headstrong cricket captains, and arguably their finest ever batsman, Yorkshireman Hutton broke team-mate Wally Hammond’s Test record score by compiling a 13-hour innings of 364 against Australia in 1938.

Sir Leonard Hutton plaq

That mark stood for 20 years, and remains an Ashes record today – Hutton relishing contests with England’s arch rivals, also winning both of his series against Australia as captain. Remarkably he achieved all of this despite prime years of his career being lost to the Second World War, where he additionally suffered significant wrist and forearm injuries.  

34: Sir Gordon Richards

The only jockey to ever be knighted, Sir Gordon Richards was the British flat racing champion on 26 separate occasions during a 33-year career that included almost 5000 career wins.

As the only major event he hadn’t won, the Epsom Derby became an obsession for Richards, and in 1953, in his final dash for glory, he was finally able to add the trophy to his collection, storming to victory on 5-1 joint favourite Pinza.

33: Tanni Grey-Thompson

Grey-Thompson boasts one of the most decorated careers of any athlete, her 11 gold medals spread across four Paralympic games from 1992-2004.

Hailing from Cardiff, Wales, the future wheelchair racing icon was born with spina Bifida, eventually heading to Loughborough University in pursuit of athletic excellence. This was accomplished, and a 2005 promotion to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) was as much recognition of her service to disadvantaged people as it was her sparkling career on the track.

32: Virginia Wade 

Famed for her 1977 Wimbledon singles title, Wade boasts a 100% success ratio in solo Grand-Slam finals, winning all three that she contested. The only reason she doesn’t make the top 20 is due to her era not being among the strongest for the women’s game.

Her place in the hearts of British sports fans was assured via US (1968) and Australian Open (1972) singles victories that saw her rise to world number two, as well as four doubles slams, but her legacy was truly cemented by that win at SW19. 

31: Matthew Pincent

The often overlooked half of the Redgrave/Pincent dynasty, Matthew Pincent was an outstanding rower in his own right, earning gold at four consecutive Olympic games between 1992 and 2004.

Ten more gold medals at world level established him as one of the greatest the sport has ever seen; that he will forever be viewed in Redgrave’s looming shadow owes more to his colleague’s incredible achievements than any shortcomings in Pincent’s own makeup.

As we hurtle rapidly towards the top 30, let us know what you think of parts one and two. Come back tomorrow to find out who filled positions 30-21.

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.