Now that 2013 has really got going and Jabu has let his lists out into the public spectrum, I’ve been thinking on what made 2012 a great sporting year. I decided I’d put together and package my highlights and lowlights on the year that was, and then look ahead into the very exciting 2013 that’s started with sporting aplomb!

Sportsman of the Year:

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Alex Zanardi – Watching Zanardi at the Paralympics was something special. The fact that this ex-Formula One driver managed to continue racing after losing his legs was phenomenal. He managed to race in the highly competitive World Touring Car series in a specially developed car. Then he took it even further and got himself to the Paralympics. He competed in the hand-cycle and won gold. Being a big Motorsport fan I felt involved watching him celebrate his well-deserved victory. Zanardi is a true sporting hero.

Worth mentioning:

Lionel Messi– 90 odd goals in a year, no matter how you look at it, it is something amazing. Fabrice Muamba – the way he came back from having the heart attack against Spurs was inspiring. I think everyone that saw him walk onto the pitch for that replay felt how sport can truly unite. Oscar Pistorius – making the semi-finals against his able bodied competitors at the Olympics is a moment no one should ever forget. He is truly living proof that nothing can hold you back if you’re determined enough.

Team of the Year:

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Levante – They finished a magnificent 6th after somehow holding onto 4th for most the season in La Liga. Until week nine they were actually first, for the first time ever. What makes their achievement so special is that they have only spent 500,000 Euro’s on players over the last 4 seasons! They had the oldest defense in La Liga’s history. They were nicknamed Spanish football’s Expendables because they are a team of cast-offs. They made it into Europe for the first time in their history. Amazing story that shows La Liga isn’t dead, and everyone had a new second favourite team.

Worth mentioning:

Spain – another Euro win makes them one of the most successful national sides and arguably the best ever. The performance in the final showed why they can hold that title happily. Manchester City – coming back from 8 points over 5 games to win the Premiership title was a joy to watch. The fact that they won it in extra time made it even more dramatic. SA’s Toyota Dakar Team – locally built Toyotas managed to come 3rd, 5th and 10th in the Dakar – the Dakar being the most grueling off road event there is. The results proved what excellent Motorsport expertise there is locally.

Lowlight of the Year:

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Lance Armstrong – Probably the most disappointing fall from grace there has ever been. A cancer survivor turned hero and legend, and now well, we’ll just remember him as the most elaborate of cheats. What’s even more unfortunate is that there will be 7 years of Tour de France with no winner. Cycling has been negatively affected and set back by years, through what has happened with Armstrong.

Worth mentioning:

Racism – Serbia/England U/21 Match – what happened in the match was horrendous, it has no place in the modern world. What made matters worse was the lack of real punishment from UEFA. Zenit, St Petersberg Fans – The fact the fans took the time to write asking for the club not to sign any black or homosexual player’s shows why there is still a massive problem in Russian football with regards to racism and tolerance. SAFA – the match fixing scandal that happened in the build-up was embarrassing for local football. To make matters worse, SAFA handled it poorly. People who were suspended were implicated in some cases but then they were rehired without much fanfare or press conferences.

Emerging Star:

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Eben Etzbeth – His rise was so swift that he played for the Springboks before he even played in the Currie Cup for Western Province. He became an integral part of the Stormers side that lost out in the semi-finals of the Super Rugby to a resurgent Sharks side. He was one of the few 2012 positives to come from a highly inconsistent Springbok side.

Worth mentioning:

Sergio Perez – He showed his talents by taking his Sauber to positions that the team never dreamed of achieving at the beginning of the season. He has been given the opportunity in a McLaren, and I expect him to be putting pressure on Jenson Button sooner than expected.

What I’m really looking forward to in 2013 is to see how South Africa host the AFCON, and the exciting football that should hopefully be associated with it. We also have the usual football excitement to look forward to in the English Premier League, which seems to spring a surprise or classic outcome every weekend. La Liga is still interesting and even though it’s January, Barcelona have been dominant thus far with Atletico Madrid still holding onto 2nd. Real Betis aren’t far away from 3rd placed Real Madrid, making for a very interesting rest of the season.

Rugby wise we have an exciting Super Rugby year ahead with the Kings joining the ranks, and the likes of the Stormers and Sharks sides looking to build on last year’s good campaigns in both the Super Rugby and the Currie Cup.

After an exciting Formula One season in 2012 where Alonso was somehow almost champion in a car that was barely a top 6 car; he’ll be looking to improve upon this in 2013 and finally get his third title. The emergence of young talent will no doubt continue and Perez will be one to watch with McLaren. Hamilton’s move to Mercedes will be intriguing to watch, as will Rosberg’s reaction to his arrival. Vettel, will as always be competitive in a very competitive RedBull, but will it be enough in 2013?

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