The 2016 year is a week old already and some sporting records have already been broken, most notably in Cape Town. With a year that sees the new Super Rugby, the Olympic Games and the Ryder Cup you can bet its going to be an incredible year. Here are the 10 events we are the most excited about globally.
10 – FIH Junior Hockey World Cup – 1 – 11 December
The building of the future of South African hockey has begun in earnest. There was a fantastic training camp held in Kwazulu Natal in December and the U21 squads have been named for the African Qualifier to be held in Namibia in March. The goal from this tournament is to be one of the two African teams to qualify for the World Cup in Chile (Women) or India (Men) in December this year. A lot of these players will be looking to make the step towards representing the SA teams in the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
9 – Super Bowl 50 – 7 February
I am not a massive follower of the National Football League, but the Super Bowl is the one game that grabs my attention every year and this year it should be extra special. In 2016, we will see the 50th Super Bowl with all signs pointing towards an energised Seahawks making their third consecutive as they have started to peak at the right time. They could meet last years champions the Patriots who have situated themselves well, but don’t write off the Bronco’s or the Steelers. If Super Bowl 50 produces half the drama of 49, then we will be in for a classic.
8 – Cape Town Tens – 4-6 February
The ultimate social sporting event on the calendar. It’s a festival, it’s a sporting tournament and its in the finest city on the African continent. Hamilton Rugby Club is the lucky host and you have no reason to miss out. Do it…
7 – Nedbank Golf Challenge – 10 – 13 November
A massive change to the Nedbank Golf Challenge is in the offering this year as it becomes the second to last tournament in the Race to Dubai. It means you can expect Africa’s major to attract some of the finest players on the European tour including the likes of Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Martin Kaymer and our very own Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace. The intensity will be at its highest which really brings out the best in so many of the pro’s,
6 – The Unogwaja Challenge – 18 – 29 May
In 1930 a novice runner, Phil Masterton-Smith entered the Comrades Marathon and ran an incredible finish that saw him close the gap by sixteen minutes in the last fourteen miles on eventual winner Wally Hayward. Phil had finished second in the up run in 1930 falling short of the narrowest victory margin in the 10 year history of the race. In 1931 that record was broken. This time Phil was on the right side of the tape. An epic run saw Phil and Noel Buree, who had borrowed a boys bicycle and fixed a puncture to reach the start on time, run side-by-side like allies rather than enemies. The final 700 yards saw the lead change hands on every step and delivered the greatest finish to the race possible. Now the journey is retraced by the Unogwaja Challenge, a 10 day cycle from Cape Town to Pietermaritzburg with the Comrades on the following day. It’s not about conquering the physical journey, it’s about empowering our country. It’s about making a positive difference. It’s about following your heart.
5 – UEFA Euro 2016 – 10 June – 10 July
International football is an incredible way to fill the emptiness that is the off-season. This year we get the oversized Euro 2016 hosted by France, with the added bonus of their being no Michel Platini there. Will Germany or Spain rise to continue their dominance or will we see one of the lesser lights shine. Belgium are the World Number one and have a strong side, team Gareth Bale will cause a shock here or there and England will lose on penalties to someone. Its going to be fantastic.
4 – ICC World T20 – 11 March – 3 April
It may be my least favourite form of cricket, however its still a World Cup and its a chance for the Proteas to bury a tag that gets brought up at every World Cup. The competition takes us back to India where we just had a great T20 experience and where many of our players spend most of their year it seems now. South Africa should make it through a group featuring the West Indies, Sri Lanka and England and then its just two games to a title. Its going to be an interesting two months to see who steps up for inclusion in the final 15.
3 – The Paralympic Games – 7 – 18 September
South Africa have an outstanding record at the Paralympic Games, with a total 280 medals from our 10 games. This puts our team 20th overall although all those countries, except China, have featured in many more games. South Africa have also produced some of the finest Paralympic athletes in history like Natalie du Toit (13 gold, 2 silver), Ernst van Dyk (1 gold, 3 silver, 3 bronze), Hilton Langehoven (3 golds, 1 silver), Ilse Hayes (2 golds, 2 silvers, 1 bronze) and Fanie van der Merwe (3 golds). Although we collected a smaller haul in 2012, you can still expect our Paralympians to do the country exceptionally proud.
2 – The Ryder Cup – 30 September – 2 October
This years Ryder Cup, in Hazeltine Golf Club (Minnesota), will be the 41st edition of the Cup. As it stands the USA hold the upper hand in the head to head having won 25 out of the 40. But that is not relevant for the Americans as it’s the Europeans who have held the ascendancy in the recent years. Europe have won 6 of the last 7 including the “Miracle at Medinah” in 2012. Davis Love III was the captain for America in that year and he returns to the captaincy this year. The Americans will look to try to summon their Presidents Cup form where they won for a sixth straight match. It also gives us the opportunity to hopefully see Jordan Spieth vs. Rory McIlroy. One can only hope!
1 – The Olympic Games – 5 – 21 August
Putting aside the exclusion of the hockey sides, the volleyball side and the Womens rugby side, South Africans must be truly excited for the 2016 Olympic Games as individual brilliance means that we are realistically in with a chance of our best ever medal haul. The golf offers South Africa an opportunity with Louis and Branden likely to feature. The 7s rugby also offers a tasty option for the South Africans. In Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh there is a strong chance of 3 medals, while Wayde van Niekerk and Anaso Jobodwana will also look to add to the tally. Then there is Brigitte Hartley as well as James Thompson and John Smith could also medal if they hit form. Its going to be freaking brilliant!
2016 promises to deliver an outstanding year in sport, what are you looking forward to the most?