A quintessentially British weekend of sport ended with a mixed bag of results for our home nations. With The Boat Race, The Grand National and hugely important fixtures for national cricket and tennis teams, this weekend defines why our nation is so in love with its sport.
The Grand National, an event of incredible tradition and involving almost as incredible amounts of money, was won by 25-1 outsider Pineau De Re which was ridden by Leighton Aspall, a weighing room veteran who came out of retirement a few years ago after missing the camaraderie of the riders.
The race, run since 1839, is commonly cited as the biggest date in the hunt racing calendar, but has come under fire in recent years for its ‘archaic’ start which is ‘not fit for purpose’. This start, involving the jockeys trying to manoeuvre their horses into position before charging the tape, is so 19th century that you’re surprised when a suffragette doesn’t come running in straight afterwards. In the 21st century, a more effective method of starting such a lucrative race is surely needed. (Rant over).
The Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race is the pinnacle of varsity events for many observers. The 4.2 mile race from Putney to Mortlake is one of the most popular fixtures on the British sporting calendar, with more than 17.2 million people tuning in to watch it on TV in 2011.
In recent times this event has been marred in controversy, with the 2012 race postponed for more than 30 minutes when an Australian protester swam between the boats. Minutes after the restart the boats came together with Oxford breaking an oar, allowing Cambridge a simple victory.
This bares similarities to this year’s competition, which saw Cambridge suffer an unfortunate collision of one of their oars, throwing Luke Juckett from his seat, and allowing Oxford to pull away for victory.
Often considered a great sporting rivalry, the vast majority of these races see a one sided victory which most certainly doesn’t make it a spectator sport.
England couldn’t lose in the Boat Race, despite many competitors being from far-away lands, but when our nation did come together this weekend, it struggled to forge victory. The ladies cricket team were resoundingly beaten by Australia in the World T20 final, but the ladies football team fared much better in their 9-0 annihilation of Montenegro.
In Tennis Andy Murray was unable to carry his British side through a World group quarter final against Italy. Despite being 2-1 up in the tie, Murray was superbly beaten by Italian number 1 and world number 13 Fabio Fognini.
This meant that James Ward needed to produce a performance of a life time and beat Andreas Seppi if Britain wanted to progress, but Seppi brushed Ward aside in a straight sets victory to set the Italians up with a semi final against Switzerland.
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