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The 5 biggest chokes in sport

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When Ben Stokes came up to bowl the decisive over in the ICC World Twenty20 final against the West Indies, he probably had an image in his head of being held aloft on his team-mates’ shoulders with trophy in hand and his place as a English cricket legend assured.


Four balls later, he was left on a pitch with his head in his hands wishing the ground would open up and swallow him, as his West Indian nemesis Carlos Braithwaite gulped greedily from the cup of victory. Such is the cruel nature of sport… one minute you’re the cock of the walk and the next you’re a choked up chump looking for a shoulder to cry on.


Here are our top five sporting chokes…



Arsenal in the 2011 Carling Cup Final 

Arsenal farce.Arsenal farce.

When Arsenal got the 2011 Carling Cup Final, there was an assumption that all the Gunners had to do was turn up to collect their first piece of silverware since 2004. Unfortunately for Monsieur Wenger and his band of small but technically gifted group of merry men, they proved to be more inadequate than invincible.


Alex McLeish’s Birmingham City had lost both league games to Arsenal during the Premier League season and would go on and get relegated at the end of it but still had a little too much in the locker for the North Londoners.


A goal by beanpole striker Nikola Zigic had given the Blues the lead but a Robin van Persie volley had left the scores level at half –time. As the game drifted through the second half and on to extra time, there was only one team looking likely to win as several City players succumbed to bouts of cramp, tiredness and all-round ineptitude.


With only one minute left before the onset of a penalty shootout lo and behold, a mix-up between Wojciech Szczesny and defender Laurent Koscielny saw the ball pop up for Birmingham’s Obafemi Martin’s to score the winner. It was farce of vaudevillian proportions which left Wenger with not only egg on his face but a whole omelette with a few mushrooms thrown in for good measure.



Jana Novotna in the 1993 Wimbledon Final

Blubbing Hell.Blubbing Hell.


























Tennis is a sport that can be unforgiving. There is a saying usually reserved for team games which says ‘you’re only as good as your last match’, well in tennis you’re only as good as your last point!


While meltdowns are commonplace in sport, some are so inexplicable you’re left wondering if some kind of voodoo magic is involved. The Women’s Final at Wimbledon back in 1993 is a case in point, when Czech star Jana Novotna took on the legendary German Steffi Graf.


Novotna had taken the tournament by storm with her brand of silky-skilled serve and volley tennis and she had taken her form over the first two weeks in SW19 into the final. After losing the first set in a tie break, Novotna had Graf chasing shadows as she took the second set 6-1 and sailed to a 4-1 lead in the third. On serve with the score on 40-30, Novotna looked unstoppable and Graf looked defeated.


A double fault followed and what happened next has gone down in history as a classic text book case of the disintegration of the competitive mind theorem. It took the Graf 10 minutes to wrap up the deciding set by 6-4 to leave a broken Novotna blubbing on the shoulder of the fragrant Duchess of Kent (she was lucky she wasn’t sent to the Tower for that alone!). 



Steven Gerrard's slip against Chelsea

More than a slip.More than a slip.




























Hell hath no fury like the Football Gods when people assume an outcome. Cast your mind back a few years (sorry Liverpool fans but I’m about to dredge up some painful memories) when the Holy Trinity of Suarez, Sterling and Sturridge were on fire and Liverpool were playing a brand of high energy ‘whirlpool’ football that was the Premier League equivalent of a tumble dryer. It left their opponents disorientated, rinsed and missing the odd sock.


The Premier League title was on its way back to Anfield for the first time and the commemorative DVDs, scarfs and other assorted Tat were in the final stage of production, such was the belief coursing through the veins of Liverpool disciples everywhere. Unfortunately this presumption of impending glory was torn away in such a manner that what could have been a great season for Liverpool is now an excuse for mockery and cheap shots.


When Steven Gerard rallied the players on the pitch after the Reds had beaten their main rivals Man City 3-2 in a pulsating game at Anfield to take a commanding lead in the race for the title, he uttered the immortal words “We don’t let it slip now.” Two weeks later, close to the very spot where the captain had issued the rallying cry, Gerrard slipped and presented the ball to Chelsea’s Ibrahim Ba who went onto score the first goal in a 2-0 victory that proved to be the beginning of the end for Liverpool’s title challenge.


While, accidents happen on the field of play, Gerrard’s slip came to symbolise his team’s lack of belief at the business end of the season and can be regarded as a collective choke of epic karmic proportions.



The Brazil football team in the 2014 World Cup






























After 50 years away, the World Cup 2014 returned to its spiritual home of Brazil. The nation that gave us the beautiful game of Pele, Garrincha and Zico was ready to remind us although they had not invented the game, they had refined it into an unparalleled art form.


Football fans everywhere flooded into the vast South American country, as the world’s biggest sporting event returned to the land famous for Samba, the Amazon River and a striker called Fred. Unfortunately for Brazil, apart from the Boy Wonder Neymar their team consisted of ‘defender in name only’ David Luiz and the above mentioned Fred, who couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo.


With 2002 World Cup winning coach ‘Big’ Phil Scolari back in charge, it was a case of the one-eyed King leading the blind. Outplayed in almost every game, Brazil stumbled through the tournament like a drunk man staggering home after spending all day drinking Jagerbombs.



By the time they met Germany in the semis their well of luck had run dry. As the goals reigned in there was denial, then anger before ending with a gawping disbelief and that was just ‘Big’ Phil. Brazil were utterly humiliated on the home patch and their legacy torn up, thrown in the bin and set on fire by a rampant German side who should have scored 10 at least but settled for less in a 7-1 dismantling of the ‘golden-shirted’ myth.



Jean Van de Velde in the 1999 Open

Jesus wept.Jesus wept.


























Intrinsic to the sadistic pleasure certain sports fans derive from a good choke is the humiliation that befalls the choker. Most sportsmen and women undergoing the deconstruction of their technical, mental and emotional stability will try and ride it out until it becomes apparent that all they can do is grin and bear it until they are finally put out of their misery. However, what you must not do in these types of situations is to make it so bad for yourself that you end up losing all semblance of dignity.


In the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie, French golfer Jean van de Velde (VdV) had played error-free golf for most of the week and was a the clear leader coming up to the last hole of the entire tournament.


He arrived at the 18th three shots in the lead needing only a double-bogey to become the first Frenchman to win the title since 1907. He had birdied the 18th hole in the two previous rounds so was obviously feeling confident.


That confidence was soon stripped bare as they VdV entered into what is known in sport as a ‘negative spiral’. Poor shot selection followed poor shot selection until the Frenchman found himself taking off his shoes and socks and rolling up his trousers to see if he could hit a misdirected ball out of the water. Spectators at the course must have thought they had stumbled on scene from Happy Gilmore such was the absurdity of what was happening.


To cut a long story short VdV ended with a triple-bogey seven, dropping him in to a 3-way playoff, which he lost along with his reputation.


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