Top 10 sports moments of 2012

Natashya Gutierrez

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From the biggest scandals to the London Olympics, 2012 was filled with historic moments and essentially everything we love about sport itself -- excitement, drama and inspiration

MANILA, Philippines – It was quite a year for sports.

From the biggest scandals to the London Olympics, 2012 was filled with historic moments and essentially everything we love about sport itself — excitement, drama and inspiration.

There were athletes who showed us the depth and strength of the human spirit to surpass all odds, and still others who fell, who disappointed, and whose faces we may never see again in competition.

There were victories and losses, successes and heatbreak, and entertainment. Lots of it.

Some of these moments will be etched in our memories forever, while others will come and go, at least until the next great star that will break the record, impress the world further, or prove that there can always be someone bigger, faster, stronger.

Rappler brings to you our list of 2012’s top 10 sports moments both here and abroad.

10) Palarong Pambansa Sendong athletes rise

While there were many standout moments from the nation’s largest sporting event, it was the athletes from Region 10 (Northern Mindanao) who were most memorable. The region’s student athletes touched the hearts of fellow athletes, officials, and all those who were at the games with their tenacity and courage.

Northern Mindanao is the home of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, the two cities hardest-hit by tropical storm Sendong in December 2011. Not only did the athletes bring tears to the eyes of those who watched the opening ceremonies with their banner that thanked the country for their help, but they also finished among the top 5. It was one of their best performances in years. Some of the athletes who had lost loved ones in the December storm, dedicated their games to their perished family and friends exemplifying the essence of the games: the resilient human spirit of the Filipino athlete.

9) PH Volcanoes qualify for 2013 Rugby World Cup 7s

It’s been quite a year for the Philippine men’s rugby team. In March, the team played in the world’s premier sevens rugby event, the Hong Kong Sevens, after having qualified for the prestigious tournament the year before for the first time. While the Philippine Volcanoes finished the tournament without a single victory, it scored tries in every single one of their matches against teams with much longer histories in the tournament — a feat to be proud of.

FINALLY. Patrice Olivier and Joe Matthews share a celebratory hug. April 21, 2012. Adrian Portugal.

A month later, it won Division 1 of the Asian 5 Nations tournament, which put them among the top 5 elite teams in Asia, another first for the team. And In November, the Volcanoes made history yet again when they qualified for the Rugby World Cup Sevens, after it won over 4th-ranked South Korea at the HSBC Asian Sevens Series Singapore leg. The victory allowed the Volcanoes to clinch the third and last Asian team slot to the 2013 tournament in Moscow.

8) Ateneo wins its 5th title and the MVP drama

For the first time in its school’s history, the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles men’s basketball team won its fifth consecutive University Athletics Association of the Philippines title. It was a fitting goodbye for celebrated Ateneo coach Norman Black, who left after 8 years with the university to take over Talk N’ Text in the professional league. But the 5-peat didn’t come without drama.

Photo by Josh Albelda

Before the end of the season, Ateneo patron and wealthy businessman Manny V. Pangilinan announced he would stop supporting the university, allegedly due to disagreements between the two on mining and the controversial Reproductive Health Bill. The move left the Ateneo community scrambling for donors. While it initially seemed like a final decision on MVP’s part, Ateneo and MVP mended ties a few weeks later, resulting in his return as one of the school’s biggest donors.  Former PBA coach Bo Perasol is now the Blue Eagles’ new head coach.

7) LeBron James wins his first NBA title

NBA Superstar LeBron James led the Miami Heat to the 2012 NBA Championship, his first, after dismantling Oklahoma City Thunder in the best of 7 Finals series, 4-1. Season MVP and Finals MVP James put on a dominating performance scoring 26 points, dishing out 13 assists and hauling down 11 rebounds in Game 5, becoming the first player since Magic Johnson to record a triple-double twice in a Finals series.

The rest of Miami’s Big 3 also contributed. Dwyane Wade finished the game with 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists while Chris Bosh scored 24 points, including a 3-pointer, and collected 7 rebounds. This, after Miami fell to Dallas in the 2011 NBA Finals. It was also a first for Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who became the first ever Filipino-American head coach to win an NBA title.

6) Jerry Sandusky is put behind bars

On October 9, Former Penn State American football coach Jerry Sandusky was sentenced between 30 and 60 years in prison for molesting 10 children over a 15-year period. Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse in June in one of the United States’ most high profile child sex cases.

SENTENCED. Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky leaves the Centre County Courthouse after being sentenced in his child sex abuse case on October 9, 2012 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. The 68-year-old Sandusky was sentenced to at least 30 years and not more that 60 years in prison for his conviction in June on 45 counts of child sexual abuse, including while he was the defensive coordinator for the Penn State college football team. Patrick Smith/Getty Images/AFP

The former coach who mentored one of the country’s most illustrious football teams still declares his innocence and has yet to apologize to his victims. He is currently serving jail time, likely the rest of his life, in Pennsylvania’s state prison.

And U.S. college football was changed forever. NCAA Commissioner Mark Emmert struck from the record all of Penn State’s wins between 1998 and 2011, was fined $60 million dollars, lost 10 of its 25 football scholarships in the next 4 years, and was banned from playing in bowl games for the same amount of time.

5) Azkals show world-class talent

The men’s Philippine football team continued to impress in 2012 with a series of important and historic victories.

In March, the Azkals appeared in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup at Kathmandu, Nepal for the first time ever. Despite entering as the lowest seeded team, the Philippines finished 3rd after besting Palestine in the semi-finals 4-3. They followed up the victory in September with a dominant showing at the Philippine Football Peace Cup, besting Chinese Taipei, Guam and Macau for their first international title in 99 years.

The Azkals then went on to power through the group stages of the prestigious biennial Suzuki Cup tournament, making the semi-finals for the second time in a row. While the Philippines failed to best Singapore at the semis, ultimately losing 1-0 on aggregate and going home, the Philippines proved that it is now one of the top teams in Southeast Asia. It achieved its highest ranking in history at 143rd, but fell back to 147th after the Suzuki Cup — behind only Thailand and Vietnam.

4) Nonito Donaire leaves his mark

While Manny Pacquiao saw defeats in 2012, Filipino-American fighter Nonito Donaire settled for nothing but victory — 4 to be exact. Winning 4 of his 4 fights this year, Donaire stepped out of Pacquiao’s shadows and proved why he deserved Fighter of the Year honors.

Within the year, Donaire defeated highly touted Puerto Rican Wilfredo Vasquez Jr. to capture the vacant WBO Super Bantamweight title, the long and rangy South African Jeffrey Mathebula for the IBF Super Bantamweight title, and a fast but timid Toshiaki Nishioka of Japan in defense of those belts. All this before crushing Jorge Arce with a stellar 3rd round knockout that led Arce to announce his retirement.

It looks like the time has come for Nonito Donaire.

3) Michael Phelps makes history

American swimmer Michael Phelps was a picture of inspiration and indomitable spirit when he became the most decorated Olympian of all time at the 2012 London Games.

On July 31, Phelps took home his 19th medal as part of the winning 4×200 men’s relay team, seizing the record for most Olympic medals in a career. He went on to win 3 more by the end of the Games. Phelps’ 22 Olympics medals include a record 18 gold, 8 of which came from his spectacular Beijing campaign.

Widely considered the best Olympian ever, Phelps’ incredible and historic final Olympics was no doubt the highlight of the London Games.

2) The fall of Lance Armstrong

Once a symbol of perseverance in the face of the most incredible odds, Lance Armstrong is now touted as one of the most brazen dope cheats that sport has ever seen.

On Monday, October 22, the world of the champion cyclist came crashing down on him when the International Cycling Union (UCI) stripped Armstrong of his 7 Tour de France titles and dealt him a lifetime cycling ban. The US Anti-Doping Agency earlier published a damning report that claimed Armstrong was at the heart of “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”

Armstrong has yet to apologize or speak up on the issue. Broken, the sport is still reeling from the revelations, and has left other cyclists and the UCI scrambling to pick up the pieces.

1) Beginning of the end for Manny Pacquiao?

Losing both of his bouts, 2012 was not the year of Manny Pacquiao.

On June 9, the world champion boxer suffered his first loss since 2005 in the hands of American boxer Timothy Bradley. The split decision was highly controversial and reviewed by the World Boxing Organization, which declared Pacquiao the winner but had no authority to reverse the decision.

But it was Pacquiao’s second loss, via a 6th round knockout to Juan Manuel Marquez, that was the most stunning of all. The Filipino fighter found himself unconscious and face down on the canvas after a short right from his arch rival – his first knockout since 1999. The loss saw Pacquiao drop in pound-for-pound rankings and spurred talks of retirement. Is this the beginning of the end for Manny Pacquiao?

Special mentions: Smart-Gilas snags gold in the 34th Williams Jones Cup for the first time since 1998; Novak Djokovic wins a 3rd Australian Open title against Rafael Nadal in the longest Grand Slam singles final in the Open era; Usain Bolt makes history by being the first person to win the gold in the 100m and 200m in two consecutive Olympics; Nadal wins a record 7th French Open title; LA Lakers acquire Steve Nash and Dwight Howard; Linsanity hits the NBA care of Jeremy Lin; Lionel Messi breaks record for most goals in a calendar year; Philippine Olympic Committee elections saga ends in Peping Cojuangco winning a third term. 

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Natashya Gutierrez

Natashya is President of Rappler. Among the pioneers of Rappler, she is an award-winning multimedia journalist and was also former editor-in-chief of Vice News Asia-Pacific. Gutierrez was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2023.