1 January 2014

Fourteen events to look forward to in 2014

A new year of sport will soon be upon us so here are some of the highlights from my sporting year ahead. As you know I look beyond the major sports on this blog, though I do of course have to include one of them in this list, it will dominate our newspapers and screens for a month later this year though as you can see there are other sports that will be happening at the same time.

  1. Superbowl XLVIII 2 February: To be held in MetLife Stadium at the Meadowlands Sports Complex. It means that the AFC and NFC Champions will be looking at the weather reports as much as scouting reports of their opponents in the days before the Game. This is the first time that the Superbowl will be held outdoors in a cold weather location. Meaning this would well be a game that looks different from previous Big Games to the once a year viewer, but could bring all the drama that snow and the cold brings to Football aficionados 
  2. Sochi Winter Olympics 7-23 February, Paralympics 7-16 March: I know there has been controversy over the human rights record of Russia and indeed the environmental concerns over the building of infrastructure to create a winter sports centre on the coast of the Black Sea. But for the last four years the world's winter athletes have been looking forward to taking centre stage once again. Women's ski jumping, a figure skating team event, mixed relay biathlon, luge relay, ski half pipe, ski & snowboard slopestyle and parallel snowboard special slalom are all making their debut in the Olympics. Coverage of the Olympics will be on BBC and the Paralympics on Channel 4.
  3. Women's Tour of Flanders 6 April, La Flèche Wallonne Féminine 23 April: With the absence of any female Grand Tours on the UCI's road race calendar for women these two springs classics run at the same venue and same weekend as the men's equivalent are the biggest contests on the women's itinerary for women. Brian Cookson who took over the UCI Presidency in 2013 has said he wants to raise the profile of Women's Cycling so it will be interesting to see what gets added to the list for 2015.
  4. World Curling Championships Women 15-23 April Saint John, Canada, Men 29 April - 6 May Beijing, China: The major event here is that for the first time in history the World Curling Championships are being held outside of North America or Europe the traditional homes of the sport, the first time they will be hosted by the Pacific-Asia zone. The men's championships are taking place in China at the Capital Indoor Stadium which hosted the volleyball at the 2008 Olympics. China have only be a member of the World Curling Federation since 2002.
  5. Giro d'Italia 9 May - 1 June: For the first time the Giro is leaving mainland Europe for its start. The fact that this is happening in Belfast and the first three stages start in Northern Ireland mean that I am really looking forward to watching the worlds top cyclists come to places I know well. Mark Cavendish won all the bunch sprints last year and I'm wondering if he will secure a win in Belfast and Dublin at the start of this year's race. 
  6. French Open Tennis 26 May - 8 June: But for one day on 31 May 2009 when he later admitted he was suffering from tendinitis in both his knees this year could have seen an unprecedented achievement of a 10th straight win at Roland Garros for Rafael Nadal. As it is he starts 2014 as the World Number one and that day in 2009 is the only one he has even lost on the clay here. As a result that year it allowed Roger Federer to complete a career slam. But will anyone ever be able to beat a fully fit Rafa here? Novak Djokovic needs this one to complete his career slam. This is the one that Andy Murray will always find it hardest to win, indeed from 13-26 January he will maybe on his return from injury have won the third of that set. However, I think that both of them will have to wait another year to try and wrest this from Rafa he is going for 5 in a row to surpass the open era record of four he currently holds jointly with Bjorn Borg.
  7. FIFA World Cup 12 June - 13 July: Brazil is hosting Football's biggest event for the second time, previously it hosted in 1950. The hosts would no doubt like to win their 6th title on home soil, but there is at the time of writing still concern about some of the stadium being completed in time. But before anyone gets their hopes up too high, I don't think England are going to end 48 years of hurt this time, in fact they are in such a tough group they may not even get out of it.
  8. Wimbledon 23 June - 6 July: Ok so last year Andy Murray ended the 77 years of waiting for a British man to lift the men's singles trophy. Hopefully he has recovered from his back surgery, he seems to be doing ok in his come back games this week, but the last time a British man retained the title was also that 1936 win of Fred Perry, of the last time any Brit retained a title was in 1984 when John Lloyd retained his mixed singles title with Wendy Turnbill (Aus). We also saw the Laura Robson make it to the 4th Round of the Ladies Single last year, her and Heather Watson are looking to become the first women since Virginia Wade in 1977 to win here at home and Dan Evans made the 3rd Round of the US Open last year and may well start to take some of the attention off Andy as the sole flag bearing in the men's draw.
  9. Tour de France 5-27 July: Yorkshire host's this year's Grand Depart so two of cycling's Grand Tours are starting in the UK this year. The last two years have seen a British winner on a British team, when Dave Brailsford announced Team Sky ProCycling in 2009 he said that within five seasons of competing he would expect to see a British winner of the tour. This is the fifth season that Sky have taken part in Le Tour, what are the odds of them making it a hat trick as Chris Froome eyes up a repeat.
  10. Commonwealth Games 23 July - 3 August: Glasgow will host the 20th Commonwealth Games, 17 sports will be contested across the city some in purpose built stadia like the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, others updated like the Tollcross International Swinming Centre. One has even seen Commonwealth Games action twice before, the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh will host Tom Daley, Matthew Mitcham and the other divers. It is possible that some of the Tour de France cyclists will be looking to do what Sir Bradley Wiggins did in 2012 and add gold to a good performance in the Road Race on 3 August or time trial on 31st July. One to watch could be Mark Cavendish who won his GB national jersey on the streets of Glasgow in 2013.
  11. FEI World Equestrian Games 23 August - 7 September: Another sport on its four year world cycle is equestrian sport coming this time from Normandy, France. Combining para dressage plus some none Olympic sport it is the first qualifying tournament for Rio 2016. Britain currently has the top two show jumpers in world rankings, the top dressage pairing of Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro, as well as multiple Paralympic dressage champions and our Eventing team is always there of thereabouts plus a variety of individual capable on their day.
  12.  FIBA Basketball World Cup 30 August - 14 September: The other World Cup in 2014 is that for Basketball being held in Madrid, Spain. But after these championships they will be splitting from their four year cycle to align away from the same years as FIFA's rather bigger version. So the next World Cup in Basketball will take part in 2019. Spain won this event in 2006 but last time out it was the USA, who although they invented the sport and largely have the Olympics all their own way, haven't in the FIBA World Cup. Indeed they need one more title to equal the defunct nation of Yugoslavia. Although Serbia lost out in the last bronze medal match and Croatia took bronze in 1994 so there is still strength in that region that could deny the USA and cause all sorts of issues as to who is the strongest historically.
  13. FIVB Volleyball World Championships Men 3-21 September Poland, Women 23 September - 12 October Italy:  It may not be as big as the other prize that Brazil has their eyes on in July, it may not be as glamourous as its beach counterpart, but Brazil's men are going for an unprecedented 4th straight victory in the World Championships. Spanning 13 years of domination no team male or female has ever achieved not even in the height of Soviet Union domination. In Italy the women's event could see a third successive final between Russia and Brazil, with the Brazilian women hoping to finally overcome their nemesis from the last two World Champs on both occasions losing 3-2.
  14. Grand Prix of Russia 12 October: Sporting eyes will return to the Olympic Park in Sochi as Grand Prix returns to Russia for the first time since 1914. The last time a Russian Grand Prix was held in St. Petersburg it was won by German Willy Schöll, there will be 18 drivers on the grid in Sochi hoping it won't be another German, while three German's will hope is can be just not one with the initials SV. Another highlight on the F1 calendar is the return on 22 June of the Austrian Grand Prix.

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