Top sports stories of the year
Image Credit: Agencies

PARIS: It started with tennis superstar Novak Djokovic deported from Australia and ended with Lionel Messi lifting the World Cup in Qatar.

AFP looks back on the top sports stories of 2022:

Novac Djokovic deported from Australia

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Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic walks in Melbourne Airport before boarding a flight, after the Federal Court upheld a government decision to cancel his visa to play in the Australian Open, in Melbourne, Australia, January 16, 2022. REUTERS/Loren Elliott Image Credit: REUTERS

Novak Djokovic flew to Melbourne in January hoping to capture a 10th Australian Open. However, the famously unvaccinated Serbian had his visa cancelled and was held in a hotel housing refugees before being deported on "health and good order" grounds.

Djokovic was also banned from travelling to the United States, ruling him out of the US Open but he managed to capture a seventh Wimbledon title in July.

Djokovic has been cleared to play in the 2023 Australian Open where he will be chasing a 22nd Grand Slam.

Kamila Valieva doping shame

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Kamila Valieva of the Russian Olympic Committee reacts after her performance in the Women's Single Skating - Free Skating competition at the 2022 Beijing Olympics in Beijing, China. Image Credit: Reuters

Kamila Valieva was at the centre of a doping scandal at the Beijing Winter Olympics. The Russian, who was 15 at the time, became the first woman to land a quadruple jump in Olympic competition, helping Russia secure gold in the team event. It then emerged she had tested positive before the Games for trimetazidine, a drug used to treat angina but which is banned for athletes because it can boost endurance.

International sports court CAS allowed Valieva to continue competing at the Olympics, citing her young age, though without clearing her of doping. Valieva fell several times in the individual final and finished in fourth place.

Aussie icon Shane Warne dies

A mural of late Australian cricket superstar Shane Warne in Sydney
A mural of late Australian cricket superstar Shane Warne in Sydney Image Credit: AFP

The legendary Australian cricketer died at a luxury resort in Thailand in March from a suspected heart attack, aged 52. Credited with reviving the art of leg-spin, Warne took 708 Test wickets as part of a dominant Australian team in the 1990s and 2000s before becoming a respected commentator.

"Looking forward to a future without Shane is inconceivable," said heartbroken father Keith. "But we take comfort in knowing that Shane packed more into his life of 52 years, five months and 19 days than most people would in two lifetimes."

Ukraine impact on Russian teams  

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Russia-Ukraine conflict in February saw them and allies Belarus become outcasts of world sport. Russia were barred from the football World Cup and world athletics championships while tennis players from both nations were banned from Wimbledon. However, Russian-born Elena Rybakina, representing Kazakhstan, won the women's singles title at the All England Club. Tensions were also evident at the US Open where Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk refused to shake hands with Victoria Azarenka of Belarus.

Champions League final chaos in Paris

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Liverpool fans react as they queue to access Stade de France before Champions League Final. Image Credit: Reuters

The May 28 final at the Stade de France in Paris descended into chaos when thousands of Liverpool fans were unable to gain access to the ground for the match against Real Madrid. Ticket-holding fans, who were attacked with tear gas by police and fell victim to street crime, were intially accused of trying to enter the stadium illegally. These allegations were disproved and organisers and security chiefs damned for poor organisation.

A French Senate inquiry contradicted assertions by UEFA and the French government that Liverpool fans without proper tickets were mainly responsible for the trouble. The inquiry instead cited a "string of dysfunctions" including a lack of preparation by authorities and UEFA, as well as poorly executed security arrangements.

Coach saves life of swimmer

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Coach Andrea Fuentes swims to recover USA's Anita Alvarez (L), from the bottom of the pool during an incendent in the women's solo free artistic swimming finals.

When 25-year-old American artistic swimmer Anita Alvarez passed out at the end of her solo routine at the World Championships in Budapest in June, her coach Andrea Fuentes plunged to the rescue. Dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, Fuentes dived to the bottom of the pool and dragged Alvarez to the surface. "I think she was at least two minutes without breathing because her lungs were full of water," said Fuentes. Alvarez quickly recovered but was prevented from competing again at the championships.

Farewell to Roger Federer and Serena Williams

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An emotional Roger Federer sits alongside his playing partner Rafael Nadal after their Laver Cup doubles match against Team World's Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe at the O2 Arena in London, on September 23, 2022. Federer's doubles match with Nadal marked the end of an illustrious career that included 20 Grand Slam titles and a role as a statesman for tennis. Image Credit: AP

Tennis said goodbye to two of its greatest stars. Roger Federer, unable to shake off a lingering knee injury, called it quits at the age of 41 in September after a career which yielded 20 Grand Slams - a figure now passed by Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Federer collected 103 titles and banked $130 million in prize money.

Serena Williams September 2 2022 US Open
Serena Williams (File photo)

Serena refused to use the word "retirement" when she played what was likely her final tournament at the US Open. Now 41, the American said she was "evolving" away from tennis. She won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, was number one for 319 weeks and, according to Forbes, was worth $260 million in 2022.

Chess cheating scandal

Hans Niemann
Hans Niemann, 19, is the 6th highest-rated Junior in the world and 45th overall. He gained his grandmaster title in 2021 at 17. Image Credit: Instagram

American grandmaster Hans Niemann was accused by Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen of cheating.

Niemann filed a law suit, seeking $100 million in damages from Carlsen, his company Play Magnus Group, Danny Rensch of, the world's leading online chess platform, and American grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura.

Carlsen publicly accused Niemann of cheating, and alleged in a report that the 19-year-old American has "probably cheated more than 100 times" in online games.

Lionel Messi's final fantasy

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Argentina’s captain Lionel Messi celebrates after beating France 4-2 on penalties to win the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 at the Lusail Stadium on December 18, 2022. It was Argentina’s first win after 36 years. Image Credit: ANI

Lionel Messi led Argentina to World Cup glory with a penalty shootout triumph over France after an epic final in Doha finished 3-3 in extra-time. Messi's virtuoso performance sealed his status as one of the greatest players of all time, joining fellow icons Pele and Diego Maradona in an elite group. The final has gone down as a modern classic, coming at the conclusion of one of the most controversial tournaments ever staged.