A look back at Norfolk sport in 2020

Lynn's game against Kettering Town was played behind closed doors. Picture: Ian Burt

It's football...but not as we know it. King's Lynn Town's pre-season friendly against Kettering Town was played behind closed doors - Credit: Ian Burt

Head of sport Chris Lakey takes a look back at the trials and tribulations of local sport during 2020 

One of the great things about sport is that you can talk about before, during and after the event. 

Whether you’re arguing, debating, forecasting, there is always something to talk about. 

Except in 2020, when sport – all of it – came to a halt. Only war time had previously had such a devastating effect. This time, it was the silent enemy that is coronavirus, which has left some of our sports in tatters. 

Cricket.

Cricket league formats were hastily rearranged - Credit: Archant

Lockdown in March saw turnstiles padlocked, makeshift local cricket competitions hastily arranged, tickets to Tokyo ripped up, golf courses pristine and empty, and sports venues echoing only to the sound of memories. 

There have been achievements, of course, but across the board sport has been devastated. 

Mulbarton Wanderers and Sheringham

Mulbarton Wanderers saw their promotion dream shattered - Credit: Archant

Local football shut down: almost every club had their season not only cut short, but scrapped without resolution. Mulbarton Wanderers led Thurlow Nunn First Division North, but when the decision to scrap the season was made, all their efforts were for nothing. 

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Norwich City were relegated from the Premier League in humiliating style, and only King’s Lynn Town emerged with anything to celebrate: their National League North title success came because the league decided to settle standings on a points per game calculation. If only others had done the same. 

As the year comes to an end, tier four regulations has meant another interruption, with only Norwich City and King’s Lynn Town able to play games, as part of football’s elite. 

Ian Culverhouse with Adam Marriott. Picture: Ian Burt

King's Lynn Town boss and manager of the season Ian Culverhouse with Golden Boot winner Adam Marriott - Credit: Ian Burt

Rugby is similarly stymied: North Walsham were promoted last season, but when they get going again under normal rugby rules is anyone’s guess. 

Norfolk-born Ben Youngs won his 100th cap for England. 

While lockdown brought innovative ideas along the running community on how to race along, as it were: virtual races became the norm. But for the elite athletes, it was anything but normal as a string of events, from local to the Olympics, bit the dust. 

The Tokyo Olympics will be Sophie McKinna’s sole focus this year with the Great Yarmouth shot putter desperate to capitalise on her excellent form over the last 18 months.  

The 25-year-old retained her British Championships crown in October and after accepting a place on the British Athletics’ world class programme, she will be hoping for a strong showing in Japan when the postponed Games take place at the end of July/start of August.  

McKinna became the first British woman in 36 years to reach the World Championships shot put final in 2020.  

sophie mckinna

Sophie McKinna - Credit: British Athletics via Getty Images

City of Norwich AC athlete Iona Lake still harbours ambitions of making the Olympic team in the steeplechase. The 27-year-old enjoyed a strong cross country season this year and will be targeting her training for the British Championships with the hope of attaining a place with the GB squad. Lake competed at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast for England.  

In terms of mass participation events Run Norwich will now take place on Sunday, October 10 whilst the Grand East Anglia Run (GEAR) is scheduled to take place on Sunday, May 2.  

The Sportlink Grand Prix Series will hopefully return this year with clubs having discussed a schedule of events for local runners to start in May, which could possibly run all the way through to November. 

Iain Martell on his way to victory over Jose Lopes

Iain Martell celebrates victory over Jose Lopes - Credit: Mark Hewlett

In the squared circle, Iain Martell just about managed to squeeze in his first title fight in March before lockdown came on. Martell became Southern Area cruiserweight champion when he beat Jose Lopes at York Hall – the historic venue hasn’t had an audience since. 

Ryan Walsh became a victim of the sport’s politics when he was stripped of his British featherweight title and then reached the final of the Golden Contract event, where he lost to Jazza Dickens - a clash that had been postponed once because the LIverpudlian contracted Covid. Twin brother Liam is due to fight for the vacant British lightweight title in February. 

Ryan Walsh during sparring Picture: Mark Hewlett

Ryan Walsh - Credit: Mark Hewlett

Speedway's season never got off the start line, although King's Lynn Stars rider Robert Lambert became the first British rider to win the European Championship, which was held over five rounds in Poland.

George Russell, Williams Racing in the press conference

Rising F1 star George Russell - Credit: PA

Motorsport saw the emergence of King’s Lynn-born George Russell who, having been promoted from the Williams team to take the seat of Lewis Hamilton – suffering from coronavirus – led the Sakhir GP in Bahrain for most of the 87 laps until a pit-stop blunder by his team and a slow puncture ruined his chances of a dream victory. 

Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett celebrate winning their fourth US Open doubles title. Picture: Al Bello

Alfie Hewett, right, and doubles partner Gordon Reid at the US Open - Credit: Getty Images

On the tennis courts, wheelchair star Alfie Hewett won the French Open singles and with regular partner Gordon Reid won all three available Grand Slam doubles titles at the Australian Open, the US Open and French Open. 




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