In the 2007 sporting spotlight

What sort of year has it been for your sport? We all remember (only too well) England’s national footballing and cricket disasters while it’s only half-time in Norwich City’s Coca-Cola Championship struggle. But what else was happening in 2007? Our EDP correspondents pick out the national and local highlights of their own sports

What sort of year has it been for your sport? We all remember (only too well) England's national footballing and cricket disasters while it's only half-time in Norwich City's Coca-Cola Championship struggle. But what else was happening in 2007? Our EDP correspondents pick out the national and local highlights of their own sports


- David Thorpe

Mervyn King relinquished his world indoor singles, but only just. He reached a second successive Potters final but, suffering from a heavy cold, went down in a tiebreak to Alex Marshall - collecting his fourth world singles crown, all won at Hopton. Gallows clubmate Jamie Chestney made a sensational Potters debut, knocking out multi world champion Paul Foster on his way to the quarters. Another teenage sensation, Wayne Willgress, helped dad Chris and Charles West helped win the national triples for Norfolk BC at Worthing,­ while it was glory all the way for Federation bowlers as they returned from Skegness with six titles from ten finals. There was agony, though, for Norfolk in the Liberty Trophy as they failed, by a single shot, to complete what would have been a unique title hat-trick.


- Chris Lakey

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Boxing has enjoyed something of a renaissance in 2007 - on a local as well as national level.

While Joe Calzaghe and Ricky Hatton were being named two of the top three personalities of the year by BBC viewers, Norfolk was patting itself on the back after a successful year - with the promise of more to come.

Jon Thaxton twice defended his British lightweight title, beating Scott Lawton at a packed Norfolk Showground venue in March and then finally putting away Dave Stewart in the 12th and final round at York Hall, Bethnal Green, in October.

The 33-year-old Thaxton needs one more successful defence to keep the Lonsdale belt outright - and it could come with a showdown against 21-year-old Amir Khan.

While Thaxton takes the bulk of the headlines, city heavyweight Sam Sexton has been quietly going about his business, two victories for him in 2007 extending his record to 7-0-0 and banishing the frustrations of suffering a broken hand.

Lowestoft's Paul Davis, who also fights out of trainer Graham Everett's Norwich gym, won his only fight of the year at light-heavyweight - and missed out on a third in November when an opponent cried off at the last minute. Big things are expected of the 28-year-old.


- Phil Banyard

Local highlight: Horsford batsman Jaik Mickleburgh, 17, held his nerve to steer Norfolk to a crucial one-wicket victory over Lincolnshire in the Minor Counties Championship at Manor Park in August.

The teenager hit a magnificent unbeaten 45 in a nerve-jangling finale as Norfolk, chasing 253 to win, lost nine wickets in pursuit of their target. Mickleburgh, who is on the books with the Essex academy, calmly stroked the winning runs to keep alive the county's hopes of winning the Minor Counties Eastern Division. But defeat in the final game against Staffordshire saw Norfolk finish second.

Club-wise, Swardeston took the honours by winning their first ever East Anglian Premier League title - although they lost to old rivals Vauxhall Mallards in thrilling finishes in both the Carter Cup and Biss Trophy finals.

National highlight: Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan became the leading Test match wicket-taker of all time.

Muralitharan went into the first Test match against England earlier this month trailing Australian legend Shane Warne by four wickets, but soon equalled Warne's tally of 708 and when he bowled Paul Collingwood, took the top spot.

The Sri Lankan, who has been dogged by controversy throughout his career because of his unusual bowling action, went on to take nine wickets in the match and his total now stands at 723 and counting.


- Tim Ash

Local Highlights: The Norfolk team competing in the English Schools Track & Field Championships staged in Birmingham over a July weekend achieved great success when four of their squad struck gold. First strike went to Chris Baker when taking the Inter Boys High Jump title with a 2.02m clearance. Mitch Goose dominated the Senior Boys 3,000m race to score a comfortable victory and, later in the day, Dani Nimmock took the opportunity at the first time of asking to win the Senior Girls 3,000m title. Rounding off a superb weekend for the Norfolk Schools team Rachel Stringer ran her fastest ever race to take the Senior Girls 800m title in 2min.06.93.

National Highlights: Super Mum, the great compliment attributed to Paula Radcliffe after her superb marathon victory in the city called the Big Apple. Following the birth of daughter Isla and a marginal defeat in the Great North Run, Paula was happy to be back on the territory she loves best, the marathon distance. In a hotly contested race she and Gete Warmi broke away from the field to run neck and neck until in sight of the finish when Paula's tenacious determination broke the Ethiopian and enabled her to take a wonderful victory watched by an enthralled worldwide TV audience.


- Hayley Gibbs

Local highlight: At the East Anglian Dressage Group 2007 championship show it proved that horses do not have to be bred for the job to win dressage titles. The novice restricted championship went to Claire Kinsley, from Holt, with her 12-year-old Highland pony Rignell Auchentoshan. Claire has owned Tosh since he was a just-backed four-year-old and, despite winning this great title, he still lives out all of the time, unrugged and unshod. National highlight: William Fox-Pitt has had an another outstanding year, winning nearly 10 major Eventing titles including Burghley, Gatcombe and at the inaugural international event held at the beautiful setting of Houghton Hall here in Norfolk. William has been eventing for over 12 years and has represented Great Britain for six of those; this year he also won the first ever Horse and Hound advanced Eventing League, notching up the most points in the league. Another event rider Zara Phillips collected an MBE from her grandmother after becoming the first senior royal to receive an award in the New Year Honours list.


- Martin Braybrook

National highlight: British National champion, James Willstrop, completed a remarkable hat-trick of international squash titles on home soil when he beat England team-mate Nick Matthew in the final of the English Open in Sheffield. Earlier in the year 24-year-old Willstrop, who is currently ranked No 6 in the world, had won both the Canary Wharf Classic in London in March and the Prince English Grand Prix in Birmingham in September, before beating the higher ranked Matthew 9-11 11-9 11-6 11-6 to claim the eighth PSA title of his career. Only days earlier both players had been members of the England team which successfully defended the sport's most prestigious world team trophy when they helped England beat Australia in the final of the Men's World Team Championship.

Local highlight: The East Anglia club proved themselves the most successful club in the county as they fielded no fewer than four teams in the first division of the Norfolk Squash League. The first team, led by former county champion David Youngs, went through the season unbeaten, winning all 16 of their matches, and have now been Norfolk League champions for six of the past seven seasons and an unprecedented 12 times in all. Having won the first seven matches of the current season it is already looking as though another title will end up in the Lime Tree Road trophy cabinet.


- Lewis Beales

National highlights: The explosion of the phenomenon known as Lewis Hamilton. This media savvy young man has been winning races and championships for over 10 years but it was not until his magnificent entrance onto the Grand Prix scene that he forced his way into the consciousness of the world.

Winning the GP2 drivers title with Timo Glock and the Teams Championship iSport International, along with Davis Sears' managed teams finishing in the top two places in the World Cup of Motorsport, proved that Norfolk has world class engineering skills.

Local highlight: “Accidents are part of motor racing,” quoted the cool as a cucumber Matt Allison after surviving a monster accident at Thruxton in the middle BTCC race at the dauntingly fast Hampshire circuit. His Motorbase team bashed the Money Centre supported Seat Toledo back into some shape and the Norwich racer hopped in to compete in race three. Daniel Laddiman's third place in the highly competitive Ginetta G20 championship, with his family run team, showed the youngster has a bundle of talent while in retaining his Stock Hatch title Wisbech's Maurice Hayden showed that taking up motorsport in your 40s can be very rewarding.

Horse Racing

- Milton Lindsay

Local highlight: Norfolk trainer Christine Dunnett has had one of the most difficult years of her training career. Her Hingham yard was shut down for six weeks in the spring after oilseed rape from a nearby field affected horses. Heavy rain and floods on the gallops played havoc with training schedules throughout the summer, and two horses died in tragic accidents, one on the course and one in the paddock. Not surprisingly winners have been few and far between - only a handful so far - but an incredible training feat when Christine's horses - Gone'n'dunnett, Kennington and Norcroft - filled the first three places in an August race at her favourite Yarmouth racecourse stands out like a beacon amidst the gloom.

National highlight: The thrilling battle for the Flat jockeys championship - one of the most gruelling in any sport - reached an unbelievable climax as Jamie Spencer and Seb Sanders, having traded blows gladiatorial style for weeks as they scoured the country for winners, with no race too small or venue remote, slugged it out on the final meeting of the season at Doncaster in November. By the time the final race arrived Sanders had edged into a one winner lead on 190. He did not have a ride in the final race and could only watch as Spencer bounded clear on Inchnadamph to earn a well-deserved share of the prize.


- Lyndsey Hewison

Local highlight: See our golf review on pages 44 and 45.

National highlight: There's nothing quite like seeing it with your own eyes and, from a perch high up beside the 18th green at Carnoustie, I watched the unfolding drama of the last moments of the 2007 Open Championship. Padraig Harrington grappled with the burn and Sergio Garcia tangled with a greenside bunker before they went head to head in a play-off. Congratulations to Padraig, it's great to have a European champion again - but I do wish Sergio had won!


- Tony Marcantonio

Internationally, the highlight of 2007 has to be the World Cup, superbly organised by the French hosts, and well covered by all sections of the media. On the field, the performance of England was an obvious talking point, but they left their best rugby until the later stages. It was the emergence of countries like Georgia that took the eye, as did the South Sea islanders, who with most of their players operating in the Super 12s or Europe have converted their seven a side form into the

15-man game, but the team of the competition must surely have been Argentina who merit a place in an annual tournament.

Local highlight: For North Walsham it has been a turbulent 12 months. Failure to gain promotion in the 2005-06 season had a knock-on effect and the high points of the 06-07 campaign were the cup run that saw wins over higher placed Otley and Stourbridge before defeat by Lydney in round five.

At the end of the season revenge was taken at Lydney along with their unbeaten home record. The break-up of the squad, with the retirement of key players, had a huge effect and a disastrous early run culminated with the decision to part company with coach Jon Curry. With Steve Worrall, Dave Smith and Gideon Rossouw taking up the challenge the players have responded and wins against “top half” sides Canterbury and Ealing have lifted the side off the bottom of the table, but the fight goes on.


- Paddy Davitt

Local highlight: King's Lynn Stars continued to dominate the sport's second tier when they successfully defended their Premier League KO Cup and Premier Trophy crowns. Rob Lyon's men finished top of the Premier League standings in the regular season but lost their chance to defend the title when they were beaten by Sheffield in the play-off semi-finals.

The Stars capped another impressive season by winning the team-of-the-year at the EDP's inaugural Norfolk sports awards ceremony.

National highlight: Chris 'Bomber' Harris' thrilling win in the British GP at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium - the first by a Briton since 2000. Harris delighted the record 41,000 crowd with a brilliant victory in a high class final against former world champions Greg Hancock, Jason Crump and Australian Leigh Adams. Ex-King's Lynn rider Nicki Pedersen went on to lift the world title. Harris' British club Coventry Bees completed a domestic clean sweep at Elite League level.

Non-League Football

Local highlight: King's Lynn recovered from the early season departure of manager Tommy Taylor and key midfielder Adam Smith to finish third in the Southern Premier League for the second consecutive season. Keith Webb's squad was again forced into the play-offs in a bid to clinch promotion to the Conference set-up.

Eventual play-off winners Maidenhead edged a 1-0 win at The Walks in front of 1,154 supporters. Wroxham were crowned Ridgeons Premier champions - the Yachtsmen's seventh at Eastern Counties level. Dereham retained the Norfolk Senior Cup.

National highlight: Dagenham & Redbridge's promotion to the football league for the first time in their short history. Formed through a merger between Dagenham and Redbridge Forest football clubs in 1992, the Daggers under John Still saw off the early season challenge of heavyweights Oxford United. Jim Smith's men would finish a distant second - 14 points behind the runaway leaders. Stevenage Borough lifted the first FA Trophy at the new Wembley with a 3-2 win over Kidderminster.


- Fergus Muir

Local Highlight: The Marin Dusk-til-Dawn night mountain bike race for the atmosphere - both the razzmatazz of the tented city and the silent areas deep in the forest through which streams of lights quietly move. This year's race involved 840 competitors over a wide range of levels of commitment, from the super-fit to the much more modest.

National Highlight: The Tour de France start in London. For the centre of the capital to be so whole-heartedly given over to cycling is something British cycle enthusiasts have never experienced before. This was sport in a cityscape, racing past the Cenotaph, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, to the finish on The Mall. It helped that the sun shone, but what made the day was the camaraderie of the crowds.


- Diane Bush

Local highlight: That a rural and sparsely populated county such as Norfolk can boast two top tennis professionals continues to be an inspiration to its current juniors aspiring to a professional tennis career.

Richard Bloomfield currently stands as British No 5 (No 4 is Tim Henman who has retired) and James Auckland currently stands as the British Doubles No 2. At the junior level, Pippa Horn from West Harling still stands at the British No 1 in the 12/u age group. Planning permission for an eight-court indoor facility at Easton College will be a much-needed boost.

National highlight: The National body of the Lawn Tennis Association still strives to find potential top world ranked players through its junior coaching schemes and tournaments - a goal which still eludes it and will continue to elude it without more reasonably-priced indoor (and outdoor) facilities.