From the malign to the ridiculous, the madcap to the simply weird — there was no shortage of offbeat moments in world sport in 2011, from fining a coach, not money but pigs, for misdemeanours to eccentric Englishmen playing cricket in the sea.
Here’s a summary of strange sporting highlights of the past 12 months:
Cricketers’ damp designs
Their Test counterparts are no longer all at sea, having claimed the Ashes. But a flotilla of eccentric Englishmen took to the waves to contest one of the silliest fixtures of all — playing cricket under water.
The annual match takes place on Bramble Bank, a tiny patch of sand that emerges for 30 minutes at the year’s lowest tide in The Solent, separating the south coast of mainland England from the Isle of Wight.
Every September, the Royal Southern Yacht Club meets The Island Sailing Club, using a few square metres of soggy sand several nautical miles away from dry land.
“The fact is, this is total nonsense and total nonsense is extremely enjoyable,” said umpire Philip Gage of the seven overs a side contest.
Batting for the Royal Southern was Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first man to circumnavigate the globe non-stop single-handed.
He scored a duck, noting “the key to the bowling is to pitch it just at the edge of a puddle”.
Simply the best? Yes, prime minister
Such is the financial might of the football world these days. It’s only natural the sport should attract the rich and the powerful. But the sycophancy which can follow reached new heights in Bulgaria, where Prime Minister Boiko Borisov was nominated the country’s best player.
Borisov does have some affinity for the beautiful game — he occasionally turns out for third-division side Vitosha Bistritsa.
But he was never a Hristo Stoichkov and admitted his nomination ahead of the likes of Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov was a bit over the top.
Borisov said: “This vote does not show Borisov is the best footballer but that Bulgarian football needs reforming and to be run differently.”
Yes, prime minister.
England players who step out of line at major tournaments “merely” suffer a tabloid lynching and, as Mike Tindall knows to his cost, can pick up a fine for their trouble.
Samoan manager Mathew Vaea didn’t have to dig into his pocket after the World Cup in New Zealand after allegations of misconduct. Instead he was symbolically fined … 100 pigs by his home village.
Leaders in the Pacific island nation’s Leauva’a village ordered Vaea to pay 100 sows for tarnishing the chiefly title of “tuala” earlier bestowed on him after the team failed to reach the quarter-finals.
Instead of taking piggies to market, Vaea handed over 2 000 Samoan tala equivalent to their value.
It’s not a record; it’s a girl
Amber Miller took a modest 6hr 23min to finish the Chicago Marathon — then gave birth the same evening to a baby girl.
The 27-year-old had her doctor’s permission to compete in her eighth marathon, despite being 39 weeks pregnant.
“It was the longest day of my life,” Miller told the Chicago Tribune, adding that the race had been easier than labour.
You’re never too young — or old
An eight-year-old Malaysian girl became the youngest athlete to win Southeast Asian Games gold when she won the water skiing tricks event.
Aaliyah Yoong Hanifah saw off all-comers and boasted afterwards: “I was confident all the way,” even though she almost lost her balance in the opening round.
If you’re never too young, you’re never too old either.
Ask 76-year-old Singaporean grandmother, Lai Chun Ng, who bagged two silver medals in bridge — the oldest person to make the podium.
A British athlete is so desperate to obtain sponsorship for the London Games he put himself up for auction on online giant eBay.
The eventual winner will earn the right to emblazon his or her brand or logo on sprinter James Ellington’s kit at training and press events before and after next year’s Olympics.
“Currently I have no commercial sponsorship so we looked at different ways to get myself out there and gathering interest from outside companies,” the 26-year-old explained.
For a reserve price of £30 000, his shirt space is yours.
Memories fade but if you win a medal nothing can take the shine off your moment in history.
Unless maybe you won a medal at the Pan American Games in Mexico.
Several athletes complained their medals started to fade almost as soon as they had left the podium.
“The day they gave me my medal, it was shiny and perfect but several days later it started losing its shine and now it looks oxidised, like old metal,” Mexican pole vaulter Giovanni Lanaro, who won a bronze, said.
“It’s an embarrassment for us as organisers, for all Mexicans, that this has happened,” Felipe Munoz, the committee’s president, said of the medals produced by the centuries-old Casa de Moneda at a cost of nine million pesos. — AFP