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10 unforgettable images of an unfortunate year

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Social distancing slips as Liverpool fans celebrate their first league title in 30 years outside an empty Anfield

Sport is always moving.

An endless treadmill of trophies to be chased, a carousel of seasons spinning into each other. Relentless churning, always with something to look forward to.

And then in 2020, it stopped. The bells and whistles fell quiet, the lights turned off.

The coronavirus pandemic halted events around the world. Sport lost its shape and structure. All the usual landmarks went missing.

Spring arrived without the London Marathon. High summer came and went without Wimbledon. In place of the two-week whirlwind of the Olympics was eerie calm.

But sport still moved in 2020. Even with a shortage of action and crowds, it moved people. There was delight, wonder, misery, astonishment, fear and, this year more than ever, reflection.

These are some of the photos that captured all of that.

March

Australia win the Women's T20 World Cup

The biggest crowd in women’s cricket history – 86,174 – packed the Melbourne Cricket Ground to watch hosts Australia defeat India in the final of the Women’s T20 World Cup.

The match was staged on International Women’s Day. While Australia key all-rounder Ellyse Perry was missing through injury, Katy Perry was there. The pop supernova, wearing a top and earrings featuring the female gender symbol, performed before and after the match.

James Ritchie is punched on the nose

“I was a bit shocked. I must have one of those faces.”

Scotland flanker James Ritchie copped the full force of French prop Mohamed Haouas’ frustration in the teams’ Six Nations match.

Haouas was shown a red card. Ritchie won man of the match in a Scotland victory.

It was the fourth of five rounds of the Six Nations. The final set of matches was played nearly eight months later.

Tokyo 2020

Since the start of the modern Olympics in 1896, only world wars have caused the Olympics to be postponed or cancelled.

But once an epidemic became a pandemic, Tokyo 2020’s organisers opted to delay the summer Games 12 months to summer 2021 at an estimated cost of more than £2bn.

They have warned that the Games will be scrapped altogether rather than delayed a second time.

July

Raheem Sterling wins a penalty

When the Premier League returned after a three-month break in play, things were very different.

Players were subject to regular testing, asked not to spit or clear nostrils on the pitch and given extra drinks breaks in consideration of the summer heat.

The fans were out of the stands and onto pitchside screens.

England and the West Indies take a knee before the start of a Test match

Players from across sport took the knee to show their opposition to racial violence and discrimination in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis in May.

International cricket resumed in England as the West Indies travelled from the Caribbean, relatively unaffected by coronavirus at the time, to play a three-Test series in a unique bio-bubble environment.

August

Lucy Bronze

Lyon’s supreme dominance of the Women’s Champions League continued as they claimed their fifth successive European crown with victory over Wolfsburg.

England stars Lucy Bronze, Jodie Taylor and Alex Greenwood lent an Anglo edge to the French side with Bronze going on to be named best women’s player at Fifa’s 2020 awards.

September

Naomi Osaka

As she walked onto court before each of her matches at the US Open, Naomi Osaka, whose father is Haitian and mother is Japanese, wore a face mask emblazoned with the name of a different black American killed by the police or a fellow civilian.

“It’s quite sad that seven masks isn’t enough for the amount of names,” she told the Washington Post.external-link

For her champion’s photoshoot, she wore a kente cloth headwrap in a nod to her west African ancestry.

Tadej Pogacar

Never mind the Spring Classics, how about the Autumn Grands?

The compressed cycling calendar delivered a triple shot of excitement in the latter half of the year as Tour de France, Vuelta a Espana and Giro d’Italia were all switched to later dates.

The biggest race of them all – the Tour – produced the highest drama as Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar pulled off a spectacular time-trial heist on the penultimate stage to leapfrog Primoz Roglic in the yellow-jersey standings.

October

Los Angeles Lakers win the play-offs

The Los Angeles Lakers hadn’t won an NBA title in 10 years. They hadn’t made the play-off for six.

But with star player LeBron James motivated by Michael Jordan’s record and a desire to honour the late Kobe Bryant’s memory, the Lakers beat the Miami Heat in game six to end the wait.

November

Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona, the scamp king of Argentine football, died in November after a life in which his gargantuan abilities were matched by his appetite for excess off the pitch.

Aged 60, he was particularly revered in the southern Italian city of Naples, where he lifted Napoli to their first Serie A titles at a time of bitter rivalry with the comparatively well-off north of the country.

In the wake of his death, Napoli renamed their stadium in his honour.

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