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Sporting Witness


The inside and personal story of the key moments from sporting history

The inside and personal story of the key moments from sporting history


United Kingdom




The inside and personal story of the key moments from sporting history




Jackie Joyner-Kersee - Heptathlon Queen

In 1988, the American athlete, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, put in one of the greatest performances in the history of women’s athletics at the Seoul Olympics. She set a world record that still stands in the Heptathlon and won a second gold medal in the individual High Jump event. Jackie Joyner Kersee talks to Ashley Byrne. PHOTO: Jackie Joyner-Kersee at the 1988 Olympics (Getty Images)


Born to Run: Mexico's Tarahumara Indians

In 2006, Scott Jurek, one of the world's best ultramarathon runners, travelled to the remote canyons of Northern Mexico to race the best athletes from an ancient Mexican tribe. The Tarahumara have a tradition of running huge distances and they gave Jurek one of his toughest races, inspiring the best-selling book, Born To Run. Scott Jurek talked to Simon Watts in 2014. (Photo: Scott Jurek with Tarahumara runner, Arnulfo Quimare. Credit: Luis Escobar)


Japan's Keirin cycling phenomenon

In the year 2000, the Japanese track cycling sport of Keirin made its Olympic debut at the Sydney Games. Wildly popular in Japan, Keirin races begin with the cyclists following a motorized pacer, who gradually cranks up the speed until the riders are released into a final frenetic sprint. Ashley Byrne talks to former Japanese cyclist, Shinichi Ota, about trying to win the first gold medal in the sport his country invented. The programme is a Made-In-Manchester Production. PHOTO: A Keirin...


Cameroon's Triple Jump Queen

In 2004, the Cameroonian triple-jumper Francoise Mbango made headlines around the world when she competed in the Athens Olympics with her head shaved. Mbango wanted to show solidarity with her mother, who was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer. Mbango won a gold medal and went on to retain her title at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She talks to Ian Williams about how motherhood inspired her journey to the very top of world sport. PHOTO: Francoise Mbango after her Olympic victory in...


The Queen of Women's Beach Volleyball

America’s Misty May-Treanor is the winner of three Olympic gold medals and the most successful women’s beach volleyball player of all time. Misty formed an almost unbeatable team with Kerri Walsh-Jennings, but she faced a tough personal battle at the London games in 2012, which she had decided would be her last competition because of persistent knee and Achilles tendon injuries. Misty May-Treanor talks to Jeremy Inson about her challenges on and off the court. The programme is a Whistledown...


The struggle for women's football in Afghanistan

In the early 2000s, Afghan women and girls set up the country's first football teams. Now the Taliban has returned and women's sport has been banned. We speak to Shamila Kohestani, former captain of the Afghan women's team, about why she fought to play and why in Afghanistan, football was more than a game. Photo: Woman's face painted with flag of Afghanistan (Getty Images)


India's first Paralympic champion

In 1972, war veteran Murlikant Petkar won India's first ever Paralympic gold medal at the Heidelberg Games. Petkar had been shot and paralysed seven years earlier in a battle during the war with Pakistan, but then took up sprint swimming. He spoke to Adrian Moorhead in 2016. The programme is a Sparklab Production for BBC World Service. (Photo: Murlikant Petkar with his medals)


Hou Bin wows the world

At the opening ceremony of the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, Chinese athlete Hou Bin stunned the huge global audience with an amazing feat of strength. As the world held its breath, he used a rope to haul himself, his wheelchair and the Olympic flame 39 metres into the air to light the cauldron. Hou Bin talks to Ashley Byrne. A Made In Manchester Production. PHOTO: Hou Bin climbing to the top of the Olympic stadium (Getty Images)


Kenya's Paralympic Record-Breaker

In 1995, promising Kenyan runner Henry Wanyoike suffered a stroke and lost his sight. After initially feeling depressed, Henry learnt how to run tethered to a guide and went on to a set a series of long-distance running records for the blind. Henry Wanyoike talks to Alex Last. (Photo: Henry Wanyoike, right, with his guide on a run in 2013. Credit: Getty Images)


The Golden Couple of the first Tokyo Olympics

At the Tokyo 1964 Olympics, British sweethearts Ann Packer and Robbie Brightwell became household names all over the world when they both competed in the running events. Ann would win a gold medal at her least favourite distance, the 800 metres, while Robbie had to make do with a silver in the 4x400 relay. As this was the amateur era, the couple retired after their first and only Olympic to get married and work as school-teachers. They talk to Ashley Byrne. The programme is a Made In...


Zamzam Farah - Somalia's inspiring runner

At the London 2012 Olympics, Somalia sprinter Zamzam Farah became a crowd favourite after finishing last in her 400-metre heat by a whopping 27 seconds. Zamzam had grown up in war-torn Mogadishu, where she had to dodge violence from the militant Al-Shabab group while training on the so-called "Road of Death". Zamzam competed with her body fully covered, but, after the Olympics, her family in Somalia received death threats because of what Al-Shabab considered unacceptable behaviour for a...


The first Tokyo Olympics

The first Olympic Games in Japan were held in 1964, less than 20 years after the country lost the Second World War. The bombed-out centre of Tokyo had been virtually rebuilt following the Allied Occupation, and the Japanese took the opportunity to showcase new technology such as the Bullet Train and colour TV broadcasts. Ashley Byrne talks to wrestling gold medallist, Yojiro Uetake, about his memories of the games. The programme is a Made In Manchester Production. PHOTO: Japanese student...


Stacy Dragila - Queen of the Women's Pole Vault

At the 2000 Sydney games, women were able to compete in the Pole Vault at the Olympics for the first time. It followed the emergence of a generation of vaulters led by America’s Stacy Dragila, who proved that women could master an event traditionally regarded as too physically demanding and too technically difficult for them. Stacy Dragila went on to win the first women’s Olympic gold medal in her discipline. She talks to Simon Watts. PHOTO: Stacy Dragila competing in 1999 (Getty Images)


Bjorn Borg

In the late 1970s and early 80s, Sweden’s Bjorn Borg was the biggest star in world tennis and arguably the sport’s first sex symbol. Always besieged by young female fans, Borg won five Wimbledon championships in a row and enjoyed a famous rivalry with John McEnroe, which culminated in an epic tie-break in the 1980 final. But Bjorn Borg would then shock the world of sport by retiring in 1983 at the age of just 26. Simon Watts brings together Borg’s Wimbledon memories, as recorded in the BBC...


France’s Euro 2000 triumph

In July 2000, France became only the second team to hold the World Cup and European Championship titles at the same time. Already the reigning World Champions, a French side featuring all-time greats such as Zinedine Zidane and Didier Deschamps struggled to break down their Italian opponents. But everything changed in the final moments of a dramatic final, as midfielder Robert Pires tells Steve Hankey. The programme is a Whistledown Production.


The Panenka penalty

In June 1976, Czechoslovakia won the men’s European football championship with probably the most famous penalty kick in history. During a penalty shootout against West Germany, midfielder Antonín Panenka waited for the goalkeeper to dive and then casually chipped the ball down the middle of the goal. The technique is now known as a “Panenka” and has been copied by everyone from Zinedine Zidane to Leo Messi. Antonín Panenka talks to Ian Williams.


Football's Coming Home

In June 1996, an England team led by Paul Gascoigne went on an impressive run as hosts of the European championships – with the terrace anthem “Football’s Coming Home” becoming the soundtrack for a summer of national euphoria. But the tournament would end in English tears when future national manager Gareth Southgate missed the decisive penalty in an agonising semi-final shoot-out against Germany. Alex Capstick talks to England midfielder Darren Anderton about how the country embraced a team...


The Van Basten wonder goal

In June 1988, Holland finally won a major international football tournament when they defeated the Soviet Union in the final of the 1988 European Championship. The Dutch sealed victory with an almost-impossible volley by striker Marco Van Basten. Matthew Kenyon talks to Arnold Muhren, the veteran midfielder who set up one of the greatest goals in football history. PHOTO:


Denmark's shock Euros win

In June 1992, Denmark’s top footballers were relaxing on the beach when they received an urgent call to take part in the Euro 92 tournament. The Danes had failed to qualify for the championship, but were now needed as replacements for Yugoslavia, a country that no longer existed because it had descended into civil war. In a surprise to everyone, including themselves, Denmark then went on to win the tournament, defeating Holland and West Germany on the way. Will Yates talks to midfielder John...


Indonesia's badminton heroine

In 1992, badminton legend Susi Susanti won the first ever Olympic Gold medal for Indonesia. It was the first time that badminton had been included as an Olympic sport in the games, giving them a special significance for Susi's badminton-obsessed home country. For Susi, it was also a moment when she could show her national pride as an Indonesian who hailed from the nation's ethnic Chinese minority. She talks to Jill Achineku. The programme is a Whistledown Production. PHOTO: Susi Susanti in...