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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


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




Novak Djokovic: The road to success

Aged thirteen, Novak Djokovic appeared at coach Nikola Pilic's tennis academy near Munich. He would soon become Pilic's star pupil thanks to his incredible self-discipline and natural tennis brain. Twenty grand slams later, the Serbian star is still in touch with Nikola Pilic, and regards him as one of his mentors. Nikola Pilic speaks to Petra Zivic. PHOTO: Novak Djokovic in 2008, the year he won his first tennis major (Getty Images)


Skiing in Afghanistan

In 2011, the rugged mountains of Bamiyan province in central Afghanistan became the backdrop of something as unlikely as it was uplifting - an international ski scene. As Bamiyan was then relatively safe for tourists, a new travel agency, supported by a development NGO, started offering holidays to skiers seeking a unique adventure. A ski school was also set up for local villagers keen to learn, including Alishah Farhang, who went on to become one of Afghanistan's top skiers. However, as he...


Yale women rowers protest

In 1976, the Yale women's rowing team stripped naked to demand equal treatment for women's sport. The protest attracted national attention in the USA and helped force universities to make the same funding and facilities available to women athletes as to men. Catherine Davies talks to two of the Yale protestors, Christine Ernst and Ginny Gilder. (Photo: The 1976 Yale women's rowing team in action. Credit: Getty Images).


Nigeria's Paralympic heroine

At the 2016 Paralympics in Rio, Nigerian shotputter, Lauritta Onye, became a social media sensation thanks to her cart-wheeling gold-medal celebration dance. Onye has dwarfism and has never grown beyond four foot one, or 125 centimetres. She suffered social stigma in Nigeria and at one point ended up selling DVDs on the street in order to survive. But a taster session of Paralympic sport would transform her life. She talks to Ian Williams . PHOTO: Lauritta Onye competing at the Rio...


Bangladesh's football heroes

In 1971, the Bangladeshi football team made history at the height of the country's war of independence when they played a series of matches in India. The games were the first to be played under the flag of a nation that was still not officially recognised and helped raise money for Bangladesh's independence struggle. Farhana Haider talks to star striker Kazi Salahuddin, who was smuggled into India so he could take part in the matches. Photo:The Shadhin Bangla Football Dol "Free Bengal...


The Tibetan football team

In 2001, a group of Tibetan exiles and a Danish ex-footballer teamed up to create the Tibetan national football team, in the face of many obstacles, including threats from China. Robert Nicholson talked to Michael Nybrandt and team captain Sonam Wangyal about their first ever game against Greenland. A Whistledown Production, first broadcast in 2017. PHOTO: The Tibetan team lining up for their match against Greenland (Getty Images)


The football wages revolution

In 1961, England’s top players threatened strike action in order to force the Football League to scrap its limit on wages of 20 pounds a week. Their victory was a turning point for the sport as it ushered in the modern era of football mega-salaries. In 2011, Lucy Williamson spoke to the late Jimmy Armfield, a former star defender for Blackpool and England captain. PHOTO: The late Jimmy Armfield in the early 1960s (Getty Images)



In November 2009, Zenyatta became the first – and only – mare to win the Breeders Cup Classic, one of the most prestigious horse races in America. Undefeated in all but one of her races, Zenyatta became wildly popular with the public; she was as well-known for her dance moves in the paddock as she was for coming from behind to snatch victory at the last moment. Zenyatta’s jockey, Mike Smith, talks to Jonathan Holloway. The programme is a Made-In-Manchester Production. PHOTO: Zenyatta and...


The woman who rowed the Atlantic

In December 1999, the American Tori Murden McClure became the first woman to row across the Atlantic Ocean single-handed. It was the culmination of a dream that had brought her close to death many times as she capsized again and again during a hurricane on a previous attempt. She was inspired to keep trying by working with the great boxer Muhammad Ali. Tori Murden McClure talks to Claire Bowes. Photo: Tori Murden McClure in the 'American Pearl' 1999 (courtesy of Sector Sport Watches and Tori...


Lebanon's match-fixing scandal

In 2011, the Lebanese national football team reached the final phase of World Cup qualification for the first time, sparking wild celebrations among the fans. But within months, the game in Lebanon was engulfed in a huge match-fixing scandal focusing on a suspicious-looking goal in a match against Qatar, as well as domestic fixtures. In 2013, 24 Lebanese players were found guilty in an investigation ordered by FIFA and the national side’s World Cup campaign fizzled out. Alex Eccleston...


Zola Budd

At the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, South African-born Zola Budd collided with the home favourite, Mary Decker, in the final of the women’s 3,000 metres. Decker was left weeping on the ground, while Budd was booed by the crowd and had to leave the US with a police escort after receiving death threats. Simon Watts introduces the memories of Zola Budd as recorded in the BBC archives. PHOTO: Zola Budd, left, with Mary Decker in the 1984 Olympic final (Getty Images)


The Dumptruck: King of sumo

In the 1980s, a Hawaiian-born wrestler took the traditional world of Japanese sumo by storm. Known as the Dumptruck because of his huge size, he won legions of fans and paved the way for the internationalisation of the sport. The Dumptruck shares his love of Sumo - and Hawaiian hula music - with Will Yates. The programme is a Whistledown Production, first broadcast in 2014. Photo: The Dumptruck in his prime. (Credit: Getty Images).


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)