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April 16, 2014

YEAR-ENDER

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ten sporting flops of 2013

By John O’Brien
Reuters

Rory McIlroy (Golf)

The Northern Irishman ended 2012 at the top of the rankings after a second major win, at the US PGA Championship, and he was the leading money-earner on both sides of the Atlantic. But the 24-year-old slumped this year because of new equipment, off-course distractions including his relationship with Caroline Wozniacki and a first lengthy dip in form since turning professional. McIlroy, now number six, finally tasted victory after edging Adam Scott at the Australian Open this month.

Formula One (Motor racing)

Sebastian Vettel clinched a fourth successive world title by winning the last nine races of the year. For most fans, however, the season was a turn-off after the European summer break because Vettel was significantly faster than his rivals on tyres that were perfect for his Red Bull. Races in the second half of the season followed an all-too-familiar pattern of Vettel qualifying on the front row, establishing an early lead, pulling well clear and managing his tyres and pitstops to the finish.

Bradley Wiggins (Cycling)

Backing up a season that produced Britain’s first Tour de France victory and an Olympic gold medal was never going to be an easy task and Wiggins seemed to buckle under the weight of expectation in 2013. Dumped as Team Sky leader for the Tour de France, Wiggins targeted the Giro d’Italia. But crashes and a chest infection forced an early retirement and a knee injury ruled out a defence of his Tour title. He won the Tour of Britain victory in September but his season ended when he abandoned the world championship road race after just one lap.

Roger Federer (Tennis)

Being an all-time great makes life hard for anyone who competes after passing their peak. While Federer is considered a veteran at 32, he will be disappointed by a poor campaign this year after ending 2012 as Wimbledon champion and ranked number two in the world. The Swiss won just one title, failed to reach a grand slam final for the first time since 2002, saw his majors’ quarterfinals streak halted at 36 by Sergiy Stakhovsky at Wimbledon and ended the year ranked sixth.

Manchester City (Soccer)

The big-spending 2012 Premier League champions put up a poor defence of their title. They finished 11 points behind city rivals United after their away form deserted them in the second half of the season. An early Champions League exit and FA Cup final loss to relegated Wigan Athletic triggered the departure of manager Roberto Mancini but replacement Manuel Pellegrini’s side are also struggling to win away from the Etihad Stadium this season.

Jose Mourinho (Soccer)

Mourinho’s meteoric rise through the managerial ranks hit the buffers when the self-proclaimed “Special One” endured what he called the “worst season of my career” at Real Madrid. The Portuguese suffered a breakdown in relations with key players in the Madrid dressing room and failed to deliver the 10th European title the club hierarchy demanded. After Barcelona reclaimed the league title from Madrid and city rivals Atlético beat Real to win the Spanish Cup in the Bernabeu, Mourinho left the club by “mutual agreement” and headed back to London to manage Chelsea.

Pittsburgh Penguins (Ice hockey)

Pittsburgh dominated the Eastern Conference in a lockout-shortened regular season, winning 36 of 48 games with a power-packed lineup that included All-Stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and standout goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. A trip to the Stanley Cup appeared a formality heading into the post-season but a dream showdown against the Chicago Blackhawks was denied them when they were swept in four games by the fourth-seeded Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Dwight Howard (Basketball)

Howard was a leading light for the Orlando Magic for eight seasons and when he joined the Los Angeles Lakers, many were predicting great things. Nicknamed “Superman”, Howard failed to gel with his teammates, especially Kobe Bryant, and struggled for form and fitness all season as the Lakers limped into the playoffs before being swept by the San Antonio Spurs. Howard finished the season with his lowest scoring average since his second year in the NBA. After just one campaign with the Lakers, Howard opted to join the Houston Rockets.

Albert Pujols (Baseball)

The 33-year-old slugger from the Dominican Republic was lured away from the St Louis Cardinals in 2011 by a 254 million dollars 10-year contract offer from the LA Angels, who were hoping his power would help blast them to a World Series. After steady improvement in 2012, he hobbled through to August before ending his season due to a foot injury after batting just .258 with a paltry 17 home runs and 64 RBI. Pujols had never hit less than 32 homers before joining the Angels.

McLaren (Motor racing)

Many felt Lewis Hamilton had made a mistake when he walked away from McLaren at the end of 2012 to join Mercedes after McLaren had won five races. But Hamilton’s decision proved inspired as his former team struggled to make inroads after a slow start to the season, amassing just 122 points to slip down to fifth in the constructors’ standings. Jenson Button’s fourth place in the final grand prix was the team’s best result and Hamilton’s replacement, Sergio Perez, is to be replaced by Kevin Magnussen in 2014 after failing to impress in his one season.

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