It’s the antihero antidote to the BBC’s saccharine Sports Personality of the Year awards, a selection of our favourite cheats, heels, villains and sore losers from 2021.
“I use mouthwash myself several times a day during the coronavirus pandemic, and I recommend it to my patients,” said Voracek, an orthopaedic doctor who often works with Czech tennis players on the WTA Tour. “Commonly available mouthwashes can significantly affect coronavirus transmission.” As can vaccines. Unfortunately, according to the Czech press, Voracek didn’t believe in using them. He tested positive for Covid soon after he arrived in Tokyo. Which made him patient zero in an outbreak that swept through the Czech Olympic team travelling on the plane with him. Six athletes and one coach were forced to drop out of the Games and hole up in quarantine. “We cried, then we swore, then we cried again,” said beach volleyball player Marketa Slukova, who had spent four years training for that moment.
Shakib Al Hasan
After two decades as a professional, you would think Shakib would have learned how to handle a rough umpiring decision by now, but no. In June, Shakib was playing a T20 game in the Dhaka Premier League when Imran Parvez rejected his lbw appeal. Shakib immediately hoofed over the stumps, and started shouting in the face of the umpire, who took a measured step backwards. Shakib wasn’t finished. When the umpires took the players off for a rain break, he gave it the full Howard Beale “I’m mad as hell” treatment, ripped up all three stumps and smashed them down into the ground. “I apologise to the teams, management, tournament officials and organising committee for this human error,” he said afterwards. “Hopefully, I won’t be repeating this again in the future.” No guarantees in that “hopefully”.
However frustrating the lottery system they use to draw the mounts may be, however infuriating it must be for a coach to see their athlete’s dreams of winning an Olympic medal foiled by a truculent nag, Raisner punched a horse on live TV. She was disqualified and ordered to attend a “coach education seminar”, which includes a “humane treatment of animals” module. Modern pentathlon is now considering swapping the horse riding for a bicycle race.
There was a point, midway through this year, when Paire’s record in the last few months of play on the ATP Tour read: P36 W4 L32. The richly gifted Frenchman had sunk into an existential funk. The rankings were frozen, which meant he could keep losing without suffering the consequences. “I arrive, I take some money and I go to the next tournament,” he told L’Equipe. And he might have gotten away without anyone noticing if he’d just done it quietly. But no. Paire said February’s Australian Open was “shit”, “really crap”, “shameful” and grotesque. At the Argentina Open he tanked and spat on court and at Wimbledon, where he was fined for a “lack of effort” and heckled for “wasting everybody’s time”, he said: “I do not care about the people, I play for me and that’s it.” The French tennis association banned him from their Olympic team.
Seventeen miles into one of the most gruelling marathons in Olympic history, Amdouni swept every single bottle off the front row of the water table before nabbing the last one for himself. “The bottles are soaked in water, which makes them slippery,” Amdouni said in his defence. “However, it is clear that I am trying to get one from the beginning of the row but they slip as soon as we touch them.” It wasn’t.
Your take on Erasmus turns on whether you’re a Springbok supporter or not. Either he was on a crusade to expose prejudice against his team or he was trying to pile pressure on the referees during the Lions series. The one thing everyone can agree on, though, is that the man has a genuine talent for mischief. After his opposite number, Warren Gatland, had complained it was unfair for a South African to be working as the Television Match Official, Erasmus responded by compiling an hour-long video monologue detailing every last little decision against his team by the referee, Nic Berry, in the opening Test.
It was uploaded on Vimeo by someone called ‘JJ’ who may or may not have been related to what might or might not be a sockpuppet account Erasmus had previously retweeted to share similar clips. If that wasn’t enough, Erasmus swapped his spot in the stands so he could carry water and tactical messages on to the pitch (“Willie, Willie, get him, he’s shit”). When World Rugby banned him for two months, Erasmus cheerily tweeted a video of him drinking a pint: “I get the feeling the next two months will not be as bad as feared.”
There is a time and a place for making a serious point about whether or not amateurs should be allowed to enter professional snooker tournaments. It’s probably not when one of them has just knocked you out of the UK Championship in the opening round. “I am going to sound like a grumpy old man but that young man shouldn’t be in the tournament. It is not right, it is not fair,” said former champion Shaun Murphy after his 6-5 defeat to the 19-year-old Chinese player Si Jiahui. “I feel extremely hard done by that I have lost to someone who shouldn’t even be in the building. I don’t know why we as a sport allow amateurs to compete in professional tournaments.”