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2012 - The Greatest Sporting Year

Michael Atherton hails the queen of the ring, Stuart Barnes recalls a heroic horse and it was the year of the comeback for Jamie Redknapp...

Last Updated: 24/12/12 1:03pm

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Michael Atherton (Sky Sports Cricket)

Cricket highlight of the year

Kevin Pietesen's 149 against South Africa in the second Test at Headingley, against a damned good attack featuring Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander, was the best innings I've seen all year. South Africa had England right under the pump on a pitch that was anything but straightforward yet Pietersen thrived where everybody else struggled; no-one else could get the ball away at more than two an over but within a couple of hours of Pietersen batting, Graeme Smith was forced to scatter his fielders everywhere. There was one particular passage of play when Morkel came around the wicket which was very reminiscent of Brett Lee's efforts against Pietersen at the Oval in 2005.

The innings against South Africa, of course, led to the press conference that sparked off probably the most interesting cricketing story of the year, which was Pietersen's relationship with the rest of the England players, his estrangement from the team and subsequent re-integration.

Other sporting highlight of the year

I was lucky enough to see Ireland's Katie Taylor win her gold medal at the Olympics. It was a terrific event, with lots of Irish supporters in attendance getting behind Katie, who is an astonishing sportswoman in many ways. There must have been a crowd of about 10-12,000 in - many of whom were Irish; I don't know how they got their tickets but they must have been very lucky in the ballot! So it was a terrific, atmospheric night at the ExCel Arena especially when it came to singing the anthem. I'd never seen women's boxing before but it was a great spectacle.

Jamie Redknapp (Sky Sports Football)

Football highlight of the year

We were lucky last season to have such dramatic climaxes to the Premier League and Champions League. Manchester City left it very, very late to score the winner against QPR and win their first Premier League title, just edging out neighbours Manchester United on goal difference. It had been a fascinating title race with twists and turns and the drama on the last day summed it up.

But Manchester City eventually lifting the title wasn't as much of a surprise as Chelsea winning the Champions League. That really was incredible. For them to have so much good fortune along the way, for Lionel Messi, Arjen Robben and Bastian Schweinsteiger all to miss crucial penalties against them... you couldn't make it up. I don't think we'll see either the Premier League or Champions League won in such a fashion ever again. It was the stuff dreams are made of.

Other sporting highlight of the year

Generally 2012 has been a brilliant year for sport and the Olympics in London were amazing. However, I love my golf and the Ryder Cup was one of my favourite memories from the past 12 months. For Europe to be so far behind going into the final day but pull off an incredible victory was remarkable. Ewen Murray called it the 'miracle of Medinah' and it was almost a miracle. Not many people truly thought Europe would do it. I'm good friends with Luke Donald and I was cheering him on, especially. I think his point against Bubba Watson was one of the best moments and set the tone for the Sunday. 2012 was certainly the year of the comebacks!

Jim Watt (Sky Sports Boxing)

Boxing highlight of the year

It was good to see Kell Brook coming of age in his fight with Carson Jones. We've got a high opinion of Brook's ability, skill and talent but in the final section of that fight it was good to see he's got that bit of grittiness required. He'll be carrying that into the new year when he challenges for the world title. It will be good for his confidence that he can mix it at the top level.

Other sporting highlight of the year

It's got to be the Ryder Cup. Being a boxer you love to see a sportsman or team turning something around which seems impossible to turn around - and that's exactly what happened in the Ryder Cup. I thought it was phenomenal. It was all given up as hopeless, nobody gave them a chance but they all rallied together and we saw some wonderful individual performances. I was glued to it. I'm drawn towards it because I play a lot myself and love the game. Entertainment-wise I thought it was fantastic. On the sporting calendar you don't see anything better than that.

Stuart Barnes (Sky Sports Rugby Union)

Rugby Union highlight of the year

Now I know I have something of a reputation for being something of a cynic but there is no way any Englishman could look further than Twickenham, December 1st for the rugby moment of the season... Manu Tuilagi running through Dan Carter and putting Chris Ashton in for a try would be my rugby micro moment within the match.

Other sporting highlight of the year

Outside rugby it has to be Henry Cecil's reaction to Frankel's win at York; a great horse and a great trainer in perfect harmony. In this age of hyperbole Frankel had the speed to outrun the rubbish and greatness as if it was seven stones; an unforgettable horse.

Neal Foulds (Sky Sports Snooker)

Snooker highlight of the year

It was a great moment when Ronnie O'Sullivan won the World Championship for a fourth time, despite the fact it didn't do a lot for the game because he's barely played since. People wanted to see him do it but it came out of the blue. Some people said he'd never win a world title again but he managed to do that and at the time it was a real high point. He managed to prove his doubters wrong, so credit to him.

Other sporting highlight of the year

I loved it when Mo Farah won the 5,000m and 10,000m at the London 2012 Olympics this summer. It says a lot about the year of sport in this country that he can achieve such a great performance as that but still may not be sportsman of the year because of the likes of Bradley Wiggins. But, for me, it was unquestionably the highlight of the year when he achieved that. When you think of all the greats in that sport who didn't achieve it, then you realise it was a phenomenal achievement. Yes, Miruts Yifter and a couple of others have achieved it too, but for me, seeing Farah do it in front of a home crowd was a great highlight.

Ewen Murray (Sky Sports Golf)

Golf highlight of the year

The golfing memory of the year, and there were many to choose from if you are a European, had to be Ian Poulter's heroic effort on the Saturday afternoon of the Ryder Cup. At around 4pm, Jose Maria Olazabal's troops were in danger of heading into Sunday 12/4 down, a place from which there would be no return. There were some despondent faces in the European camp and slowly a cloud of depression was descending on our hopes of victory. Enter, Ian Poulter. After Rory birdied the 13th, Poulter took the event by the scruff of the neck reeling off five closing birdies and in the process gave his side some hope, something to build on. A scoreline of 10/6 was the best Europe could have wished after day two.

I would not single out anyone in particular on Sunday, because all 12 of Olli's troops were majestic. The emotion was something to behold as the closing minutes unfolded. I felt it was a dream rather than reality; 21 years on after THAT Langer putt at Kiawah Island, a similar one was faced by his fellow countryman, Martin Kaymer. Our game is great for the manner in which it is played and the one image that will live with me forever was the one of Phil Mickelson at the 17th in his match against Justin Rose. The American having all but holed a treacherous pitch watched Rose hole from 70 feet. His reaction? Thumbs up to Justin. To a true golf fan, it was a moment to treasure.

Other sporting highlight of the year

With the glorious Olympics still fresh in the memory, Andy Murray's first grand slam, Chelsea's Champions League victory and the inspiring heroes of the Paralympics it's a tough choice because this year, there are so many deserving sportspersons and so many great moments to choose from.

As a football fan, I would pick Sergio Aguero's late, late goal at the Etihad to end what was a fascinating race for the Premier League title. Eight points behind and a handful of games left, Manchester City achieved the improbable. When you think this race is over nine months and it came down to the dying seconds of the final match of the season, it's what dreams are made of. The moments before the goal, the cameras showed the pain and disappointment of the home supporters, an image that was transformed with one last kick. The joy of the champions' fans was overwhelming and moments like that make you realise why the world watches our Premier League.

Max Rushden (Soccer AM)

Football highlight of the year

Genuinely, it was my Saturday team: when Ash from the show slipped on the ball after 20 seconds, cleared out their defender two-footed, lost his contact lenses, got a migraine and had to go home. Amateur football at its best! In the real game, any time Pirlo passed the ball for Italy, and the last day of the season - I had £20 on QPR to win at City at 28-1! So the last minute was disappointing. But Martin Tyler and that commentary... amazing.

Other sporting highlight of the year

I was actually away for most of the Olympics in Colombia and they were just obsessed with the women's triple jump so I saw endless replays of that. So, for me, just in front of Andy Murray winning the US Open, it's the final day of the Ryder Cup. For me, the Ryder Cup is, bar none, the greatest sporting event. Every shot seems to matter so much. I had about six friends over and by the end there were standing ovations in my living room. When Justin Rose holed that putt on the 17th... unbelievable. And the stress of Martin Kaymer at the end was too much. That was sport at its best.

For an in-depth look at the highlights of the year, tune in to 2012 - The Greatest Sporting Year, 11am, Christmas Day, Sky Sports 1 HD or catch one of the many repeats.

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