Saturday, 17 December 2016

Great sports photos of the 1980s (Part I)

Something slightly different for my final blog before Christmas, as I take a look back at some great sporting photos of the 1980s. This may be something I come back to in the future, so any suggestions for Part II are very welcome.

Please note: I have stated the photo source where this has been possible.

1980: Bjorn Borg wins Wimbledon

An image of a man who has just come through a gruelling battle lasting nearly four hours, Bjorn Borg slumping to his knees in celebration after beating John McEnroe in the Wimbledon final says everything you need to know about that match.

A titanic struggle for supremacy, as Borg managed to see off the challenge of the new kid on the block, this would be the last time the Swede would win at SW19.

Just look how cool Borg looks, though, even after spending so long on court, with his sweatbands, wristbands, beard, hair, and wooden tennis racket. Marvellous. 

1981: Botham at Edgbaston

© Getty Images

There are many iconic photos of Ian Botham during the 1981 Ashes series, but I've chosen this as my favourite. As Botham takes the final Australian wicket in his spell of 5/1 off 28 balls, this picture is a classic in highlighting a variety of sporting emotions.

It depicts the ecstasy of Botham; the gradual feeling of doom enveloping Alderman; the elation of wicketkeeper Bob Taylor, as he takes to the sky. It's hardly surprising that after this second hammer blow in a little under two weeks, the Australians were down and out.

1982: Thompson stands tall

Nobody does it better. Makes me feel sad for the rest. This photo of the heroic Daley Thompson at the end of the 1982 European Championship Decathlon 1,500 metres, is symbolic of his domination in the multi-disciplined event during the decade.

Standing above the wreckage of his fellow competitors, Daley looks every inch the legend he is, and it reminds me of the time Sir Alf Ramsey told his players to get to their feet before the 1966 World Cup final extra-time period. Psychologically and physically, Daley had no superiors.

1983: And Smith Must Score

© Getty Images

The 120th minute of the 1983 FA Cup final, and Brighton's Gordon Smith is through on goal with a chance to win the trophy against the mighty Manchester United. "And Smith must score," Radio 2 commentator Peter Jones stated. Oh dear.

Alas Smith didn't score, the picture above showing how the forward hit his shot too close to Gary Bailey. United easily went on to win the replay, so Smith was destined to go down in sporting infamy for his miss, many forgetting he actually opened the scoring in that final. Sadly, this miss, and the fanzine it inspired, will forever be linked with the unfortunate Mr Smith.

1984: Mansell shows his drive

© Renault Sport F1

Nigel Mansell may have struggled in the formative years of his Formula 1 career, but you could never question his drive. The conclusion of the 1984 Grand Prix in Dallas was a prime example of Mansell's determination, and the photo above is a graphic illustration of the lengths he would go get the job done.

A gearbox failure just before the end of the race saw Mansell step on to the track in an attempt to push his car over the finishing line. Inevitably exhaustion and the searing heat combined to push Mansell too far, and he collapsed on the circuit. To do this for a single championship point indicates just how dedicated Mansell was.

1985: The final frame, the final black

© Press Association

A lot of us know the story of the 1985 World Snooker Championships, and this photo neatly summarises the feelings of the two finalists prior to the post-match interviews. If you want to know the difference between winning and losing, then don't look away now.

"Look at his face, just look at his face," Barry Davies once famously cried. That commentary snippet could equally apply to Davis and Taylor. Davis looks dead in the eyes, whilst it is hard to think of anyone in history who has ever looked as happy as Taylor (barring Kriss Akabusi, obviously). 

1986: Tyson delivers the knock out blow

The destructive force of Mike Tyson is clear for all to see here, as the youngest man to win a world heavyweight title is in the process of sending Trevor Berbick to the canvas. Berbick was about to become the 26th of Tyson's first 28 opponents to be stopped, with the victor continuing on his way to unifying the division.

The progression of Tyson was exciting, thrilling, even slightly terrifying, and memories of watching highlights of his some of his bouts on ITV come flooding back. As a young sports enthusiast it was a great period for boxing, yet I'm not sure many of Tyson's opponents would agree.

1987: Ollie saves Seve

The 1987 Ryder Cup was the start of a beautiful friendship between Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal, and with the pair one-up playing the last in their foursomes match on the Saturday morning, the Spanish duo were odds on to register their third win out of three.

Two putts for the match from eight feet is an ideal situation to be in, especially with Seve standing above the ball. But the greens at Muirfield Village were slick and to the astonishment of everyone, the great master rolled his lag putt six feet past. Seve was beside himself, though he needn’t have worried. Olazabal confidently stroked the putt home for yet another European point and the hug of thanks from Seve said it all.

1988: Johnson stuns Lewis

The dirtiest race in history. The 1988 Olympic 100 metres men's final has gone down as one of the most memorable moments in sporting history, obviously not for all the right reasons. Ben Johnson's subsequent disqualification understandably rocked the sport, but he would not be the only athlete in this race to be implicated with illegal drug usage during his career.

Johnson's triumphant arm in the air, as he crosses the line metres in front of Carl Lewis, and the glance he delivers to his American rival, is significant in this photo. As is the total look of confusion on Lewis' face, as Calvin Smith and Linford Christie bust a gut for the line in between the pair. Yet another brilliant moment captured forever for all to see.

1989: It's Up For Grabs Now

© ColorSport

Fittingly, a dramatic picture right at the end of this blog. When Michael Thomas charged through the midfield late on during that unforgettable evening on May 26, naturally the images captured were just as memorable.

Like the 1981 Botham snap, you don't need to be a genius to see what is going on. There is joy on the face of Thomas; an "oh no, I've missed my bus" style resignation in the body language of Steve Nicol; an anxious glance over the shoulder from Grobbelaar. The highs and lows of sport in one click of a camera.


  1. Vinney Jones grabbing Gazz's nuts.

  2. Some excellent shots here, though I would have picked the photo of Seb Coe winning the 1500m in Moscow in front of Steve Ovett, arms outstretched, as my 1980 image. The ecstasy and triumph, as against the despair of his 800m defeat days earlier, perfectly captured.