When the US magazine "Time" declares an athlete the athlete of the year, even though she has missed almost all her athletic goals, something special has happened. US gymnastics star Simone Biles turned weakness into strength at the Tokyo Olympics. Her phrase "I have mental issues," and her forfeiting a majority of the competitions where she was expected to win gold medals in each, opened a door. Athletes around the world have been talking more freely about pressure, self-doubt, mental illness ever since. For us, too, Biles is the athlete of the year.
Formula 1 had a moment with the final race of the season that was reminiscent of the great duels of old. With Max Verstappen's victory, Lewis Hamilton missed out on an eighth world title, and with it the status of sole record holder. But for us, Michael Schumacher will always be the greatest legend anyway. Eight years after his skiing accident, we don't know how he's doing. In the documentary about his life broadcast on Netflix this year, the family thankfully refrained from showing recent pictures of the 52-year-old. So the memory remains unscathed - and no one could describe the status of Schumi better than Lewis Hamilton's boss, Toto Wolff, did in the Bild newspaper: "No one will ever be greater than Schumi. Even if the statistics would see Lewis in front. But Michael has shaped a generation like no other, he is iconic." Keep fighting, Michael!
Leg amputee against Bundesliga coach - what happened at the legendary goal wall of the "ZDF-Sportstudio" in October was a magical television moment. Christian Heintz, who had to have his lower right leg amputated after an accident eleven years ago, beat Mainz coach Bo Svensson in a goal wall shootout. The father of three children from the Volcanic Eifel is one of those who are gradually raising the profile of amputee football in Germany. In the meantime, thanks to his efforts, an amputee football national league has even been established. The opportunity to play football is literally a crutch for amputees: football has "decisively helped him to find his way back into life", says Heintz.
Italia, che bella: A title here, a sensation there, and always cheering crowds. Italy is the sports nation of the year for us. Okay, your "Football is coming home" tweet after the national team's victory over England in the European Championship final at Wembley was more than cheeky. But it was still fun. Then came the European Championship titles for both the men's and women's volleyball teams, and Filippo Ganna rode faster than anyone in the individual race at the Road Cycling World Championships in Bruges. But it all overshadowed the Olympics in Tokyo in the end. Usain Bolt is history, Marcell Jacobs is now called the fastest man in the world. In addition to the individual gold in the 100-meter dash, there was also gold for Italy in the 100-meter relay, plus gold, silver and bronze for Italians in the women's sprint, and more medals for Italy than ever before at the Olympics. Che bella!
Swimming with trisomy 21? Hardly possible, the doctors told his parents. But Chris Nikic learned to swim. And not only that. He also learned to run like an extreme athlete and ride a bike like a touring cyclist. And that's how the 22-year-old Nikic became the first person with Down syndrome to complete the Ironman. 3.8 kilometers of swimming distance, then 180.2 kilometers on the bike and at the end the marathon distance of 42.195 kilometers of running. His father trained him according to the idea that every day one percent more has to be put on the athletic line. In the beginning Chris hardly swam a lane - in the end almost four kilometres. As his athletic success has grown, so have the young man's dreams. Asked about his goal, he told the "Schweizer Tagesanzeiger": "To buy his own house, buy his own car - and marry a hot blonde from Minnesota."
For some he was too aloof, for others not successful enough - but all of a sudden Alexander Zverev is getting there. 2021 was his most successful tennis year with five tournament victories and the crowning Olympic gold. At the age of 24, the Hamburg native also seems to finally know exactly where he belongs. The son of Russian parents ended his ex-manager's marketing idea of building him up as an international star. "I was born in Germany, I grew up there, I'm German," Zverev told "Tennis Magazine." And he is happy that children here "see him as a role model and start to be interested in tennis." That's the maturation of the year - perhaps also owed to his new love with Sophia Thomalla. "I play extremely well with her behind me". And now he can also call himself Sportsman of the Year 2021 - the award was presented to him by his brother Mischa a few days ago in Baden-Baden.
The comeback of the year is celebrated by the sports clubs in Bavaria. There, there were almost 20,000 new members at the start of the school year - 8000 more than in 2019, for example, and thus before the Corona pandemic. After numerous clubs lost many members because of Corona, this is some of the best sports news of the year. It was helpful that the Bavarian state government launched a voucher program for children, and subsidizes each annual membership with 30 euros.