Highlights of the sporting year ahead
It’s not a World Cup or Olympic year but there are plenty of top sporting events to watch out for in 2017 and you can catch a number of them live with a bit of foresight. It also promises to be a big breakthrough year for women’s cricket, rugby and football.
Personally I’m looking forward to a day of Test cricket at Trent Bridge and a session at the IAAF World Championships at London’s former Olympic Stadium to revive memories of the golden summer of 2012. Here is my selection:-
Australian Open, Melbourne, Jan 16-29
Can new world number 1 Sir Andy Murray dethrone perennial champion Novak Djokovic and win the Australian Open for the first time? And how far can rising star of women’s tennis and British No 1 Johanna Konta go?
Rugby Union Six Nations, February 4-26 and March 10-18
Will anyone stop the juggernaut which is Eddie Jones’ revitalised England? And who will put their hands up for selection for the British & Irish Lions squad? The anticipation is bound to add plenty of spice to this year’s tournament.
Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne, March 12
Lewis Hamilton is favourite to claim a fourth F1 world title following the retirement of last year’s winner Nico Rosberg but there may be as much interest away from the track as on it as 86-year-old commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone ponders his own future in the sport.
London Marathon, April 23
Always a favourite day in my sporting calendar as club and charity runners line up alongside the world’s elite. Each has their own story and we’ll all know and care about some of those taking part personally.
Final day of Premier League season, May 21; FA Cup Final, Wembley, May 27; UEFA Champions League Final, Cardiff, June 3
Hopefully the team you support (or mine!) will have a say in the destiny of these three trophies but even if they don’t there should still be plenty of excitement.
ICC Champions Trophy (Cardiff, Edgbaston, The Oval), June 1-18; Women’s Cricket World Cup (various venues), June 26-July 23
The England Cricket team’s one day form has improved in recent times so they will be in with a shout, but the women’s team, led by Heather Knight, is probably in better shape and will fancy their chances of World Cup glory on home soil. A good tournament could do wonders for the development and popularity of the women’s game.
British and Irish Lions Tour, New Zealand, June 3-July 8
With England going unbeaten in 2016 and Ireland having recently won against the All Blacks for the first time, coach Warren Gatland’s squad can seriously challenge the hosts. Expect an explosive series with the first Test in Auckland on June 24.
America’s Cup, Bermuda, June 17, 18, 24 & 25
2017 will also be a big year for sailing with Sir Ben Ainslie aiming to bring the America’s Cup to Britain for the first time.
Tour de France. July 1-23
Will it be a fourth title for Chris Froome? And will he finally get the recognition he so evidently deserves? Nairo Quintana and Adam Yates, who provides further British interest, will have a big say.
UEFA Women’s Euros, Netherlands, July 16-August 6
Having come third in the 2015 World Cup, England’s women footballers, led by Steph Houghton, will start this tournament in confident mood. An opening tie against Scotland on July 19 should ensure significant interest in a competition that is expected to give another major boost to the women’s game.
World ParaAthletics Championships, London. July 14-23
Track and field will take centre stage this summer with our Paralympians, including our very own sprint star Sophie Hahn, stretching every sinew to repeat their gold run from Rio.
IAAF World Athletics Championships, London, August 4-13
The Worlds will provide a fitting send-off for triple Olympic champion Usain Bolt, racing competitively for the final time before he retires, and also for double Olympic champion Sir Mo Farah who is likely to focus on the marathon from 2018. Katarina Johnson-Thompson will take up the heptathlon baton from the retired Jessica Ennis-Hill. And watch out for the emergence of Scotland’s Laura Muir as a serious contender on the big stage.
Women’s Rugby World Cup, Ireland and Northern Ireland, August 9-26
Coming just after the Lions tour and before the domestic season kicks off, this tournament should attract plenty of attention and defending champions England have a favourable pool draw, avoiding the hosts, Canada and New Zealand.
The Ashes, Australia, November 3-January 8, 2018
The last time England turned up on Australian soil they were ground into the dirt, losing the series 5-0. This time, with the likes of Joe Root and Ben Stokes at their peak and the emergence of Haseeb Hameed to open alongside Alastair Cook, they should fare significantly better.