Richard Johnson and Britain’s sporting stars that realised their career-defining dreams
With the brilliant Sir Anthony McCoy in the weighing room, Richard Johnson had endured a career of near-misses in his pursuit for the ultimate crown – to be Champion Jump Jockey.
But, despite being runner-up to McCoy 16 times, ‘Dickie’ will now enter his name into the history books at Sandown Park this weekend alongside the many greats of racing.
With the 2015/ 16 Stobart-sponsored trophy now within Johnson’s grasp, we take a look at Britain’s modern sporting stars that missed out on victory but fought back to eventually ground out career-defining glory.
Richard Johnson – 2016
For the majority of his career, the 38-year-old rider has lived in the shadow of arguably the greatest Jump jockey of all time in Sir Anthony McCoy. However, 2016 is the year that will provide him with his greatest triumph in the saddle.
Following McCoy’s retirement, Johnson has dominated the Stobart Jump Jockeys’ Championship from the very start – working tirelessly to travel the length and breadth of Great Britain in order to register vital winners for his cause.
His nearest rival, Aidan Coleman, currently lies 100 winners behind the Champion Jockey-elect.
This season, Dickie’s performance in the Championships is reminiscent of Usain Bolt stretching clear in the Olympic 100m Final. It’s been sublime.
Sandown Park on Saturday 23 April will finally see Johnson crowned the deserved champion. It’s his realisation of the long-awaited dream.
Andy Murray – 2013
Having lost four agonising Grand Slam finals previously in his career, Andy Murray was quickly gaining a reputation as a nearly-man. Fred Perry’s Wimbledon record seemed safe, but it all changed in 2013.
It wasn’t until the partnership with coach Ivan Lendl that things really motored into life.
Weeks after emotionally losing out on the Wimbledon title in 2012 to the greatest player of all time, Roger Federer, the Scot fought deep to provide the baying nation with gold medal glory at the London Olympics back at SW19. It was the catalyst for more success.
A few weeks after that, finally, Murray defeated Serbian Novak Djokovic to win the US Open in a gruelling match that really tested his resolve to claim a first major title.
Roll on Wimbledon, then.
In 2013, Britain had not had a Mens’ Singles champion for over 70 years. However, the long wait came to an end on Sunday 7 July.
In a brilliant masterclass showing how to remain composed with monumental pressure on your shoulders, Murray finally did it, beating Djokovic 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 to win Wimbledon.
A national dream had been realised.
Jenson Button – 2009
Jenson Button’s career, despite his brilliant talents, probably did not look likely to collide with being crowned the Formula 1 World Champion. However, despite several successes in adversity, it did eventually happen in a brilliant turn of events.
Contracted to cash-strapped Honda, who were the subject of a buy-out from Ross Brawn – the supremo that helped guide Ferrari and Michael Schumacher to dominance in the late 90s and early 2000s, Button’s prayers were answered.
Under the name of Brawn GP, their car’s performance was far superior to their rivals’ – despite minimal investment. Big success followed big success to ensure Jensen drove himself onto the prestigious roll of honour of previous champions that includes the likes of Sir Sterling Moss, Sir Jackie Stewart and Ayrton Senna.
Good guys certainly don’t always finish last, you know…
Katherine Grainger – 2012
Sometimes in the pursuit to be the best, the path is exceptionally testing. But, when glory is achieved, it tastes so sweet.
The above can be applied to Katherine Grainger’s hunt for Olympic gold.
In Sydney in 2000, Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008, all-out displays could only muster silver medals in what turned out to be a serious test of her mettle and drive.
Though, at her home Olympics on the lakes of Eton Dorney, she came into her own.
Partnering Anna Watkins in the Double Sculls, the pair were unstoppable in their division capping off a brilliant season with an emotional Olympic gold medal-winning performance in 2012.
England Cricket team – 2005
With so much heartache previously against an Australian side that is widely regarded as one of the best cricket sides of all time, the unthinkable happened on home soil as the nation became entranced and inspired by The Ashes of 2005.
Not since 1986 – 19 years earlier – had England tasted victory in the fiercely-competitive tournament.
But, led by Michael Vaughan with Andrew Flintoff, Kevin Pietersen and Marcus Trescothick the stars of the side, England defeated the dream team of Ricky Ponting, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath in tantalising fashion.
At The Oval – and beyond – the nation partied and danced as the bails were lifted and Britain celebrated one of its most memorable sporting moments.
The nation didn’t like cricket – it loved it.