Sport is all about winning, isn’t it? Well, yes and no. For every winner, there’s always a loser – often a whole string of them. And while the achievements of the ecstatic victor are heralded by delirious fans, and his, her or their story is emblazoned across triumphant headlines for days, if not decades, the story of the loser is often…lost.
This book, by former Age sportswriter Patrick Mangan, is a tribute to the defeated. Some whose performances have been all but forgotten; others whose exploits are unforgettable. In short, it’s the tale of some of the bravest, unluckiest, most ridiculous defeats in sporting history.
How did Aussie ace Pat Rafter lose the 2001 Wimbledon final to the enigmatic Goran Ivanisevic before the most raucous crowd in the tournament’s history? Why did Collingwood lose to Carlton in the 1970 grand final after being 44 points to the good at halftime? Typically, there’s only one way to win – by being the best. But there are countless ways of having victory snatched from your grasp. Brilliance isn’t always enough – witness Gary Ablett’s sensational nine-goal haul in 1989 that almost clinched arguably the most extraordinary AFL grand final of all. Courage mightn’t get you over the line either – think of Allan Border and Jeff Thomson’s titanic last-wicket partnership against England in 1982 that nearly won one of the closest-fought Tests ever.
And sometimes wretched bad luck is enough to stop you in your tracks – look no further than Australian walker Jane Saville, only a few hundred metres from a gold medal at Sydney 2000 in the 20-kilometre walk when she was – to the horror of Aussie onlookers – tragically disqualified.
From the calamitous to the hilarious, from the poignant to the absurd, sport is about so much more than gold medals, premiership trophies and urns filled with ashes. And in this book, some of those sportspeople, whose stories are as courageous and compelling as they are will finally get the glory they deserve.