The top sporting moments of 2019 so far

Olympic champions and young hopefuls made their mark in the first few months of the New Year.
By Olympic Channel

Everyone has their favourite sporting moments. The memorable victories, comebacks, farewells.

What are yours for 2019? Let us know on social media. Here are our top ones for the year so far.

Tennis - Naomi Osaka wins back-to-back Slams

Before the 2019 Australian Open, the previous eight Grand Slams had been won by eight different women.

That sequence started with Serena Williams taking the 2017 title in Melbourne, before taking time out to have her first child.

When Williams returned to action in 2018, she was beaten in the final of Wimbledon by Olympic silver medallist Angelique Kerber, and the US Open final by Naomi Osaka.

That victory saw Osaka become the first Japanese player, male or female, to win a Grand Slam title.

And in January 2019, the 21-year-old claimed her second major crown.

Naomi Osaka during the 2019 Australian Open final

It was an extraordinary tournament, with Williams squandering a 5-1 lead in the decider, and four match points, as she went out in the quarter-finals to Karolina Pliskova.

Osaka then beat Pliskova in the semis to set up a clash with another Czech, Rio 2016 bronze medallist Petra Kvitova.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova was in her first Slam final since being injured in a knife attack at her home in December 2016.

Osaka took the opening set and looked certain to complete victory when she brought up three match points on Kvitova's serve at 5-3 up.

But the left-hander saved all three before rallying as Osaka's level dropped, taking the set 7-5 to force a decider.

Despite that setback, Osaka soon rediscovered her form and her focus to win the third 6-4 and, with it, consecutive Slam titles.

2019 Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka with runner-up Petra Kvitova

The win also put her on top of the WTA rankings, making her the first Japanese world number one.

Her split with coach Sascha Bajin has coincided with a dip in form, but Osaka remains a potent force and is sure to be one of the home favourites at Tokyo 2020.

Alpine Skiing - Non-stop domination from Mikaela Shiffrin

Breaking records became routine for Mikaela Shiffrin in 2019.

The double Olympic champion won four World Cup titles, including her first in giant slalom and Super-G, and her third straight overall crown.

She also racked up 17 World Cup wins in a season, smashing Vreni Schneider's previous mark of 14 set exactly 30 years ago.

And the American carried her dominance through to the World Championships in Are, Sweden.

Shiffrin started the week with gold in the Super-G ahead of Olympic downhill gold medallist Sofia Goggia.

She was only third in the giant slalom behind her main rival in the technical disciplines, Petra Vlhova of Slovakia.

But she then clinched an unprecedented fourth consecutive slalom world title to take her career World Championship tally to five golds, one silver, and one bronze.

Mikaela Shiffrin celebrates after winning her fourth consecutive world slalom title in Are, Sweden

At just 24, Shiffrin has equalled Ingemar Stenmark on a record 40 World Cup slalom triumphs out of 60 in total.

Stenmark's all-time mark of 86 is in her sights, with the Swede confident she can become the first skier to go past 100.

Alpine Skiing - Vonn and Svindal bow out in style

Two all-time greats of the slopes bowed out with medal-winning performances in Sweden.

Lindsey Vonn was lucky to be competing in the downhill after a spectacular crash in the Super-G.

Lindsey Vonn receives attention after crashing in the World Championship Super-G

The previous week, the Vancouver 2010 downhill champion announced that she would quit after the World Championships due to her body being "broken beyond repair" following a succession of injuries.

After receiving treatment, the 34-year-old managed to ski unaided to the bottom to a warm reception from the crowd before lining up in the downhill four days later.

In her last race, Vonn showed the aggression and skill which made her the most successful female alpine skier in history.

She took bronze behind Slovenia's defending champion Ilka Stuhec who suffered injury heartbreak of her own when a knee injury ruled her out of PyeongChang 2018.

Vonn became the oldest female medallist at an Alpine Ski World Championships, and the only athlete to win medals at six World Championships.

She retires with a record 20 World Cup titles, tied with Marcel Hirscher, three Olympic medals, and eight World Championship medals including two golds.

World downhill champion Ilka Stuhec hugs bronze medallist Lindsey Vonn in Are, Sweden

Just 24 hours earlier, Vonn's friend and training partner Aksel Lund Svindal almost produced a fairytale finish to his illustrious career.

The double Olympic champion, who took downhill gold at PyeongChang 2018, was denied a golden farewell by Norwegian team-mate Kjetil Jansrud.

Svindal finished with silver, just two-hundredths of a second outside his fellow Attacking Viking with the order reversed from the PyeongChang downhill.

Runner-up Aksel Lund Svindal celebrates with champion Kjetil Jansrud after the World Championship downhill in Are, Sweden

Like Vonn, the 36-year-old had undergone several operations to prolong his career before finally announcing his plans to retire in January.

And he ended his career with nine World Championships medals including five golds, four Olympic medals, and 11 World Cup titles.

Artistic Gymnastics - Simone Biles claims Stuttgart World Cup

Simone Biles showed why she will be one of the hottest favourites at Tokyo 2020 with victory in the World Cup all-around event in Stuttgart.

The four-time gold medallist from Rio told Olympic Channel she had not trained as much as she would have liked before her seasonal debut.

But she was still far too good for her rivals including rising Canadian star Ana Padurariu and double Olympic champion Aliya Mustafina.

Afterwards, the 22-year-old expressed her relief having been "really stressed" ahead of the competition.

With that experience - and a captivating performance at the Superstars of Gymnastics - under her belt, she can look forward to adding difficulty to her programmes ahead of the World Championships back in Stuttgart in October.

At last year's Worlds in Doha, Biles was on the podium in all six events taking four golds (team, all-around, floor, and vault), a silver in uneven bars, and a bronze in the balance beam.

Figure Skating - Nathan Chen retains world title

The highlight of the Figure Skating World Championships in Saitama saw defending champion Nathan Chen go up against double Olympic champ Yuzuru Hanyu.

It was the first time the pair had met since PyeongChang 2018 where Chen's disappointing short program cost him any chance of a medal, as Hanyu became the first man to retain the singles title since Dick Button in 1952.

Chen won his first world crown in Milan the following month, and he took the Grand Prix Final in December, with Hanyu missing due to the latest in a succession of injuries to his right ankle.

At the 2019 worlds Hanyu returned from four months out to skate on home ice, but an error on his opening jump left him down in third after the short program behind training partner Jason Brown and runaway leader Chen.

Nathan Chen during his short program at the World Championships in Saitama

Bidding for his third world title, Hanyu produced a world record free skate to put the pressure on his American rival.

But the 19-year-old responded like a true champion, smashing Hanyu's mark by 10 points to take victory by over 22 points.

While Hanyu's participation at Beijing 2022 remains in doubt, Chen looks set to be the man to beat in China.

And, fitness permitting, the rivalry between the two next season should be something to savour.

2019 world champion Nathan Chen (R) with silver medallist Yuzuru Hanyu in Saitama

Handball - Olympic champs Denmark claim first world crown

Denmark and Germany staged the 2019 World Men's Handball Championship in January.

Four European teams, including both host nations, made it through to the semis.

Mikkel Hansen scored 12 times as Denmark beat defending champions France 38-30, while Germany went down 31-25 to Norway.

Rio 2016 champions Denmark had gone the entire tournament unbeaten, including a 30-26 win over their fellow Scandinavians in the group stages.

And they quickly took control of the final in Herning, leading 18-11 before easing to a 31-22 victory despite nine goals from Norway's Magnus Jøndal.

It was fourth time lucky for the Danes who had been beaten finalists in 1967, 2011 and 2013.

Hansen found the net seven times to take his tournament tally to 72 and secure him the top player award.

Mikkel Hansen celebrates a goal in Denmark's win over Norway in the 2019 World Men's Handball Championship Final in Herning

More importantly, the win saw Denmark become the first team, other than hosts Japan, to book their place at Tokyo 2020 where they will defend their Olympic title.

Snowboarding - Chloe Kim triumphs at Worlds

At just 18 years of age, Chloe Kim has already won everything in snowboarding.

The PyeongChang 2018 halfpipe gold medallist completed her full set of honours at the World Championships in Park City in February 2019.

It was a typically dominant display from Kim whose opening run of 93.50 was almost 10 points clear of the rest of the field.

World Snowboard Halfpipe podium (L-R): runner-up Cai Xuetong, winner Chloe Kim, third-placed Maddie Mastro

But a month later, Kim proved she was indeed human as she suffered a rare defeat in the US Open to team-mate Maddie Mastro.

Kim complained of a sore ankle after the first round of the competition in Vail, Colorado, which was later found to be broken.

She is currently resting and recuperating after surgery, but will be back in plenty of time for the new season.

Badminton - Lee Chong Wei returns to training after cancer treatment

The world of badminton was stunned last September when Lee Chong Wei was diagnosed with early-stage nose cancer.

Malaysia's three-time Olympic silver medallist had missed the World Championships and Asian Games citing a respiratory-related disorder.

The former world number one underwent intensive photon therapy treatment, announcing in November that the cancer was in remission.

And in January 2019, the 36-year-old returned to training after being given the all-clear by his doctors.

Lee has recently stepped up his practice, increasing his workload from three sessions to six per week.

And despite missing the defence of his Malaysia Open title in April, he was on hand to present the medals to winner Lin Dan and runner-up Chen Long, the men who beat him in the last three Olympic finals.

Lee Chong Wei with Malaysia Open champion Lin Dan

Lee could be back in competitive action at May's Sudirman Cup in China.

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