Sporting Witness

Sporting Witness

United Kingdom

The inside and personal story of the key moments from sporting history


Blood in the Water  

At the 1956 Olympics, political tension between Hungary and the Soviet Union boiled over during the water polo semi-final. The confrontation became known as the 'Blood in the Water' match. In 2011, Witness spoke to the late Ervin Zador, the star player on the Hungarian side. PHOTO: Ervin Zador (AFP/Getty Images)

Kenya's Paralympic Record-Breaker  

In 1995, promising Kenyan runner Henry Wanyoike suffered a stroke and lost his sight. After initially feeling depressed, Henry learnt how to run tethered to a guide and went on to a set a series of long-distance running records for the blind – many of which stand to this day. Henry Wanyoike talks to Alex Last. (Photo: Henry Wanyoike, with his guide, on the way to setting a marathon world record in 2005. Credit: Getty Images)

The 'Black 14' Protest Rocks American Football  

In 1969, the African-American players on the successful University of Wyoming football team were sacked for trying to stage a protest against racism at a rival university. Their dismissals attracted national coverage and ended up in federal court. The incident ruined many of the players' careers and spelled the end of Wyoming's period of sporting success. Robert Nicholson talks to Jay Berry, one of the Black 14. (Photo: A rally in support of the Black 14 in 1969. Credit: AP)

The Black Power Salute  

In October 1968, two American sprinters, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, staged one of the most iconic protests in sport at the Mexico City Olympics. The two athletes raised their gloved fists in the air at the medal ceremony for the 200 metres as a way of protesting against racism. Simon Watts reports.

Meeting Mr Pilates  

Joseph Pilates developed a system of strengthening exercises which are now practised all over the world. He called it "contrology", but it's now better known as just Pilates. We hear from Mary Bowen, one of the Pilates Elders, who studied with Joseph Pilates and his wife Clara in New York in the 1950s. PICTURE: Joseph Pilates (1883 - 1967), exercising at his 8th Avenue studio in New York City, circa 1960. He is using a machine with bars and pulleys, which are tensed by the exerciser against the pull of springs. (Susan Schiff Faludi/Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Lady Swimmers of the 1920s  

In the Roaring Twenties, women's swimming was a glamorous sport and the best athletes were household names around the world. In 1928, three British swimmers - Joyce Cooper, Jean McDowell and Cissie Stewart - took the Amsterdam Olympics by storm. They shared their memories with the oral historian, Anita Tedder. The programme is a Whistledown Production. It was first broadcast in 2011. Photo: The British women's team in Holland.

India's First Paralympic Hero  

In 1972, war veteran Murlikant Petkar won India's first ever Paralympic gold medal at the Heidelberg Games. Petkar had been shot and paralysed seven years earlier in a battle during the war with Pakistan, but then took up sprint swimming. He talks to Adrian Moorhead. The programme is a Sparklab Production for BBC World Service. PHOTO: Murlikant Petkar with his medals (BBC)

Rwanda at the Paralympics  

In 2012, the Rwandan sitting volleyball team became the first Paralympians from their country. The sport began in Rwanda after thousands of people were mutilated during the genocide of 1994, and there were emotional scenes in London when the Rwandan side eventually won a match. Bob Nicholson talks to Rwanda’s captain, Emile Vuningabo, and the side’s Dutch coach, Peter Karreman. The programme is a Whistledown Production. PHOTO: The Rwandan team blocking a shot at London 2012 (Getty Images)

Willy T Ribbs  

In 1991, Willy T Ribbs became the first African-American driver to take part in the Indianapolis 500 - the biggest motor sport event in the USA. He talks to Jo Parsons about his long battle for sponsorship and the inspiration of Muhammad Ali. PHOTO: Willy T Ribbs (Associated Press)

Eric Liddell  

The Scottish sprinter Eric Liddell, is famous for refusing to run on a Sunday in the Paris Olympics of 1924. But, as depicted in the film Chariots of Fire, he went on to win Gold in a different event - the 400 metres. After the Olympics, Eric Liddell became a Christian missionary in China, where he died in an internment camp during World War II. Simon tells the extraordinary story of Eric Liddell's life using archive material and an interview with Steve Metcalf, a survivor from the camp. The programme was first broadcast in 2011. PHOTO: Eric Liddell (Getty Images)

Women's Marathon Agony  

In 1984, the women's marathon was held in the Olympic Games for the first time. But to the horror of the crowd in Los Angeles, one of the runners, Gabriela Andersen-Scheiss of Switzerland, entered the stadium in a state of virtual collapse from heat exhaustion and took minutes to stumble round her final lap of the track. Andersen-Scheiss tells Ashley Byrne about her ordeal. The programme is a Made-In-Manchester Production. PHOTO: Gabriela Andersen-Scheiss in agony (Getty Images)

Emil Zatopek  

In 1952, the Czechoslovak army officer, Emil Zatopek, won three distance-running gold medals at the Helsinki Olympics. As well as achieving a unique feat in athletics, Zatopek charmed the world at the height of the Cold War with his blend of fun, generosity and ability to speak eight languages. Simon Watts introduces archive recordings of Emil Zatopek and talks to Richard Askwith, author of "Today we die a little: The rise and fall of Emil Zatopek". PHOTO: Emil Zatopek leading the Olympic 5,000 metres in 1952 (AFP/Getty Images)

Nadia Comaneci  

In 1976, the 14-year old Romanian gymnast, Nadia Comaneci, achieved the first "Perfect 10" at the Olympic Games. Nadia scored six more 10s in Montreal and became an international celebrity. In 2011, she spoke to Madeleine Morris. PHOTO: Nadia Comaneci at the 1976 Olympics (Getty Images)

Nigeria's Supereagles win Olympic Gold  

At the 1996 games in Atlanta, Nigeria became the first African team to take football gold at the Olympics. A side featuring many future legends beat Argentina and Brazil on their way to a victory that brought joy to a nation still under military dictatorship. Alex Last talks to Supereagles midfielder Sunday Oliseh. PHOTO: The Nigerian team celebrate (Getty Images).

Niki Lauda Crashes  

In 1976, the Austrian racing driver, Niki Lauda, crashed into an embankment at the notoriously dangerous Nurburgring circuit in Germany. As flames engulfed his car, Lauda had to be rescued by his fellow drivers, but somehow survived despite being given the last rites in hospital. Ashley Byrne talks to ex-Formula 1 driver, Brett Lunger, who helped pull Lauda from the wreckage. The programme is a Made-In-Manchester Production. PHOTO: Niki Lauda shortly after his accident (Associated Press).

East Timor's Marathon Hero  

In 2000, four athletes from war-torn East Timor were invited to compete at the Sydney Olympics. One of them was marathon runner, Agueda Amaral, who went from refugee to Olympic finisher in the space of a year. She tells her story to Rebecca Henschke of the BBC Indonesian Service. PHOTO: Agueda Amaral at the Olympic finish line (Getty Images).

Arthur Ashe  

In 1975, Arthur Ashe beat the world number one Jimmy Connors to become the first African-American to win Wimbledon. In 2011, Ashe's friend and agent, Donald Dell, told Louise Hidalgo about that memorable match - and about what else Ashe might have achieved if he had not died young. Photo: Arthur Ashe in action at Wimbledon (Getty Images)

Shun Fujimoto - Japan's Injured Olympic Hero  

At the 1976 Olympics, the Japanese gymnast Shun Fujimoto horrified the world by continuing to compete in the team event despite breaking his knee during the floor exercise. Determined not to let down his team-mates, Fujimoto braved almost unbearable pain to achieve good scores on the pommel horse and rings, and help Japan to gold. Shun Fujimoto relives his agony with Ashley Byrne. The programme is a Made-In-Manchester Production. PHOTO: The injured Shun Fujimoto showing off his gold medal (Associated Press)

Pyrros Dimas - Greek Weightlifting Legend  

The Greek weightlifter, Pyrros Dimas, is a three-time Olympic champion and national hero nicknamed the “Lion of Himara”. In 2004, an ageing Pyrros faced his toughest challenge when the Olympic Games came to Athens and he was forced to compete with a knee injury. Despite the pain, Pyrros battled to a bronze medal, sparking delirious scenes in the weightlifting arena. Pyrros Dimas talks to Adrian Moorhead. The programme is a Sparklab Production. PHOTO: Pyrros Dimas (AFP/Getty Images)

Denmark's Shock Win at the European Championship  

In 1992, the Danish football team were called back from their beach holidays and invited to play in the European Championship when Yugoslavia began to collapse into civil war. Despite their failure to qualify properly for the tournament, Denmark beat Holland and then Germany to clinch a surprise victory. Will Yates talk to midfielder, John Jensen, who scored one of the Danish goals in the final. The programme is a Whistledown Production. PHOTO: (Getty Images)

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