Sporting Witness

Sporting Witness

United Kingdom

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


Abhinav Bindra - India's First Olympic Gold Medalist  

In 2008, India won its first ever individual gold medal in the Olympics after nearly 100 years of trying. The winner was a rifle shooter called Abhinav Bindra, who received more than 300,000 letters of congratulations from his fellow Indians. Abhinav Bindra talks to Farhana Haider about his obsessive battle for victory. PHOTO: Abhinav Bindra with his Olympic gold medal (Getty Images)

Lamine Gueye - Senegalese Skier  

In 1984, Lamine Gueye of Senegal became the first black African skier to take part in the Winter Olympics. The grandson of a prominent Senegalese politician, Gueye founded his country's ski federation and for a long time was the only member. He talks to Tayo Popoola. The programme is a Whistledown Production. PHOTO: Lamine Gueye in action (Getty Images)

The Toughest Dog-Sled Race in the World  

The Iditarod dog-sled race runs through 1,000 miles of Arctic wildnerness in Alaska and is regarded as one of the toughest sporting events in the world. In the winter of 1985, Libby Riddles drew international attention to the Iditarod by becoming the first woman to win. She talks to Robert Nicholson. The programme is a Whistledown Production. It was first broadcast in January 2016. (Photo: Libby Riddles in 1985. Credit: Associated Press)

Esther Vergeer  

At the 2012 Paralympic Games, the Dutch wheelchair tennis player, Esther Vergeer, took two gold medals and completed one of the longest winning streaks in sport. By remaining undefeated for more than a decade, Vergeer became a hero in the Netherlands and earned the admiration of all tennis players. She talks to Ashley Byrne. The programme is a Made-In-Manchester Production. PHOTO: Esther Vergeer at the 2012 London Paralympics (Getty Images)

Love at the Cold War Olympics  

At the 1956 Olympics, the Czechoslovak discus thrower, Olga Fikotova, caused a scandal by falling in love with an American hammer thrower called Harold Connolly. Despite winning her country's only gold medal, Olga was treated as a potential traitor by the communist government and her achievements were ignored. A few months later, Harold Connolly visited Prague to marry Olga and take her back to America with him. Olga Fikotova tells her story to Claire Bowes. PHOTO: Harold Connolly and Olga Fikotova on their honeymoon in 1957 (Associated Press)

Texas Western - Black Basketball Pioneers  

In 1966, an all-black team went head-to-head with an all-white team for the National College Basketball championship - one of the biggest prizes in American sport. To the surprise of every pundit, the African-Americans of Texas Western College defeated the University of Kentucky, then the number one team in the country. The game is now regarded as breaking down the colour barrier in US basketball. Nija Dalal-Small talks to Nevil Shed of Texas Western. The programme is a Sparklab Production for BBC World Service. PHOTO: Texas Western celebrate their victory in 1966 (Getty Images)

Ammo Baba - Iraqi Football Hero  

In 2009, thousands of Iraqis gathered at the National Football Stadium to attend the funeral of the player and coach, Emmanuel Baba Dawud, better known as Ammo Baba. Ammo Baba was a beloved player, whose heading ability was legendary and who scored Iraq's first ever international goal. As a coach, Ammo Baba won many regional trophies for the Iraqi team and stood up to Saddam Hussein's sadistic son, Uday. His brother, Banwal Baba Dawud, talks to Ashley Byrne. The programme is a Made-In-Manchester Production. PHOTO: Mourners at Ammo Baba's funeral (Getty Images)

Women's Rugby Pioneers  

In 1996, England won the inaugural Home Nations championship in women's rugby. It was a major victory in the English players' fight for official recognition for their sport. Robert Nicholson talks to Gill Burns and Nicky Ponsford about how the women's game overcame entrenched sexism and official indifference. The programme is a Whistledown Production. PHOTO: The England women's team in action in the 1990s (Getty Images)

Mike Tyson  

In November 1986, aged just 20, Mike Tyson became the youngest heavyweight boxing champion of all time. Tyson came from a troubled upbringing in New York and only found a direction in life when he met the legendary trainer, Cus D'Amato. But, after D'Amato's death, Tyson's career was marred by a rape conviction and an ongoing battle with drink and drugs. He talks to the BBC Boxing Correspondent, Mike Costello. PHOTO: Mike Tyson on the way to his first world heavyweight title (Getty Images)

Graeme Souness and the Turkish Flag Incident  

In April 1996, the manager of Galatasaray and former Liverpool star, Graeme Souness, went down in Turkish football history. After winning the Turkish Cup final, Souness celebrated by planting a Galatasaray flag in the middle of arch-rival Fenerbahce’s pitch. The Scottish manager almost sparked a riot, but won the hearts of Galatasaray supporters. Graeme Souness speaks to Cagil Kasapoglu. Photo: Graeme Souness planting the Galatasaray flag in 1996 (Turkish television)

The "Phantom Game" in General Pinochet's Chile  

In November 1973, Chile played an international football game at the National Stadium in Santiago even though it was being used as a torture centre following General Pinochet's coup. Chile were due to face the Soviet Union, but the USSR boycotted the match, which the Chileans ended up playing against no opposition in a virtually empty stadium. Robert Nicholson talks to the Chilean captain, Leonardo Veliz. The programme is a Whistledown Production. PHOTO: General Pinochet's troops guarding the National Stadium in Chile in 1973 (Getty Images)

Jason McCartney - Bali Bomb Survivor  

In 2002, Aussie rules footballer, Jason McCartney, was seriously injured in the terrorist attacks in the tourist island of Bali. Despite suffering 50 per cent burns, McCartney regained his fitness and made an emotional return to top-level football. His story helped lift Australia's spirits after the worst terrorist attack in its history. He talks to Simon Watts. PHOTO: Jason McCartney after his comeback game for North Melbourne (Getty Images Sport).

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)

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