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Sports

Sporting highlights of 2016

The year 2016 promised much, with major football championships and an Olympic Games. It certainly delivered, with some unlikely champions and the world's best athletes doing what they do best.

Cristiano Ronaldo, European Champion

A player with a reputation as a narcissist only interested in individual success, Cristiano Ronaldo helped his club and national teams secure the two most revered titles in European football.  He scored 16 goals to help Real Madrid win their second Champions League title in three years.

His second title had been a long time coming. Ronaldo finally lifted a trophy with his national team. Although a knee injury prevented him contributing much in the Euro 2016 final against France, his frantic encouragement from the sidelines helped Portugal become European champions for the first time. Those two titlesearned him his fourth Ballon d'Or for the world's best player.

The Chicago Cubs end more than a century of heartache

Few teams have been starved of a championship for longer than the Chicago Cubs. The American baseball team finally ended a 108-year title drought by 

beating the Cleveland Indians in the World Series.

USA Baseball World Series - Chicago Cubs vs. Cleveland Indians (Reuters/Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

The Chicago Cubs had a lot to celebrate in 2016

Their victory came in dramatic fashion. They had to play three win-or-go-home games after the Indians won three of the first four in the seven-game series. The Cubs pulled it off to become the first team in 21 years to come back and win the World Series after losing three of the first four games.

Unlikely Leicester City upset the odds

Leicester City had a pretty good year in 2016. Given 1000-1 odds of winnning England's Premier League title, they captured the hearts of many football fans around the world as they won the first title in their history

The story of Leicester's improbable run has become football folklore, as they topped the table ahead of vastly wealthier rivals like Chelsea, Arsenal and the two Manchester clubs. They qualified for the Champions League for the first time but have slipped back this season in the domestic league and are hovering near the relegation places.

Curtain calls for Phelps and Bolt

Two of the greatest Olympians of all time had their swansong at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. American swimmer Michael Phelps came out of retirement to claim six more medals - five gold and one silver. He ended his majestic Olympic career with 28, which makes him by far the most decorated Olympian. "I've won so many medals, it's just insane,” Phelps told DW in August.

Brasilien Olympische Spiele Rio 2016 – 4 x 100 m Staffel, Männer - Usain Bolt (Reuters/K. Pfaffenbach)

Usain Bolt celebrated three more gold medals at Rio 2016

Jamaican sprint great Usain Bolt also shone in his final Olympics. Although he did not come close to breaking his own world records, he won gold in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 4x100 meters relay, becoming the first sprinter to sweep the sprinting events at three consecutive Summer Games.

The silver protest

Eliud Kipchoge of Keyna won the gold medal in the Olympic marathon, but it was not his name making the headlines after the race. That was silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa, the Ethiopian athlete who crossed his arms as he finished the race.

The gesture was a protest against the killing of his Oromo people by Ethiopian security forces and made Lilesa one of the most talked about silver medalist at the Olympics.

"I am very happy for showing this gesture,” Lilesa told DW in August. Following the Olympics, Lilesa was granted a temporary visa in the United States and settled in Flagstaff, Arizona.

New stars at the top of Tennis

Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams both saw their long reins as world number ones come to an end in 2016. Angelique Kerber, who won the Australian Open and US Open Grand Slams, ended Williams's three-and-a-half-year reign atop women's tennis, achieving the No. 1 ranking for the first time in her career. The achievement earned her Germany's sportswoman of the year award.

Andy Murray earned his first world No. 1 ranking as well after winning the Paris Masters in November. Though he lost in the final of the French open to Djokovic, he went onto win Wimbledon and collect the gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in between. He became the first Briton to be awarded the world No. 1 ranking. 

Nico Rosberg's first, and last, Formula One title

Rosberg's 11th season behind the wheel was his best. Having finished 2015 with six wins, the Mercedes driver won nine in 2016, including the opening four. Despite finishing second to teammate Lewis Hamilton in the final four races, Rosberg was able to secure the drivers' championship in Abu Dhabi, the first of his career.

Formel 1 Vereinigte Arabische Emirate in Abu Dhabi - Weltmeister Nico Rosberg, Deutschland (picture-alliance/dpa/V. Xhemaj)

After 11 years of trying, Nico Rosberg got the one drivers' championship he wanted

It was also his last - unless he makes a comeback. He announced his retirement on December 2, just five days after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

"From the moment when the destiny of the title was in my own hands, the big pressure started and I began to think about ending my racing career if I became world champion," Rosberg said.

Golden girls of Germany

They came up short in the Women's World Cup in Canada last year, but the Germany women's national team redeemed their shortcoming by winning gold at the Olympics in Rio. They defeated Sweden in the gold medal game to win their first major tournament since 2007.

The German men had a good Olympic tournament too after the senior team came up short at the European Championship. However, they faced a strong Brazil team in the gold-medal game and lost in the penalty shootout. It was still the best showing Germany has had at the Olympics since earning bronze at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

Basketball's king brings a title to Cleveland

The city of Cleveland, Ohio in the United States had been starved of a championship in any sport for 52 years before their basketball team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, won their debut NBA Championship. Led by LeBron James, the Caveliers topped the Golden State Warriors, who had set a new regular season record with 73 wins,in the NBA Finals.

NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James (Getty Images/E. Shaw)

Cleveland's basketball king, Lebron James, finally celebrated a title near his home town

After coming up short against the Warriors in 2015, James had a little more help in the rematch, with teammates Kyrie Erving and Kevin Love back on song. Like the Cubs, the Cavaliers made a comeback after losing three of the first four games in the seven-game series.

"Everyone counted us out and that's when we strived,"James said after the win.

Chile, the Argentina slayers

A year after beating them in the Copa America on home soil, Chile defeated Argentina in the final of the Copa America Centenario, a competition that included countries from North and South America. The Chileans prevailed in the penalty shootout to lift their second continental trophy in two years. Argentina's loss was so devastating for superstar Lionel Messi that he announced his retirement from international football after the tournament. But the Barcelona forward quickly reversed his decision and returned to the national team for their World Cup qualifiers.

Blade Jumper

2016 was not all smiles for paralympic athlete Markus Rehm, but he did have some things to grin about. The German long jumper, who has a blade-like prosthesis on his right leg, applied to compete at the able-bodied level, but the IAAF ruled that he failed to prove his prosthesis did not give him an unfair advantage.

Brasilien Paralympics Rio 2016 Weitsprung - T44 Männer Gold Markus Rehm (picture-alliance/dpa/K. Nietfeld)

His prosthesis is still a hot issue for the IAAF, but Markus Rehm competed with maximum effort all the same

He instead competed at the 2016 Paralympic games in Rio, where he served as Germany's flag bearer at the opening ceremony. Rehm won a gold medal in the long jump and the 4x100 meters relay, giving him four Paralympic medals in his career. Rehm has said he will try again to convince the IAAF to allow him to compete against able-bodied athletes before the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London.

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