2023: a year of sport summarized in 15 images

The year 2023 is coming to an end

2023: a year of sport summarized in 15 images

The year 2023 is coming to an end. And before 2024 follows, with its promises of the Olympic Games in France, Euro football in Germany and numerous competitions, a look back at a year of sport.

“Age is just a number,” said Novak Djokovic on Sunday September 10. The 36-year-old Serbian knows his stuff: the year 2023 will have seen him win three Grand Slam titles (Australian Open, Roland-Garros and US Open) and claim, now alone, the record of coronations in major tournaments (24), erasing from the shelves, at the beginning of June, his great rival Rafael Nadal on the clay of Roland-Garros, where the Spaniard shone so much (14 successes). Now alone at the top of world tennis, the insatiable “Djoker” intends to take his record even higher.

In one year, Céline Boutier burst into the elite of golf – and in the eyes of the general public. Winner of the Evian Major at the end of July, the 30-year-old Frenchwoman became the third Habs in history to win a Grand Slam tournament, before finishing the season in 3rd place in the world, the best ranking for a Frenchman – men and women combined. Enough to give the young woman from Montrouge (Hauts-de-Seine) a surplus of ambition in view of the Paris Olympics, which will take place on the course of Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (Yvelines), which she paced for a long time and where “[she] grew up a little” during her younger years.

Everything was ready for the country to marvel. A Rugby World Cup in France, where the French XV assumes the label of favorite, a controlled opening match against the All Blacks, and sold-out matches in the four corners of the country. And then a grain of sand came to stop the machine. Victim of a maxillo-zygomatic fracture (to the cheekbone) following a poorly controlled Namibian tackle, the captain of the Blues, Antoine Dupont, only found his partners before the quarter-final, lost on the wire against the future South African world champions (28-29). A defeat that will take time to digest.

Exactly one year before the opening ceremony of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, Léon Marchand confirmed that he would have to be counted on for the Paris meeting. Author of a stratospheric year in the pools, the French swimmer erased the 400 meter medley record of legend Michael Phelps and won three titles at the World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan.

Her year began with a crisis, when the French Judo Federation deprived her of her coach during the Tel Aviv Grand Slam, due to a textile conflict: Clarisse Agbegnenou refused to put on the official sponsor's kimono, for the benefit of that of his personal equipment supplier. The “judogi-gate” ended a few weeks later, and the Tokyo Olympic champion resumed her good habits. Eleven months after the birth of her daughter, the Frenchwoman won her sixth world champion title in May.

Never has a foreign player aroused such enthusiasm in the country of basketball. Following a season in which he attracted the spotlight in the French championship, French phenomenon Victor Wembanyama (19 years old, 2.24 meters) was selected first place in the National Basketball Association draft ( NBA) in June. A unique combination of dexterity and size - where giants of his size generally struggle to move - the young Frenchman was the most anticipated player in the NBA since LeBron James in 2003. And he didn't miss his start. career under the tunic of the San Antonio Spurs.

Centimeter by centimeter, Armand Duplantis continues to put himself into orbit and continues to widen the gap with the competition. In 2023, the Swedish athlete twice increased his pole vault world record, clearing 6.23m in September in Eugene (Ore.) after surpassing 6.22m in February in Clermont-Ferrand. Alone in the world, “Mondo” – who is only 24 years old – seems destined for the Olympic double in Paris 2024 and is still pushing the limits of his sport.

A gesture for history. By refusing, on July 27, 2023, to shake the hand of the Russian Anna Smirnova, whom she had just beaten at the Fencing World Championships, the Ukrainian sabreuse Olga Kharlan considerably changed the question of the participation, or not, of the athletes from the two warring countries at the next Olympic Games. After months of delay, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided, at the beginning of December, to authorize Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate under a neutral banner in the 2024 Olympic Games, excluding team events and as long as they have not not actively supported the Russian invasion.

The missing piece was a giant blond, serial scorer. After recruiting Norwegian striker Erling Haaland (author of 52 goals in 53 games in 2022-2023), Manchester City achieved a harvest of trophies. Winner of its first Champions League in the spring (against Inter Milan), the club bought by the Abu Dhabi investment fund in 2008 established its domination by also winning the English championship and the World Cup. clubs – among others. “I’m very happy, I feel like we’ve closed a chapter. We won all the titles,” said Pep Guardiola, City’s Spanish coach, at the end of December.

For her, the peaceful mountain pasture of La Forclaz, located at the 140th kilometer of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB), has transformed into a bustling kop of supporters. Courtney Dauwalter won, at the end of August, for the third time, the flagship race of the discipline – which consists of circumnavigating the emblematic Franco-Italian summit in 170 kilometers – but the American above all signed a grand slam unprecedented in ultra-trail. Before her, no one – men and women alike – had managed to consecutively raise their arms during the three biggest races in the discipline: the Western State, in June in California, the Hardrock, three weeks later in Colorado, and the UTMB at the end of August. That’s half a thousand kilometers, with 26,000 meters of elevation gain, covered in two months.

They won a third star shortly before Christmas. Seven months before the Olympics, the handball players of the French team, Olympic champions in 2021, returned to the summits of world handball, beating their best Norwegian rivals in the final, against whom they remained on three consecutive defeats in the final phase of a major tournament. Enough to approach the Olympic meeting at home with ambition.

When Cristiano Ronaldo joined the Saudi Arabian championship in January 2023, no one imagined the Portuguese star as the precursor of an immense wave. And yet. “Saudi Arabia has changed the transfer market,” summarized Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola during the summer, after the offensive of the Gulf kingdom, whose clubs increased their flashy recruitments. From Ballon d'Or Karim Benzema to Neymar, many players have joined the country, which has focused on sport to develop. Since then, Saudi Arabia has ensured that it will organize the 2034 World Cup, after the withdrawal of competing candidacies.

The Teahupoo wave, in Tahiti, is one of the most emblematic on the planet. And the idea of ​​organizing the surfing events there during the Paris Olympic Games delighted the organizers. But the past year has rhymed, on the Polynesian island, with controversies linked to the competition. At issue: the installation of a tower, intended to accommodate the judges, risks damaging the coral reef. Faced with protests, the Olympic Organizing Committee chose to maintain the event on the Tahitian site, with a lighter tower model than that initially envisaged.

The Spanish women's team won the Football World Cup on August 20, beating England (1-0) in the final, a performance that we would tend to forget given the controversy that arose just after the match eclipsed it. During the trophy presentation ceremony, Luis Rubiales, the president of the Spanish Federation, forcibly kisses one of the players, Jennifer Hermoso. The scandal is total but it will be several weeks before Rubiales deigns to resign from his post.

Cycling’s “last romantic” has put his bike away. If he has never won a Grand Tour, the prestigious three-week races, and leaves to his young compatriots the task of succeeding Bernard Hinault, the last Frenchman to have registered his name on the Tour de France prize list (in 1985) , Thibaut Pinot will have left his mark on French cycling, with his few prestigious victories as well as his cruel failures. On July 22, his supporters, gathered on his Vosges roads during his final Grande Boucle, organized a joyful and passionate celebration the likes of which cycling rarely offers.