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Sporting deaths in 2012

2012-12-24 09:45
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Cape Town - Leading sportsmen and sportswomen who died in 2012:

ALPINE SKIING

Emile Allais


French ski star died aged 100 on October 17. Son of a baker he won three world titles in 1937 and a fourth in 1938 while also garnering four minor medals and a bronze in the 1936 Winter Olympics. Went on to found the Ecole du Ski Francais (ESF) that has since taught millions how to stay upright on the pistes. Was a member of the elite Mont Blanc battalion when France was liberated in World War II. Post-war he was instrumental in the creation of Courchevel, now one of the top stations in the French Alps, and he was also the man who introduced metal skis to France from the United States.

AMERICAN FOOTBALL

Joe Paterno


Penn State's iconic American football coach died aged 85 of lung cancer on January 22. However, despite all his success coaching he will be remembered for his lack of action in a pedophilia scandal that rocked America. He was sacked in November 2011 for failing to take tougher action against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky after being told about an incident in a locker room shower in which Sandusky allegedly molested a 10-year-old boy. Paterno reported the incident to his superior at the university, and later acknowledged that he regretted never following up further. He didn't live to see a statue of him erected in his honour on the university campus ingloriously dismantled in July this year as a result of the fallout of the scandal.

Junior Seau

Star linebacker with San Diego Chargers shot himself aged 43 on May 2. He spent 13 seasons with the Chargers, helping the cursed team reach the Super Bowl after the 1994 season. Seau was incredibly the eighth member of that Super Bowl team to pass away. He was selected for the Pro Bowl 12 times. Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said Seau and Bruce Smith were the two most dominating defenders when he entered the league with the Colts in 1998. "Junior was truly a once-in-a-lifetime player," Manning said.

BASEBALL

Marvin Miller


The first head of the Major League Baseball Players Association who revolutionized sports with the creation of player free agency, died November 27 aged 95 of liver cancer. Miller helped major league players form a union in the late 1960s and served as the union head until 1982. He shepherded players through three strikes and two owner-imposed lockouts, in the process forging what is one of the strongest unions in the United States.

BOXING

Hector Camacho


Thrilling Puerto Rican world champion at three weights who died aged 50 of gunshot wounds on November 24 following a shooting in San Juan. Nicknamed 'Macho' he was a charismatic showman who displayed speed and agility in the ring but his recklessness outside brought him a wealth of trouble. He won super lightweight, lightweight and light welterweight world titles in the 1980s and ended Sugar Ray Leonard's last comeback bid in 1997 with a knockout victory. Throughout his life, however, Camacho dealt with drug and alcohol addiction. In 2007 he was sentenced to seven years in prison in relation to a 2005 burglary. That sentence was suspended, but he did eventually spend two weeks behind bars for violating his probation.

Mike Dokes

Former world heavyweight champion died of liver cancer aged 54 on August 11. Nicknamed 'Dynamite' Dokes had the good fortune to be around in the era in between the peak of Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Joe Frazier and Ken Norton and the arrival of Mike Tyson. He won the world title in 1982 beating Mike Weaver in a first round stoppage. Eventually lost the title to South African Gerrie Coetzee in 1983 and his career and life went to pieces. A cocaine addict for most of his life he was sent to prison for 10 years in 2000 for the attempted murder of his girlfriend but was released in 2008.

Corrie Sanders

South African former world heavyweight champion died of gunshot wounds aged 46 on September 23. He died of his wounds sustained when he dived in front of his daughter after men burst into a Johannesburg restaurant where the family was celebrating his nephew's 21st birthday. Sanders retired in 2008 with an impressive record of 42 wins against just four defeats, with his most famous victory being in 2003 when he won the WBO world heavyweight title by knocking-out Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko in the second round after putting him down four times.

Teofilo Stevenson

Legendary Cuban heavyweight who died on June 11 aged 60 of a heart attack. Many thought that if he had turned professional he would have been a match for Muhammad Ali, though, his amateur bouts were a lot shorter than the professional game. Won three Olympic titles - in what is now the super-heavyweight category - from 1972-80 with a flamboyant and crowd pleasing style. Despite lucrative offers to turn pro and take on Ali he stayed loyal to the Cuban revolution. "What is one million dollars compared with the love of eight million Cubans?" he said after he turned down an offer following the 1976 Games.

Johnny Tapia

American five-time world boxing champion died aged 45 on May 27 after taking an overdose. He earned world titles in the super flyweight, bantamweight and featherweight divisions in a professional career that began in 1988. However, Tapia - who adopted the nickname 'My Crazy Life' - battled drug and alcohol problems throughout his career which included being hospitalised in 2007 after an apparent cocaine overdose.

Emanuel Steward

Emanuel Steward was an American boxer, trainer and commentator. Steward trained 41 world champion fighters throughout his career, most notably Lennox Lewis, Wladimir Klitschko and Thomas Hearns. His heavyweight fighters had a record of 34-2-1 combined in title fights. He was an inductee of the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame. Steward died on October 25 at  the age of 68.

CRICKET

Kevin Curran


Zimbabwean all-rounder died on October 10 aged 53 after collapsing while out jogging. One of the first from his country to be considered good enough to play at English county level, representing Gloucestershire and Northants in England in the 1980s and 1990s. Also played in two World Cups and coached his national side from 2005-07.

CYCLING

Ertjies Bezuidenhout


South African cycling legend Ertjies Bezuidenhout died in a Pretoria hospital on February 29 after suffering a stroke a few hours after finishing a 103km race in Brakpan on the East Rand. He was 56. Bezuidenhout won the Rapport Cycle Tour in 1984 and also bagged three Argus titles - in 1981, 1984 and 1986.

DARTS

Jocky Wilson


Two-time former world darts champion Jocky Wilson died on March 25 aged 62 of the lung disorder chronic pulmonary obstructive disease. Pugnacious Scotsman, who lost all his teeth at an early age because he believed his grandmother when she told him that the water had been poisoned by the 'Sassenachs' (English). He reached at least the quarter-finals of every World Championship between 1979 and 1991 and was a four-time British champion between 1981 and 1988 and a three-time Scottish Masters champion.

DIVING

Mark Lenzi


Olympic gold medalist died on April 9 aged 43 after his blood pressure dipped alarmingly leading to fainting spells while receiving treatment for a heart illness. Began his sporting life as a wrestler but watching Greg Louganis win diving gold in 1984 inspired him to change sports. It paid off handsomely with gold in the 3metres board in the 1992 Games and a bronze four years later. Also first diver to record a score of over 100 points from one dive.

FOOTBALL

Gary Ablett


Able defender who made history by becoming the only player to win the FA Cup with both Liverpool and Everton died aged 46 on January 1 of cancer. Ablett won the 1989 FA Cup with Liverpool - beating Everton 3-2 - but missed out on the double as Arsenal denied them with a winning goal with virtually the last kick of their final game. Moved on to Everton and lifted the Cup in 1995. Had spells in coaching and showed tremendous courage in his 16-month fight against non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

John Connelly

Outstanding winger and a member of England's 1966 World Cup winning squad died aged 74 of cancer on October 25. Capped 20 times by England from 1959 to 1966 - scoring seven times - he made just one appearance in the 1966 World Cup finals in the first group game before being dropped. However, he received a World Cup winners medal in 2009 when FIFA changed the rules to allow all World Cup winning squad members to be awarded one. Won the First Division title with Burnley in 1960 - in all he scored 105 goals in 265 games for them - and then with Manchester United in 1965 - where he scored 22 goals in 80 appearances. However, shortly afterwards he fell out with Matt Busby and was sold to Second Division Blackburn Rovers. Later owned a fish and chip shop named 'Connelly's Plaice'.

Felix

The goalkeeper with Brazil's magnificent 1970 World Cup-winning side died aged 74 from a lung complaint on August 25. The 39-times capped Felix, who was known as a smoker during his playing days -- even taking a crafty drag during matches on occasion -- died of pulmonary emphysema complicated by pneumonia. Was unfairly termed the weak link in the great side. However, he was to have the last laugh when they beat Italy in the final. His daughter Ligia Cardoso recounted how he rang her after the final to say "Now you can tell everyone that dad is not a 'frangueiro'!" -- a pejorative slang term used to describe a keeper who regularly leaks goals.

Marquitos

Member of the all-conquering Real Madrid side that won five European Cups between 1956 and 1960 died aged 78 on March 6. Born Marcos Alonso Imaz he was a no nonsense defender, who was as integral a part to the side as the more stellar names such as Alfredo di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas. Also won one Intercontinental Cup, five Spanish league titles and one Spanish Cup but surprisingly was only capped twice. Both his son and grandson have gone on to be professional footballers with markedly less success.

Alketas "Alkis" Panagoulias

History-making former coach of the Greek national side died aged 78 on June 18. Guided Greece in his first spell as national helmsman to their first ever appearance at a European championship finals in 1980 and returning for a second spell he took them to their first ever World Cup finals in 1994. Also coached the United States team in the 1984 Olympics hosted by Los Angeles. The United States was his second home, he earned a second degree there at New York City University, and ended his days in Virginia.

Dave Sexton

Former Chelsea and Manchester United manager died aged 82 on November 25. Sexton won the FA Cup with Chelsea in 1970, three years after taking charge, before leading the club to their first European trophy with success in the European Cup Winners' Cup the following season. Sexton, son of a top class amateur boxer Archie, left in 1974 and coached lesser lights QPR to a stunning second place finish in the First Division title race in 1976. Succeeded charismatic Tommy Docherty for a second time, following Chelsea this time at United in July 1977. However, despite major spending on the likes of Joe Jordan and Gordon McQueen from Leeds United failed to win a trophy, reaching the 1979 FA Cup final and finishing second in the 1980 title race. Sacked at the end of the 80/81 campaign. Was assistant to two England managers, Ron Greenwood and Bobby Robson and spent later years collecting paintings and earned a degree in humanities.

Rashidi Yekini

Nigerian 1993 African Footballer of the Year died May 4 aged 48 following a brief illness. Yekini scored 37 goals in 58 appearances for Nigeria between 1983 and 1998 but many will remember him most for his emotional celebration after scoring Nigeria's first ever goal in a World Cup finals in the 3-0 humbling of Bulgaria in the 1994 edition. He held the netting at the back of the goal and shook it, yelling to the heavens at the same time. Nigeria's record goalscorer he also helped them win the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations. Beset by mental health problems in his final years he died penniless and having burnt all his awards garnered over his illustrious career.

MARTIAL ARTS

Mike Bernardo


Former WBF heavyweight champion Mike Bernardo has died at the age of 42 on February 14. Bernardo was also a popular kickboxing and martial arts fighter. He won the vacant WBF belt when he stopped Dan Jerling from the Czech Republic in the sixth round in May 2000. He retained the title with a 41-second knockout of American Peter McNeely in Cape Town on June 8, 2001, but was stripped of his belt in May 2002 because of inactivity.

MOTOR RACING

John Fitch


American racing car driver died aged 95 on October 3. Part of the legendary Mercedes-Benz team which also included Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio. Won the 1955 prestigious Mille Miglia race but was also part of the team in the Le Mans 24 hour race when team-mate Pierre Levegh had an accident and the car went into the crowd killing the driver and 79 others which is the deadliest accident in motor sport history. It prompted Fitch - who had been sitting with Levegh's wife at the time of the crash - to invest his time in designing safety devices for cars on and off the track. Always lived life to the full, he was a fighter ace in World War II, and mixed with royalty and high-flying Americans such as the Kennedys. Met the Duke of Windsor, formerly Edward VIII, when they both left a party to urinate outside with Fitch relating: "We had a delightful little chat."

RUGBY UNION

Mervyn Davies


Welsh Grand Slam winning captain died on March 16 aged 65 after a long illness. Outstanding No 8 who led a magnificent Welsh side to the 1976 then Five Nations Grand Slam and featured on two successful British and Irish Lions tours of New Zealand in 1971 and then South Africa in 1974. He won 38 caps for Wales and would have probably captained the 1977 Lions but for suffering a brain haemorrhage playing for Swansea against Pontypool in 1976. He died on the eve of the present Wales side's Grand Slam sealing win over France.

Dr Jack Matthews

Hard tackling centre for Wales and the British and Irish Lions died aged 92 on July 18. Known as 'Dr Jack' - he would sometimes deliver babies in his Cardiff base on the eve of international matches - he played 17 times for Wales and six times for the Lions. Described as 'a cross between a bulldozer and a brick wall' in reference to his tackling he was also a notable amateur boxer, once drawing a four round bout with Rocky Marciano. He would have won many more caps but for serving as a doctor in World War II, something which marked him for the rest of his life. "Our generation - the ones who survived or were spared - have spent the rest of our lives trying to make every last minute count one way or another. It was the deal we struck with ourselves privately to keep our sanity and to honour those who didn't make it."

SWIMMING

Alexander Dale Oen


Norwegian world champion swimmer died aged 26 of heart failure as the result of a blood clot in one of his coronary arteries on April 30. Dale Oen became Norway's first swimmer to win an Olympic medal when he won the silver in the 100m breaststroke in the 2008 Games in Beijing and won the gold medal in the 100m breaststroke in the 2011 World Championships. He had collapsed in the bathroom of his hotel room during an Olympic training camp in Flagstaff, Arizona.

TENNIS

Margaret Osborne duPont


Six-time Grand Slam singles champion died aged 94 on October 24. The American with a Grand Slam championship total, which includes 21 women's doubles crowns and 10 mixed doubles trophies, ranks fourth on the all-time list despite never playing in the Australian event of the four major tournaments. The reason she never played in Australia was down to an ultimatum from her husband William. "He threatened to divorce me if I went to Australia, so I never went," she recalled. She did eventually divorce him in 1964. Won two French Opens ('46, '49) Wimbledon in 1947 and three successive US Open crowns ('48-'50) with her 4-6, 6-4, 15-13 defeat of Louise Brough in the 1948 US Open final the toughest and the final set score remains to this day the longest final set in the tournament's history. Later life saw her become a successful breeder of thoroughbred horses.

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