With January almost out, it looks a case of deja vu with Aryna Sabalenka and Novak Djokovic on course to retain their Australian Open titles Down Under.
The first tennis major of the year is merely the aperitif for what promises to be a gripping 12 months of elite, high octane sport both on these shores and overseas.
The Six Nations returns
Rugby’s greatest annual international tournament kicks off on February 2nd, spearheading a charge into another enthralling year of sport.
France host Ireland in the RBS Six Nations opener, with the mercurial Les Bleus bookending five spectacular weeks of blood and thunder as Europe’s finest go head to head.
England went the furthest at last year’s World Cup but are third favourites for a record-extending 30th outright win. France and Ireland, with World Cup pain still lingering, are expected to be the main contenders for the crown.. The pair meet in the tournament’s opening gambit next week.
You can never truly write Wales off – especially under veteran Kiwi Warren Gatland – as his new-look side bid for a repeat of their 2019 Grand-Slam winning heroics. With a Lions tour of Australia on the horizon coming firmly into view, the tournament offers the best Britain has to offer an early chance to stake their claim for a place on the plane Down Under.
Glory beckons in Southgate’s potential farewell
But it’s not just in rugby where we will see kings of Europe crowned. Football’s equivalent takes place in Germany from 14 June in what looks to be Gareth Southgate’s final bow as England boss.
With one of the most exciting squads in world football, the pressure and expectation will again be on the shoulders of England’s young stars. This side is the best we’ve had in a generation as the Three Lions look to emulate the Lionesses and finally end the senior men’s team 58-year wait for a major trophy.
We’ve heard this story so many times before but maybe, just maybe, this one will have a different ending. We can dream, right? We face Serbia, Slovenia and the ever-tricky Danish in the groups with the likes of Spain, France and Julian Nagelsmann’s rejuvenated Germany on home soil blocking the path to glory.
Scotland navigated a tricky qualifying section featuring Spain and Erling Haaland’s Norway to make it to a second successive Euros, whilst Rob Page’s Wales will be looking to join them. The Welsh Dragons face a home play-off against Finland in March before a potential showdown with Robert Lewandowski et al to decide their destiny.
British stars eye Golden Games
Hot on the heels of the summer’s festival of football, all eyes turn to the French capital as the greatest sporting show on earth comes to Paris.
After a watered down Games in 2021, delayed by a year and held in empty venues across Japan, the world’s biggest multisport extravaganza returns in style.
The opening ceremony of the 33rd Olympiad takes place along the River Seine just 12 days after the conclusion of the Euros.
Running from 26 July to 11 August, Paris 2024 will consist of approximately 10,500 athletes, 329 events and 32 sports where ‘breaking’ (a competitive form of breakdancing) will make it’s Olympic bow. Sport climbing, surfing and skateboarding enjoyed successful debuts in Tokyo and feature once more this time around.
Team GB – spearheaded by several iconic, household names – will be looking to go one better than the 64 medals (and 22 golds) won last time out.
Swimming stars Tom Dean, Duncan Scott and Adam Peaty OBE, in what could be his Olympic swansong, are again set to make a splash at the forefront of the British team. Tom Daley makes a surprise return whilst Britain’s most decorated female Olympian Dame Laura Kenny spearheads the cycling team’s assault on the medals. At the other end of the spectrum, teenage skateboarding sensation Sky Brown – who dazzled in Tokyo – is another Team GB star to watch for. For the hosts, superstar striker Kylian Mbappe has expressed his desire to take part while rugby union star Antoine Dupont will swap the Six Nations for the rugby sevens.
The Paralympic Games, which take place from 28 August to 8 September, will feature some 4,400 athletes competing in 549 events across 22 sports.
Great Britain finished second in the medal table at the Tokyo Paralympics with 124 medals – 41 gold, 38 silver and 45 bronze.
Tokyo medallists including cyclist Sarah Storey, who has a record 17 Paralympic gold medals and would be competing at her ninth Games, wheelchair racer Hannah Cockroft, swimmer Maisie Summers-Newton and equestrian riders Lee Pearson and Sophie Wells will all be hoping to add to their medal hauls.
Another busy year for England’s cricketers
Another year; another major cricket tournament. This time, it’s the T20 for both the men and women. The men’s event is co-held by the USA and the West Indies in June, with the women’s equivalent being held in Bangladesh towards the end of the year.
England’s men go into the 20-team competitions as holders and favourites, looking to make a better stab of defending their title than the dismal embarrassment suffered by their 50-over contemporaries.
One date jumps out from the packed excitement of the sporting calendar: 19 July. Co-incidentally, that’s five years to the day since the world was gripped by the seismic scenes unfolding in a small corner of west London. England won the Cricket World Cup after a tied Super Over against New Zealand, whilst across town Novak Djokovic usurped his great friend and rival Roger Federer in the longest Wimbledon final of all time.
This year, the men’s final shares the prime Sunday night viewing slot with the denouement of events in Germany. It would be fair to say nothing is getting done in my house that day!