The RIFT Rewind: Top Sporting Highlights of 1999
17th July 2020
No lockdown can dampen the party spirit at RIFT. We’re still keeping the dream alive with our 21st anniversary celebrations. This month, we’re focusing the lens of our Time Telescope on the top sporting highlights of the year RIFT was born. Where were you when these titans of the ball-bouncing, bike-riding and fist-throwing arenas were showing the world what they were made of?
5) Lance Armstrong wins the Tour de France
Okay, so a lot of the shine’s come off Armstrong’s legacy over the years. That’s why we’re putting his name a little lower on our list than a raw record of his accomplishments might suggest. Back in 1999, though, his was one of the key motivational stories in the whole sporting world. Getting back into the cycling game after a 3-year-long struggle against cancer would have been impressive enough. Coming back and winning what’s widely recognised as the toughest, most gruelling event in the entire sport is something else entirely. Let’s not forget that Armstrong’s initial diagnosis gave him barely even odds of escaping with his life.
4) Michael Jordan retires
Less of a celebrated accomplishment than a significant moment in sporting history, this one. After a 6th championship win, the man frequently called the greatest of all time finally hung up his Nikes and called it a day. At least, that’s what it looked like at the time. Jordan had actually already retired once before, 6 years earlier. That time, it only stuck for about 17 months before he was back on the court. Honestly, after that the cycle of retirement and comeback became kind of a Jordan trademark. After quitting in 1999, he was already back in 2001 – before saying his final farewells to the sport in 2003. Regardless, it was a big deal at the time, and deserves a slot on this list.
3) Lennox Lewis becomes the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion
Well, the controversies just keep coming in 1999, don’t they? In his November rematch against Evander Holyfield for the WBA, WBC, IBF and Lineal Heavyweight Championship titles, London-born Lewis was fighting the ghost of a baffling judges’ call in the same match-up just 8 months earlier. In that previous bout, despite basically the whole boxing world calling the fight in his favour, the results came in as a draw so controversial that it seemed for some to call the legitimacy of the whole sport into question. Coming back with a point to make, Lewis fought to a unanimously scored victory over 12 rounds, becoming the first undisputed champion for 7 years.
2) Serena Williams wins the US Open
Serena Williams is a legitimate giant of the tennis world. In 1999 she proved exactly that by putting away the world’s number 1 female player Martina Hingis without dropping a single set. After that win, she basically never stopped, racking up a ridiculous 23 Grand Slam singles titles overall. That statistic alone makes her the second most dominant singles competitor of the Open Era. The fact that she won her first Grand Slam victory at the age of just 17 only makes the feat even more impressive.
1) Manchester United wins basically everything
This is definitely one for the history books. A triple triumph for Sir Alex Ferguson’s celebrated squad, with the team winning the Premier League, the FA Cup and the Champions League. Their 2-0 FA Cup final victory over Newcastle helped kick off the sporting success story of 1999, with a 2-1 Champions League win over Bayern Munich setting the capstone. It was a first for English football, and our top pick for our list.
So, do you remember where you were in 1999, when the world’s sporting greats were giving their all? Are you outraged that we somehow failed to mention that this was the year when David Beckham married a Spice Girl? Sound off on our Facebook page – and keep checking back to see what we turn the Time Telescope on next month as the RIFT 21st birthday party rolls on.