The year 1966 is a very significant one for me as it is the year I was born. A lot has changed in the world of sports since then, when I think about the sports I followed growing up and the athletes who have come and gone.
In most parts, sport in 1966 was played without the hype and celebrity mania of today’s elite sport. One exception of the day was Muhammad Ali, who only passed away very recently. Ali was at the peak of his career in 1966, both in his boxing and public life. He defended his title five times, though shortly after he was in the midst of controversy for refusing to be inducted into the armed forces to fight in the Vietnam War. Up until that time he was the undefeated and undisputed heavyweight champion, however, he would not fight again until 1970.
One of the major events of the year was the FIFA World Cup tournament, one that will particularly live on in the memories of the English fans. In a hotly contested final, the host country England won their first and only World Cup title by defeating West Germany 4-2 after extra time. As time ran out, the sealer was struck to the famous words by BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme “Some people are on the pitch. They think it’s all over. It is now!”
The English were also involved in the Commonwealth Games (then called the British Commonwealth Games) which were held in Kingston, Jamaica. The Asian Games were in Bangkok, Thailand and the Central American and Caribbean Games were held in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The year saw the emergence of a young American women’s tennis star Billie Jean King who won her first grand slam title. It was the start of a career that would finish with a total of 12 grand slam titles. Margaret Court won the Australian Open for the seventh straight time, a feat that has not been achieved by any other man or woman. Both of these women would years later be famously involved in the battle of the sexes matches against Bobby Riggs.
Golfing legend Jack Nicklaus successfully defended his Masters Tournament title, which was also his third win at the event. He also won The Open Championship for the first time in his career and his sixth major title. With these wins, he became the fourth player to win all four major professional championships. Considering his lifetime achievements in which he would win 18 majors, the last one in 1986, this was just the beginning for The Golden Bear.
Jack Brabham won the F1 driver’s championship for the third and last time, one of 10 drivers who has achieved this feat in the history of the event. He is the only driver to win a championship in a car of his own team.
This is just a sample of the highlights from 1966. On our sports timeline, you can read more details of the sporting results from 1966.