Sports are more than just games. They are a source of joy, passion, inspiration, and emotion for millions of people around the world. In 2023, sports fans witnessed some of the most unforgettable moments in history, from thrilling victories to heartbreaking losses, from heroic feats to tragic accidents, from individual brilliance to collective spirit. These moments were captured in stunning photos that tell the stories of the athletes, the fans, and the events that shaped the year in sports.
Simone Biles makes a triumphant return to the Olympics
Simone Biles, the most decorated gymnast of all time, had a rocky start to the Tokyo Olympics. She withdrew from several events due to mental health issues, citing the pressure of being the face of the Games and the phenomenon of “the twisties”, a loss of spatial awareness that can endanger gymnasts. Many people praised her courage and vulnerability, while others criticized her decision and questioned her commitment.
But Biles did not give up. She returned to the balance beam final, where she performed a flawless routine that earned her a bronze medal. It was her seventh Olympic medal, tying her with Shannon Miller as the most decorated American gymnast in history. Biles smiled and waved to the crowd, showing her resilience and strength. She later said that the medal meant more to her than all the golds she had won before.
Lionel Messi wins his first international trophy with Argentina
Lionel Messi, widely regarded as one of the greatest soccer players of all time, had one major gap in his illustrious career: he had never won a major international trophy with his national team, Argentina. He had come close several times, losing four finals in the World Cup and the Copa America. Many fans and critics doubted his legacy and compared him unfavorably to his rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, who had led Portugal to the Euro 2016 title.
But Messi finally ended his drought in 2023, when he led Argentina to the Copa America title, beating Brazil 1-0 in the final at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Messi was the star of the tournament, scoring four goals and providing five assists, and winning the best player and top scorer awards. He lifted the trophy with tears in his eyes, surrounded by his teammates and friends. He later said that it was the happiest moment of his life.
Naomi Osaka lights the Olympic cauldron and makes a statement
Naomi Osaka, the world number one tennis player and a four-time Grand Slam champion, had a turbulent year in 2023. She withdrew from the French Open and skipped Wimbledon, citing mental health reasons and her discomfort with media obligations. She faced backlash from some fans, media, and officials, who accused her of being unprofessional and disrespectful.
But Osaka had a special role in the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics, where she was chosen to light the Olympic cauldron, a symbol of peace and unity. Osaka, who is of Japanese and Haitian descent, represented the diversity and inclusiveness of the host nation and the Olympic movement. She later said that it was an honor and a privilege to be part of the ceremony.
Osaka also made a statement on the court, where she wore masks with the names of Black victims of police brutality and racial injustice, such as Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and George Floyd. She said that she wanted to use her platform to raise awareness and spark a conversation about the issues that matter to her. She reached the third round of the Olympic tournament, where she lost to eventual gold medalist Belinda Bencic of Switzerland.
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen collide in a dramatic Formula One title race
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, the two best drivers in Formula One, had a fierce and thrilling battle for the world championship in 2023. The rivals traded wins and points throughout the season, with several incidents and controversies along the way. The most dramatic one occurred at the British Grand Prix, where Hamilton and Verstappen collided on the first lap, sending Verstappen crashing into the barriers at high speed. Verstappen was taken to the hospital, while Hamilton was given a 10-second penalty. Hamilton recovered from the penalty and won the race, cutting Verstappen’s lead in the standings.
The title race went down to the wire, with Hamilton and Verstappen tied on points heading into the final race in Abu Dhabi. The race was tense and tight, with both drivers pushing to the limit. On the last lap, Hamilton was leading, but Verstappen had fresher tires and a chance to overtake. A late safety car intervention gave Verstappen the opportunity to pass Hamilton and win the race and the championship by a narrow margin. It was Verstappen’s first world title and the end of Hamilton’s reign as the seven-time champion.
Tom Brady wins his eighth Super Bowl ring at age 45
Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback of all time, added another chapter to his legendary career in 2023. At age 45, he led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their second consecutive Super Bowl title, beating the Kansas City Chiefs 31-24 in a rematch of the previous year’s final. Brady threw for 287 yards and three touchdowns, earning his fifth Super Bowl MVP award. He also broke his own record for the most Super Bowl rings by a player, with eight.
Brady, who had left the New England Patriots in 2020 after 20 seasons and six titles, proved that he could win without his former coach, Bill Belichick, and that he could defy the effects of aging and maintain his excellence. He said that he had no plans to retire and that he still loved the game. He also thanked his teammates, coaches, family, and fans for their support and trust.