Triviality No. 51: Recent national 'firsts' in international sports
Cadel Evans, Australia
2011 Tour de France champion
Australia — home of sporting greats Greg Norman, Rod Laver and Ian Thorpe — did not produce a Tour de France champion until the race’s 98th edition. The 34-year-old Evans, a two-time runner-up, rode a tactically efficient race leading up to Saturday’s individual time trial. The native of the Northern Territory town of Katherine claimed the yellow jersey entering Paris by outpacing race leader Andy Schleck by 2 minutes, 31 seconds.
Li Na, China
2011 French Open champion
At age 29 and with just four previous WTA titles, Li Na became the first Asian tennis player to win a men’s or women’s Grand Slam singles title when she beat Francesca Schiavone in Paris 6-4, 7-6. (The previous year, Schiavone had won the French to give Italy its first female major tennis champion.) In her native China, 116 million watched Li’s victory. Previously, her runner-up finish in the Australian Open in January was a first in majors for Asia.
2010 World Cup champion
After 13 appearances without even earning a place in the final, the Red Fury edged the Netherlands 1-0 in extra time to bring soccer’s biggest prize to Spain. Andres Iniesta (above) scored a 116th-minute goal to give Spain the title in Johannesburg, South Africa. Combined with Spain’s 2008 European championship, the victory permanently boosted a country with a reputation for flameouts in high-level soccer.