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Who won in sport in 2016?

Danny Caro rounds up the winners and losers in a year of sport.

    Few would have foreseen the progress made by footballer Scott Kashket. A peripheral figure at Leyton Orient, where he struggled to get a game, Kashket, 20, left the club by mutual consent without the blink of an eyelid.

    But Orient’s loss was Wycombe Wanderers’ gain and earlier this month, he was rewarded for his excellent start to the season with a new contract following his FA Cup hat-trick against Chesterfield. He has already scored 11 goals this season. Not bad for someone who was told he would not make it at the top level due to his slight physique.

    In an interview I will always look back on fondly, when he was relatively unknown, Kashket told me: “I’ve been knocked back so many times. Loads of kids get their heart broken when they are told they will not make it in the game and they cannot get their head back to start again.

    “I somehow had the strength to do so, and luckily for me, it is finally paying off.

    "You need to believe in yourself in football - because if you don’t, then no-one else will.”

    Having turfed out the Special One, Roman Abramovich appears to have Chelsea heading in the right direction once again. Top at Chanukah, it was not all good news for Abramovich, 50, as he dropped three places to 13th in the Sunday Times Rich List, with a fortune of £6.4bn from his Russian oil business.

    While Leicester City were the surprise package in the Premier League, Hapoel Beer Sheva punched above their weight to land the Ligat Ha’Al title.

    The Israeli champions, who are run by businesswoman Alona Barkat, narrowly missed out on reaching the group stages of the Champions League for the first time following a 5-4 aggregate defeat to Celtic. But they have turned heads in the Europa League – completing a home and away double over Inter Milan and progressing into the Round of 32 ahead of Southampton. Besiktas awaits in February.

    A new Israeli transfer record was set in June when Guangzhou paid Maccabi Tel Aviv $8 million for Israeli captain Eran Zahavi.

    Brighton’s dynamic duo – Tomer Hemed and Beram Kayal - tasted play-off heartbreak in the Championship, but with the latter having recently extended his stay on the south coast, the Seagulls, who are owned by Tony Bloom, will be looking to realise their Premier League dream by May.

    Nir Bitton toasted SPL success with Celtic, while former Israel goalkeeper Ofir Marciano has been earning rave reviews since joining Hibernian.

    Having been drawn in the World Cup 2018 qualifying ‘Group of Death’ alongside former winners Spain and Italy, the Israeli national football team has made a solid start to their campaign. Under recently-appointed manager Elisha Levy, they are well-placed to push on following three victories in four matches, including a 3-0 success in Albania.

    Domestically, North London Raiders A completed the double-double and striker Jordan Marks received the MGBSFL Player of the Year accolade. But any hopes of a treble were crushed by Hendon United Sports Club who retained the Peter Morrison Trophy for the third year in a row.

    Outside of London, there was County Cup success for Manchester Maccabi, Oakhill Lions were crowned MJSL champions and South Manchester dominated the cup competitions.

    London Lions have enjoyed an outstanding first half of the season in the Herts Senior County League Premier Division. Andy Landesberg’s men have won their first 15 matches, with the front three of 29-goal James Gershfield, Josh Kennet and Austin Lipman setting the division alight.

    It was a year when sport simply never stopped for breath. We even saw some home-grown stars sparkle at the Rio Olympics. Cox Zoe De Toledo bowed out of rowing with a medal after leading Team GB to silver in the women’s eights, but there was no such joy for team-mate Alice Schlesinger, a former Israeli competitor, who slipped out in the second round of the Judo competition.

    Dr Ben Rosenblatt, a strength and conditioning coach, was rewarded for his role in helping GB’s women’s team triumph in the hockey event with a new role at the FA.

    But there was disappointed for Israel in Brazil, with the 47-person squad, who competed in 16 sports, largely under-achieving. Having triumphed at the European Championships in June, there were high hopes for the women’s gymnastics team, but they failed to sparkle in the same was at their sequinned leotards. There were podiums finishes for two judo stars, Or Sasson and Yarden Gerbi, both coming home with bronze. Israel also secured bronze medals in swimming, rowing and shooting - at the Paralympics.

    Before all this, there was a victory of sorts for the families of the victims of the Munich Games as the IOC agreed to hold a memorial for the 11 Israelis killed in 1972, after 44 years of campaigning.

    Aly Raisman returned one gold and two silvers in the gymnastics, while USA team-mate Anthony Ervin, a double gold medallist, became the oldest swimming champion in the history of the Games.

    But if Rio will be remembered as an iconic Games, it was also chaotic, and at times toxic, with athletes forfeiting matches against Israelis.

    Egypt’s Isam El Shehaby broke judo protocol by refusing to shake hands or bow following his defeat to Sasson. And who could forget the Lebanese delegation who refused to allow their Israeli counterparts to share their bus with them.

    Two boxers from Bushey made the headlines, with Tony Milch, 33, and Josh Burnham maintaining an unblemished record. Yuri Foreman, an ordained rabbi from Belarus, announced plans to challenge for the WBA and IBO light-middleweight titles against champion Erislandy Lara in Miami early in the new year.

    Israel’s respective men’s and women’s team avoided relegation in the Davis Cup and Federation Cup competitons, with the men impressively taking the scalp of Sweden.

    Much has been made of tennis starlet Yshai Oliel, a product of The David Academy, owned by Jewish businessman David Coffer. He made his Davis Cup debut aged 16, shortly after his memorable first grand slam success in the Junior Doubles event at the French Open.

    Michael Klinger had yet another prolific season with the bat for Western Australia, Perth Scorchers and Gloucestershire. But he somehow continues to be overlooked by Australian test selectors.

    The 35-year-old Melburian has scored run after relentless run in all forms of the game. In June he said: “The desire is there to get that Australia call, but realistically I know it's unlikely now.

    "At times you do think why it didn't happen as you think you deserve it. That's probably something that I will always think about.” He will return for four months of white-ball cricket next year.

    London Maccabi Vale CC celebrated their 60th anniversary in style with a fourth consecutive promotion in the Chess Valley League. Season highlights included figures of 7-16 for Player of the Year Steven Allweis and a first senior wicket for Harry Brand.

    South Styals ended the campaign in style in Manchester, with captain Steven Glicher lifting the Challenge Cup.

    Hartsbourne dominated the golfing calendar, with Jeremy Bohn winning the National Scratch title at Woodhall Spa. This followed the Bushey club retaining The Glancy Cup, running out victors by 12 shots at Dyrham Park.

    It has been a year to remember for Laetitia Beck, Israel’s only professional golfer. Having competed at the Olympics for the first time, Beck, from Caesarea, earned her Ladies PGA card for third consecutive year.

    Dov Katz continues to show his incredible appetite in table tennis, describing his victory at the Wembley & Harrow League as “one of his greatest achievements”. It was also a strong period for Maccabi GB’s trio of teams who all clinched promotion. “Across the board our section has never been healthier,” said MGB table tennis chair Jeremy Banks. Eli Baraty and Jessica Abrahams took the top honours at MGB’s annual championships.

    Josh Newman reached new heights after helping GB secure team silver at the European Trampolining Championships in Spain. Newman ended the year as runner-up at the recent Active Essex Young Sports Person of the Year awards.

    A new venture that has really taken off is Maccabi London Harriers. Aimed at athletes aged 11 to 15, the club has made giant strides in track and field.

    Richard Goodman, 23, took the North of the Thames cross country title as well as recording three victories in the Metropolitan cross country league.

    It was also a period of great progress for middle-distance specialist Gilad Nachshen, 13, and pole vaulter Lucie Wolfenden, 15, and David Stone, 14, returned from injury to win the Jerusalem 10K. At the other end of the spectrum, Roger Bruck continues to get better with age. Aged 77, he continues to win titles and break record after record. He really is an example to us all.

    Illness and injury made life tough for Shachar Peer but she performed through the pain barrier to win the British Universities Powerlifting Championship.

    It was a breakthrough year for Noam Adar. At 23 the Israeli is one of the youngest wrestlers on the WWE roster. Another man not to cross is countryman Noad Lahat. The UCF star fights in the featherweight division whilst maintaining his role as an IDF Paratrooper reservist. The mixed martial arts specialist became only the second Israeli to fight in the promotion and he produced a gutsy performance to win his debut Bellator (kickboxing) fight in Tel Aviv last month.

    There is great momentum behind the Israel Cycling Academy Team, with a strong roster selected for 2017. And having been given the seal of approval by the Union Cycliste International – the sport’s world governing body – they will continue to build on a period of great progress and achievement on the road.

    Across the pond, it was a bitter-sweet year for David Blatt who saw Cleveland Cavaliers crowned NBA champions after he was sacked. On the court, Omri Casspi registered 11.8 points a game – his best ever record in the NBA.

    In baseball, Dean Kremer became the first Israeli to sign a professional contract with MBL team LA Dodgers and Team Israel reached the World Baseball finals for the first time.

    With the Maccabiah Games in Israel in July and one of the most closely contested MGBSFL title races in years on the cards, there is much to look forward to over the next 12 months.

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