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Sports Coach of 2012: Dave Brailsford leads the way with Olympic and Tour de France glory
The year 2012 will be forever etched in the sporting history books as one of the great years for sporting achievement - the Olympics, the Tour De France, Euro 2012, the Ryder Cup and many more events caught the public's imagination. The athletes who gave us these glorious memories are caught in a battle for the Sports Personality of the Year Award as we speak but what about the people behind their glory?
The coaches who inspired them to greatness will often avoid the limelight and take shelter in the background but we take a look at five coaches who vie for our title of 'Sports Coach of the Year 2012'......
5. Vincente Del Bosque (Manager of Euro 2012 winners Spain)
For many, Vicente Del Bosque is the right man in the right place at the right time as he is blessed with one of the most talented squad of footballers to have ever graced the Earth. However, England's supposed 'Golden Generation' have shown that talent alone doesn't win trophies in football and the calm figure of Del Bosque was a key figure in Spain's Euro 2012 success.
Del Bosque picked up where Luis Aragones left off by winning the World Cup in 2010 but many were tipping Germany or Holland to knock them off their perch at Euro 2012. However, Spain produced the perfect tournament performance as they gradually gathered momentum in beating Croatia, France, Portugal and Italy en route to lifting the trophy in Ukraine. Del Bosque, the only manager to win the World Cup, Euros and Champions League, looks a worthy nomination for the 2012 FIFA Coach of the Year award.
4. Patrick Mouratoglou (Coach of tennis player Serena Williams)
Serena Williams has no fewer than four coaches among her background staff, including parents Richard and Oracene, as well as 'touring' coach Sasha Bijan, but it is the arrival of respected tennis coach Patrick Mouratoglou who she credits with her stunning 2012 performances. The Frenchman joined forces with Williams following her shock first round defeat to Virginie Razzano at the French Open - her first opening round exit in 49 major appearances - before overseeing a remarkable turnaround in fortunes.
Williams had been seen as a spent force prior to this season after injury and a life-threatening illness threatened her career but she bounced back to lose only one of her remaining matches of 2012 after the French Open- landing the Wimbledon and US Open titles, while also winning Olympic gold in the singles and doubles. The 2012 WTA Player of the Year has much to thank Mouratoglou for and their blossoming partnership could continue to thrive next year.
3. Michael Bannon (Coach of golfer Rory McIlroy)
Michael Bannon is a name that might not be familiar to too many people but he is the man behind the swing of Rory McIlroy. The Northern Irishman first coached McIlroy as an 8-year-old and the pair have gone on to achieve great success since, with Bannon leaving his position as PGA Professional at Bangor Golf Club to become McIlroy's full-time coach in October.
Bannon, the 2011 PGA Tour of Europe Coach of the Year, travelled regularly with McIlroy during a stellar 2012 golf campaign that saw him win the USPGA Championship - to add to his US Open title of last year - the PGA Tour and European Tour money lists, as well as the PGA Tour Player of the Year award. He was of course part of Europe's Ryder Cup winning team and with Bannon on board full-time, 2013 could be another record-breaking year for McIlroy.
2. Ivan Lendl (Coach of tennis player Andy Murray)
When Lendl was appointed Andy Murray's coach nine months ago it was a partnership that could have been an overwhelming success or dramatic failure. Thankfully for both men it has been the former as Lendl, who like Murray knows what it is like to lose your first four Grand Slam final appearances as a player, gave Murray the steely edge to win a major tournament.
Murray has gone from the perennial underachiever to the first British man to win a Grand Slam since Fred Perry in 1936. The Scot landed the US Open in September to follow up his Wimbledon final appearance and Olympic Gold medal. His win in the final at Flushing Meadows was a gruelling affair as he let a two-set lead slip before winning in 4 hours 54 minutes against Novak Djokovic - one suspects it was a match he would have lost before the calm figure of eight-time major winner Lendl took over the reins.
1. Dave Brailsford (British Cycling Performance Director and manager of Team Sky)
Dave Brailsford is credited with the upturn in fortunes in British track and road cycling during the past 10 years as he has nurtured the talents of Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Mark Cavendish, Bradley Wiggins and co. to unparalleled success.
Brailsford is ahead of his time in terms of his methods, approaches and use of science in cycling and he has left the rest of the world playing catch up with Great Britain. Eight cycling gold medals at the London Olympics was testament to his ability as a coach, while Bradley Wiggins' victory for Team Sky at the Tour de France is an achievement that has Wiggins as the firm favourite to win Sports Personality of the Year. Brailsford himself has been touted for a knighthood and if he continues to enjoy such success - he is set to lead GB Cycling at the 2016 Olympics - then few would bet against him becoming Sir Dave Brailsford.
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