LONDON (AP) England’s national rugby team has a chance to post a winning streak that merits comparison with some of the most memorable in sports.
If the team beats Ireland on Saturday in Dublin in the Six Nations, it will set a record of 19 straight wins for a top-ranked side. That will be one better than New Zealand, which won the most recent World Cup in 2015 during a record-breaking 18-match winning run.
Here are a few momentous winning streaks over the past century with accompanying photos from The Associated Press archive:
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Johnny Weissmuller may be better known as Tarzan. But before he launched his trademark yell, Weissmuller was the greatest swimmer in the world. For eight years from 1921, he didn’t lose a race, setting countless records and winning five Olympic gold medals. No one stood a chance in the jungle – or in the pool.
THE REAL ROCKY
Rocky Marciano’s achievements in the heavyweight division will take something special to be matched. Between 1947 and 1955, he won all 49 of his fights. For those who saw him and his brute force up close, especially when he knocked out former champ Joe Louis, there have been few fighters like ”The Brockton Blockbuster.”
Marciano’s unbeaten record may be the most memorable streak in boxing history, but it’s not the longest. That honor goes to Mexican fighter Julio Cesar Chavez, who in the 13 years after turning pro in 1980 didn’t lose a fight – 87 of them across three weight divisions. The run ended when he drew with American rival Pernell Whitaker in a fight in Texas.
For decades, the Spain’s national soccer team was one of the sport’s great underachievers. Then, the 2008 European Championship happened and Spain won its first major tournament in 44 years. After its quarterfinal victory over Italy on penalties, Spain embarked on a run of 15 straight wins, a record for a national team that ended when the United States beat the team in June 2009. Spain recovered just fine, however, going on to win the World Cup in 2010 and Euro 2012.
WRESTLING’S `RUSSIAN BEAR’
Alexander Karelin was as dominant a figure in Greco-Roman wrestling as anyone in any sport. For 13 years, the Russian super-heavyweight was unbeaten and was expected to win his fourth gold medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. His loss to American wrestler Rulon Gardner for the gold medal ranks as one of sport’s greatest shocks.
Two-time Olympic champion Edwin Moses won 122 consecutive 400-meter hurdle races for a decade from 1977, one of the most memorable streaks in track and field. His loss in Spain to American teammate Danny Harris was a sign of things to come – he took bronze at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
At the turn of the millennium, Australia was embarking on a period of dominance in cricket. The team, which had a raft of top-notch batsmen and two of the greatest bowlers in history in spinner Shane Warne and fast bowler Glenn McGrath, turned in a record run of 16 straight test match victories between October 1999 and March 2001. The team was so good that it matched that winning streak later in the decade.
Ingemar Stenmark is considered the greatest gate skier of all time, his high-point the double gold at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. That was no real surprise given that Stenmark was seemingly unbeatable at the time, particularly in the giant slalom. His gold medal run was part of a 16-race winning streak in giant salmon events in which he competed.
KING OF CLAY
There is little doubt that Rafael Nadal is the greatest clay-court player in tennis history with his record nine French Open titles. But he also went on an 81-match winning streak early in his career- the longest on a single surface in the Open era. Roger Federer brought the run to an end at the 2007 Hamburg Masters, but Nadal got his revenge in the French Open final soon after.
Martina Navratilova won a record 74 straight matches from February until December 1984. After winning the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open, Navratilova appeared destined to complete the Grand Slam at the Australian Open, then played on her favorite surface – grass. But Navratilova lost to Helena Sukova Czechoslovakia in the semifinals.