2012 sports year in review: records, achievements, plus sundry feats and streaks from Brees and Bryant to Cain and Ko

In any given year, hundreds of sports records, both large and small, fall, barriers are broken, and other notable achievements provide texture to the countless games, matches, and tournaments. 

In 2012, for example, swimmer Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian ever, his four golds and two silvers in London giving him 22 medals overall, including 18 gold.

In baseball, Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera won the first Triple Crown for hitting since 1967, when Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski led the American League in batting average, runs batted in, and home runs.

In basketball, Jeremy Lin set off a wave of “Linsanity” playing for the New York Knicks, while the long underachieving Los Angeles Clippers ended the year with a 17-game winning streak and only the third perfect month ever recorded in the NBA.

In football, Drew Brees surpassed Johnny Unitas by completing a touchdown pass in 54 consecutive games and the University of Wisconsin’s Montee Ball set a college record with 82 career touchdowns.

Women shone in numerous ways, including in sports where their presence was once nonexistent. British flyweight boxer Nicola Adams took the very first gold medal in Olympic boxing, while Russian weightlifter Tatiana Kashrina hoisted 333 pounds on a single lift. Meanwhile the women’s gold-medal soccer match, in which the US beat Japan, attracted 80,203 spectators to London’s storied Wembley Stadium, the best attended women’s Olympic soccer match ever.

Here are our 20 records and feats that caught our eye in 2012:

Brian Snyder/Reuters
US swimmer Michael Phelps holds up his award recognising him as the most decorated Olympian, during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre August 4. Phelps ended his incredible Olympic career on a perfect note, winning his eighteenth gold medal for the United States in the men's medley relay.

1. Unmatched football coach

In a somewhat bittersweet ending to 64 years of coaching college football, John Gagliardi of St. John’s in Collegeville, Minn., called it quits with 489 wins, by far the most at any level of play. (The major college leader is Bobby Bowden with 377 career wins). The disappointment for Gagliardi is that the Division III Johnnies were only 5-5 this season, their first nonwinning season since 1986. Still, Gagliardi will be remembered as much for his refusal to go along with the crowd as for his team’s many wins. There was no tackling during short, 90-minute practices. He didn’t use blocking sleds, didn’t require weight training, truly made academics a top priority, and insisted that his players call him John and not Coach.

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