Bottlejobs: Sportspeople and teams who fail at final hurdle

March 7, 2022
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They say in sport, there are born winners.

Even without possessing that much talent, some names, such as the likes of Gary Neville, have earned a huge amount of silverware through pure grit, determination - and not losing their nerve on the grandest stage.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, we have what are known as the bottle jobs - the sports stars good enough to reach the final hurdle but always seem to fall down at that point.

Here we take a look at some of the most notable times that stars did all the hard work, only to find themselves tasting defeat at the last stage.

Michael Smith

Smith has come close so many times it hurts

Michael Smith has lost the finals of the World Championship, Premier League, Matchplay, Masters and World Series finals without claiming a major title.

Most recently came his loss to Peter Wright in January, missing out on the World Championship once more.

He said after his loss in 2020: “‘I don’t know how many finals that is now and how many runner-up trophies, but it’s another one to add to my collection but I’ll get over it and tomorrow’s a different day and I’ll be back on the board practicing double top.

"It’s just every time. It looks like I bottle it every time and I’m not, I’m trying my hardest to hit it and it just won’t go in."

Jimmy White

Have we missed anyone out?? Give us your thoughts in the comments section.

File photo dated 02-05-1994 of Stephen Hendry (l) and Jimmy White (r). PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday April 7, 2017. In a repeat of the 1992 and 1993 finals, it was Hendry against perennial Crucible runner-up White. Hendry played the tournament with a fractured elbow after slipping in his hotel bathroom, but the Scot still managed to defend his title
White went out for a fourth time to Hendry

There was a point where Jimmy White’s quest to the win World Championship was a topic of national discussion.

In 1994, he came up against Stephen Hendry, someone who had beaten him on three occasions before.

White took the game to a deciding frame. There at 37-24 up, White missed the black off its spot, leaving it wide open for Hendry to make a break of 57 and confirm his fourth World Championship.

“He’s beginning to annoy me”, White said afterward.


LEICESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 19: Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur at The King Power Stadium on January 19, 2022 in Leicester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Rob Newell - CameraSport via Getty Images)
Arsenal fans remind Spurs of their empty cabinet more often than not

Tottenham might have some of the best players in the world, and are equipped with a huge 60,000-odd stadium and financial backing.

But a trophy has alluded them for some time. Their last, in fact, came in 2007, a League Cup.

The pain of the situation has been too much to bear for some players, such as Harry Kane, who has often been linked with a move away owing to the amount of dust in the club’s trophy cabinet.

Kane even told Gary Neville: "I’ve said before, I never say I’d stay at Spurs for the rest of my career… I’d never say I’d leave Spurs. I’m at that stage where you can say you know, people may say ‘oh he’s desperate for trophies, he needs the trophies."

Terry Jenkins

Pictured at the NIA in is the Premier league match between Jelle Klassen aka the Matador and Terry Jenkins aka the Bull. Also pictured are fans enjoying the night out. At the Ocky is Terry Jenkins.
Plenty of near misses for Jenkins

Terry Jenkins is the supremo of 'bottling it'. You can’t take away from the fact he’s been good enough to reach nine major finals in darts.

On the flip-side of that, he’s lost every single one.

These include the 2006 and 2007 World Grand Prix, the 2007 Premier League, 2007 Las Vegas Desert Classic, 2007, the 2009 World Matchplay, 2008 Grand Slam of Darts, 2014 UK Open, and 2014 European Championship.

That many runners-up finishes are almost impressive in and of itself.

Dan Marino

Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino fights back the tears as he announces his retirement 38
Almost but not quite for Marino

Dan Marino is considered the greatest quarterback never to get his hands on a Super Bowl.

He reached the final on just one occasion - Super Bowl (XIX) in 1985 - but his Miami Dolphins lost to the 49ers.

In later life, Marino also was dealt a blow - Digital Domain Media Group Inc. stock collapsed and left the 60-year-old pundit with an almost £10million hole in his pocket.

Jana Novotna

The Duchess of Kent comforts Jana Novotna as she presents her with the runner up trophy on centre court at Wimbledon. Novotna lost 6-7 6-1 4-6 to defending champion Steffi Graf.
You can't help but feel bad for Novotna

The 1993 Wimbledon Ladies' Final featured Steffi Graf and Jana Novotna.

Graf was in the third set and 4-1 down against her opponent. Hopeful of making it 5-1, something happened. Leading 40-30, a capitulation of the highest order ensued.

Maybe it was nerves, but she jarred a double fault, and then slowly Graf started to creep up on her, with the shakiness becoming apparent.

At 4-3, Novotna then hit three double faults in a single game, before losing the final entirely. The Czech lost 7–6, 1–6, 6–4, and was visibly upset with the defeat.

Greg Norman

Greg Norman of Australia looks to the ground in dejection after missing another putt during the final round of the 1996 Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia.
A bogey of the highest order

Greg Norman, considered one of the world’s best in the early 1990s, endured a fair slice of bad luck throughout this career.

But what really took the biscuit was his collapse in the 1996 US Masters.

Norman held a four-shot lead over Nick Faldo, but then the Englishman came back into the game, over the four holes making par, birdie, par, and par.

The pair went on before Norman shot himself in the foot on a par-3 on the 16th hole, putting the ball in the water for double bogey.

Faldo then closed with a final birdie for a 67.

He said after the contest: “I feel for him [Norman] because he is a great guy. I was trying to enjoy it, trying to stay positive, but I do feel sorry for Greg.”

“I could feel the nervousness emanating from Greg. He gripped and regripped the club, as though he could not steel himself to hit the ball.”

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