Every week SI is filled with photography from major sports. These pages are different. From the shores of the Amazon to a frozen trail in Alaska to a dirt pitch in Sierra Leone, SI's selection of memorable shots from 2006 illuminates scenes played out in 11 sports on five continents. The venues are mostly obscure, and the athletes--except for Michael Phelps and Andre Agassi--are unknown to mainstream fans, yet what they lack in celebrity they make up for in heart.
This is an article from the Dec. 25, 2006 issue
See more of SI's best pictures from 2006 in galleries of Hidden Gems and the Best of Leading Off ONLY AT SI.COM
GABRIEL VILLARAN, a 22-year-old professional surfer from Lima, Peru, shotthrough the barrel of a heavy wave on the North Shore of Oahu on Feb. 25.Villaràn was the 2005 Latin American pro surfing champion and won the 2006 PanAmerican Surfing Games.
MICHAEL PHELPS beat his competitors off the blocks in the final of the200-meter individual medley at the Santa Clara International grand prix meet onJune 25. The winner of six gold medals and two bronze at the 2004 Olympics inAthens, Phelps won this and five other events at the meet.
SOCCER FANS gathered outside City Hall in Seoul, South Korea, on June 13 towatch a World Cup match between their national team and Togo's, broadcast livefrom Germany and projected on a giant video screen. South Korea won 2--1 ingroup play, setting off a massive celebration. The team was eliminated in thatround, however, and Italy beat France in the final.
LOSING CONTROL of his bike in the final sprint of stage 4 of the Tour deFrance, Julian Dean crashed on July 5. The New Zealander, who was not seriouslyinjured, finished the three-week race 128th out of 139 riders. Tour winnerFloyd Landis of the U.S. also fell from grace when he failed a dopingtest.
VICTOR MUSA (left) and Maxwell Fornah of the Single Leg Amputee Sports Club ofSierra Leone went all out in a soccer match in Freetown on April 6. The menwere mutilated by armed rebels in Sierra Leone's civil war. The club will hostthe first All Africa Amputee Football Tournament in February.
ANDRE AGASSI lit up his final U.S. Open with a crowd-pleasing first-roundvictory over Andrei Pavel on Aug. 28. Three nights later Agassi, winner ofeight Grand Slam events, bested Marcos Baghdatis in a dramatic five-setter,before bowing out of the Open in the third round and ending his stellarcareer.
A DIVING Japanese player came to the aid of her goalkeeper, knocking the ballout of the reach of two Americans on a wet carpet at the Women's Hockey WorldCup in Madrid on Sept. 30. The game ended tied 0--0. Japan finished fifth andthe U.S. sixth at the quadrennial event, which was won by theDutch.
JARED NOWELL'S over-the-top effort trying to score for St. Charles CatholicHigh of LaPlace, La., was for naught on March 11 when Lutcher (La.) Highcatcher Fabyan Martin tagged him in midair. Nowell's teammate Matt Heltz wonthe game with a grand slam in the bottom of the seventh.
THOUGH TRAFFIC was light on the Gowanus Expressway on Sunday, Nov. 5, it wasrush hour in Brooklyn, where more than 30,000 runners in the New York CityMarathon headed northeast toward Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan. First acrossthe finish line in Central Park was Marilson Gomez dos Santos of Brazil in2:09:58; Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia led all women in 2:25:05.
ROBERT CITERNE of France (left) dueled with Zhang Chong of China during themen's épée final at the Wheelchair World Fencing Championships in Turin, Italy,on Oct. 2. Citerne won the gold medal, then added another as a member of thevictorious French squad in men's team sabre.
SLED DOGS pulled Jim Lanier of Chugiak, Alaska, through the blowing snowoutside Ruby, Alaska, on March 11, the seventh day of the Iditarod. Lanier, 66,completed the 1,112-mile race five days later, in 41st place. Fifty-year-oldJeff King of Denali, Alaska, finished in nine days and 11 hours to win hisfourth title.Photograph by Al Grillo/AP
CHELLSIE MEMMEL of the U.S., the defending world all-around champion, missed abar and fell to the mat in a spray of chalk during the uneven bars rotation atthe gymnastics world championships in Aarhus, Denmark, on Oct. 18. The U.S.finished second to China in team competition.
YOUNG MEN on Marajó Island, in the Amazon River delta in the Brazilian state ofParà, improvised a soccer pitch before sunset on March 31 amid tree trunks,branches and other debris ripped from the jungle by the river and left behindon its shores at low tide.