Beijing, Dec 29 (IANS) Top international sports news stories of the year:
* Lionel Messi won the 2011 FIFA Ballon d'Or, the prestigious award for the world's outstanding footballer, for the third straight time on Jan. 9. He also made history on Dec. 9 when he scored his 85th and 86th goals of 2012 to set a new record for the number of goals scored in a calendar year. The Argentine striker's total scores of this year have piled to 91 goals after last week's Primera Liga.
* Defending champion and World No.1 Novak Djokovic won his third Australian Open title after beating 10-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal of Spain 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5 in a marathon final which lasted five hours and 53 minutes on Jan. 29.
* Seventy-four people were killed and hundreds were injured in a riot breaking out following a soccer match in northern Egypt on Feb. 2.
* In February, the American-born-Chinese Jeremy Lin burst into the spotlight of NBA as an unlikely benchwarmer turned hero for New York Knicks. Lin was drafted out of Harvard and was waived by two clubs late last year before he caught on with the Knicks.
* Chelsea striker Didier Drogba tied the score with a thunder-like header in the last minutes of regular time against Bayern Munich and scored the decider in the penalty shootout, leading Chelsea to their first-ever Champions League title on May 19.
* LeBron James finally added an elusive NBA title to his already impressive resume, guiding the Heat to a five-game triumph over Oklahoma Thunder for their second NBA championship On June 21. Following up on his regular-season Most Valuable Player nod, James averaged 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists in the finals and was named finals MVP.
* Spain stepped on top of Europe on July 1 by beating the 10-man Italy 4-0 in the final. Italy, who were in the final for the first time in 12 years, again failed to claim a second European crown after their triumph in 1968.
* David Silva's header, Jordi Alba's cool finish, as well as Fernando Torres and Juan Mata's goal relay in the last 10 minutes ensured the reigning world and European champions of becoming the first team in football history to clinch three major titles in a row.
* On July 28, the British capital launched its third modern Olympic Games - London 2012, described by the organizer as "an athletes' Games". It attracted 10,490 athletes from 204 countries and regions. A total of 44 world records and 117 Olympic records have been set at the grand event. Olympic chief Jacques Rogge hailed the London Olympics as "happy and glorious" games as he closed the 30th Summer Games.
* London Paralympic Games opened 17 days later, teams from 164 countries and regions, the largest ever number in the history of the Paralympic Games, brought together about 4,200 athletes to compete in 503 medal events of 20 sports.
* Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt kept his name at London 2012 as the fastest man on earth by repeating the 100 meters and 200 meters golden double.
* Whilst, American swimmer Michael Phelps concluded his long career in London. Though he didn't repeat the eight golds peak at the Beijing Games, he still won four golds and two silvers in seven events. As the most decorated Olympian in history, Phelps surpassed gymnast Larissa Latynia with 22 Olympic medals.
* Lance Armstrong, one of cycling's greatest heroes, fell from his throne, being labeled as a dope cheat for the past decade or so. His fall from grace, surely the biggest anti-doping news of the year, put cycling in crisis. A 1,000-page report released by the US Anti-Doping Agency in October, not only justified the stripping of Armstrong's seven Tour de France titles and a lifetime ban on August 25, but also exposed many doping secrets in professional cycling.