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Many will still find the manner of their semi-final exit too raw to consider. But Wales' performance at the Rugby World Cup was stirring and heroic, and in sharp contrast to the England debacle. Their valiant semi-final loss to France must, once the pain has eased, go down as a highlight.
Britain's long wait for a men's distance-running superstar came to an emphatic end in the World Athletics Championships in Daegu, when Mo Farah, having been eclipsed in a last-lap sprint in his favoured 10,000m, recovered miraculously to see off the great Bernard Lagat and claim 5,000m gold.
Football stories did not come much better than the night Shamrock Rovers made history as the first Irish team ever to qualify for the group stages of the Europa League after a stunning extra-time win at Partizan Belgrade. Stephen O'Donnell's late penalty winner sent much of Ireland into uproar.
The hugely-popular Darren Clarke created arguably the most heart-warming story of the sporting year when, after nine years without a major top-10 finish to his name, he won the Open Championship, and promptly dedicated victory to his wife Heather, who had died of cancer five years earlier.
The vacuum at the top of women's tennis is no more, and it is all thanks to the extraordinary skill and power of Petra Kvitova, who bludgeoned a succession of opponents en route to a Wimbledon victory which reminded many of Kvitova's fellow Czech-born superstar, Martina Navratilova.
Sarah Stevenson won her second world taekwondo title in Korea in October but that was only the half of it. Stevenson took part despite both her parents having recently been diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Both her parents subsequently sadly died. Stevenson plans to dedicate her 2012 Olympic bid to their memory.
A new snooker star was born at The Crucible in Sheffield when Judd Trump finally made good on his potential to charge all the way to the World Championship final. Trump's first-round win over reigning champion Neil Robertson was particularly notable. Trump went on to claim the UK title in December.
It's almost easy to get blase about retaining the Ashes these days. So perhaps the defining moment of England's cricket year was not swatting away the Australians, but victory over India at Edgbaston which secured a series victory and with it official status as the world's number one Test-playing team.
Game Six of baseball's 2011 World Series will go down as one of the most dramatic on record. Twice, the St Louis Cardinals erased two-run deficits when the Texas Rangers were one strike away from winning their first title. St Louis triumphed in the 11th inning - then went on to win the decisive Game Seven.
Mark Cavendish won five Tour de France stages - taking his career total to 20 - en route to becoming the first Briton to win the prestigious green jersey. But he capped a stellar year by winning the World Road Race title in Copenhagen in November - the first British world champion since Tommy Simpson almost half a century earlier.
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