Columbus has become a sports hub; the host of a never-ending series of local, national and even international sporting events that have helped change the perception of the city and drive economic and social development forward. In honor of the Sports Commission’s 20th Anniversary, take a look back at some of the top 20 moments during in the past 20 years of Columbus sports.
Note: Moments are listed in chronological order
Dos a Cero
It began on a cold, blustery February night, in 2002, when the underdog U.S. Men’s National Team topped arch-rival Mexico 2-0 before a sellout crowd at Crew Stadium. This was the first in a string of four consecutive World Cup qualifying wins for the USMNT over Mexico that became known as “Dos a Cero,” in recognition of the 2-0-winning scores in Columbus. Overall, the USMNT has racked up a record of 9-1-2 in Columbus, always before sellout crowds.
"For the longest time, we didn't have a place in our country where we knew we were going to have a home field advantage … The people of Columbus and of Ohio and whoever would travel in made those games what they were and gave us a true home field advantage …” - Landon Donovan, former USMNT star s
FIFA Women’s World Cup (2003)
One of the Sports Commission’s top priorities is elevating women’s sports. Hosting several games during the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup was a big step in this direction. Powerhouse teams, such as Germany and Canada, played here, but the biggest draw was a game between the United States (the defending World Cup champions) and North Korea. This was as much a geopolitical battle as it was a sporting event … and the favored United States won 3-0. Abby Wambach scored the first goal, and Catherine “Cat” Reddick added two more in the second half.
2003 Women's World Cup
Huntington Park Opens (2009)
The city’s rich history of professional baseball dates all the way back to the late 1800s. A new era began in 2009, as the Clippers began their affiliation with the Cleveland Guardians as the team’s Triple-A affiliate and Huntington Park opened on April 18, 2009. The new ballpark immediately received rave reviews as one of the most beautiful, fan-friendly minor league stadiums in the country. The 10,000-seat Huntington Park includes outfield lawn and picnic areas, two full bars, rooftop terraces, and great views of downtown Columbus.
Clippers Win Back-to-Back Triple-A National Championships (2010 & 2011)
Perhaps inspired by their new ballpark, and loaded with future Major League-talent, the Clippers won the 2010 and 2011 Triple-A National Championships. They defeated the Tacoma Rainiers (Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners) 12-6 to win the 2010 title; then beat the Omaha Storm Chasers (Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals). Manager Mike Sarbaugh was the 2011 International League Manager of the Year, and some of the many players on these two teams to achieve success at the next level include Corey Kluber, Jason Kipnis and Zach McAllister.
USA Volleyball’s Girls’ National Championships (2012)
This was a huge “get” for the Sports Commission, a major step forward in establishing Columbus as the Volleyball Capital of the Midwest. The 10-day event brought 800 teams, 9,500 athletes and 20,000 spectators from 39 states to the city and Greater Columbus Convention Center. This army of diggers and spikers booked about 55,000 hotel room nights and generated $30 million in visitor spending. The event was a huge success, and the largest of many major USA Volleyball events held here.
Tiger “Flops” to Memorial Win (2012)
Tiger Woods called it “one of the hardest [shots] I’ve pulled off,” and Jack Nicklaus told him it was “the gutsiest, best shot I’ve ever seen in golf.” It was the final day of the Memorial Tournament at the Nicklaus-designed Muirfield Village Golf Club. Woods teed off on the demanding par-three, 16th hole, a stroke behind Rory Sabbatini. His shot landed in the tall grass just beyond the green. Anything close would be an amazing shot, anything a little too far just might roll down the hill and wind up in the water. Tiger deftly lofted the ball up and just over the rough and onto the green. As the ball rolled slowly downhill, the Memorial Tournament crowd roared louder and louder as the ball approached and then dropped into the hole. Sabbatini bogeyed the same hole a few minutes later, and Woods rolled on to his fifth Memorial title, the most by any golfer.
President’s Cup (2013)
Propelled by the decades-long success of the Memorial Tournament, Columbus and Dublin have become well-known in the golf world. So much so that the 10th President’s Cup, a four-day tournament that pits the 12-best U.S. players against the 12-best international players from non-European countries was held at Muirfield. Thank you, Jack! "You can't place a value on the exposure we'll receive," Dublin Mayor Tim Lecklider said before the start of the four-day tournament. "This is a tremendous opportunity to market the central Ohio area." The opening ceremonies were held at Columbus Commons, with a performance by country music stars Rascal Flatts. The U.S. team won 18 ½ to 15 ½, its fifth consecutive win.
OHSAA Football Championships Return to Columbus (2014)
“We want to put our state tournaments in the best venues possible, and most of those in the state are in central Ohio,” a spokesperson for the Ohio High School Athletic Association said in 2014. And so, the state football championships returned to Columbus and Ohio Stadium, the best damn college (and now, high school) football stadium in the land. This was the first time the football championships had been held here since 1989. Central Ohio venues have hosted several other OHSAA championships, including: basketball and wrestling at the Schottenstein Center, soccer at Historic Crew Stadium and Field, baseball at Huntington Park, track and field at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.  
Joe Burrow played his first game at Ohio Stadium as QB for Athens High School with a heartbreaking shootout loss to Toledo Central Catholic, 56-52. The future Heisman Trophy winner and National Champion has referred to this game as “the worst day of his life. “
Jesse Owens Jog (2015) and Movie (2016)
This annual jog and family fun run honors the legacy of the legendary Owens, with the added goal of promoting health and wellness in the city’s African American community. The first JOG attracted about 500 participants. The premier of Race, the big-budget, Owens biopic, was held in the Mershon Auditorium on The Ohio State campus in early 2016. Stephan James, the star of the film, attended, and made what he called a pilgrimage to visit the statue of Owens located outside the track and field stadium named for him on campus. Two of Owens’s daughters (Gloria and Marlene) attended the premier. “What I want people to remember about my father is that he did not judge people by the color or their skin,” Gloria said at the time. “He was not angry and resentful and he always felt he was a part of this country.”
2015 NHL All-Star Game
NHL All-Star Weekend (2015)

It took a few years longer than expected, but the NHL All-Star Game finally arrived in Columbus and Nationwide Arena on January 25, 2015 – and it was worth the wait. The game was originally scheduled to be played here in 2013 but was postponed due to the protracted lockout. It was postponed, for a second time, because of the NHL’s participation in the 2014 Winter Olympics. Nick Foligno of the Blue Jackets served as one of the two team captains. The other was Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks. Team Toews won 17-12 in a game that set several All-Star Game scoring records.

Part 2 of 20 Moments in 20 Years of Columbus Sports

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