Sport so often seems distilled down to lists of cold statistics: most titles won; most goals, tries or runs scored; most Grand Slam or golf majors; most 180s or 147s. The stats are endless. But in 31 years with The Herald and 40 as a sports journalist, those numbers never added up for me.

It's always meant more than my catalogue of more than 60 different sports covered in more than 40 countries. These include nine summer Olympics, 10 Commonwealth Games and all 11 World Athletics Championships since they began. Rather, it is about the men and women behind the triumphs and disasters: the champions themselves, the people behind the cheating and cheering, their courage and cowardice.

My earliest sports memories are a year apart: the coronation summer of 1953 and reading the report of the first ascent of Everest. I was six and transfixed.

I still have the newspaper with its souvenir pictures - Hillary, an alien figure against an impossibly blue sky. The next was being summoned by my dad to hear news of the Three Musketeers - Bannister, Brasher and Chattaway - and the first sub four-minute mile. The third was tuning in around 3am to hear Eamon Andrews's commentary on the Don Cockell v Rocky Marciano world heavyweight title fight.

I devoured every line of the newspaper reports. I wanted to know all about these icons.

While doing the greatest job in the world, I've since been privileged to meet and interview several of them.

Passing years can be cruel, and kind. Chris Bonnington told me one dare not melt snow for a brew on Everest now, because urine contamination is widespread where Hillary and Tensing so recently placed the first footprint.

So many powerful memories: Alan Gordon, a forgotten fourth in that race against Bannister, was subsequently credited with Scottish mile records thanks to research by The Herald. Lachie Stewart beating Ron Clarke for Commonwealth 10k gold in 1970. He took his mind off the training miles by resolving engineering problems in his head, for the working scale-model submarines and ships he built . . . The 1972 Munich Olympics - 11 Israelis murdered. Mark Spitz, in Munich, was certainly the least charismatic seven-gold-medal Olympian I ever interviewed, and gymnast Olga Korbut remains the youngest. Russia's victory over the US basketball team there had me on the edge of my seat more than any sporting event not involving Scotland. Nearly 30 years later I interviewed massacre survivor Shaul Ladani. As a child, he and his mother had been liberated from Bergen-Belsen at the end of the Second World War: "but my grandmother and grandfather were made into soap at Auschwitz".

Allan Wells's Olympic 100m title in Moscow, Coe and Ovett taking 800 and 1500m gold; Liz McColgan's world 10k title in 1991 and her two Commonwealth golds; the magic of Graeme Obree; Paula Radcliffe's world marathon best - each an indelible image. Yet the most awesome remains that of Parkinson's-ravaged Muhammad Ali lighting the 1996 Olympic flame.

Most courageous: Sprinter Cameron Sharp learning to walk again after a catastrophic car crash.

Most improbable victories: David Sole's 1990 slow-marching Scots at Murrayfield; the humbling of Australia by Scotland's 2006 swim team in Melbourne.

Seeing red: at Ben Johnson's steroid-fuelled Olympic 100m, and the bare-faced lies of Marion Jones.

Oddest moment: Having the IOC acknowledge, after 82 years, that the 1924 Scottish curling rink were true Olympic champions, again thanks to The Herald.

Closest finishes: Steve Redgrave's fifth Olympic rowing gold, by a cigarette length; and Chris Hoy, Craig Maclean, and Ross Edgar beating England by 27 thousandths of a second - less than the blink of an eye - to take Commonwealth team sprint cycling gold in Melbourne.

However, the biggest inspiration remains the courage with which sportsmen and women worldwide, able-bodied and mentally and physically challenged, daily pursue impossible dreams, and often make them come true.

  • To mark The Herald's 225th anniversary, we are publishing a series of free prints this week. On Saturday we will be giving away a copy of our first edition; on March 14 we'll publish a free magazine - and in May there will be a dinner at Kelvingrove Art Gallery. Over the summer there will be an exhibition of images and front pages from the archives. For details, call Alison Martin on 0141 302 7410.