Last weekend saw the announcement of the winners of the Sky Sports and the Sunday Times Sports Women of the Year awards. Jessica Ennis-Hill took the ultimate prize for the second time in four years. The Courier takes a look at all the award winners and their achievements during their illustrious careers
Queen of the Ennis-Hill
Jessica Ennis-Hill added another Sportswoman of the Year title to her belt on Friday, as she beat out Lizzie Armitstead and Lizzy Yarnold to gain the prize backed by the Sunday Times and Sky Sports.
“Ennis-Hill wasted no time in showing that she’s still a threat when it comes to the serious competitions”
The award follows Ennis-Hill’s first competitive outing since giving birth to her first child nearly a year ago. Prior to the World Championships in Beijing, Ennis-Hill attended the Anniversary Games in London, where she competed in a total of 3 events across the competition. After performing well and feeling her body was in good condition, Ennis-Hill then declared herself fit to compete in Beijing. The 2012 Olympic champion proved she has not lost her will to win as she eased to victory during the summer to land the gold medal once again.
Ennis-Hill seemed surprised in herself at her achievement during interviews following the event. Having enjoyed a year away from the limelight and competition to raise her child, Ennis-Hill wasted no time in showing that she’s still a threat when it comes to the serious competitions.
At the age of 29, the prospect of winning a second World Championship Title may have seen out of reach. However the 2012 Olympic Champion proved all the doubters wrong once again merely 13 months after the birth of her son.
“the Jessica Ennis-Hill pedigree and experience will be tough to overcome”
Her sights are now set on the Olympic Games of 2016 which are set to take place in Rio, where she aims to defend her records and medal in the Heptathlon. Her competition will be tough with the likes of fellow Brit Katarina Johnson-Thompson following in her footsteps. Although the Jessica Ennis-Hill pedigree and experience will be tough to overcome, as she seems to have found a new lease of life, and is more on top of her game than ever.
Busy Lizzie takes silver
Lizzie Armitstead is dominating the women’s cycling scene. Having just won the UCI Women’s World Cup, Nationals and Worlds this year, it is no wonder she was leading the pack for Sportswoman of the Year.
Armitstead had first shown her mettle in track from an early age, winning the National Circuit Race Champion as early as 2006. It was in 2009 when Armitstead took to road, joining with Lotto-Belisol, and swiftly winning the British National Road Race Championships under 23s. To top it off, she even placed 2nd in the senior category.
Her career progressed further when she took a number of stage wins in the tour de L’Ardeche, and L’Aude. To top it off she took the British Road Race National Championships, which she then took again, and again, in 2011 and 2013.
“beyond Rio, it seems Armitstead’s life behind bars may be a shorter sentence than we would hope for”
For a sportswoman that doesn’t seem to know anything but gold, it was surprising to see Armitstead crossing the line just half-a-wheel behind Jessica Ennis-Hill in the Sportswoman of the Year. That said, we will no doubt continue to see great things from Armitstead. Speaking to the Guardian, Armitstead held that her recent Worlds win has put her on the right path for Rio, focusing more on her hill-climbing ability.
However, looking beyond Rio, it seems Armitstead’s life behind bars may be a shorter sentence than we would hope for. Rumour has it, Armitstead is keen to start a family and progress her career out of the saddle.
Lizzy Yarnold, MBE, and runner-up at last year’s awards, once again proved her worth, placing third at this year’s Sportswoman of the Year awards. It’s an accolade the current Grand Slam holder more than deserves, following her victories at both the World and European Championships this year.
Originally a keen heptathlete, Yarnold was only introduced to the sport in 2008, having been handpicked by the UK’s sports scouting body ‘Girls for Gold’, specifically for the skeleton. Since taking up the sport Yarnold and her sled Mervyn, have gone on to completely dominate the world of women’s skeleton for the past two seasons.
Following her first taste of victory at the World Junior Championships back in 2012, Yarnold has gone from strength to strength, and is the current Grand Slam holder in the skeleton, following her consecutive victories at the World, European, and Olympic championships, making her only the second ever sledder, and the first Briton, to achieve such a feat. Her 2013/2014 season culminated in her iconic Olympic victory in Sochi, where she was the only Briton to secure a gold medal, a title that she won by the biggest margin in the history of the Olympic women’s skeleton – a whopping 0.97 seconds.
Commenting at last years Awards ceremony, Yarnold said: ‘I might be the best in the world now, but it’s a challenge to maintain that’. We are sure that sentiment still holds, and look forward to seeing Yarnold try and win back her Grand Slam title in the 2016/17 season, following her upcoming year’s break from the sport, and wish her the best of luck.
England leave the Euro with gold
The England Women’s Hockey Team have been awarded the Team of the Year at the Sportswoman of the Year awards. This caps off a remarkable year which has just seen them come from 2-0 down to best the World and Olympic champions, the Netherlands, to win the EuroHockey Championship. This was the first time the team has won the European Championships since 1991.
They beat off competition from England and Chelsea ladies football teams to secure the award. The Vitality Team of the Year award is awarded to celebrate outstanding contribution to sport made by performers at the highest level in their field as well as administrators and community volunteers.
“This was the first time the team has won the European Championships since 1991”
The team, captained by Kate Richardson-Walsh, will be looking to continue this vein of form for Great Britain in 2016 when there will be the Champions Trophy held in London. This will be a tournament involving Great Britain, the USA, the Netherlands and three more teams who are still in the qualifying stages.
Blimey O’ Whiley
Despite being only 23 years old, Jordanne Whiley already has the sort of C.V to make a mere mortal green with envy. Whiley, who suffers from Osteogenesis Imperfecta, sometimes known as brittle bone disease, was recently crowned Disability Sportswoman of the Year, putting the cherry on top of an already impressive 2015 cake.
The young Tennis star’s achievements were recognised by the royal household earlier in the year, where she received an MBE in the Queen’s 2015 Birthday Honours list. In September, Whiley won the US Open women’s tennis wheelchair title, her first singles title in the sport.
The Birmingham born champion rose to fame in 2014, winning a clean sweep of doubles grand slams in Australia, France, the US and of course Wimbledon. In 2015 she managed to retain two of those titles with the help of her Japanese partner Yui Kamiji.
Whiley also had the privilege of representig Great Britain at the 2012 Paralympic Games, aged just 20.
Dina Asher-Smith has just capped off a record-breaking season by winning Young Sports Woman of the Year award. Earlier in the year she ran the 100m in 10.99s, which was the faster time in history by a teenager, and a British record. Then in the following August, she broke the British record for the 200m, smashing Kathy Smallwood-Cook’s time form the 1984 Olympics by 0.03s.
“Earlier in the year she ran the 100m in 10.99s, which was the faster time in history by a teenager, and a British record.”
But these ups aren’t without downs. After a personal best in the 200m semi-final at the 2014 European Championships, Asher-Smith tore her hamstring in the final and was unable to finish the race. At such a young age, a setback like that can seriously affect future performances, but she was headstrong enough to come second in the European Indoors 60m final just seven months later.
The aim for Asher-Smith is the final of the 100m in Rio, but before then there are several Diamond League and Indoor meetings for her to negotiate. For now, we can praise one of the brightest talents in British athletics.