Sports History Chronicle Awards: British Sportswoman of the Year 2013 – Charlotte Dujardin

Without the advantage of a home Olympics British women didn’t have quite such a glorious year as in 2012.  Nevertheless a number of women became world champions or world number ones in their sports. Here are my thoughts on the merits of the leading contenders for British sportswoman of the year.

Christine Ohuruogu was the Sunday Times/Sky Sports Sportswoman of the Year and was nominated for BBC Sports Personality. She has the highest profile of the top British sportswomen of 2013 and by winning the world 400m title became the first British woman athlete to win two world golds. She also broke the British record which was set in 1984 by Kathy Cook. 2013 was certainly Ohuruogu’s best year taken over the whole season. She is a tremendous competitor when it comes to the major events which is a great ability. It is interesting to consider how fine the margins are. Christine won by a whisker and if Montsho of Botswana had only run through the line as any athlete is taught rather than lean back as she did, then Montsho would have won the gold.  It was good to see Kathy Cook’s record go at last but I still rate Cook’s run more highly. The tracks these days are faster than those in 1984 and the record was only just beaten. Christine’s other runs were more consistent than in previous seasons but Montsho was still the better performer over the year. It is hard for me to choose Ohuruogu as sportswoman of the year when she isn’t a clear number one.

Hannah Cockcroft is a clear number one at wheelchair athletics. In 2013 she won two gold medals at the IPC world championships and during the year she set two world records. Another Paralympic athlete Ellie Simmonds won three individual golds and set a world record at the world swimming championships. These two were probably the best of the British paralympic sportswomen although there were several others who won golds. As always the problem with evaluating paralympic sports is the sheer variety of classes. There are so many different categories which are of varying standards and strength in depth that comparisons are very hard.

Two world champions in sports which are not played in many countries are Rebecca Field at indoor bowls  and Claire Vigrass at real tennis. Vigrass also won the doubles title with her sister. With such minority sports it is hard to evaluate how good the performance is compared to other “worldwide” sports.

Cycling is a worldwide sports and there were two British women who won individual world titles in 2013. Becky James won the sprint and the Keirin at the world track championships.  Winning two world titles at any world champs is a notable achievement and Becky has to be seriously considered as sportswoman of the year. My only reservation is that the cycling world championships were slightly weak in 2013 in some events.  They are held early in the year and followed on only seven months after the Olympics. The two outstanding sprinters of recent years, Victoria Pendleton and Anna Meares weren’t at the world championship which made things much easier for those who were. However, full credit goes to Becky James for taking her chance so well. At downhill mountain biking Rachel Atherton won four of the six world cup races to take the overall titleand won the world champs as well. Downhill isn’t an olympic event and my feeling is that the level of the competition is still not as strong as it might be.

In dressage Charlotte Dujardin and her horse Valegro swept all before them. They won every competition they took part in including the European championships. There were no world championships this year but in dressage all the top competitors are from Europe and so it is almost equivalent to a world title.  Not only did Dujardin win every competition she also set a world best freestyle dressage score.

In winter sports Shelley Rudman won the world title at skeleton bob. Over the season she finished only 7th in the world cup.  Conversely, at short-track speed-skating Elise Christie was number one at 1000m in the world cup but came 3rd at the world championships. Eve Muirhead won the world curling title but as hers was a team effort I am not considering her for the individual award. The same applies to other world champions who competed as part of a team. Their claims for team of the year will be evaluated in my next post.

Returning to individuals Non Stanford won the world triathlon championship series. after finishing well down the field in her first race she went on to be second three times and then won twice in her remaining five races. She was a little fortunate that the world series leader fell in the bike stage of the world series final and had to withdraw but took her chance well.

The final woman I am considering is Sarah Taylor. She is an outstanding wicketkeeper- batsman and was named world T20I Women’s Cricketer of the Year. She is also number one in the batting rankings at this form of cricket.

My top three nominations are Becky James, Hannah Cockcroft and Charlotte Dujardin. However, for me the clear winner is Charlotte Dujardin. In fact the biggest dilemma was whether she should be in the individual sportswoman category or up for the team award  with Valegro. She was simply outstanding in 2013 and a worthy winner of my British Sportswoman of the year award.

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