These are some of the leading contenders in my consideration for the best sportswoman in the world in 2013:
Jessica Fox won four out of five world cup races in C1 slalom canoe. She also won gold at the world champs in C1 indivdual and team events. At one world cup she also won the K1 event becoming the first paddler ever to do that.
Charlotte Dujardin – won every dressage competition she entered with her top horse and set a world record score.
Inbee Park – winner of the first three women’s golf majors in 2013. Her form tailed off in the final two but she still ended the year as a clear world number one.
Luciana Aymar – winner of the world player of the year for an unprecedented eighth time. I have included her not so much for this year’s performances but for her career achievements.
Simone Niggli-Luder continued to dominate women’s orienteering. She didn’t win the middle distance world cup but did win nearly everything else. She won the other two world cup distance titles and won all three individual races at the world championships.
Katie Ledecky – named World Swimmer of the Year for her performances at the world championships where she won gold medals at 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle plus a relay. She set world records in the two longer distances taking a big chunk from the 1500m record, although as a non-Olympic event the record was quite soft.
The outstanding Paralympic athlete Tatyana McFadden reached new heights in 2013. McFadden became the first athlete to win six gold medals at a championships during the IPC Athletics World Championships. She claimed gold in every event from the 100 meters through to the 5,000 meters. McFadden also won the Boston, Chicago, London, and New York marathons. As always with Paralympic sports my only question mark is over the strength of the opposition as the number of categories dilutes it.
Xu Mengtao won five of the seven world cup events at freestyle skiing aerial events and the world championship gold. She also won the overall freestyle world cup.
Two Japanese wrestlers continued to set new records in the sport. Saori Yoshida won her 11th world title to add to three Olympic golds. Her compatriot Kaori Icho won her eighth world title and also has three Olympic golds. In 2013 Icho won her 154th consecutive fight, the longest unbeaten run in history in top level women’s wrestling. She is now unbeaten for more than ten years.
Norweigan biathlete Tora Berger won the World Cup in all four individual events and the overall world cup, becoming the first woman to do that for eleven years. At the World Championships she won three individual events and a relay, coming second in the other two events.
Serena Williams had one of her greatest seasons ever at tennis. She completely dominated the year winning the French and US Opens and nine other titles. Overall at singles she won 78 matches and only lost four. The problem is that two of her losses came in the Grand Slams, the most important events. I can’t give her my award as Sportswoman of the year.
Where possible I like to pick a winner purely for their performances in the year in question. However, if an athlete’s career performance is outstanding I will consider them. That is the case this year with this award. My two runners-up are Tatyana McFadden and Tora Berger who had outstanding years in 2013. My choice as the sportswoman of the year is Japanese wrestler Kaori Icho. To remain unbeaten in any sport at the top level for ten years is remarkable. I don’t think that women’s wrestling is the strongest sport in terms of the strength in depth of competition but a winning streak that is unmatched in history deserves recognition.