It’s time to choose who I think are the outstanding Sportsmen, Sportswomen and Teams of the Year for 2014 in Britain and in the world.
As usual I will start with my choice for the British sportswoman of the year.
Those who I have considered are:
Jo Pavey – European champion at 10000m.
Laura Massaro – world champion at squash
Jade Jones – world cup champion at Taekwondo
Emily Benham – World Mountain Bike Orienteering Champion
Samantha Murray – world modern pentathlon champion
Sophie Christiansen – world champion in paradressage
Charlotte Dujardin – world champion in dressage
Katy Curd – World Champion at mountain bike 4 Cross
Manon Carpenter – World Cup and World Champion at downhill mountain bike
Joanna Rowsell – world champion at cycling individual and team pursuit
Lizzy Yarnold – world cup and Olympic champion at skeleton bob.
Hannah Cockroft – world record at 1500m and European champion at 100m and 800m at wheelchair athletics.
Joanne Eccles – world champion in horse vaulting
Fran Halsall – two golds at the Commonwealth Games and three at the European championships. Joint fastest in the world at 50m freestyle.
Lisa Ashton – BDO World champion at darts
Louisa Sawers – world champion at K1 canoeing 5000m
Steph Bridge – kite racing (sailing) world champion
To narrow down the selection I try to choose the athletes who were consistently the number one in their event throughout the year.
Pavey was top in Europe but in world terms was well down the rankings behind many African athletes. Massaro won the first world championship of the year but, confusingly, there were two held in the year. In the other one as in most events it was Nicol David who won and who reigns supreme. Murray had an inconsistent season outside the world championships. Ashton won a few events but in others went out early.
The others can be considered as the best over the year but now the question of how strong the events are must be looked at. In general events that are in the Olympics have more countries involved and have greater strength in depth. None of the four individual cycling events where British women won world titles is in the Olympics and in some cases the sport itself isn’t. The level of competition isn’t the strongest in these but Rowsell’s event is the one with the best strength in depth as team pursuit is in the Games. Carpenter won the World Cup and World Championships which gives her extra claims. Horse vaulting is another minority sport not in the Olympics. Parasports are in the Olympics but the numbers taking part in dressage are limited. Sawers and Bridges events are also non-Olympic ones.
This leaves me with the Olympic sports and events. Taekwondo is the one with the most international outlook of the remaining names on the list. There were no world championships this year which makes it harder to evaluate. However, Jade Jones won the world cup and was named best woman taekwondo competitor of the year by the world federation. She wasn’t completely dominant with a tough Spanish rival winning several contests and Jones only won silver at the European championships.
Dujardin was again the dominant competitor when riding her wonder horse Valegro and broke the world record again. However, this year her season wasn’t perfect with two losses. Dressage is also not a sport where many nations compete at the highest level.
Yarnold was Olympic champion and won four of the eight world cup races in the 2013-14 season. Skeleton is another sport that has a limited number of nations competing at the top level but Yarnold had a superb season.
Cockcroft is completely dominant in her category of Parasport and set a world record but again the depth in her category isn’t enormous and there were no global championships to truly test her. She did all that was asked of her and broke the 100m world record.
Halsall had a great year, concentrating on the 50m events in the main. These can be weaker than longer distances though 50m freestyle is an Olympic event and is strong.
My top six are Charlotte Dujardin, Jade Jones, Fran Halsall, Hannah Cockroft, Lizzy Yarnold and Joanna Rowsell and my choice of the top three is:
3rd Charlotte Dujardin
2nd Lizzy Yarnold
1st Hannah Cockroft
This was a very hard choice but I decided that as Hannah Cockroft was so good and broke a world record it just gave her the edge.
2012 Sarah Storey (Para Cycling)
2013 Charlotte Dujardin (Dressage)