My shortlist for the world Sportswoman of the year was:
Patrizia Kummer SWI (Snowborading) – winner of Olympics and four world cup races in parallel giant slalom
Natalie Geisenberger GER (Luge) – winner of the Olympic title and seven out of eight world cup races.
Katie Ledecky USA (Swimming) – broke world records at 400, 800 and 1500m freestyle
Mikaela Shiffrin USA (Skiing) – Olympic champion and winner of five of the seven world cup races in the 2013/4 season
Darya Domracheva BLR (Biathlon) – triple Olympic champion and world cup winner
Cecilia Brækhus NOR (boxing) – undisputed world champion and defended her titles four times in 2014
Simone Biles USA (Gymnastics) – world all-round champion and won three other golds at the world champs.
Valerie Adams NZL, unbeatable at shot put, and Sandra Perkovic CRO (Athletics) – the longest discus throw by a woman for 22 years and an almost perfect season
Gwen Jorgensen USA (Triathlon) – world champion and winner of 5 of the 7 world series races she did
Kaori Icho JAP (Wrestling) – world champion for the ninth time
Saori Yoshida JAP (Wrestling) – world champion for the 12th time.
Tatiana Kashirina RUS (Weightlifting) – broke five world records at the world championships
Katie Taylor IRL (Boxing) – won her fifth world amateur title
Jessica Fox AUS (Canoeing) – winner of both C1 and K1 events at the world canoe slalom champs.
Analysing the performances further.
For the winter sports athletes I was considering the seasons from 2013/4. Of the sportswomen listed above although they all had dominant seasons it was Geisenberger who had the best performances. She won every race she competed in apart from one where she came second, making it one of the best seasons seen in luge history. The luge is quiet a specialised event and the competition is perhaps a little weaker than many other sports.
The two boxers and the two wrestlers seem to be unbeatable with all having winning streaks dating back years. However, I feel that these sports are still developing and the level of competition is not as strong as it could be.
Jorgensen finished the season on a five race winning streak but at the start of the year she had one poor performance and another where she was second. Fox rose to the occasion splendidly at the world championships to win a historic double in both C1 and K1 events but in the world cup her performances weren’t so consistent.
Biles is superbly consistent and produces her best at the big events. Three individual golds including the all-round title again showed she is clearly the top woman gymnast in the world at the moment.
Perkovic lost out to Valerie Adams in the vote for IAAF athlete of the year and both are on my shortlist as well. Both were completely dominant in the discus and shot respectively with Adams unbeatable and Perkovic nearly so. However, Adams has achieved further in previous years whereas Perkovic produced the greatest discus throw by a woman this century and I give the verdict to her despite a similar concern to that with Kashirina below.
Kashirina had a simply awesome world championships, breaking five world records in an hour and obliterating the combined world record by a huge margin. That would usually be enough to make her my choice as sportswoman of the year but I have a slight worry. A few years ago Kashirina failed a drugs test and for her to be lifting so much better now than then makes me wonder. I give her the benefit of the doubt but it meant that if another sportswoman had an equally brilliant season I would tend to favour her.
That sportswoman was Katie Ledecky. Ever since she emerged at the Olympics in 2012 she has got better and better. This year was simply sensational. She broke the world records at 400m (twice), 800m and 1500m freestyle (twice). The margins weren’t huge in the 400m and 800m but in the 1500m, not an Olympic event and so a softer record, she took eight seconds of the mark at the start of the year. Two of the records came at the Pan-Pac Championships, her most important meet of the year, where she won five golds including every freestyle event from 200m to 1500m.
Geisenberger just misses out and my top three are:
3rd Sandra Perkovic
2nd Tatiana Kashirina
1st Katie Ledecky
2012 Marianne Vos (Cycling)
2013 Kaori Icho (Wrestling)