The teams that I considered for British Team of the Year:
Tom Daley and Rebecca Gallantree – winners of the gold medal in the team competition at the world diving championships.
The mixed medley relay team and the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay team at the world swimming championships.
World champions at rowing were the men’s coxed pair, lightweight coxless pair and eight, the women’s coxless pair and the Para-Rowing mixed coxed four.
The British Davis Cup winning tennis team.
The England women’s hockey team – winners of the European championship.
The British women’s football team – third in the world cup.
The treble winning Leeds Rhinos rugby league team.
Weighing up the claims of the contenders:
The diving gold medal and the mixed medley relay gold were nice to win but the events were really novelty ones created for the aquatic championships. They won’t feature in the Olympics and so although the medley swimmers set a world best time it is an event that has hardly been taken seriously until now. The freestyle relay is a different matter. That is a full Olympic event and everyone was at full strength. The British team did magnificently to overhaul the USA and Australia in a national record time.
Of the rowers the eight and the women’s pair were the only world champion crews that also won the World Cup. However, the eight was only second in the European championships. It is hard to evaluate the Para-rowers achievement as the depth of opposition is limited. My team of the year for 2014, the women’s pair of Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, continued to sweep all before them. They won the two world cup races they entered, the European title and the world championship. They never remotely looked in trouble in any race. The only reasons you could give for not winning my award again this year is that they didn’t race as many times and didn’t set a world best this year, although that is so dependent on conditions as to not count for much.
The Davis Cup winning team was notable for the historic nature of the triumph, being 79 years since the previous one. Andy Murray pretty much carried the team winning every match he played. Having said that, the irony is that probably the most important match of the whole campaign was the one won by James Ward against John Isner in the first round. Isner was on his way to an easy victory against the much lower ranked Ward only for the Briton to fight back from two sets down to take it. Had Isner won that match the USA would have beaten Britain who instead of going on to win the Cup would have been facing a relegation play-off. It has to be said that some of the most recent winners of the Davis Cup didn’t have their strongest players available which made things easier for Britain. Of the teams who took it seriously Britain had quite a hard draw although they were at home in the first three rounds.
The women’s hockey team managed to win the European title after a penalty shoot-out with the Dutch after the Dutch had been the better team in the match. It has been a good recovery by the team following the distastrous world cup last year. However, in the World league at the end of the year the team went out of the tournament early.
The footballers exceeded expectations with their third place in the World Cup and could be called unofficial European champions by beating Germany in the third place match. They did lose to France earlier in the tournament and in the official rankings are only fifth so I can’t quite put them in my top three.
Leeds Rhinos became only the third team to achieve the domestic treble in the Super League era. A fine effort but they only won the league narrowly so can’t be said to be very dominant. They also weren’t involved in the world club challenge against the Australian clubs so we can’t tell how good they are in an international context.
So my top three teams are:
Helen Glover and Heather Stanning (Rowing), the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay swimming team, and the Davis Cup tennis team.
Glover and Stanning didn’t quite match last year’s achievements so I put them third. The decision for top spot is a difficult one. It could be said that the swimmers faced full-strength opposition but their closest rivals were the USA and Australia, two countries who were also at full-strength when the British tennis team beat them so perhaps the level of opposition was similar. Tennis is a more difficult sport to win a team title in as each year there is really only one cup for men and women respectively. The Davis Cup is a universally recognised name in sport and for that reason the prestige of winning it for the first time since 1936 makes my choice the Davis Cup winning tennis team.
2014 Helen Glover and Heather Stanning (Rowing): Runners-up England women’s rugby union team, GB women 4×100 relay team (athletics)
2013 Great Britain Women’s Cycling Team Pursuit Squad world champions and world record setters again: Runners-Up: Sprinter Sacre (Horse Racing), GB Men’s Squash Team
2012 Frankel (Horse Racing) – winner of all five races to finish his career unbeaten and achieved the highest rating in history. Runners-Up: Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins (Rowing), Women’s team pursuit cycling, England women’s rugby union team, Paul Foster and Alex Marshall (Bowls)