To be considered for this award a sportswoman will have had an exceptional year. They will usually have to be the world number one or world champion and have set some kind of record.
Some of the names I considered for 2015 were:
Zoe McBride (New Zealand – Rowing) –
Katie Ledecky (USA), Sarah Sjostrom (Sweden) and Katinka Hosszu (Hungary) (Swimming)
Anita Wlodarczyk (Poland) and Genzebe Dibaba (Ethiopia) (Athletics)
Serena Williams (USA – Tennis)
Gwen Jorgensen (USA – Triathlon)
Lisa Carrington (New Zealand – Canoeing)
Simone Biles (USA – Gymnastics)
Marit Bjørgen (Norway – Nordic Skiing)
Boyanka Kostova (Azerbaijan – Weightlifting)
McBride became world champion and was unbeaten in the season. She set a world best time for the lightweight single sculls. As I have said before world best times in rowing are very dependent on conditions. This time there weren’t a whole set of world bests on the same day so McBride’s performance was worth more consideration. There are only limited races each year in rowing and I feel she will have to carry on winning next year to earn a nomination.
The swimmers are interesting cases. Ledecky, who won my award last year continued to dominate the distance freestyle events and even moved down to win the world 200m title. She also set world records at 800m and 1500m and has to be a serious contender again for my award. Sjostrom won two golds at the world championships and set a good world record in the 100m fly. Hosszu is a phenomenon competing in a ridiculous number of events. She won two golds at the world championships and, just, broke a long-standing world record in the 200m IM, but her schedule seemed to catch up even with her “The Iron Lady” as by the end of the week she seemed to be struggling a little. Of the three Ledecky is the one who gets my first nomination on the shortlist.
The athletes on my list both broke world records. Włodarczyk became the first female hammer thrower to exceed 80m and even went over 81m to add almost 1.5 metres to the old record. She was unbeaten in all eleven of her competitions and was close to 81m again when winning the world title. Dibaba produced what I regard as the outstanding individual sporting performance of the year when breaking the world 1500m record that had stood since 1993. Nobody had come close since then and the record seemed set to stand for a long time so it was a sensational run. Dibaba also won her other four races at 1500m including the world title. So far so good, but then there is a problem. Her favoured event previously had been the 5000m and she even broke the world indoor record for that earlier in 2015. However, the outdoor season saw her 5000m suffer and she was well beaten into third in the world championships. As the 5000m was a significant part of her programme I have to count that against her. Therefore I choose Włodarczyk to be shortlisted for Sportswoman of the Year.
Serena Williams won many awards for Sportswoman of the Year for 2015 in different media outlets and as she lined up for the semi-final of the US Open I thought she would win my approval too. At that moment it seemed like a formality that she would win the US open title to complete the Grand Slam. All of her main opponents had been eliminated and she was facing a 500-1 outsider. However, the pressure of the Grand Slam had been getting to her on occasions earlier in the season and this time she cracked leaving her with three of the major titles. In truth she hadn’t often looked at her very best over the year. At the French Open in particular, although affected by illness, she stumbled through the tournament coming from behind several times. It would have been rather ironic if she had done the Grand Slam when she had played better in other years when she missed out. So, three out of four singles titles. Is that enough to be the best sportswoman of the year in any sport for 2015? Many seem to think so but I can’t agree. The Grand Slam hasn’t been achieved since 1988 but three-quarters of it has been done quite a few times since and so isn’t enough for me.
Gwen Jorgensen set new standards of domination in the triathlon. In 2015 she won all eight of her triathlons in the world Triathlon series culminating in a win at the final round in Chicago. Add on the five race wins she had in 2014 and she now has a winning streak that is unmatched in the history of the sport at the highest level at the Olympic distance. Her last defeat was back in April 2014. Triathlon is now quite a competitive sport so these weren’t cheap victories and so Gwen is well worthy of being shortlisted for Sportswoman of 2015.
Lisa Carrington won both the 200m and 500m titles at the world canoeing championships in K-1. The 200m gold was her fourth in a row and as she also won the 2012 Olympic title she has now won every global gold at the 200m since 2011. She is one of the most dominant sportswomen on the planet at one event and another gold next year will make her a serious contender for my award.
Simone Biles is the star turn of the all conquering USA women’s gymnastics team. She became the first woman to win three successive all-around world titles when taking gold in Glasgow at the world championships. This has to be qualified slightly as it is only recently that the championships have become annual but she looks unbeatable. At the championships she won the all-round gold quite easily and added two more titles in apparatus finals, not to mention the team gold she had won earlier. She is outstanding but wasn’t quite at her best in the all-round final so just misses out here.
Marit Bjørgen has been outstanding for over a decade and had a great 2015 in the world cup winning all three titles at the different distances. However, by her own standards the world championships were a slight disappointment with only one individual gold medal.
Boyanka Kostova was the outstanding weightlifter of the year. She won the Snatch, Clean and Jerk and Overall golds at both the European and world championships. She also set two world records including the overall mark at those world championships. She very nearly made my shortlist but as the world records were by only 1kg she just misses out.
My shortlist of the Top Three Sportswomen of 2015 is: Katie Ledecky, Anita Włodarczyk and Gwen Jorgensen.
At such a high level of achievement it is very hard to choose one over the others. Włodarczyk just needed a little more on the world record to get my vote. Ledecky was remarkable and has taken her range to new levels but possibly her world records this year weren’t quite as brilliant as last year. Jorgensen set new standards of dominance in a tough sport and so Gwen Jorgensen is my choice as Sportswoman of the Year for 2015.
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2014 Katie Ledecky (USA – Swimming): Runners up Tatiana Kashirina (Russia – Weightlifting), Sandra Perkovic (Croatia – Athletics)
2013 Kaori Icho (Japan – Wrestling) – won her 8th world title and 154th consecutive fight, an all-time record:Runners-Up: Tatyana McFadden (USA – Para athletics), Tora Berger (Norway – Biathlon)
2012 Marianne Vos (Netherlands – Cycling) Olympic and world road race champion, Giro winner and world cyclo-cross champion: Runners-up: Kaori Icho (Japan – Wrestling), Missy Franklin (USA – Swimming), Katie Taylor (Ireland – Boxing), Hannah Kearney (USA – Freestyle Skiing)