The Sports History Chronicle British Sportswoman of the Year 2016: Rachel Atherton

My annual selection of the outstanding British and World Sportswoman, Sportsman and Team of the Year begins as usual with my choice for the best British Sportswoman of the previous year.

Britian had another outstanding Olympics and Paralympics which provides the bulk of my selections for the shotlist.

These are the names I considered:

Nicola Adams (Boxing) – Olympic and world champion
Laura Trott/Kenny (Cycling) – Winner of two world titles and two Olympic golds in 2016.
Rachel Atherton (Mountain Bike) – World Cup winner and world champion.
Trina Gulliver (Darts) – winner of a tenth world championship.
Charlotte Dujardin (Dressage) – retained her Olympic title.
Emily Benham (Mountain Bike Orienteering) – World Cup winner and two world titles
Libby Clegg (Athletics) – two Paralympic golds and a world record
Hannah Cockroft (Athletics) – three Paralympic golds and a world record
Kadeena Cox (Cycling/Athletics) – golds at the Paralympics in two different sports and world records in each.
Megan Giglia (Cycling) – Paralympic gold and two world titles setting world records each time.
Bethany Firth (Swimming) – three Paralympic golds and a world record.
Georgina Hermitage (Athletics) – two Paralympic golds and world records.

Sophie Christansen (Dressage) – three Paralympic golds to make a total of eight in her career.

Sarah Storey (Cycling) – three Paralympic golds and a world record.
Jade Jones (Taekwondo) – retained her Olympic title and was world Taekwondo player of the year.

Looking in more detail at their achievements:

Nicola Adams is unbeaten in major competitions for over four years and won both global titles on offer in 2016.  This has to make her a major contender.  My only question is over the strength in depth of women’s boxing.  The three Olympic champions in 2016 also won the world and two of the three also won in 2012.  There is a history of long unbeaten records which suggests that although the standard is improving it is still easier to dominate than in some other sports.

Laura Kenny (nee Trott) had an outstanding year in the main events individually.  At the world championships she won the scratch race and her speciality, the omnium, although her team in the pursuit were beaten.  In the Olympics she won the team event and added the omnium to give her the record for the most golds by any British woman in Olympic history. This puts her in contention for my award but outside the Olympics and worlds she didn’t compete much on the track.

Trina Gulliver won a record tenth world title and the world masters but didn’t do enough elsewhere.

Emily Benham competes in the little known sport of mountain bike orienteering.  Minority sports tend to be les competitive and so riders would have to be perfect to win my award.  Benjham had a great year but missed out on one world title.

Charlotte Dujardin retained her Olympic title with a high score in her last Olympics with her outstanding horse Valegro.  She was just short of her best score.

It is very hard to compare the achievements of all the Paralympic athletes I have listed.  All of them have either broken world records or set landmarks in medal terms.  Perhaps the most eyecatching performance was by Kadeena Cox, who became the first British Paralympian to win golds in two different sports at the same games for 32 years.

Jade Jones has been rather overlooked by some for her fantastic year.  She won every event she entered including the Olympics, the European Championships and the World Grand Prix Final.  She has more ranking points than any other female player in any weight and was named female fighter of the year.  Taekwondo is a competitive sport with athletes from many countries taking part.  This makes Jade’s standing even higher.

Atherton came close to winning the SHC Award last year but this year was even better.  She won every one of her seen races in the World Cup and added the world championship in the sport of downhill mountain biking.  This perfect season is unprecedented in the history of the sport and added to last year gives her a record winning streak of fifteen races in World Cup and championships.  The sport isn’t an Olympic one which means the depth may well be less but to achieve such heights is special.

My top five from the list are: Nicola Adams, Laura Kenny, Kadeena Cox, Jade Jones and Rachel Atherton.

Jade Jones came very close to winning because of her fantastic year but in terms of making history my choice for British Sportswoman of the Year 2016 is Rachel Atherton.



Embed from Getty Images

Rachel Atherton

Previous Winners and Runners-Up

2015 Lizzie Armitstead (Cycling):  Runners-up Rachel Atherton (Mountain Bike), Hannah Cockroft (Para Athletics)

2014 Hannah Cockroft (Para athletics):  Runners-up Lizzy Yarnold (Skeleton), Charlotte Dujardin (Dressage)

2013  Charlotte Dujardin (Dressage) – unbeaten on Valegro, set a world best score and was European Champion Runners-Up:  Hannah Cockroft (Para athletics), Becky James (Cycling)

2012 Sarah Storey (Para Cycling) – four golds at the Paralympics:  Runners-Up: Charlotte Dujardin (Dressage), Jessica Ennis (Athletics), Ellie Simmonds (Para Swimming), Laura Trott (Cycling)


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