My shortlist for world sportswoman of the Year is:
Almaz Ayana (Ethiopia – Athletics)- the woman who produced the most extraordinary performance of the Olympics when she smashed the world 10,0000m record. The record had stood since 1993 and had seemed impregnable but Ayana took it apart with a devastating sustained pace from early in the race. Some questioned how she could have run that fast but the friendly conditions and her willingness to attack the race for so long meant that many other in the race also took chunks off their best times. She ran a very fast 5000m ealier in the year but in Rio was beaten in the 5000m final.
Ruth Jebet (Kenya -Athletics) – in a year that saw a few world records in women’s athletics one was set by Jebet in the women’s steeplechase. She had a fine season at the event losing just one race. She won the Olympic title and then broke the record.
Anita Wlodarczyk (Poland – Athletics) – another brilliant season culminating with Olympic gold with three of the five longest throws in history, topped by a monster effort of 82.29m. That throw added 1.21m to the world record she set last year and was her 11th victory of the season in as many competitions. In her final competition of the year in Warsaw, she broke the world record again.
Danuta Kozak (Hungary – Canoeing) – winner of three golds in Rio at Kayaking over 500m. She won the K1, K2 and K4 events.
Rachel Atherton (Great Britain – Mountain Bike) – 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.
Simone Biles (USA – Gymnastics) – one of the stars of the Games. The American who has dominated her sport for the last three years continued to shine in Rio with four golds at her first Olympics. She helped the brilliant USA team win gold, then on her own took the all-round, vault and floor golds.
Deng Wei (China – Weightlifting) – winner of the Olympic title at 63kg where she broke the world record. This was her third title in a row at world or Olympic championships.
Katinka Hosszu (Hungary – Swimming) – The Iron Lady won her first Olympic gold medal in Rio at her fourth Games and went on to add two more and a bronze. She set a world record in the 400m Individual Medley and an Olympic record in the 200 IM.
Katie Ledecky (USA Swimming) – the most dominant female distance swimmer in nearly thirty years continued her winning ways in 2016. She won the 800m and 400m freestyle events in world record times by huge margins and also stepped down from her specialist distances to win the 200m freestyle against one of the strongest fields in the whole meet. She won a gold and silver in relays for a total of four golds and one silver, making her the most decorated female athlete in the entire Olympics.
Evgenia Medvedeva (Russia – Figure Skating) the new star of women’s skating moved up from the junior ranks to win the world senior title. She won all her competitions in 2016 and set world best scores in the short and free programmes in separate events though not a total world best score.
My top five are Anita Wlodarczyk, Rachel Atherton, Simone Biles, Katinka Hosszu and Katie Ledecky.
Each of the five have had truly exceptional years. However, Katie Ledecky has managed to not only dominate her favourite events but has managed to extend herself so that she can beat outstanding swimmers in their specialities as well. For me she has been the outstanding female sportswoman of the last five years in the world. In 2016 she was magnificent again and so my choice as the world sportswoman of the year, for the second time, is Katie Ledecky.
2015 Gwen Jorgensen (USA – Triathlon), Runners Up: Katie Ledecky (USA – Swimming), Anita Włodarczyk (Poland – Athletics)
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)