The shortlist of teams is a mixture of successful Olympians and outstanding clubs. As a reminder of my criteria I try to reward success in the calendar year 2016 but in some cases this may overlap with a season that started in 2015. Where there are few competitions for a team they have to be exceptional in those competitions and also have a history of success over the last few years as well.
My shortlist is:
The USA women’s artistic gymnastics team – winners of the Olympic gold by a huge eight point margin. Winners of every championship since 2011.
Ilse Paulis & Maaike Head (Netherlands – Rowing) -winners of the lightweight double sculls gold at the Olympics and won all four races in 2016. Set a world best time.
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (New Zealand – 49er Sailing) – my 2015 winners had another great year winning all but one of the seven regattas they entered, and that was a minor one. At the Olympics they won by the largest margin in a sailing regatta since 1968.
Mercedes (Formula One) – another dominant year for the team with wins in 19 out of 21 Grand Prix.
Natalia Ishchenko and Svetlana Romashina (Russia – Synchronised Swimming) – extended their winning run since 2009 with wins at the Olympics and in the European championships.
Australia women’s 4x100m freestyle relay team – broke their own world record in defeating a strong American team in Rio.
China’s table tennis team – won gold in both men’s and women’s team events in Rio. The men lost only one match and the women none on their way to gold. In the singles events Chinese players won gold in silver in men and women’s events.
USA women’s water polo team – won every match in 2016 and took Olympic gold. They have won every major event since 2014 , losing one match in that time.
Olympique Lyonnais women’s football team – won the treble of tournaments in 2015/16. That was the French League, Cup and European Champions Cup. They were undefeated all season with five draws.
Saracens (England – Rugby union) – winners of English league, championship and European Cup.
My top four are – China table tennis, Mercedes F1 team, Olympique Lyonnais, and the USA women gymnasts.
If the Lyonnais and Mercedes teams had won every match or race I would have given my award to them. The Chinese table tennis team has been dominant for so long it is hard to single out this team. The American gymnasts have now been the outstanding team for six years, the longest period of success by a nation for fifty years. The faces have changed a little over that time but new names come in with Simone Biles, one of the greatest gymnasts in history as their leader. At the Olympics they won the team event by a margin so large that each gymnast could have fallen off on each piece and they would still have won. In the qualification they had the top three gymnasts and would probably have swept the medals in the individual all-round event were it not for the silly rule restricting teams to two gymnasts in the final. For their long-term and recent brilliance my team of the year for 2016 is the USA gymnastics team of Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian and Aly Raisman.
The USA gymnastics team
2015 Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (New Zealand – 49er Sailing),
Runners-up: Mercedes (Formula One), Natalia Ishchenko and Svetlana Romashina (Russia – Synchronised Swimming)
2014 Italy’s Women Foil Fencing Team:
Runners Up Hamish Bond and Eric Murray (NZ – Rowing), Jennifer Jones’s Canadian Curling Team
2013 Vakıfbank İstanbul Women’s Volleyball Team (Turkey)
Runners-Up: Mat Belcher & Will Ryan (Australia – Sailing), Bayern Munich (Germany- Football)
2012 Hamish Bond and Eric Murray (New Zealand – Rowing) – unbeaten for four years and set world best by six seconds
Runners-Up: USA Women’s 4x100m relay team (athletics), THW Kiel (Germany -Handball)