It has been a wonderful year for women’s sport in Britain, and the achievements of some of the teams and individuals involved were recognised at the recent BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards. Here are five highlights:
England Netball team win Gold at the Commonwealth GamesEmbed from Getty Images
This was undoubtedly the highlight of the sporting year for many. England looked well-prepared for a tilt at glory from their first match (a 74-28 demolition of Scotland) and they went on to win all five of their matches in Pool B.
The Roses’ fifth victory was the most significant, as they beat New Zealand for the first time in Commonwealth Games history to ensure they finished top of the pool.
Both the semi-final and the final that followed were the stuff of legend, as Jo Harten scored a last-second winner to secure a 56-55 win over Jamaica and then Helen Housby did the same in the final to defeat netball’s dominant force, Australia, 52-51.
Housby’s goal, which came after the clock had stopped after she was fouled when she tried to shoot, is already iconic, and her shocked expression afterwards will stick in the minds of everyone who witnessed it. It was a fitting recipient of the first-ever Greatest Sporting Moment award at Sports Personality – an accolade voted for by the British public.
The England Roses, who were outstandingly well-led by Head Coach Tracey Neville and have inspired many to take up the sport since their triumph, were also deservedly chosen as the Team of the Year by the Sports Personality judging panel. What a year it has been for netball!
Lizzy Yarnold becomes Britain’s most successful Winter OlympianEmbed from Getty Images
On the 17th February 2018, Lizzy Yarnold surpassed every other British Winter Olympian in history by winning her second gold medal in skeleton.
It is an extraordinary achievement. Skeleton is dangerous and physically-demanding. It also requires the utmost concentration and precision, as one significant mistake on any of an athlete’s five runs can cost them too many hundredths of a second to make up on subsequent runs.
Although Yarnold had not won a World Cup event since 2015, she has proven herself to be a fearsome competitor who knows how to produce her best when it matters most. She set a track record on her first run in the final and then bettered it on her fifth attempt to seal gold.
The 29-year-old from Kent achieved all that with a chest infection. It was a remarkable feat and, although Yarnold was rightly nominated for Sports Personality of the Year, she deserved a place in the top three.
Dina Asher-Smith becomes the fastest woman in the worldEmbed from Getty Images
On three magical days at the 2018 European Championships in August, Dina Asher-Smith produced the three best runs of her life to win three gold medals. She destroyed the field in the 100m on the 7th, repeated that feat in the 200m on 11th and then ran a brilliant anchor leg in the 4x100m final on the 12th.
The 22-year-old from Orpington recorded the fastest times of the year in both the 100m and 200m finals, which earned her the status of the fastest woman in the world.
UK Athletics Performance Director Neil Black told The Guardian it was the best display by a British track competitor in a generation. He said, “We knew Dina had loads of talent. But what she’s done is incredible. She has been so focused, so determined, so professional and so calm. She is a pleasure to have around and has really demonstrated to everyone else in the team how to go about performing at the highest level.”
Asher-Smith’s performances also earned her further recognition. She was named Female European Athlete of the Year, BT Sport Action Woman of the Year and Athletics Weekly British Female Athlete of the Year. She was also on the shortlist for two very prestigious awards: IAAF Female Athlete of the Year and BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
Georgia Hall wins the British OpenEmbed from Getty Images
Women’s golf does not enjoy a prominent position in the hearts and minds of many British sports fans, but that does not diminish the remarkable achievement of Georgia Hall.
When she carded 67 in the final round (she managed four sub-70 rounds) to finish 17 under par, the Bournemouth golfer, 22, became Britain’s youngest-ever major champion and only the fifth ever to come from these shores. She is also the first Briton to win the Open since Catriona Matthew in 2009.
Although she is still so young, Hall is already keen to inspire the next generation. “I couldn’t believe so many young girls and boys were watching me, wanting a picture or an autograph,” she told BBC Sport. “Hopefully I can encourage a lot of young girls out there to take up the game. I want to be a good role model for young girls in Britain.”
Tammy Beaumont powers England to world-record T20 scoreEmbed from Getty Images
2018 did not go quite as well as England hoped as they were outclassed by Australia in the final of the World T20.
However, they still played plenty of excellent cricket throughout the year, and on 20th June they wrote their names into the record books by racking up 250-3 – the highest T20 total in the history of women’s cricket.
The undoubted star of the show was Tammy Beaumont. She hit 18 fours and 4 sixes as she plundered 116 from 52 balls in a truly spectacular display of attacking batting. She was well-supported by opening partner Danni Wyatt, who cracked 56 from 36 balls, Katherine Brunt, who hammered 42 from 16 balls, and Natalie Sciver, who weighed in with 33 from 15 balls.