Written by Jen Offord

Health

2015: The Year of the Lioness(es)

Men’s achievements may have once more claimed most of the headlines, but 2015 saw plenty of sportswomen who did bloody amazing stuff. Jen Offord tips her hat.

Jessica Ennis-Hill/CAPTION: photo by Adam Kerfoot-Roberts, via Wikimedia Commons.

Jessica Ennis-Hill photo by Adam Kerfoot-Roberts, via Wikimedia Commons.

Not that you’d know it, what with the Davis Cup winners and Tyson Furore (as I shall now forever refer to him), but 2015 has been something of a glory moment for women in sport. In the face of stiff competition from our male counterparts, a perceived lack of interest and a comparative lack of investment, sisters have very much been doing it for themselves this year.

It’d be wrong not to mention the extraordinary talents of Serena Williams, who has now won everything including worldwide adoration and hopefully more than the odd reference to her tennis-playing skills, as opposed to all the other guff that’s written about her. Or Ronda ‘I am literally kicking you in the face with my epic skills’ Rousey, queen of the Mixed Martial Arts. But it’s the Olympics next year, so let’s have a little rundown of our homegrown talents as we look towards July with the pant-wetting excitement our own team deserves.

And if you could have this (which will only make sense if you remember watching Top of the Pops in the 80s) playing in the background while you read on, that’d be super.

Jessica Ennis-Hill

So good, the SPOTY even saw fit to honour her as the third place Sports Personality of the Year – the only female, aside from the young talent of the year, to get a look in. Ennis-Hill came back from the brink (that is, childbirth) to sprint, jump and throw herself to glory at this year’s Athletics World Championships, just over a year after giving birth to her son Reggie, and less than six months after her return to competition. Not too shabby for a lass, eh?

Johanna Konta photo by Dacoucou, via Wikimedia Commons.

Johanna Konta photo by Dacoucou, via Wikimedia Commons.

Johanna Konta

One-time tennis nobody Johanna Konta rose like a phoenix from the flames of self-doubt this year, to reach her best ever singles world ranking of 46th, after some massive upsets in the US Open, which she went into ranked 97th. A finalist in the World Tennis Association’s Most Improved Player award this year, she ended the year ranked 47th, a place down. I’m a sucker for an underdog.

England Hockey

Hockey is a sport I firmly associate with Britishness and in particular the misery of rain and PE, two intrinsically linked subjects, in my mind.

Nonetheless, as a nation of the stiff upper-lip (or self-loathing if you prefer), it’s hardly surprising we’ve got hockey down. Let’s not forget that our captain, Kate Richardson-Walsh, fractured her jaw in the team’s opening match back in London 2012 and was playing a week later to see the side take third place on the podium.

This year England’s women’s team pulled off a magnificent coup d’etat, wrenching the European Championship gold medal from Germany in a nailbiting penalty shoot-out against eight-time victors the Netherlands.

England Netball

England’s netball team, the so-called Roses, had something of a bittersweet time in the Netball World Cup, held in Australia this year. So often the bridesmaids and never the brides, to use a hideously sexist analogy, we walked away with the bronze medal for the fifth time in the championship’s history.

On this occasion, the team was guided by the supreme dignity of head coach Tracey Neville, who tragically lost her father – another sporting great, Neville Neville – to a heart attack while he was accompanying her on the campaign. These are the kind of heroics for which there really are no words.

England football team photo via Wikimedia Commons.

England football team photo via Wikimedia Commons.

England Football

I’m only halfway through and already in tears, not least because one of our proudest sporting achievements this year was at the women’s football World Cup in Canada.

The much-revered Lionesses took the England side to its first quarter final of a World Cup in 25 years, and our best result in almost 50, finishing third and missing the final through the cruellest of ways – an own goal in the closing minutes of the semi-final.

Regardless, the team quite literally inspired more than a generation as everyone from David Beckham to my mum stayed up to watch their glory, compounded just weeks later as the Women’s FA Cup was played at Wembley Stadium for the first time.

Lizzie Armitstead

Nicola Adams photo courtesy of gbboxing.org.uk

Nicola Adams photo courtesy of gbboxing.org.uk

Yorkshire lass Armitstead paid tribute to her hilly home county by way of explanation for her great successes of the year. Armitstead came back from disappointment in the Women’s Tour of Great Britain, in which she collided with a group of photographers, ending her competition after the first stage, to win pretty much everything else. Including the Road Cycling World Championships in Richmond, Virginia, which I can tell you, bizarrely from personal experience, is a fucking hilly place to cycle.

Nicola Adams

Nicola Adams smashed her way into the history books by becoming the first woman to win an Olympic boxing title, admittedly because 2012 was the first year in which female boxers competed. Though in case you were in any doubt as to her greatness, having won the 2015 European Gold Championships, Adams now holds the Olympic, Commonwealth and European flyweight titles. Long may her reign continue.

There are so, so many more to mention, and I look forward to mentioning them all – probably while weeping over more than a few Olympics montages – in 2016.

@inspireajen

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Written by Jen Offord

Jen is a writer from Essex, which isn’t relevant because she lives in London, but she likes people to know it. As well as daft challenges, she likes cats, cheese and Beyonce. @inspireajen