February’s outstanding sportswomen

ActionWomanAward_LogoCompetition is already hotting up for the BT Sport Action Woman of the Year 2016. Here are the second batch of contenders for the title, based on performances during February. The successor – or successors – to the England Lionesses, the 2015 winners, will be decided by public vote and celebrated in December at the Award Show, televised by BT Sport and presented by Clare Balding.

Read about January’s star performers here.

Sarah Barrow 5SARAH BARROW
DIVING

For the sterling effort of qualifying for the Olympics with synchro partner Tonia Couch after being dropped in November amid doubts about her fitness due to shin pain. The 27-year-old from Plymouth – two-time World and Commonwealth medallist, two-time European champion and British record holder – came battling back at the National Cup in January, finishing in second place, just three points behind the winner. That was enough to secure a place alongside long-time partner, Couch, at the World Cup in Rio. There, despite a mere three weeks to train together, the pair won bronze to confirm their Olympic place. 

Barrow said: “When someone asks me about diving, the conversation is always around ‘I could never jump off that let alone dive!’. Yes, it would be extremely difficult to learn the competitive dives as an adult, but jumping off a 10-metre platform can be learnt and can be achieved if you put your mind to it. It’s about overcoming that fear, achieving that goal, hurdling over those bumps in the road that makes it all worthwhile.”

Sarah Barrow on Twitter
SUNBURY, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: Lizzie Kelly riding Tea For Two clear the last to win The Kauto Star Novices' Steeple Chase at Kempton Park racecourse on December 26, 2015 in Sunbury, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

LIZZIE KELLY
NATIONAL HUNT RACING

For winning the Betfair Hurdle aboard Agrapart at Newbury after becoming the first female jockey to win a British Grade One steeplechase at Christmas. The victory, aboard the 16-1 novice in a 21-runner field, also secured Kelly £88,272, her biggest pay-cheque to date.

Kelly refused to take all the credit, however, lavishing praise on Agrapart. She said: “He was brilliant, he did it for me. Horses were getting tired and he just gallops and responds and fights. He has an incredible stride, and as a jockey you don’t feel you are going any faster, he just takes a shorter time to get there.”

Kelly and Agrapart left Willie Mullins’s odds-on favourite Blazer trailing home in ninth place. “In a funny sort of way, I think I’m better at the big occasions,” she said. “I work better under pressure and respond better to bigger days when there’s more pressure on. I soak up the atmosphere a bit more and I’m a bit more of a warrior.”

Lizzie Kelly on Twitter
Kate Richardson-Walsh
Photo by Sport is Beautiful, a WST project

KATE RICHARDSON-WALSH
HOCKEY

For making her 356th international appearance – in the 1-1 draw against Australia in Perth – to become Britain’s most-capped hockey player. In so doing the GB captain overtook the record held by current assistant coach Karen Brown. 

Playing alongside her wife Helen, Richardson-Walsh said it was “a really special moment” to break the record. Coach Danny Kerry said: “Kate Richardson-Walsh’s achievement in becoming our most capped player is quite simply phenomenal. Her passion and resilience is an example to all.”

Richardson-Walsh tweeted: “Overwhelmed by the support and messages from the hockey fam. An incredible honour. Thank you teammates for helping, guiding and inspiring. #proud.”

Kate Richardson-Walsh on Twitter
Photo Credit: Getty images for ECB
Photo Credit: Getty images for ECB

SARAH TAYLOR
CRICKET

For playing an integral part in England’s one-day success over South Africa, including hitting 60 from 40 balls in the decisive match in the three-game T20 series. It was the Sussex wicketkeeper-batter’s third successive half-century, and her performances earned her the player of the match and series awards.

Captain Charlotte Edwards said: “Sarah Taylor was fantastic, she always has been.” Taylor, though, saw room for improvement, saying: “In the last two one-dayers I wasn’t happy with how I performed so it’s good to be able to contribute [in the final game].”

This winter Taylor became the first woman to play Grade cricket in Australia. She made appearances for Northern Districts against Port Adelaide in a South Australian Cricket Association match in October, taking two catches in a three-wicket victory on her debut.

She counts the experience Down Under as one of the best of her life, and feels the time spent playing with men has improved her a cricketer. “I hope other women follow suit,” she said. “The whole point of going out there was to improve my own skills, but hopefully it has opened people’s eyes that women can play at this level. I’m the first but I hope I won’t be the last and that other girls give it a go.

“In terms of what I have learned and gained from it, it was probably one of the greatest experiences of my life. I can walk away and feel really happy with what I’ve done.”

Sarah Taylor on Twitter
ADelle TRacey
Photo via British Athletics

ADELLE TRACEY
ATHLETE

For becoming British indoor champion in the 800 metres, a victory which qualified her for the World Indoor Championships in Portland, Oregon, in March. One of seven teenagers who had the honour of lighting the Olympic flame at London 2012, she has her name carved on the steps of the Olympic Museum in Lausanne. But until now she had not made her name in international sport. This could be her breakthrough, a standout result, as she beat established names like Lynsey Sharp and Jenny Meadows in the race for the line in Sheffield.

It was not, however, her first dice with fame. As a hairdresser and make-up artist she has worked on Doctor Who and Top Gear: a rare apprenticeship for top-class athletes but also strongly associated with travelling high speeds. At the age of 22, the World Indoors will represent her senior debut on the big stage. “It’s going to be amazing. I’m so excited,” she said.

Adelle Tracey on Twitter

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura Winter is a sports journalist, presenter and event host. She worked in sports communications for the International Rowing Federation for two years, before working and training as a journalist in Gloucestershire, covering a variety of sports including rugby, boxing, football, and triathlon. She then turned freelance at the end of 2014 and was part of the team who founded Voxwomen, a women’s cycling show that seeks to give the female elite peloton the coverage they deserve. Laura’s latest articles.

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