After a successful Paralympic Games, it is no surprise that The Mixed Zone’s September nominations for the Action Women of the Year award should be dominated by the athletes who inspired us in Rio. Laura Winter reviews the quintet of sporting superheroines
CYCLING & ATHLETICS
For becoming the first British Paralympian in 32 years to win gold medals in two sports at the same Games. Cox won a gold medal in the Rio Velodrome in the women’s C5 500 metres time trial before excelling on the Olympic Stadium track to win another gold in the T38 400 metres. She added a silver in the T35-38 4×400 relay and a bronze in the T38 100 metres before being chosen to be flag bearer at the Closing Ceremony by dint of her extraordinary versatility.
Cox said: “My message would be never give up. I didn’t give up at any point even when my classification was changed. When people told me I couldn’t do it, I never gave up at any point, and I’m here proving if you work hard and you have a passion for something you can get there.
“Initially it was a journey about one girl who wanted to go to the Paralympics. But over the two years it has become something I was doing for everyone else. The reason I wanted to do it so badly was so I could stand here and show it can be done even if you have setbacks.”
DAME SARAH STOREY
For winning her 12th, 13th and 14th Paralympic gold medal in Rio and surpassing Tanni Grey-Thompson’s record of 12 to become Britain’s most successful Paralympian. Storey was imperious, winning gold in the C4/5 3,000 metres time trial on the track by catching GB’s Crystal Lane (who won silver) before taking to the road to win gold in the C5 time trial and C4/5 road race. She has since been elected to the International Paralympic Committee Athlete Commission.
On the prospect of competing at the Tokyo Games in 2020, she said: “Four Games in each sport sounds rather cool. Once everything calms down I’ll start to look at what’s happened in Rio with an analytical mind and say, ‘This is where we were, this is where we could go, is that possible or is that asking too much?’ You don’t want to push your luck as an athlete. I wanted to be an athlete for as long as I possibly could. But I also assumed I’d be married with four kids by now, and taking them to school and doing runs for their sporting stuff. I’m amazed to still be an athlete.”
DOWNHILL MOUNTAIN BIKING
For winning a fourth UCI Mountain Bike World Championships downhill title to complete a perfect unbeaten season, after winning all seven World Cups.
When asked if she wanted to win an Olympic medal, too, she said: “I’m proud and content with what I have achieved. I don’t need the validation of an Olympic medal. I definitely used to want to switch to track at some point, but in mountain biking you spend a lot of time outside in the mountains. I think I would miss that lifestyle. Mountain biking has a huge following and a life on its own without downhill being included in the Olympics.”SOPHIE CHRISTIANSEN
For successfully defending her three gold medals from the London Paralympics to complete the double treble in Rio 2016, as Team GB equestrian won 11 medals including seven golds.
Sophie said: “I’m so proud of all my team-mates. They’ve all done so well and I’m just thrilled. This year has been so up-and-down so to even get here was a feat in itself. Athene is just a young horse. I didn’t know how he would react, but he felt so relaxed with me, so I knew we could do it. It’s tough, I’m not going to lie, but you need that drive and determination that the Paralympics shows.”
For winning three golds medals at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, successfully defending her London 2012 title in the T34 100 metres before adding the 400 and 800 titles to her name, following the removal of the 200 metres event.
Hannah said: “The 100 metres is my favourite event – I have never been beaten over it and didn’t expect to be beaten over it. It was amazing to be in Rio and compete in front of a massive crowd. It’s a magnificent stadium and I absolutely loved it out there. In my head winning one title was immense, it was fantastic in London, but you are a truly talented athlete if you can defend it.”
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 is 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.