Review of the Year 2015 Part 1
It’s time to hand out some gongs. The nominees for Olympian of the Year are as follows (clockwise, from bottom left):
Novak Djokovic, who won three Grand Slam titles, including his fifth Australian Open and his third Wimbledon;
Ashton Eaton, who broke his own world decathlon record while winning his third global gold medal;
Katie Ledecky, who won five world swimming gold medals, including an unprecedented sweep of the distance freestyle events;
Kohei Uchimura, who won his sixth world all-around gymnastics title and led Japan to the team title for the first time.
But before I announce the result, here are the award winners from the other categories:
Team of the Year
New Zealand won the Rugby World Cup, Spain won EuroBasket and Great Britain won the Davis Cup. They were all strong contenders. But the prize must go to the Czech Fed Cup team, which dramatically defeated Russia to claim its fourth title in just five years.
Special mention must be made of Petra Kvitova who has consistently turned out to play. This time, she tempted Maria Sharapova to appear for Russia but the Czechs still won.
Young Athlete of the Year
The United States has mined some bright talents which promise future gold. Candace Hill won two world youth gold medals and became the youngest female sprinter to run 100m in 11 seconds. At the World Cycling Championships, Chloe Dygert won the junior double of time trial and road race. But the award goes to Russia’s Yana Kudryavtseva.
Rhythmic gymnast Kudryavtseva won four golds at the European Championships, four at the European Games and five at the World Championships, all before she turned 18.
Paralympian of the Year
Markus Rehm long jumped an astonishing 8.40m, which would have won an Olympic medal. Daniel Dias swam his way to eight golds at the Parapan Games and seven at the world championships. Wheelchair fencer, Beatrice Vio of Italy, was unbeaten all year.
It is difficult to compare the extraordinary world record of Rehm with the multi-medal-winning exploits of the Brazilian, Dias. But, leaving aside all of the arguments about the advantage given by his prosthetic, Rehm’s victory margin speaks for itself – the second placed athlete scored 7.26m. Markus Rehm of Germany is the Paralympian of the Year.
Country of the Year
I couldn’t help noticing that two Americans made the final shortlist for Olympian of the Year and two others, Serena Williams and Simone Biles, narrowly missed out. And the US women’s football team won the World Cup. But with fewer athletics and swimming medals than usual, it has been an average year for Team USA by its own high standards.
Russia did well across several sports but is disqualified from the award due to its doping scandal. Kenya is less contaminated and had a great year but athletics is its only sport.
County of the Year is New Zealand. It took home the Rugby World Cup, five gold medals in rowing, and two apiece in canoeing and cycling. It finished the year with a silver for its women in World League hockey. Its population is 4.5 million people, and a lot of sheep.
Olympian of the Year
And the winner is…Katie Ledecky. Again, it is hard to compare her series of victories with the incredible one-off performance of Ashton Eaton. However, although multiple medals and world records are easier to achieve in swimming, the range of distances that Ledecky covers is unique, and so she wins, by a narrower margin than most of her races.
Djokovic and Uchimara both had an outstanding year, not for the first time, and perhaps are victims of their own success. There is a sense that even they believe they are capable of achieving even more. Katie Ledecky’s year, on the other hand, is simply unimprovable.
Congratulations, Katie Ledecky!
Next week: I review the highs and lows of a tumultuous 2015 for the world of sport