The hunt for BT’s Action Woman of the Year 2014 is underway and every month BT Sport will be highlighting potential contenders.
But it’s not just down to us – we want you to nominate the sportswomen who we might have missed, using the submissions box below or the #BTActionWoman hashtag on Twitter.
A final shortlist of 10 nominees will be produced at the end of the year and put to a public vote to decide the winner.
Kelly Gallagher and Charlotte Evans
After their first event of the Sochi Paralympics, things looked bleak for partially-sighted Kelly Gallagher and her guide, Charlotte Evans. The pair finished dead last in the downhill skiing, leaving Evans in tears and both women needing to recover, fast, if they wanted to bounce back in the Super G the next day.
Bounce back they did, and in emphatic style. Tears became leaps of joy, as the duo recorded a time of one minute, 28.72 seconds to take Great Britain’s first-ever gold medal on snow at a Winter Games.
For 28-year-old Northern Irishwoman Gallagher and Evans, 23, of Kent, the extreme highs and lows they experienced in Sochi were consistent with the ups and downs of the four years of hard slog that preceded their gold.
The duo haven’t been shy in admitting their partnership wasn’t an instant hit. With Gallagher going through a tough time on and off the slopes – losing her father to cancer two years ago – they needed to put a lot of toil into their working relationship to gain the “mutual respect” they have now.
- 19 – Evans’ age when she first started working with Gallagher.
- 3 – The number of crashes Gallagher suffered while competing in Sochi, in the slalom, giant slalom and super combined.
- 4th – Where Gallagher and her previous guide finished in the giant slalom at the 2010 Vancouver Paralympic Games.
- 109km (or 67 miles) – The speed, per hour, the pair clocked going down the slopes in Sochi.
- 100 – The percentage Evans says the pair put into all of their performances.
A gold medal apiece is proof their graft paid off. Not only that, but it’s something they hope can inspire other people with disabilities, who may not have considered taking up a sport.
It’s a huge part of why Gallagher competes. “I love the idea that somebody could watch our run and be inspired, or that a mother that’s been told their child has a disability and will not be able to be involved in sport can get the confidence to go, you know what, I’ve seen all these Paralympians competing in winter sport. It opens up opportunities to other people.”
Evans is also enjoying seeing guides getting recognition for their role. “It’s really nice for me to see that people are respecting the guides and how much work that they do because when we first started it was very much you were just a person who skiied in front.
“Kelly has definitely worked really hard in making people realise how much we have to do on and off the hill and I think in that point it’s really nice for me to be with somebody who’s so grateful for the amount of work and time I’ve put in. I’m lucky to have Kelly as my athlete.”
And neither has any issue over their joint nod as Action Woman Awards contenders, with Gallagher adding: “We don’t mind sharing it, we share everything.”
During the World Open Squash Championship final, there was a moment when Great Britain’s Laura Massaro truly thought she had lost.
Malaysia’s dominant seven-time world champion Nicol David had been ousted in the semi-finals by Egypt’s rising star Nour El Sherbini, leaving Massaro with her biggest chance yet of landing her maiden world title. The expectation was high and she was feeling the pressure.
“It made the final really, really nerve-wracking,” she said. “From the minute I realised David wasn’t going to be there, it completely changed everything.
“All the pressure came on me and I felt that it was mine to lose, so to speak, rather than mine to win.”
The 30-year-old from Preston and her teenage opponent had taken two sets apiece in what had been a hard-fought slog of a final. Then Massaro slipped 6-1 down in the fifth.
“I thought ‘oh no, I might have lost now’, and I think that actually relaxed me. Then, when I’d managed to come all the way back to eight-all, I thought ‘right, I’m not losing now, I refuse to lose’”.
And she didn’t. Instead, she kept her composure and closed out the fifth set 11-9 to become the first English woman to win the women’s world championship in 15 years, and the first to hold the world and British Open titles simultaneously (“It still sounds a little bit weird to hear that!”)
- 2 – Massaro’s current world ranking.
- 7 – Her age when she first picked up a squash racket - and the number of years she’s been married to her husband, Danny Massaro, who is also one of her coaches.
- 1999 – The last time an Englishwoman won the world title, when Cassie Jackman (formerly Campion) lifted the trophy.
- 2005 – The year she won her first WSA World Tour title, claiming success in the German Open at 22 years old.
Britain now head into the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer boasting both a women’s and a men’s world champion after Nick Matthew won the title in Manchester last year.
Massaro is thrilled to see squash getting the media coverage it’s been missing. “You want to try and repay everyone who has helped you over the years and put faith in you when maybe you haven’t been getting the media coverage that you feel like maybe the sport deserves.
“Now it’s an opportunity to be able to take a little bit of that publicity and try and give it back to the sport and the people around you.”
Equally special for her has been the reaction she has received back home in Preston, particularly at the David Lloyd Leisure Centre where she trains.
“I walked in this morning and they had a banner saying ‘David Lloyd welcomes back Laura Massaro, World Champion’.
“I was only there for an hour and I was just inundated by members coming up to me and congratulating me, wanting to hold the trophy, have a picture taken. I didn’t even know anyone knew who I was down there!”
They certainly do now.
Johnson-Thompson was not invited by the IAAF to compete in the pentathlon at the World Indoor Championships, because she was ill at the qualifying competition. However, instead of nurturing bitterness about the missed opportunity, the multi-talented athlete from Liverpool, heir apparent to Olympic superstar, Jessica Ennis-Hill, saw it as a challenge to keep the world long jump elite on their toes. She delivered emphatically.
The 21-year-old, not the daughter of Daley Thompson as many falsely believe, collected her first senior international medal as she leapt to World Championship silver in the women’s long jump. She led the competition for the first four rounds with a new personal best of 6.81m. It was only France’s Eloyse Lesueur who managed to sneak past the heptathlete by a mere four centimetres to see her win gold in 6.85m.
- 1 – The number of dogs KJT owns - a little sausage dog called “chorizo”. Yes, like the sausage.
- 6.81 – The distance, in metres, that secured KJT a first senior international medal in Poland. She won gold at the 2012 World Youth Championships in Barcelona with exactly the same distance (although wind assisted).
- 6 – She is six feet tall. Despite her being a big fan of high heels, she often ends up wearing flats so she doesn’t look even taller.
- 1.96 – The new British high jump record, in metres, set by her at the indoor trials – that is 13cm higher than she is tall.
“I came to Sopot with no expectations at all. I didn’t think I was going to medal. At one point I was leading the competition which I still can’t quite believe,” she told the IAAF after the competition.
The long jump success compromises only one-seventh of her main event, but shows the talent she brings into the sport. Even after winning the silver medal she admitted: “I still really missed the pentathlon. It killed me to watch the other girls on the Friday, but I am so glad that I still got to compete at Worlds.”
With Commonwealth Games and European Championships coming up in the summer, she will most likely only be competing in the heptathlon at Glasgow, leaving more room for individual medals at European level. It will be a tough decision which event to go for at the European Championships in Zurich with KJT describing herself as “chronically indecisive: so I’ve adopted the heptathlon and two surnames”.
It wasn’t the prize that made her jitter - a purse made of gold worth £55,000 from the King of Morocco - it was the down-to-the-wire dramatic situation.
Hull, 17 years old and Britain’s number-one golfer, up against a professional more than twice her age in the sudden-death play-off hole at the Lalla Meryen Cup, the first Ladies Tour tournament of her season where she finished second in 2013. Five times last year she had finished runner-up, always missing the elusive victory.
“I hit my four iron to about four feet and holed it. I was shaking but it went in. I was so happy.”
- 13 - The age at which she left school to become homeschooled and focus on her golf.
- 186 - The number of yards she hit her ball during her playoff hole to beat Gwladys Nocera for the Lalla Meryem Cup.
- 5 - The number of consecutive runner-up performances she notched before she lifted her first tour title.
- 0 - The number of holes in one she has sunk (surprisingly).
- 0 – The number of clubs she has broken in fury (incredibly).
Hull’s passion for golf is unarguable. She regards holidays and books as expendable items, since time away from practicing her craft is time sorely wasted. She has only agreed to take Spanish dancing lessons in the hope it will stop people making fun of her on the dance floor at the after-tournament party next year.
For one so young - she turned 18 in March - she seems to possess the mental toughness of one of her heroes, Gary Player. She came from five shots behind to lift the trophy in Morocco after a closing round that included seven birdies and an eagle.
Her quest for perfection doesn’t include re-watching her matches since she hates seeing herself on film. The exception she’d make is her winning shot in Morocco. Outside of golf, her interests include her dog, Tom, and Snapchat. She’s only human.
Her current to-do list includes flying into space to “have a look around” and becoming the world’s number 1 player at the age of 21. They’re lofty goals, and, based on all the evidence so far, completely realistic.
And, ok, she's not strictly a female athlete, but a notable mention goes to...
A record-breaker, she is the first female athlete ever at the Cheltenham Festival to beat the record of the legendary superstar, Golden Miller, who won five Gold Cups in the 1930s.
By racing to a stirring sixth consecutive victory in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, spurred on by her jockey Ruby Walsh, 10-year-old Quevega made history.
Peers and admirers attested to her brilliance after the 8-11 favourite was made to work hard by Glens Melody until getting her head in front in the final 100 yards. Her trainer, Willie Mullins, was full of praise for her bravery after the victory. “I’m so pleased for her and she has her own place in history now,” he said. “She’s got stamina, speed and everything, she’s just class. What more can I say?”
- 6 – The number of consecutive OLBG Mares' Hurdle victories at the Cheltenham Festival.
- 16 - Hands high.
- 13 – Her career victories out of 15 races.
- £6billion – The amount bet on all 28 Festival races over four days.
- 222,000 – The number of pints of Guinness consumed, of which celebrating Quevega’s hugely popular win will have played its part.
Walsh, the all-time leading Festival rider who would later be carried off to hospital with a shattered arm after an accident in a later race, was similarly complimentary. “She’s a great little mare,” he said. “The good ones are all tough.”
France-born Quevega’s career has been littered with success since her maiden victory in 2007. She won the first of her six consecutive Mares' Hurdle titles in 2009, handily dispatching the previous year’s champion, the fearsome Chomba Womba, by 14 lengths. Ever the team player, she selflessly allowed her racing partner, Ruby Walsh, to take most of the credit.
Sired by the grandson of Mill Reef, the champion thoroughbred who won the Derby in 1971, she has always maintained an aloofness from the media scrum.
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