Downhill mountain biking star Rachel Atherton has been crowned the first-ever winner of BT’s Action Woman of the Year Awards.
The inaugural Action Woman Awards celebrated women who gave the most dynamic sporting performances of 2013 and the winner was decided by an online public vote.
Atherton's success followed a triumphant year during which she became the women’s downhill mountain bike world champion and World Cup Series winner – the second time in her career in which she has achieved the elusive double.
BT's Action Woman of the Year Awards - How you voted:
Winner: Rachel Atherton - Downhill mountain biker
2nd place: Natasha Dowie - Footballer, Liverpool Ladies
3rd place: Non Stanford - Triathlete
Liverpool Ladies and England striker Natasha Dowie was second in the vote, followed by World Champion triathlete Non Stanford. Also nominated were Christine Ohuruogu, Laura Robson, Katie Summerhayes, Heather Knight, Sophie Christiansen, Charlie Hull and Ellie Simmonds.
All 10 nominees had the support of a famous advocate from the world of sport and beyond, with three-time Olympic medal winner Victoria Pendleton backing Atherton.
The 26-year-old from Salisbury was named victor on Saturday night’s edition of The Clare Balding Show.
“Wow! I'm absolutely gobsmacked to have won the first ever BT Sport Action Women Awards", Atherton said.
The shortlist for this award was stacked with women who I personally take inspiration from."
“The first thing I have got to say is a massive thank you to every single person who voted for me and our sport, allowing me to showcase what a jaw-dropping sport downhill mountain biking is. This is a huge milestone in my career.
“The shortlist for this award was stacked with women who I personally take inspiration from and being considered alongside these women means the world to me and gives me even more motivation for the coming race season.
“Thanks also have to go to all my fantastic sponsors, my amazing team and family, without whom I would be less than nothing. Of this I have no doubt.
“Adding this award to my world titles goes a long way in saying thank you to all these people, because it's true that you really are only as good as the team around you. That team now includes everybody who voted in such a prestigious award, and the family of BT Sport for making such a huge salute to the world of women's action sports. Thanks guys!”
Runner-up Dowie, who helped Liverpool Ladies to the Women’s Super League title as the league’s Golden Boot winner, while also being voted Players’ Player of the Year, was thrilled to be recognised for her achievements last year.
“To be nominated for Action Woman of the Year meant so much to me,” said Dowie.
“It was almost surreal when I got the news and just unbelievable when I saw who the other nominees were. I was almost too embarrassed to ask my friends and supporters to vote for me alongside those other amazing athletes.
“Whilst I’ve had football awards, I’ve never been nominated for anything like this before so it’s a really big deal to me.”
To be part of a list of incredible sports women nominated for this award is a great honour."
Stanford, who was voted in third place after becoming the ITU women's world triathlon champion last year, said: "It is great that sports awards are now recognising women and that we are making headlines in sport in general.
"To be part of a list of incredible sports women nominated for this award is a great honour. I have grown up watching some of them on TV and they have been inspirational to me.
"All the nominees are worthy of great recognition and I hope that with these awards other women will find us inspirational too.”
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