It’s been an incredible year for women’s sport, with successes and advances seen across the board. And not only has it been an outstanding year of achievements, we’ve also seen unprecedented moment off the field too, facilitating changes and sparking conversations that have altered sport forever.
Here’s a look at the most memorable moments of this year, with ground-breaking successes that have ensured that the face of women’s sport looks better for everyone.
At the World Gymnastic Championships this year Biles not only won five gold medals, taking her total to 25 medals and making her the most decorated gymnast in World Championships history, she also had two new moves named after her. Biles has also been an incredible advocate for abuse victims after revealing the details of former Team USA gymnastics sports doctor, Larry Nassar’s abuse.
Simone Biles is so good, they've had to start naming the moves after her.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) October 6, 2019
Katarina Johnson Thompson
After years of struggles and disappointments, KJT finally overcame the demons to win her first outdoor World Athletics Championships title in the heptathlon. Despite considering quitting after failing to medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics, KJT is now a strong contender for the gold in Tokyo. It was across two hot days in Doha where she ran, jumped and threw her way to a new lifetime best score, a British record and her first world title, and all those painful memories melted away, making space for a wonderfully joyous one.
The best heptathlon of her life!
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) October 3, 2019
In a traditionally male dominated sport, Sherrock became the first woman to win a match at the World Darts Championships. Sherrock has faced online abuse on her journey to make history and was just the fifth woman to ever play in the event and only one of two at Alexandra Palace this year. After earning the biggest pay cheque of her career (including more than she won for becoming runner up in the 2015 BDO Women’s World Championship), Sherrock shot to overnight fame, beating Piers Morgan on live national television the next day. And her impressive feats don’t end on the world stage, she is also auctioning off her winning board for the National Autism Society.
SHERROCK MAKES HISTORY.
Fallon Sherrock has become the first woman to win a match at the PDC World Championship.
Just look at these scenes, a history making moment for darts. pic.twitter.com/zqoOeyQLmt
— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) December 17, 2019
After being treated for breast cancer just a year ago, Thomas became the first person ever to swim across the English Channel four times non-stop. The incredible feat took her more than 54 hours and was due to be 80 miles long. However, due to the strong tides, Thomas ended up swimming closer to 130 miles. She completed cancer treatment in 2018 and dedicated her swim to “all the survivors out there”.
A woman from Colorado has become the first person to swim the English Channel four times non-stop.
Sarah Thomas, 37, began the epic challenge in the early hours of Sunday, wearing a swimsuit, cap and goggles.
Photo: Jon Washer pic.twitter.com/2U4E44txoO
— BBC South East (@bbcsoutheast) September 17, 2019
Winning a silver medal in the T38 400m at the World Para Athletics Championships is an impressive enough feat, but on top of that Cox opened up about her eating disorder that has been affecting her sport, and her life, for some time. After first revealing her struggles in April this year, Cox once again proved her strength by confessing that this year’s World Championships, where she won her silver medal in just her 2nd 400m race since winning gold at the 2017 World Championships, had caused her to relapse after she struggled with all the attention on her.
"It's hard not to think, 'if I had done this or not done this, would I have won?"
Kadeena Cox says being at the World Para-Athletics Championships triggered a relapse of her eating disorder.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) November 12, 2019
When she stepped into the ring in November to contest her second weight division World title, Taylor had already had an incredible 2019. She had remained unbeaten, defended her three lightweight titles and won a majority decision to become the first ever undisputed women’s lightweight world champion. But Taylor wanted more. And in the world title bout against Christina Linardatou, Taylor took the victory to become two-weight world champion, taking her professional record to 15 wins out of 15.
Two weight World Champion!
Overwhelmed by all the support and kind comments, thank you. pic.twitter.com/m3sSVW4NJZ
— Katie Taylor (@KatieTaylor) November 3, 2019
When she took charge of Liverpool and Chelsea’s Uefa Super Cup match, Stephanie Frappart became the first female referee to officiate a major men’s European match. Alongside her were an all-female team of assistant referees, Manuela Nicolosi and Michelle O’Neill, and the trio gained international praise.
The sporting world was rocked by Cain’s allegations of abuse by the disgraced Alberto Salazar, the athletics coach already banned from coaching for four years for doping offences. Cain was one of America’s top runners at just a teenager, but detailed how she was pressured by Salazar and his all-male coaching team to lose weight. The abuse derailed her athletics career but her bravery to speak out has sparked an important conversation about what more needs to be done to protect female athletes.
Updated article with my first response to Nike’s statement. But this story is still not over. I want to ensure the necessary action is taken to protect future athletes. https://t.co/9jyreuYKJ0
— Mary Cain (@runmarycain) November 8, 2019
At just 15 years old, Gauff became a tennis superstar after beating her idol Venus Williams, and became the youngest player in history to advance to the last 16 at Wimbledon. Gauff, who came into the tournament as a wildcard, took the upset victory in an incredible match, with tennis great Serena Williams hailing her as one to watch. “I hope they learned about me – that I’m a fighter and I’ll never give up,” Gauff told the press following the match.
Another young star making waves in the sporting world is 11-year-old Sky Brown who won a World Skateboarding bronze medal this year in Rio. The youngster is Nike’s youngest sponsored athlete and instead of pocketing her prize money from the tournament she donated it to Make Life Skate Life, a grassroots charity that provides a safe place to sake for young people across Rio’s favela communities. She’ll be one to watch next year as skateboarding makes its debut at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Women’s World Cup
A tournament that sparked a sensational interest in the game, the women’s World Cup was one for the record books. With the highest prize money ever, a record-breaking 28.1 million people watched the BBC coverage on television and online, more than double that of the last World Cup in Canada (12.4m). England’s semi-final vs USA also saw the highest live TV audience of 2019 so far with 11.7m, with 47% of the population watching, showing that women’s football is more popular and more relevant than ever.
Just ten months after giving birth via emergency C-section, Felix competed at her ninth World Athletics Championships and became the most successful athlete in World Championship history with 13 gold medals to her name. This beat the previous record, held by none other than the fastest man in history, Usain Bolt. Felix fought back to take the record after a year of addressing maternal mortality among black women, as well as fighting for female athlete’s maternity rights after the lack of support from Nike for her and other pregnant athletes.
2019 saw Hollie Doyle win 107 times, a new record by a female jockey. The record was broken as she rode Class Clown to victory at Southwell to see her take the record for the most successful year in history. At just 23-years-old the young jockey has a bright future ahead of her.
Spanish women’s football players agree strike
After 13 months of talks with Primera Iberdrola (the Spanish women’s first league), the Association of Spanish Footballers voted to go on strike, not playing for an entire weekend. The players were asking for rights in line with the male players in La Liga, and were just a bare minimum in order to survive. These included a minimum yearly salary of 16,000 euros, a framework that regulates injuries, maternity leave and paid time off. 93% of present players voted to strike, with each club having at least one representative at the vote. Negotiations continue in a case that is more than just about one league, but about women’s football across the globe.
Almost 200 women’s footballers will go on strike in Spain after no agreement was reached on minimum wage between player’s unions and the governing body https://t.co/zcJi8nwPWg pic.twitter.com/f0Wa8NrOT5
— footballespana (@footballespana_) October 22, 2019
The 20-year-old won an incredible seven gold medals at the World Para Swimming Championships in London in September, more than any other athlete. Along the way Tai ended the 10-year winning streak of the American great Jessica Long, beating her by 1.7sec. Tai has become accustomed to breaking records – before the championships she held seven world records and she broke another two in London, cementing her as one of the all time greats of British swimming.
Dina Asher Smith
From studying history, to making it, Dina Asher Smith took her first World Athletics Championships title in a new British record in the 200m. And it wasn’t just a first for the London athlete, it was also the first time a British woman has ever won a major global sprint title. Her 200m gold medal was accompanied by 100m and 4x100m relay silver medals. Asher Smith was a kit carrier at the London 2012 Olympics, and now incredibly will head into the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as a medal favourite, just six years later.
Dina Asher-Smith is the first British woman to win a global sprint title!pic.twitter.com/1hHLRZYS4D
— European Athletics (@EuroAthletics) October 2, 2019