Laura Kenny has this afternoon been named Sportswoman of the Year at the Sports Journalists’ Association’s (SJA) British Sports Awards.
The awards, now in their 68th year, are voted for by members of the SJA – many of the country’s leading sports writers, editors, photographers and broadcasters.
Kenny, who has also been named Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year and shortlisted for Sports Personality of the Year in recognition of her two world titles and two Olympic gold medals in 2016, said:
“I’m really honoured to have won the Sportswoman of the Year award, especially in an Olympic year when the level of competition is so high. I’d like to thank the Sports Journalists’ Association, and sports journalists in general, who have covered cycling over the years and reported on our successes in Rio.”
There was further cycling success, as Dame Sarah Storey won the National Lottery Spirit of Sport award, the women’s team pursuit quartet picked up the Outstanding Sporting Performance award and Kadeena Cox took home The Bill McGowran Trophy.
Meanwhile, Jason Kenny finished second behind Andy Murray in the Sportsman of the Year category following a summer where he equalled Sir Chris Hoy’s British record of six Olympic gold medals.
Accepting her award – which recognises role models and inspirational performers - Storey, who this year overtook Tanni Grey-Thompson to become Britain’s most successful female Paralympian of all time, said:
“(Paralympic qualification) doesn’t start until 2018, so I’m hoping for a year of slightly less travel next year, but I’m definitely not finished yet!
“We’ve only been back (from Rio) for around three months, and we’re currently waiting to find out whether there will be a UCI Track World Championships in March. We’re hoping that will happen and that we’ll have a new focus relatively soon.”
The women’s team pursuit quartet of Kenny, Joanna Rowsell Shand, Katie Archibald and Elinor Barker broke the world record three times on their way to gold in Rio, eventually beating their American opponents by over two seconds in the final.
Rowsell Shand picked up the award on behalf of the whole team, and said:
“It was a special team to be part of – we had to bounce back from a lot of disappointment. Four years ago, before London, we were world champions, world record holders and we had been unbeaten for a long time. This year, we’d got bronze at the world championships and our best world cup result of the season had been silver.
“A few people wrote us off and said we weren’t going to do it this year, but we really turned it around and probably surprised everyone else in Rio. There’s so much more to the team pursuit than meets the eye. We decided to delve into the event and disregard some of those stereotypes about which person should do which job.
“We started from scratch, came up with some new strategies and shaped the event how we wanted to shape it. Even so, I’m surprised to come away with something today – the women’s hockey team has been wiping the floor with us so far this awards season!”
The Bill McGowran Trophy, awarded for outstanding achievement by an athlete with a disability, was shared between Cox and Paralympic table tennis champion, Will Bayley.
Cox, who was an able-bodied sprinter before suffering a stroke and being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, wrote her name into the history books in Rio by becoming the first Briton in 32 years to win Paralympic gold medals in two different sports in the same year – cycling and athletics.
Receiving her award today, she said:
“It’s amazing to have received this award and for people to have noticed what we’ve done. I was bed-bound and unable to walk for two months and a lot of people questioned if I’d be able to come back – including the doctors. But I just had that hunger and desire to be a champion.
“I like to push the boundaries and show that things can be achieved, and I’m just grateful to everyone that’s supported me along the way.”