Year in Review: Woman of the Year

2016 has seen a host of incredible achievements from the women of the sporting world and we selected five who stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Ariya Jutanugarn

Jutanugarn has put Thai golf well and truly on the map after a superlative 2016. The Bangkok native was destined for stardom and this year proved to be her breakthrough season.

At the tender age of 11, Jutanugarn became the youngest player ever to qualify for an LPGA Tour event. A decade later, the 21-year-old would go on to notch up her first win on the Tour at the Yokohama Tire Classic. But she wasn’t done yet…

Jutanugarn became the first  player in LPGA history to win three consecutive events when she won the Kingsmill Champion and the Volvik Championship in the same month. For good measure, Jutanugarn added her first major championship to her list of achievements at the Ricoh Women’s British Open, becoming the first Thai golfer to win a major.

Angelique Kerber

The German’s aggressive counter-punching brand of tennis finally came off in 2016, where she claimed three titles and the world number one spot.

Kerber started the year off with a bang at the Australian Open as she reached her first grand slam final where she faced the indomitable Serena Williams. But Kerber rose to the occasion to claim her first grand slam title in three sets, becoming the first German since 1999 to do so.

After being upset in the first round of the French Open, Kerber bounced back by reaching the final at Wimbledon. Following her loss to Williams, the Bremen-born player earned a silver medal for Germany at the Rio Olympics.

The world number one ranking was on the line at the US Open and following Williams’ semi-final exit and Kerber’s advance to the final, she had it in the bag. Of course, Kerber put the icing on the cake with another grand slam win, beating Karolina Pliskova in three sets.

Serena Williams

The American legend makes our list despite not having the best year by her impeccably high standards. Williams would only win two title in 2016, but one of them brought her one step closer to an incredible record.

Williams had not dropped a set when she arrived at the final of the Australian Open, but a relentless Angelique Kerber would edge her in three sets.

After claiming her first tile of the year in Rome, Williams marched through to another grand glam final, where she was defeated by an inspired Garbine Muguruza.

Then came Wimbledon, where Williams exacted revenge on Kerber in a flawless display in the final to win her 22 grand slam singles title to equal Steffi Graf’s Open Era record.

Williams also equalled another of Graf’s records – 186 consecutive weeks at world number one – which came to an end with her semi-final loss at the the US Open.

Simone Biles

The diminutive gymnast was one of the many heartwarming stories to come out of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Going in and out of foster care while her parents struggled with drug and alcohol addictions, Biles had a troubled childhood.

But after leaving Rio with four gold medals and a bronze, that was all behind her.

Biles’ first gold came from the team event, but her consistency across all the disciplines came to the fore in the individual all-round, where she picked up her second. Biles had more success in the vault for her third and mistakes from opponents on the balance beam saw her clinch a bronze. Despite already having had a fantastic Games, Biles dug deep one last time for the floor exercise to claim her fourth gold.

That saw her set a new American record for the the most gold’s in women’s gymnastics and was the first quadruple gold in a single games in gymnastics since 1984.

A beaming Biles – now America’s most decorated gymnast with 16 international gold medals – was honoured for her achievements by being the flag bearer at the closing ceremony in Rio.

Katie Ledecky

With much of the focus in the pool on the return of Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky certainly did enough to make a splash of her own.

USA have a habit of producing superstar swimmers and Ledecky was the creme of the crop at the Rio Olympics this year.

The 19-year-old sensation – already having tasted success at the 2012 Olympics with one gold – added to her tally with no less than four golds and silver in Rio to be the most decorated Olympian at the Games behind Phelps.

However, it was the manner in which she earned the medals that was impressive. Despite setting an American record  in the 4x100m freestyle relay, it would only be enough for a silver.

But Ledecky bounced back in the 400m freestyle to claim gold in a world record time then grabbed another in the 200m freestyle.Swimming the all-important anchor leg, the Washington-born athlete helped USA to another gold  in the 4x200m freestyle.

In her final event, the gruelling 800m freestyle, Ledecky blew the competition out the water, finishing over 11 seconds ahead of the next swimmer to set another world record in splendid isolation.

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