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Ennis gets the vote

24th December 2012, 08:14am

Ennis: Poster girl for London in the summer

Ennis: Poster girl for London in the summer

Frank Malley selects Olympic gold-medal winning heptathlete Jessica Ennis as his Sportswoman of 2012.

Their faces lit up London buses and famous landmarks and shopping centres the length and breadth of the land.

You really could not move in 2012 without witnessing the sweet smiles of Olympic gold medal heptahlete Jessica Ennis and double gold Paralympics swimmer Ellie Simmonds.

Which is why they are bound to dominate the shortlist in any poll for Sportswoman of the Year.

Ennis, of course, was the poster girl of the London Olympics, the 26-year-old Sheffield lass who exuded wholesome charm but whose competitive nature was forged in the famous steel of her home town.

For two days in London she entranced us with her competitive ability, posting a heptathlon record in the 100m hurdles and winning three of her seven disciplines, culminating in a surge down the home straight in the 800m, the final event, to come home in two minutes 8.65 seconds to post a British record of 6,955 points.

The wall of noise which greeted her was akin to a force of nature, so was the surge of affection when she clambered on to the Olympic podium.

But if Ennis won hearts and minds then 17-year-old Simmonds, too, was sprinkled with stardust in the London Aquatics centre, winning two Paralympic golds plus a silver and a bronze, including a world record in the 400m freestyle, to go with the two golds she also won in Beijing as a 13-year-old.

What is incalculable is the effect Simmonds, who suffers from achondroplasia, a type of dwarfism, and her amazing feats have had on the average person's perception of disability.

Suffice to say she is by some distance the most recognisable British Paralympian and that includes the retired Paralympian great Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson.

Ennis and Simmonds would have been bankers for Sportswoman of the Year in any other year. In 2012 they have serious opposition from a list which is in stark contrast to the BBC Sports Personality poll in 2011, whose shortlist did not include a single woman.

How could you leave Sarah Storey out of any poll in 2012? Storey won four gold medals at the London Paralympics in the Individual Pursuit C5, the Time Trial C4-5 500m, the Individual Road Time Trial C5 and the Individual Road Race C4-5 to go with the two gold she won in Beijing.

Okay, cycling does tend to have a multitude of similar events but when you learn Storey has also won five gold, eight silver and three bronze medals at Paralympics as a swimmer you begin to get the feel of a quite extraordinary sporting talent.

The home Olympics, of course, were always going to provide the inspiration for British girl power.

Cycling's Laura Trott, just 20, announced herself as a star of the future, taking gold in the Team Pursuit and the Omnium while Victoria Pendleton bade farewell to the sport in the predictable river of tears with gold and silver.

No prizes for the most dynamic, most effervescent gold of them all. That has to go to Nicola Adams from Leeds who picked up the first women's Olympic boxing gold medal in an atmosphere of pure bedlam.

For tears and emotion it had to be rower Katherine Grainger who at 36 and after three successive silvers finally garnered gold along with Anna Watkins in the Double Sculls. In another year Grainger might win the ultimate accolade for her sheer perseverance but this year left her swamped in an ocean of excellence.

Mentions, too, are merited by tennis players Laura Robson and Heather Watson, Robson winning silver in the mixed doubles along with Andy Murray plus at the 2012 Guangzhou Women's Open becoming the first British woman since Jo Durie, in 1990, to reach a WTA main-tour final. Watson went one better a few days later winning her first WTA singles title with a win over Chang Kai-chen of Taiwan in the final of the Japan Open to become the first British female to win a WTA singles title since Sara Gomer in 1988.

Yes, the feelgood factor reached seep into the British sporting psyche in 2012.

But when it comes to picking a winner for the Sportswoman of the Year it has to go to a woman whose radiant smile was as ever-present as her competitive nature. A woman who captured the mood of a nation and became the epitome of all that was magical in a glorious summer of sport. It has to be Jessica Ennis.


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