2020 may have been a year dominated by the pandemic and Brexit, but we wanted to compile our favourite highlights that have happened, albeit under a fog of COVID-19. Despite this year's many obstructions, wins both small and large have continued in women's sport and so we're showcasing some of the moments you might have missed.
Iga Swiatek wins the French Open
19-year old Iga Swiatek surprised virtual crowds and spectators when she won the French Open Grand Slam singles title in October, beating reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin.
Not only that, but she did it without losing a set, and did not lose more than five games in any match throughout the entire tournament.
Entering the competition with a world rank of 54, she said she had no expectations for the tournament and was facing it with a relaxed mentality, rather than being stressed and taking it too seriously. Her calm approach paid off.
It's hard to describe how special this day is for me. It's so strange to achieve something that seemed so distant... But yup... It's here - I'm a grand slam champion. Thank you @SofiaKenin for this final. I wish you all the best. #RolandGarros pic.twitter.com/ktIShQZLnj
— Iga Świątek (@iga_swiatek) October 10, 2020
Manchester City Win Women's FA Cup Final 2020
Manchester City played a quieter-than-usual final against Everton, conducted behind closed doors and without fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 50th Women's Cup final had initially been scheduled for May but was postponed due to the pandemic and national lockdown. The cup resumed at the quarter-final stage in September after the 2020-21 league season recommenced.
The contest was the closest-fought the women's final has seen since the fixture was first staged at Wembley Stadium, as the delayed final came to a dramatic conclusion, with Manchester beating Everton 3-1, with the two winning goals scored in extra time.
The result meant Manchester City is the first team in Women's FA Cup history to win the championship title back to back and becomes the first team to successfully defend their title since Arsenal in 2014.
Zainab Alema Awarded Sunday Times Grassroots Sportswoman of The Year 2020
Zainab Alema is a rugby player for Barnes RFC; a passionate player of the sport and an advocate for other Muslim women to take up rugby. Known to her team mates as "Bulldozer", she has smashed plenty of physical, emotional and cultural obstacles, while encouraging other Muslim, black and ethnic minority women to start playing.
Not only a keen rugby player, but she is also a neonatal nurse, working for the NHS, and mother of three.
Beating her own culture's expectations for Muslim women, she's proud to acknowledge the adversities she's overcome. In her own words, "women are expected to be at home cooking, cleaning and having kids. That's what we do to some extent, but we can do so much more. I am determined to smash those stereotypes."
Zainab Alema has been integral in Barnes RFC's response to the Black Lives Matter movement. In her own words: "with the uncertainty around coronavirus, and everything that has happened with Black Lives Matter, now is the best time to talk about the lack of racial diversity in the game. We have to strike while the iron's hot."
She recently founded the Muslimah Rugby community on social media to try to connect more Muslim women who play rugby, so that no one has to feel "as isolated as she did" when she first began playing.
In 2019, Zainab Alema founded Studs in the Mud - a project to support grassroots rugby. Her fundraising efforts ensured new boots could be shipped over for dozens of players in Ghana and, more recently, Morocco, where she joined in a training session with a team of Muslim women and supplied twenty five new pairs of boots.
Zainab was granted the Sunday Times Grassroots Sportswoman of the Year Award in December this year.
The winner of the Vitality Grassroots Sportswoman of the Year Award, @AlemaZainab, rarely sees people who look like her on the pitch. She spoke to @rebeccacmyers about wanting Muslim women to feel they can be part of rugby #SWOTY https://t.co/Vt22yTXPns
— The Sunday Times (@thesundaytimes) November 26, 2020
Hollie Doyle Shortlisted for Sports Personality of the Year 2020
The only female sportswoman to make it onto the BBC's awards for Sports Personality of the Year 2020, Hollie Doyle has undoubtedly had a triumphant few months. Breaking her own record for most wins by a female jockey in a year, a double victory at Ascot's Qipco British Champions Day, and her first major win in the British Champions Sprint riding horse Glen Shiel. She is a deserving nominee for the SPOTY awards.
Just 24, Hollie has already accomplished a great deal in horse racing, but we're confident there will be more success ahead and look forward to seeing what she will achieve.
Hollie Doyle recorded more than 100 winning races in a calendar year in 2019 with 116 and has already eclipsed that in 2020 having ridden 135.
As thrilled as we are to see Hollie Doyle's name on the list, we are disappointed to see the lack of female inclusion in the awards. In a year when women's sport has suffered significantly from setbacks and closures resulting from COVID-19, the decision to select just one female athlete for the award is disappointing — and it hasn't gone unnoticed! We look forward to seeing sportswomen being given equal credit, however as this article from Newschain summarises, "we may have a long way to go before equality as a goal even reaches the halfway line."
Clare Balding Becomes 30th RFL President
Claire Balding became the president of the Rugby Football League in July this year, and she wants to place women's rugby league in as strong a position as possible going into the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.
On the potential for women's rugby league to attract more sponsorship, she says "There is a chance for women's rugby league to get sponsors the men's game wouldn't. The women's game matters hugely, and there's great growth potential."
Thank you to @TheRFL for the honour of being your President. I will do all I can to spread the word about this glorious sport - particularly to increase participation of women + help generate interest in next year’s Rugby League World Cup @RLWC2021 #rugbyleague #greatestgame pic.twitter.com/B7jfJuzzBJ
— Clare Balding (@clarebalding) July 15, 2020
Dame Sarah Storey Awarded Sunday Times Disability Sportswoman of the Year 2020
Winning the Sunday Times' award for Disability Sportswoman of the Year, Sarah's track record is already record-breaking. Among the most decorated athletes in British sporting history, Dame Sarah Storey competed as a swimmer at four Paralympic Games before switching to cycling in 2005 and is now the owner of an impressive 14 Paralympic gold medals.
Since switching from the pool to the velodrome, Sarah Storey has added a further nine cycling titles to her medal collection at each of the Paralympic games in 2008, 2012 and 2016, beating the previous records set by other para-athletes for most golds.
Now targeting selection for what would be her eighth Paralympic Games, Storey stands on the brink of British history, needing only two more gold medals to match Mike Kenny's British Paralympic record of 16.
Lizzie Deignan Wins La Course
Lizzie Deignan took the title at La Course in an amazing photo-finish between her and reigning champion Mariann Vos. With just centimetres between her and two-times winner Vos, it made for a tense finish for the race, and gave Deignan the second victory in five days, having won the GP de Plouay the week before. After taking the title at both races, Lizzie Deignan is now the top-ranked cyclist in the UCI Women’s WorldTour Ranking.
Although pleased to have won at the women’s one-day event in Nice, Deignan is now pioneering for a women's Tour de France, a multi-day event that would help women’s cycling to grow and match the men’s event.
"As an athlete, of course, I want a women’s Tour de France. I want to be pushed to my limits and showcase what women's sport is about. And then women's sport can be just more than just one stage of course. So I think, obviously, there's room for development and growth. I think we're going in that direction."
Stephanie Kyriacou Awarded Ladies European Tour Rookie of The Year
A prestigious award for any golfer, Stephanie Kyriacou has been awarded Ladies European Tour (LET) Rookie of the Year, after an incredibly successful 2020.
Competing against seasoned professionals in the Women’s Australian Classic in February, she beat her competition by an impressive eight shots. Her win was considered a stunning victory and secured her status as a golf professional, allowing her to compete in the Women’s NSW Open.
When play recommenced later this year, Stephanie Kyriacou competed in both the 2020 Women’s British Open and Swiss Open, finishing in second place. Her year of success continued, beating the course record at Royal Greens in Saudi Arabia, and adding another three top-5 finishes at further tournaments.
The LET Rookie of the Year is awarded to the leading first-year player on the order of merit rankings.
What’s your women’s sport highlight of the year? Let us know in the comments below.