Taylor caps off a truly vintage year
THE IRISH TIMES/IRISH SPORTS COUNCIL SPORTSWOMAN OF THE YEAR:This was, presumably, nothing at all like that late afternoon in London last August. There, after the bell had sounded on her Olympic final bout, she stood suspended in nervous wonder, as the judges reviewed their scores, waiting for the moment that had occupied her dreams for over a decade.
Here, she sat for lunch among her fellow nominees, reverentially calm, waiting for the latest round of recognition that has followed, another moment that may as well have been written in scripture.
Katie Taylor, 2012 Sportswoman of the Year – and for the third time in six years.
There was never going to be any arguing about this one, no split decision, an award as utterly justified, as distinctly unanimous, as perfectly deserving as that very moment she created in London last August, stopping her and all of our hearts in the process.
Eight years ago, this newspaper, and now supported by the Irish Sports Council, felt the need to give women in sport a little more recognition. But no one could have predicted a year of such seismic shift towards the achievements of one woman, the 26-year-old from Bray, who surpassed everything and anything every other man and woman achieved in sport in 2012.
It wasn’t just that Taylor extended Ireland’s Olympic gold medals to nine, or delivered the country’s first boxing gold since Michael Carruth, exactly 20 years before: her technical brilliance and controlled fierceness sealed the deal on a debut Olympic sport for women that perhaps had to impress in London in order to survive.
Taylor’s outright victory, however, also caps off another vintage season for Irish women, reflected in the 11 other monthly winners named over the past year, from 11 different sports: athletics, show jumping, rugby, hockey, horse racing, boxing, golf, sailing, swimming, camogie and Gaelic football.
Included, too, were four fellow Olympians: Annalise Murphy won the July award for her dazzling start to her sailing campaign in London, before suffering the bitter disappointment of finishing fourth in the medal race. Sycerika McMahon also swam in London, aged just 17, and was named the November award winner for winning a bronze medal, narrowly missing out on another at the European short course championships in France.
Fionnuala Britton was mixing it with the very best in London, too, although she was awarded here for winning the European Cross Country title in Slovenia in December of last year, not to be confused with winning it back again in Budapest earlier this month – which will almost certainly win her the next December award. Most fitting too was the inclusion of Bethany Firth, another teenager, who collected the August award for her gold medal at the London Paralympics.