Women’s sport reached new heights in 2022, as the world became increasingly aware of how engaging and important female athletes can be.
For many viewers watching at home or in person, the England Women’s football team provided the sporting highlight of the year – across sport on the whole, not just the women’s side – as the Lionesses won their first trophy by beating Germany in the Euros final at Wembley Stadium. Beth Mead, the player of the tournament, was later voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year, as a woman won the prize for the second straight year – with tennis’ Emma Raducanu claiming the award in 2021.
Elsewhere, Scottish runner Eilish McColgan made history as she broke her own mother’s Commonwealth Games record with 10,000m glory, and her compatriot Eve Muirhead guided Team GB to curling gold at the Winter Olympics in a moment that captivated Britons nationwide, before announcing her retirement from the sport. Furthermore, Paralympic legend Hannah Cockroft enhanced her legacy with Commonwealth wheelchair-racing gold and a record-breaking time.
Meanwhile, new stars started to shine in the form of mixed martial artist Molly McCann, who scored back to back stunning knockouts at UFC London in March and July to boost her profile immensely, and teenage diving champion Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix, who won two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in what was a hugely successful year for the 18-year-old.
And while all these women provided fans with memories that will stay with them forever, The Independent asked the athletes themselves about their own favourite moments from women’s sport in 2022...
“I think it’s very difficult to stray away from the women’s football, the Lionesses [winning the Euros]. It just put football on the map as a sport for young girls. There will be so many young girls who will have watched that, sitting at home or even in the stadium, going: ‘I want to be like that when I’m older.’ And if you can’t see it, you can’t be it – that’s what we say all the time. The fact that all these incredible women were on screen for the duration of a football match showed to record numbers – over 360 million people, something ridiculous... I just think even for women’s sport, like athletics, we’ll get thisâ much of a back page for a news story, so to see women’s football across a whole newspaper was very important for me. It’s the next generation of kids who will look at that and believe that they can do it. What the Lionesses did was pretty incredible for women’s sport as a whole.”
“You know what, I was trackside for Eilish McColgan’s 10,000m, and I genuinely think that moment will stay with me more than my actual race will. It was the last race before my medal ceremony, and... just the noise, the celebrations. More people sang “Flower Of Scotland” than they did “Jerusalem”. I've always followed Eilish, I follow her on Instagram, I love how she presents herself. As an athlete she’s really, really hardworking, and to see her go out on a home stage and put that performance down after injuries and so many setbacks...”
“I think it definitely has to be the opening game of the Lionesses’ [Euros campaign] at Old Trafford. I was in that stadium with, what, 68,000 people? The atmosphere was incredible. My friend even got me into an England shirt, which was pretty cool. It was a phenomenal atmosphere. I’ll never, ever forget the reception that was out there. It gave me goosebumps for sure.”
“Katie Taylor vs Amanda Serrano, Round 5. To see someone... If you could imagine the pressure that Katie Taylor’s had on her since she was a 16-year-old girl... To fight in the very first sanctioned amateur female boxing bout, to carry the sport to be added to an Olympic Games, to become undisputed champion, to sell out Madison Square Garden – then to nearly be finished in this round and absolutely bite down on that gumshield and keep trudging forward... She proved to the boxing world that women are absolutely here to stay, and that she’s just as game as anyone out there. I felt so much inspiration in that moment, and I know a lot of other people did, too.”
“The Lionesses winning [the Euros final]. We were at the Commonwealth Games watching it, and it was incredible. It was us, the swimming team, and some of the women’s hockey team. We were all sitting, watching it, and we were screaming and everything! It was a beautiful moment. It was honestly just amazing. And to see their names in all the newspapers, all the support of the public, it was a really good thing for women’s football.”