2022 has been quite a year for women’s sport globally.
From the Lionesses taking women’s football to a new level in terms of interest as they swept to glory at Euro 2022, women’s boxing seeing its first “super-fight” when Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano made history by headlining Madison Square Garden, the women’s Rugby World Cup proving an enormous success and the Tour de France Femmes confirming women’s cycling is rapidly closing the gap on their male counterparts, new heights have been scaled.
And closer to home, the success of Scotland’s female athletes has been remarkable, with the past twelve months seeing some of the greatest moments in Scottish sporting history coming one after another in what is turning out to be a golden generation of Scottish sportswomen.
Here’s my top five women of year:
Of all the remarkable moments generated by Scottish athletes over the past twelve months, perhaps the most stirring was Eilish McColgan’s spectacular gold medal run in the 10,000m at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
From the gun, McColgan took the bit between her teeth and stormed her way to gold to win her first major championship gold medal, 32 years after her mum won the same title.
That gold was merely the start of a medal-winning spree that saw McColgan win a second Commonwealth medal, this time silver in the 5000m, before the following week adding European silver and bronze.
Numerous records also fell at the feet of McColgan throughout 2022, with the 32-year-old setting a British half-marathon record and European 10k record in what has been by far the best season of her career.
This year of success has been a long time coming for McColgan; she has been on the international stage for over a decade and her Commonwealth gold was one of the most popular Scottish wins in recent memory.
Scottish Olympic champions are a rare breed, particularly those who have found success in winter sports.
Of all Scotland’s Olympic champions, there are few who have persevered for quite so long as Eve Muirhead before achieving their ultimate goal.
Muirhead made her Winter Olympic debut back in 2010 but it wasn’t until this year that the curler claimed her sport’s ultimate prize when she skipped her rink of Vicky Wright, Jennifer Dodds, Hailey Duff and alternate, Mili Smith, to gold at the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Team Muirhead’s victory over Japan in the Olympics final was, said the skip, “a dream come true” and came almost 20 years to the day since Rhona Martin won Scotland’s last Winter Olympic gold medal.
For Muirhead specifically, it was the fulfilment of a lifetime of commitment and it was perhaps unsurprising the 32-year-old announced her retirement from the sport later in the year.
Scotland has been somewhat spoiled when it comes to global champions on the bike in recent years and just a few months ago, Neah Evans added her name to the list of track cycling world champions by wining her first global title in extremely impressive fashion.
Having already won silver and bronze at the Commonwealth Games earlier in the season, Evans stepped up another level entirely to become world champion in the points race, to add to the silver she won in the team pursuit just a few days previously.
Evans’ journey is particularly impressive as she came to the sport relatively late – she was a vet until she decided to have a serious crack at cycling in her mid-twenties – and her world title highlights there is more than one way to reach the very top.
Having had only five years as a professional cyclist, there is much to look forward to from the 32-year-old in the coming seasons.
Hannah Rankin has long flown the flag for Scottish female boxers on the global stage but in May of this year, she ensured she will forever been seen as one of this country’s greats in the ring by retaining the WBA and IBO super-welterweight titles that she won at the tail-end of 2021 with a technical knock-out of Alejandra Ayala of Mexico.
Perhaps even more significant than her successful defence of these titles, though, was the fact she headlined the Hydro in Glasgow, becoming the first female Scottish boxer to headline the venue in the history of the sport.
Such an accolade highlights quite how rapidly women’s boxing is growing in this country, which is down in large part to Rankin’s success as well as her keenness to encourage women and girls into the ring.
Rankin’s year ended on something of a disappointing note when she lost her belts with defeat to Englishwoman Terri Harper but at the age of 32 and with less than a decade of boxing in her legs, there is unquestionably yet more to come from Rankin.
Laura Muir has been one of Scotland’s most consistent performers in recent years and she continued that in 2022.
Having won Olympic 1500m silver in 2021, all that was missing to complete Muir’s collection of major championship silverware was a World Championships medal, which she duly picked up this summer, winning bronze in Eugene in July.
That medal was the first leg of what was a remarkable achievement by Muir, who following the World Championships went on to win Commonwealth gold and bronze, plus European gold, all in the space of just five weeks.
Such is Muir’s quality, her medal-winning exploits are beginning to be taken for granted somewhat but there can be no overstating the scale of the achievement of winning medals at three major championships within the space of just a few weeks in a season that will never be replicated.