As we head towards the end of what was a second successive year blighted by the pandemic, we’re taking a look at some of the sporting heroes of the year – a mix of the celebrated and the unsung – but each inspirational figures leading the way. Here are our three sporting inspirations of 2021.
We might as well start with the glaringly obvious.
18 year old Emma Raducanu’s incredible win at the US Open in September didn’t quite come out of absolutely nowhere. Back in June, the nation was beginning to emerge out of a painful and seemingly never-ending lockdown. At around the same time, Raducanu lit up Wimbledon, and a nation’s spirits, with a thrilling run to the round of 16, before succumbing to breathing difficulties in the second set. Her retirement prompted criticism from the likes of John McEnroe and Piers Morgan, as the pressure and publicity around the teenager intensified rapidly.
One could have forgiven Raducanu for shrinking in the face of such a sudden and dramatic change in her life. Her social media following rocketed from next to nothing into the millions, celebrities argued on Twitter about her Wimbledon retirement and Raducanu, who just wanted to play tennis, was catapulted to a level of super-stardom she could surely have barely believed.
And so to Flushing Meadows, where the young Brit simply blew every opponent away with a series of ferocious displays of brutal hitting and a fearless all-round game – winning the title without dropping a set. Were it written in sporting fiction you would have rolled your eyes in disbelief. Just months before, Raducanu had never been a direct entrant to a grand slam main draw, she had never played a tour-level three set match and she had not even won a match at a WTA tour event.
Her year started, then a complete unknown, with a tweet wondering if her A-levels would go ahead. It ended by being crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year. It is a Roy of the Rovers-esque sporting fantasy come true, a raw and real example of how much can change in a year, and of how sporting dreams can and do come true. Incredible stuff.
Fallon Sherrock is making a habit of smashing through glass ceilings. In December 2019 she became the first female player to win a match at a PDC World Championship, beating Ted Evetts 3–2 in the first round. She then went on to beat then world number 8 Mensur Suljović 3–1 in the second round, amid wild scenes, before losing eventually losing to Chris Dobey.
This year, she took it further. The emergent superstar, who had earlier recorded the highest televised average for a woman during a 5-0 thrashing of Mike De Decker, needed to beat Gabriel Clemens by a scoreline of 5-3 or better to become the first woman to qualify for the knockout stages of the tournament. At 3-1 down, it looked over.
But Sherrock hit back with a 12-dart leg before landing a stunning 141 finish in the next leg to keep her hopes alive. And after moving 4-3 ahead she then – in what had essentially become a one leg shootout – completed a remarkable victory with a scarcely-believable maximum 170 checkout that sent the crowd absolutely berserk. For those of us watching at home, it was a goosebumps moment, and some of us at Kudos may or may not have had tears in our eyes!
Just listen to the roars of the crowd as Sherrock completed her miracle.
Like Raducanu, Sherrock is doing things normally only reserved for sporting fiction. We salute them both – they are inspiring sporting girls and boys everywhere. Sport needs its heroes, and Emma and Fallon are exactly that. Go girls!
TCD is a charity whose work chimes with us in a big way. At the core of our passion for sport is a constant and burning desire to encourage people – especially young people – as much as possible to get active, for the good of one’s own mental wellbeing as well as physical. And we passionately believe nobody should be excluded from sport or physical activity.
In its own words, TCD is “dedicated to transforming lives and breaking down barriers for people with special needs, disabilities, mental health issues and the elderly through dance and exercise”.
“TCD was set up to support socially isolated individuals and groups and offer dance, fitness and wellbeing sessions in the local community. Projects include Luke’s Lads and Butterflies (as well as junior sessions), which are single sex workout sessions that include a mental health and wellbeing chat, dance classes for the elderly including ballet and ballroom, dance classes for physical and learning disabilities and projects for those at risk of CSE (Child Sexual Exploitation)” TCD
Based in Batley in West Yorkshire, they currently run 10 projects that cover loads of bases and provide opportunities for people to get active. Sport, especially behind the scenes and under the radar, is full of unsung heroes and we’d like to give a big shout out to everyone at TCD and thank them for all they do. You can donate here.
GRASSROOTS SPORT WITHOUT VOLUNTEERS IS NOTHING!
In 2021, as with 2020, grassroots sport has been – to put it mildly – disrupted. It’s been a difficult time for clubs and individuals everywhere, and we can only hope 2022 offers some respite. We all need our inspirations, we all need something to help us to keep going, and we’re lucky that sport in Britain is full of inspiring figures. We’d like to thank all of our customers, and we’d also like to thank every single volunteer, and everyone at a grassroots sport club that helps keep this thing going. We couldn’t do it without you. Onwards!
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