Nicola Adams

Nicola ‘The Lioness’ Adams is a former professional boxer, who retired in November, 2019, with an undefeated 5-0-1 record, on medical advice. In the first round of what turned out to be her last fight – her first defence of her World Boxing Organisation (WBO) flyweight title against Mexican Maria Salinas at the Royal Albert Hall – Adams suffered a torn pupil. She subsequently retired due to fears of going blind.

Adams turned professional in January, 2017, but will probably always be best remembered for her amateur career. At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, she beat Mary Kom of India in the semi-final and Ren Cancan of China in the final of the flyweight (51kg) division to become the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal in boxing. Four years later, in Rio de Janeiro, she again beat Ren Cancan in the semi-final and Sarah Ourahmoune of France in the final of the same division, thereby becoming the first British boxer for 92 years to defend an Olympic title.

At the 2007 European Amateur Boxing Championships in Vejle, Denmark, Adams won the silver medal in the bantamweight (54kg) division, thereby becoming the first Englishwoman to win a medal at a major boxing championship. Other highlights of her amateur career include four medals at the International Boxing Association (IBA) World Championships, a gold medal in Astana, Kazakhstan in 2016 and three silver medals, in Ningbo City, China in 2008, Bridgetown, Barbados in 2010 and Qinhuangdao, China in 2012. At the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Adams made history once again, beating Michaela Walsh of Northern Ireland to become the inaugural Commonwealth women’s flyweight champion.

Rachael Blackmore

Recently described by Conor O’Neill, Chairman of the Association of Irish Racecourses, as a ‘fantastic ambassador’ for National Hunt racing, jockey Rachael Blackmore is probably best known as the first woman to ride the winner of the Grand National. On April 10, 2021, she partnered Minella Times, trained by Henry de Bromhead, to a 6½-length victory over stable companion Balko Des Flos in the celebrated steeplechase. Reflecting on her groundbreaking success, Blackmore said, ‘I don’t feel male or female – I don’t feel human.’

Even before the Grand National, Blackmore and de Bromhead were already enjoying what the Racing Post described as a ‘season of wonder’ in 2020/21. At the Cheltenham Festival, Blackmore rode six winners, including Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle, to become the first woman in history to win the Ruby Walsh Trophy, presented to the leading rider for the week. Back at the Festival in 2022, Blackmore rode three more winners, including Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle again, but stole the headlines again by becoming the first woman to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. After riding 3/1 favourite A Plus Tard to a 15-length victory over defending champion, and stable companion, Minella Indo, she said, ‘You can never dream too big because this is something I never thought would be possible.’

A graduate of the University of Limerick, Blackmore rode her first winner, Stowaway Pearl, trained by John Joseph ‘Shark’ Hanlon, at Thurles in February, 2011, as a 20-year-old amateur. She turned professional in 2015 and, in 2017, became the first woman to win the Irish Conditional Jockeys’ Championship. That summer, she began a partnership with Henry de Bromhead, whom she described as a ‘game-changer’ as far as her riding career was concerned, and has never looked back.

Laura Kenny

Laura Kenny, née Trott, who was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for services to cycling in the New Year Honours List for 2022, has the distinction of being the most successful British woman in Olympic history. At the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, won her fifth Olympic gold medal, alongside Katie Archibald, in the inaugural madison event, having already won a silver medal in the team pursuit, alongside Archibald, Neah Evans and Josie Knight.

In so doing, Kenny also became the first British woman to win gold medals at three Olympic Games. At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, her first Olympic Games, Kenny won gold medals in the omnium – in which she was already the World and European champion – and in the team pursuit, alongside Dani Rowe and Joanna Rowsell, setting a new world record in the process. Four years later, at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, she successfully defended both titles, although with Elinor Barker replacing Dani Rowe in the team pursuit. Once again, Team GB set a new world record in the final of the team pursuit.

Away from the Olympics, Kenny has also won seven gold medals at the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Track Cycling World Championships. Between 2011 and 2014, with various partners, she won gold in the team pursuit four years running and, in individual events, gold in the omnium in Melbourne in 2012 and gold in both the scratch race and omnium in London in 2016.

More recently, Kenny, 30, was named in the 35-strong Team England squad for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the track cycling events of which will take place at the Lee Valley VeloPark in London in late July and early August. So far, she has just one Commonwealth gold medal to her name, having recovered from a kidney infection to win the points race in Glasgow in 2014.

Kelly Holmes

Dame Kelly Holmes, who was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the New Year Honours List for 2005, is a retired middle-distance runner. After years of struggling with injury, Holmes is best remembered for her double Olympic triumph on the track at the 2004 Summer Olympics, where she won gold medals in both the 800 metres and 1,500 metres at the age of 34.

Originally, Holmes had intended to contest just the 1,500 metres but, buoyed by a victory over Slovenian Jolanda Čeplak at the Birmingham International Meeting, a month or so before the Olympic 800-metre final, she made a last-minute decision to run the two-lap event as well. Reflecting on her choice, she said, ‘For the first time in seven years I was having to make my own decisions about racing, rather than having them forced upon me by injuries.’

In the final of the 800 metres, Holmes produced a late surge, which carried her to victory, ahead of Hasna Benhassi of Morocco and Čeplak, in a time of 1 minute 56.38 seconds, her best time for nine years. Defending champion, and favourite, Maria Mutola of Mozambique could only finish fourth. Five days later, in the final of the 1,500 metres, Holmes employed similar tactics but, with her confidence at an all-time high, broke her own British record, set seven years earlier, and came home ahead of Russian Tatyana Tomashova and Romanian Maria Cioncan in a time of 3 minutes 57.90 seconds. In so doing, she became the oldest woman to win either the 800 metres or the 1,500 metres at the Olympic Games.

The historic double proved just reward for Holmes, who had endured a particularly trying athletics career. At the 1996 Summer Olympics, she finished fourth in the final of the 800 metres, despite a stress fracture and four years later, in Sydney, won a bronze medal in the same event, despite a ruptured calf that limited her training to just six weeks.

1 2 3 8