Sports prospects of 2019: the women set to shine in the year ahead
Georgia Stanway (Manchester City and England)
Dynamic and prolific, Stanway, 19, is blessed with such an unerringly powerful right-foot shot that Manchester City fans have likened it to “a traction engine”. The Barrow-born woman grew up as a Newcastle United fan, idolising Alan Shearer, and there are definite shades of Shearer about aspects of her game – particularly the type of goals she relishes scoring. Having represented England at every junior level and during the autumn, Phil Neville will surely find it difficult to leave Stanway out of his squad for the summer’s World Cup finals and has already made it clear he wants her on the plane to France. Her record of averaging virtually a goal a game for Manchester City in the Women’s Super League, moreover, has offered Nick Cushing’s side hope of pipping Arsenal to the title. If Stanway can still sometimes look a little raw at times, her passing is not only surprisingly accurate but reflects an ability to operate in an attacking midfield role. A keen analyst of the game, she is already planning to take her coaching badges. Do not be surprised if she wows all comers at France 2019. Louise Taylor
Others to keep an eye on in 2019: Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit & USA), Selma Bacha (Lyon & France), Patri Guijarro (Barcelona & Spain), Lea Schüller (Essen & Germany), Marie-Antoinette Katoto (PSG & France).
Sophie Molineux (Australia)
The biggest contest of the women’s cricket calendar is coming in 2019 – the multi-format Ashes. It is the arena where all Anglo-Australian cricketers make or break their reputations and for the 20-year-old Molineux, it is a tailor-made opportunity to take centre-stage. The left-arm spinner made her debut for Australia in March 2018 but really grabbed attention later in the year when she finished as leading wicket-taker in their T20 series against Pakistan in October. She was expected to be one of the outstanding names of the World T20 but struggled to make much of an impact, taking only four wickets.
Nonetheless she appears to have done enough to dislodge Jess Jonassen and claim a regular place in the Australia XI, meaning the likelihood is that she will feature in all three formats during the Ashes – including that rare opportunity, a Test. It’s a huge challenge so early in her career but given the prodigious skill and control with the ball she has shown so far, it is one she looks set to rise to. Raf Nicholson
Others to keep an eye on in 2019: Sophia Dunkley (England), Jemimah Rodrigues (India), Georgia Wareham (Australia), Jess Watkin (New Zealand), Radha Yadav (India).
Hannah Botterman (Saracens and England)
Only 19 years old and with only five caps to her name, Botterman is establishing quite the reputation as a prop of international repute. She made her Saracens debut just last season, helping them to claim the inaugural Premier 15s title by scoring the winning try – the form that saw her called up for England’s series against Canada, during which she made her senior international debut. Her progress has been such that she appeared in all three of England’s autumn victories – against the USA, Canada and Ireland – and is a mainstay of the Saracens squad who are well-placed to defend their title. Rugby runs in the family for Botterman, whose uncle Gregg made nearly 200 appearances for Saracens between 1988 and 2000, and whose aunt, Jane Everett, was also a prop and represented England. With Simon Middleton’s side looking to recapture the Six Nations title from France next year, Botterman’s rapid progress is only likely to continue. Gerard Meagher
Others to keep an eye on in 2019: Ian Jason (France), Beibhinn Parsons (Ireland), Lagi Tuima (England), Sarah Goss (New Zealand), Fiona Lecat (France).
Sydney McLaughlin (USA, women’s 400m hurdles)
A few days after her 17th birthday Sydney McLaughlin became the youngest US track and field athlete to compete in an Olympics for 44 years, reaching the semi-finals of the women’s 400m hurdles. In May, though, the buzz about the American’s generational talent became a deafening cacophony when she ran 52.75sec for the 400m hurdles. Not only was it the fastest time ever by a junior – and the 10th fastest in history – but it would have won her gold in the Rio Olympics by nearly half a second. And she did it at just 18 years of age.
No wonder McLaughlin, who has over 300,000 followers on Instagram, recently signed a deal with New Balance which is rumoured to have made her one of the best paid athletes in the sport. She has also been snapped up by the Beverley Hills talent agency William Morris Endeavor, which represents Serena Williams, Denzel Washington and Emma Stone. It sees her as a crossover talent who will infiltrate the mainstream. Only the brave – or the foolhardy – would bet against that. Sean Ingle
Others to keep an eye on in 2019: Alina Shukh (heptathlete, Ukraine), Briana Williams (sprinter, Jamaica), Salwa Eid Naser (400m, Bahrain), Yin Hang (50km walk, China), Imani-Lara Lansiquot (100m, GB).
Naomi Osaka (Japan)
Naomi Osaka had the sort of season dreams are made of – despite the minor nightmare at the end, when, in her first grand slam final after rising through the WTA rankings in 2018 from No 68 to No 5, against a backdrop of . “I witnessed some stuff, that’s for sure,” she later said of her season. Still, it was unfortunate that the finest player in the history of the women’s game inadvertently spoiled her breakthrough moment. But, composed beyond her then 20 years, Osaka handled it with decorum and good humour. Hugging her mother in the stands, it hardly seemed she had endured one of the game’s most dramatic episodes. Like Alexander Zverev in the men’s game, Osaka is very quotable. Asked what she was thinking as she served for the US Open title, she said she recalled an earlier moment in the second set, “When she broke me in that one game and I had to try and save break points, I was like: ‘What would Serena … do – oh, she’s right there. Oh wait, what am I doing?’” She’s doing rather well, as it happens. Kevin Mitchell
Others to keep an eye on in 2019: Aryna Sabalenka (Belarus), Olga Danilovic (Serbia), Dayana Yastremska (Ukraine), Maria Sakkari (Greece), Sofia Kenin (USA).