The England womenâ€™s cricket team was today awarded the Team of the Year at The Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year Awards for the second time in four years.
At the ceremony staged at Lord’s cricket ground, Nicole Cooke, the Olympic and world road race champion cyclist, was named Sportswoman of the Year for 2008. She is pictured left receiving her Performance of the Year trophy from swimmer Mark Foster at the SJA Sports Awards staged last November.
In front of an audience of more than 250 which included Dame Kelly Holmes, Olympics minister Tessa Jowell, minister for sport Gerry Sutcliffe and former rugby union internationals Lawrence Dallaglio and Jeremy Guscott, Cooke was recognised for her outstanding season when she dominated the big cycle road races.
Cooke, who attended the event with her mother Denise, said: “I am very grateful and proud of it. It has been going for 21 years, which is incredible. There are a lot of fantastic past champions and I am proud to receive it from The Sunday Times as, in 2001, seven years ago, when I was a junior, the newspaper wrote an article about me. So they do show interest in the whole of women’s sport not just at the highest level but the people on their way up. I am very grateful for all the support the writers have given me over the years.”
The England cricket team won their prize on the back of retaining the Ashes in Australia in February and then beating New Zealand, West Indies, South Africa and India in one-day series throughout the year. They are currently on a run of 14 one-day international matches unbeaten.
On accepting the award, batsman Claire Taylor, who tops the ICC womenâ€™s batting rankings said: â€œItâ€™s absolutely brilliant to be recognised at an awards ceremony like this one. We faced some tough competition from the fantastic â€˜three blondes in a boatâ€™ and the England womenâ€™s rugby team, so weâ€™re really delighted. Itâ€™s a great achievement.â€
The England team – including some players pictured here receiving the SJA’s President’s Award from Sir Michael Parkinson in 2005 – head off to Australia next week to compete in the ICC Womenâ€™s World Cup from March 7-22.
As well as celebrating high-profile competitors â€“ previous individual winners include Paula Radcliffe, Pippa Funnell, Kelly Holmes and Zara Phillips â€“ the event recognises women at all levels of British sporting life including administrators working tirelessly behind the scenes, and those coaches, community club volunteers and PE teachers nurturing future talent.
Among of the many winners today was Rebecca Adlington, winner of two Olympic gold medals in the Water Cube last summer, who was presented with the UK Sport Olympian of the Year, while Eleanor Simmonds, Britainâ€™s youngest Paralympic gold medalist, was given the Paralympian of the Year accolade. Laura Robson was also a winner, receiving the MCC young Sportswoman of the Year following her outstanding victory on Court One in the Wimbledon girlsâ€™ title last July.
Alex Butler, sports editor of The Sunday Times, said: â€œThese awards were established 21 years ago, but I donâ€™t think over that time weâ€™ve ever had such a wealth of talent to choose from. 2008 was a fantastic year for British womenâ€™s sport, and everything is building nicely for 2012.â€
Full list of winners at the 2008 Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year Awards, in association with David Lloyd Leisure:
The Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year: Nicole Cooke
Team of the Year: England Womenâ€™s Cricket Team
WSFF Sponsorship of the Year: The Co-operative
Sport England Community Club Volunteer Award: Kay Stokes
Paralympian of the Year: Eleanor Simmonds
CCPR Unsung Hero Award: Wendy Coles
The Helen Rollason Award for Inspiration: Julie Shard
MCC Young Sportswoman of the Year: Laura Robson
David Lloyd Leisure PE Teacher of the Year: Cheryl Buckley
UK Sport Olympian of the Year: Rebecca Adlington