These Are The Finalists of the Women’s Health Women In Sport Awards 2022

If there’s one thing we know with certainty, it’s that sport has the power to unite the world. Even in the wake of a global pandemic, you need only look to those athletes representing their nations on the world stage to see the triumph of the human spirit. It’s these athletes that we have to thank for showing us that limits can be dismantled and boundaries stretched, if we have the mental willpower to believe in ourselves, while also serving as role models to younger generations and being a symbol of empowerment and strength. 

There’s been no shortage of memorable sporting moments since January last year; those that spoke of camaraderie and sportsmanship, those that saw us on the edge of our seats in nail-biting anticipation, and the eruptions of sheer joy that came with euphoric victory. Now, it’s time to recognise such feats with the Women’s Health Women In Sport (WinS) Awards. 

Marking the 10th annual event, the WinS Awards recognises and supports female athletes at all levels, from grassroots through to elite competition. It’s all part of our year-round WinS initiative, where we not only shine a spotlight on such talents, but also help athletes to achieve their goals and inspire future generations.

These are the nominees for the following categories:

Make sure you vote to let us know who should win! The winners will be announced at the ceremony in Sydney on 16 October 2022 and broadcast live on Fox Sports at 7.30pm AEDT.

Local Sporting Champion

Jacqui Dover (Basketball) 

As a child, Jacqui Dover (whose parents managed basketball courts on the Gold Coast) picked up a whistle to earn pocket money. A shoulder injury put a stop to her playing and at 22 she started refereeing in Townsville. Within four years, Dover progressed into the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL), rising to the highest level of competition. In May 2021, Dover became the first female Indigenous referee to take charge of a National Basketball League (NBL) game, making her NBL debut in the Indigenous round that saw the Cairns Taipans take on the Brisbane Bullets. She’s also the Indigenous Programs Manager for Basketball NSW and works with not-for-profit organisation Indigenous Basketball Australia (IBA), created by Patty Mills, to help young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people achieve success in life and sport.

Dover mentors young people in their development as referees, and collaborated with IBA to design a unique Indigenous artwork for their referee shirts, with themes of unity, resilience, teamwork and mental wellness. A proud Yugambeh woman, she’s the founder of JD8 Official, a program that works with basketball officials around Australia to mentor and guide them to reach their goals. The Queenslander is now aiming to become the first Indigenous Australian woman to referee full-time in America’s prestigious professional sports league, the National Basketball Association (NBA). In October 2021, she was offered one of just six coveted positions in the NBA’s Referee Development Program in New York and hopes to join the NBA within the next five years.  

Shae Graham (Wheelchair Rugby) 

Librarian by day, wheelchair rugby player by night, Shae Graham is the first Aussie woman to compete in the Paralympics in this hardcore mixed-gender sport. A member of the 12-person Steelers team, Graham works in a public library (with dreams of running her own bookshop), grew up in Mackay in North Queensland and made her Paralympic debut in Tokyo. An achievement made even more impressive by the fact there are fewer than a dozen women representing their countries in “Murderball” across the world.

She only picked up the sport eight years ago after losing a bet with her brother, following a life-changing car accident at the age of 18. She’s also an Australian Institute of Sport ambassador for The Good Village, an education program designed for teachers to upskill school students on health, wellbeing, fitness and teamwork. Her message to kids is the same as the one she tells herself every day: “Sometimes, fear is the only thing holding you back. I now say to myself, ‘You’ve got to do the things that scare you, because you might just find the next thing you love’.” 

Eloise Wellings (Athletics/Love Mercy Foundation) 

The Love Mercy Foundation began in Sydney in 2010, after Olympian Eloise Wellings met Ugandan Olympian and former child soldier, Julius Achon. It exists to empower the people of Northern Uganda to overcome poverty caused by war. The foundation’s vision is to see local communities thrive independently, by increasing access to healthcare, clean water, food security and income generation. Recent Love Mercy achievements include 19,000 women receiving a seed loan in 2021, 1,218 babies born safely, 107,000 children educated in Cents for Seeds homes, 500 women trained as group leaders and 46 wells drilled to access clean water. But Wellings’ achievements on the sporting front are equally impressive.

After just missing out on qualification for the Tokyo Games, Wellings made a decision to switch distances and tackle her first marathon with only a few months of training. At the 2021 London Marathon, she clocked the fastest time by an Australian woman on debut for the distance, finishing 14th, with a time of 2:29.42 — which equates to 16.91km/h or 3.32 minutes per kilometre — and becoming the first Aussie woman to break the 2:30 mark on debut. In 2022, she was selected to represent Australia at her fifth Commonwealth Games, in Birmingham, where she placed fourth in the marathon, in a career spanning 24 years.   

Amna K-Hassan / Yashar Kammoun (GoActive) 

Established at the Lebanese Muslim Assocation to connect, inspire and empower girls and young women, GoActive has been providing practical support at grassroots level for more than a decade. A first-of-its-kind project for Muslim women in Australia, their programs cater to all women, with an emphasis on supporting the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities. GoActive encourages participation of CALD women in sport, health and education, by providing safe, non-intimidating and culturally responsive spaces. Their programs have grown to include sports leadership camps, tri-sport tournaments, weekly fitness classes – offering boxing, capoeira and kickboxing – a GoActive Girls Summer Camp, podcast and She Talks video series, along with the annual She Summit. More recently, the community-focused organisation hosted Timeout Talks for Sports NSW, a conversation with young athletes on the impact of COVID 19. Go Active aims to recognise the power of sport in developing connections, transforming lives and breaking down cultural barriers.   

Bonnie Hancock (Surf Ski Paddling) 

A professional ironwoman since the age of 17, Bonnie Hancock is used to pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. But in 2022, she took determination to a whole new level when she became the youngest and fastest person – and the first Aussie woman – to paddle a surf ski around mainland Australia. Paddling for an average of 10 hours a day in gruelling conditions and rough seas, the 12,700km journey started at Mermaid Beach, Queensland, and took 254 days to complete. It also raised more than $70,000 for mental health charity Gotcha4Life, which aims to foster mateship, build emotional resilience and social connections.

Having represented Australia and competed in nine Nurtri-Grain Ironwoman Series, Hancock holds a Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics and has now shifted her focus to coaching and mentoring athletes in her local community. She consults at a range of GP clinics across the Gold Coast and Northern NSW, specialising in sports nutrition and helping her clients achieve holistic health goals. With more than a decade of coaching experience across Surf Lifesaving Clubs in South East Queensland, she works alongside grassroots, elite athletes and sporting clubs with paddling clinics, nutrition guidance and goal setting. She also runs female-specific clinics – Pushing Limits Coaching – which specialise in surf ski paddling for women of all ages and abilities. The weekend workshops, which run throughout the year, focus on technique, skills training, injury prevention and race day training, delivered by Bonnie and an all-female coaching team.  

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One To Watch

Molly Taylor (Motorsport) 

The world of motorsport may be dominated by men, but not for much longer if this trailblazer has anything to do with it. In 2016, Molly Taylor became the youngest person (and only female) to ever win the Australian Rally Championship, and in December 2021, she took on a brand-new format and made history by becoming the winner of the inaugural Extreme E Championship. The league uses electric cars and aims to bring attention to areas of the world impacted by climate change, with events in locations including Saudi Arabia, Senegal and Greenland. Extreme E has also set a new benchmark for equality, making one female and one male driver mandatory for every team.

In January 2022, Taylor made history again, becoming the first Aussie woman to compete in the world’s most gruelling off-road event, the Dakar Rally. She placed an impressive 14th on debut in the SSV class as part of the Can-Am Factory South Racing team. The two-week event consists of 13 stages across the Arabian Peninsula and a desert almost the size of France. Raised in a family of motorsport fanatics, this 34-year-old racing hero is only just getting started. 

Ezi Magbegor (Basketball) 

Already 193cm in her teens, Ezi Magbegor caught the eye of Basketball Australia scouts and was always destined for sporting success. At 15, she was offered a scholarship to the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra and went on to play for the Opals at the Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. She was picked up by the Seattle Storm in the 2019 Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) draft and in 2020 became a WNBA champion in her rookie season. At just 23, her list of accolades is extensive, and includes being named Women’s National Basketball League Betty Watson Australian Youth Player of the Year three times. The first female basketball ambassador for global giant Spalding, Magbegor plays for the Melbourne Boomers nationally, where she’s earnt a reputation as one of the team’s leading performers. In August 2022, she was confirmed as one of the 12-strong Australian Opals team for the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup, due to be played in Sydney from September 22. 

Mary Fowler grew up playing football against her four siblings in Cairns and, at the age of 19, is already tipped to become a global superstar of the game. Having made her debut for the Matildas at 15, she was the youngest player on the field at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France. Fowler made her Olympic debut in Tokyo, where she was instrumental in Australia’s quarter-final win against Great Britain. In December 2021, Fowler was named IFFHS Best Women’s Youth Player in the Asian Football Confederation, and included on ESPN FC’s list of the best 21 female players under 21.

The buzz around her playing future continued in 2022, when she was voted by her peers as the Professional Footballers’ Association Young Women’s Footballer of the Year. Having previously played internationally for French club Montpellier, in mid-2022 Fowler signed a four-year contract with Women’s Super League club Manchester City, with team manager Gareth Taylor describing her as one of the most exciting new talents in the game. With 24 caps for her country – including seven goals – Fowler is set to be a crucial part of the Matildas line-up when the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 is played in Australia and New Zealand next year. 

Molly Picklum (Surfing) 

A teenage surf prodigy, 19-year-old Molly Picklum has been called Australian surfing’s “next big thing” and for good reason. With two back-to-back Australian championship titles to her name (Under 16 and Under 18), the talented shredder from Gosford, on the New South Wales Central Coast, has already won a cabinet full of trophies and is tipped to follow in the footsteps of Australian legends including Stephanie Gilmore and Layne Beachley. Picklum won the Australian Pro Junior in 2019 and was named Female Rising Star at the Australian Surfing Awards in 2020. In February 2022, she announced her arrival as a serious force by knocking world number one, Carissa Moore, out of the Hurley Pro Sunset Beach.

In June, Picklum won the Oakberry Tweed Coast Pro in tricky two-foot conditions at Cabarita Beach – and earned the highest two-wave combination of the women’s event in the final from the event’s judging panel. The following month, Picklum scored the biggest victory of her career to date: winning her first WSL Challenger Series trophy in the Ballito Pro, South Africa, overcoming fellow Central Coast surfer Macy Callaghan with a final score of 12.40 to 12.17. Picklum – who lives in Shelly Beach, NSW – now has her eyes on qualifying for the top-tier Championship Tour 2023 in her unrelenting quest to become the sport’s best. 

Jessica Hull (Athletics) 

After being one of only four Aussie women to ever qualify for an Olympic 1,500-metre final in Tokyo, 2022 has been a strong year for Aussie track star Jessica Hull. In January, she broke a milestone that had stood for 21 years when she set a new Australian indoor record for the 3,000 metres in Texas, stopping the clock at 8:39.79. In May, she recorded her best Diamond League finish to date, coming third in the 3,000-metre event for the first time at the season opener in Qatar. Then, in July, she produced a standout moment in athletics history – running the fastest time ever recorded by an Aussie woman over the mile in Portland, Oregon, with a time of 4:19.89.

In doing so, the 25-year-old became the first Australian woman to break the 4:20 barrier for the distance. Her gutsy form continued at the 2022 World Athletics Championships, where she placed seventh in one of the fastest 1,500-metre finals the meet has ever seen, signalling her intention to be a serious contender on the track over coming years. Now based in the US and training with Union Athletics Club, Hull holds national records in seven distances, including the 1,500-metre, mile, 3,000-metre and 5,000-metre distances.   

Mollie O’Callaghan (Swimming) 

At her Olympic debut in Tokyo, 18-year-old Mollie O’Callaghan emerged as one of the most exciting swimming talents this country has ever produced. As the youngest member of the Australian Olympic team, O’Callaghan set a junior world record with her heat swim in the 4 x 200-metre freestyle relay and won two gold medals: in the 4 x 100 metre freestyle and medley relays. But it was at the FINA World Swimming Championships in Budapest that she made global headlines. On June 24, she became the youngest women’s 100-metre freestyle champion in 31 years. In a powerhouse swim, she edged out previous world record holder – 28-year-old Swedish athlete Sarah Sjostrom – to take the title in a blistering time of 52.67, which included the fastest second 50 metres in history.

The single best performer in Hungary, she went home with a total of six medals – three gold and three silver. Her winning streak continued at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games. On August 2, O’Callaghan powered past arguably the world’s best swimmer – Emma McKeon – to win gold in the 100-metre freestyle final, touching the wall in a time of 52.63 seconds. At her first Commonwealth Games appearance, the next-generation superstar went home with seven medals – five gold and two silver. Now, with the Paris 2024 Olympics on the horizon, this young gun who’s been swimming since the age of four looks set for even greater success. 

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Standout Moment

Ash Barty wins the 2022 Australian Open 

Late in the evening of January 29, the country erupted in collective celebration when Ash Barty became the first Australian woman to win the Australian Open in 44 years – breaking one of the longest droughts in our national sporting history. Barty showed the steely determination she’s famous for when she bravely fought back from 5-1 down in the second set to defeat Danielle Collins at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. Roaring with relief the moment the final ball was played, the victory saw the reigning world number one become the first Aussie woman to take the singles title since Chris O’Neil in 1978. Watched in the stands by sporting icons including fellow Indigenous athlete Cathy Freeman, Barty was surprised by mentor and friend Evonne Goolagong Cawley, who presented her with the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup in a victory that made headlines around the world. The match also delivered record television ratings, attracting a peak audience of 4.26 million – making it the most watched women’s final since OzTam started keeping records in 1999. 

Minjee Lee wins the 2022 US Open 

On June 6, Minjee Lee put Australia in the world spotlight – and took home the largest prize in women’s golfing history – when she won the 2022 US Women’s Open at Pine Needles by four strokes. The superstar from Perth recorded the lowest 72-hole score in US Women’s Open history to secure the coveted trophy, and a record-breaking pay day of $2.5 million. Lee – a two-time Olympian who’s currently ranked as world number three – is the sixth straight international player to win the US Open, and the first from Australia since mentor Karrie Webb in 2001. As she said after the triumph: “I’m speechless… It’s been my dream since I was a little girl, the one I have always wanted to win.” The memorable victory came less than 12 months after Lee’s breakthrough major win at the Evian Championship in France in July 2021. As a result, she is now just the third Australian woman to become a multiple major golf champion. 

Ariarne Titmus beats Katie Ledecky, women’s 400-metre freestyle final 

There are match-ups for the ages, and this unforgettable swim at the Tokyo Games was one of them. In an iconic race, Ariarne Titmus defeated the most dominant athlete in women’s swimming, Katie Ledecky, to win gold in the 400-metre freestyle final on July 25, 2021. It was the first Australian women’s gold medal in the event since Shane Gould’s triumph at the 1972 Munich Games, and the second fastest time in history – behind Ledecky’s world record of 3:56.46. Titmus’s time (3:56.69) was also an Australian record. In a tight tussle, Titmus came from behind in the final 100 metres to touch the wall first, in a swim that will go down as one of the greatest performances an Australian athlete has ever produced in the pool. Of Ledecky, a seven-time Olympic gold medallist, Titmus graciously said: “I wouldn’t be here without her. She set this incredible standard… I’ve just been trying to chase her.” 

Jess Fox wins Olympic C1 gold in Tokyo 

After the heartbreak of missing gold by less than two seconds in the women’s K1 event, Jess Fox finally completed her Olympic medal collection, winning the first ever gold medal in the inaugural women’s C1 on July 29, 2021. Embraced by her sister, Noemi, and mother, Myriam, moments after she crossed the finish line, the GOAT of slalom canoe and now nine-time world champion had relief etched all over her face as the reality of realising her long-held dream sank in.

The win was even sweeter after Fox campaigned tirelessly for the women’s C1 to be added to the Olympic program, an event previously only available to male athletes. As she said of the history-making moment in the lead-up to Tokyo: “I’ve had a lot of time to reflect over the past year, and it’s just amazing to be a part of this group and have the opportunity to sit on the start line knowing all the women who came before us, and who fought for us to be there but who never had the opportunity themselves. It’s very special.” 

Women’s 4 x 100 metre freestyle relay team win gold, and break their own world record 

While they’ve long been a dominant force in swimming, the women’s 4 x 100 metre freestyle relay team set the bar even higher in Tokyo, smashing their own world record to win Olympic gold on July 25, 2021. The powerhouse swim by Cate Campbell, Bronte Campbell, Emma McKeon and Meg Harris delivered Australia our first gold medal of the Games, and made history when they broke the 3:30 barrier for the first time. “I could not be prouder of these girls,” Cate Campbell said after the race. “It has been a tough ask for everyone to get here and to come away with the win and a world record, you honestly couldn’t have asked for anything better.” The foursome shaved three-tenths of a second off their previous best time in the event, to stop the clock at 3:29.69. Canada and the United States rounded out the podium, finishing a full three seconds behind the Australian team. 

Madison de Rozario wins Paralympic marathon gold 

In a thrilling finish, and at her fourth Paralympic Games, wheelchair-racing legend Madison de Rozario became the first Australian woman to win gold in the T54 marathon in Tokyo on September 5, 2021. Having sat within the top three for the majority of the hard-fought 42km event, de Rozario took the win by just one second, outsprinting Swiss athlete Manuela Schaer across the line. Declaring winning marathon gold as “the greatest thing” she’s ever done, the 28-year-old set a new Paralympic record in the event, with a time of 1:38.11. The win produced Australia’s twenty-first medal at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, and came just six days after de Rozario won her first-ever Paralympic gold medal, in the T53 800-metre final.  

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Young Achiever

Tess Coady (Snowboarding) 

Big air and adrenaline come naturally to Tess Coady. In February 2022, the snowboard star from St Kilda made history when she became the youngest Australian woman to win a Winter Olympic medal, snaring bronze in the snowboard slopestyle final. Her powerhouse run demonstrated classic poise and skill, delivering a score of 84.15 in the final run to take Australia’s first ever Olympic medal in the discipline. Coady later revealed in a post-race interview that she secured the third-place finish with a fractured ankle, sustained during a training session for the event. The medal put Coady’s heartbreak of missing out on the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics behind her, when she ruptured her ACL in practice days before competition was due to start. Coady’s performance in Beijing capped off her most successful season to date.

In January 2022, she secured the second World Cup win of her career, with a gold medal in the slopestyle event at the Laax Open in Switzerland, finishing with a frontside double 1080 on the last jump. In the 2020/21 season, Coady won three medals, including a bronze medal at the 2021 World Championships in Aspen, USA. Coady also secured two bronze in World Cup competition, and finished the season ranked third in the world. Having first hit the slopes at the age of nine – and with a big future in the sport – Tess is committed to breaking down barriers and encouraging more female riders to take up the sport.  

Sunday Aryang (Netball) 

In January, rising star Sunday Aryang made netball history, becoming the first African-born player to represent Australia at international level. Making her Diamonds debut at the 2022 Quad Series in London, she was instrumental in the Aussie’s 60-40 victory against South Africa – and took a total of five gains in the matches she played against the Proteas and England during the tournament. Having made her national league debut for West Coast Fever in 2019, Aryang has quickly become one of the most exciting players in the game. In 2021, she recorded 54 gains, 50 deflections and 24 intercepts, to be ranked among the top defenders in the league.

In 2022, she played a major role in helping Fever win their maiden Super Netball trophy, when they beat the Melbourne Vixens in front of a record crowd of 13,908 on their home court in Perth during the grand final. Soon after, Aryang continued to break new ground when she was selected as part of the Diamonds squad who went on to win gold at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games. One of the freshest new talents in Australian sport, Aryang hopes her success will motivate more young women from diverse backgrounds to embrace netball, saying: “I hope it continues and that it inspires other kids to pursue sport, because seeing someone like me when I was young in an Australian team would have made a big difference.” 

Angie Scarth-Johnson (Sport Climbing) 

At 18, Angie Scarth-Johnson is one of the country’s most elite rock climbers. A member of Sport Climbing Australia, this rising star started in one of the world’s most challenging sports at the age of seven. After falling out of a tree trying to reach the inaccessible branches, her parents took her to a climbing gym, so she could climb in a safer environment, and the rest is history. In 2012, at eight years old, she achieved her first hard climb (difficulty grade 27) in the Blue Mountains. When she was nine, she broke a world record and became the youngest person on the planet to scale a difficulty grade 31 climb twice, once in America and then in Spain.

Three years later, she became the second Australian woman to have achieved a grade 34, and the only Aussie to do this multiple times, all at 12 years old. With aspirations to one day compete in the Olympics, she spends six months a year in the Blue Mountains and the rest travelling, visiting major climbing destinations around the world. Scarth-Johnson continued to kick goals in 2021, becoming the first Aussie woman to climb 5.14d in Margalef, Spain, in September. With hopes of becoming a vet, she is currently studying for her Certificate III Veterinarian Assistant and completing high school by correspondence. 

Hannah Darlington (Cricket) 

Not many people have led an elite sporting team at the age of 19; Hannah Darlington is one of them. The youngest captain in the history of the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) by four years in her role skippering Sydney Thunder, Darlington is only the third Indigenous woman to represent Australia at the highest level in cricket. She made her ODI debut against India in September 2021 and was presented with her cap by fellow Indigenous athlete Ashleigh Gardner, who first met Darlington playing in the Imparja Cup at the age of 14.

In 2020/21, Darlington also captained NSW in the Women’s National Cricket League. The Westfield Sports High graduate was named Young Cricketer of the Year for 2021, and took two wickets on debut in the match against India. In addition to her captaincy duties, Darlington ended the WBBL07 season as the Thunder’s leading bowler, with 16 wickets at 20.75, and is widely considered one of the brightest rising stars in Australian cricket. 

Isis Holt (Para Athletics) 

Melbourne teenager Isis Holt took up athletics in 2014 to “try something new” and quickly went on to shake up the para-athletics scene. A year later, she won two gold medals and broke two world records at the Doha World Championships. Only 14 when she won her first international medals, Holt felt burnt out after the Commonwealth Games in 2018, admitting “I felt like I had nothing more to give.” She took 2019 off to finish Year 12 and timed her break perfectly, making a comeback at the Tokyo Paralympic Games.

Just weeks out from the event, Holt broke the 200-metre T35 World Record in Cairns, clocking up a time of 27.33 seconds. In Tokyo, she won silver in the women’s 100-metre T35 final in a personal best time of 13.13 seconds, followed by a second silver medal in the women’s 200-metre T35 final, with a time of 27.17 seconds, setting a new Oceania record and cementing her place as one of this country’s most inspiring athletes. In 2021, Holt started studying for a bachelor’s degree in Behavioural Neuroscience (Psychology) at Queensland’s University of Technology. 

Kaylee McKeown (Swimming) 

When Kaylee McKeown set a new world record (57.45 seconds) in the women’s 100-metre backstroke at the Australian Swimming Trials in June 2021, it was the start of a huge year that would see her win four Olympic medals. At her debut Games, and only 11 months after her father’s death from brain cancer at the age of 53, the 21-year-old Sunshine Coast local made history in the pool, snaring gold and setting a new Olympic Record of 57.47 seconds in the 100-metre backstroke final. McKeown (who has a tattoo on her foot saying “I’ll always be with you”) dedicated the win to her dad, saying: “I hope you’re proud, and I keep doing you proud.” Just four days later she won gold again, in the 200-metre backstroke, with a time of 2:04.68.

The performance saw McKeown become the first Aussie female to win gold in the Olympic 200 metre backstroke and, making the swim even more remarkable, the women’s 100/200 backstroke double win has only been achieved on five occasions in Olympic history. She won a third gold in Tokyo (in the women’s 4 x 100 metre medley relay), along with bronze in the mixed 4 x 100 metre medley relay. But Tokyo was just the beginning of her breakout year. McKeown’s incredible run of form continued at the FINA World Swimming Championships in June 2022, where she won a gold medal on the final day of competition – in the 200-metre backstroke – to sit alongside three silvers from the meet.

In August – at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games – her position as one of our most impressive young talents continued. Having already topped the podium and set a new Games record in the women’s 200 metre backstroke (with a time of 2:05.60) less than an hour later, McKeown won silver in the women’s 200 metre individual medley despite battling a shoulder injury. She ended the Birmingham Games with six medals: four gold, one silver and one bronze.

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Champion Team

Women’s 4 x 100 metre freestyle relay team (Swimming) 

On July 25, 2021, the women’s 4 x 100 freestyle relay team displayed why they’ve been a dominant force in the pool for a decade, becoming the first female relay team to swim under the 3:30 barrier. They set a new world record time of 3:29.69 and won Australia’s first gold medal of the Tokyo Games when Cate Campbell touched the wall in their powerhouse swim. The team has won gold in the relay event at three consecutive Olympics (London, Rio and Tokyo), along with gold medals at the 2014 and 2018 Commonwealth Games, setting three new world records during that period. In addition to delivering an outstanding team performance, anchor swimmer Campbell became the fourth Aussie in history to win three consecutive Olympic gold medals in the same event, while Emma McKeon (who swam third) clocked a time of 51.35, the fifth fastest split ever recorded for the event. The gold-medal winning, record-breaking team also included Dolphins stars Bronte Campbell and Meg Harris.  

Adelaide Crows (AFLW) 

In April 2022, the Crows won their third premiership in six years, defeating the Melbourne Demons 4.5 (29) to 2.4 (16) at Adelaide Oval with a massive 13-point win that confirmed their status as the most dominant team in AFLW history. Amid wild scenes, Adelaide – led by former Opals basketballer and three-time All-Australian Erin Phillips – became the first team to secure three AFLW premierships, holding off a late surge from Melbourne to win the grand final in barnstorming fashion. Four days after finishing second in the AFLW best and fairest, Anne Hatchard was named best on ground, with 26 disposals, five clearances, six tackles and nine marks. In a powerful statement that made up for the disappointment of last year’s grand final defeat, the Crows have now won three of the five grand finals since the AFLW league came into being – adding the 2022 flag to their 2017 and 2019 triumphs. 

Australian Women’s Sevens (Rugby) 

At the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, the Women’s Rugby Sevens powered back to world-class form. In a stunning performance, they defeated Fiji 22-12 in the final and secured an historic gold medal, becoming the first Aussie rugby team – male or female – to do so. Mainstays Sharni Williams and Charlotte Caslick – who debuted with the side at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games – were joined by a new generation of stars, including sisters Maddison and Teagan Levi, as the team signalled they would be a serious force on the world stage in the lead-up to Paris 2024. Led by coach Tim Walsh – and assistant coach and former player Emilee Cherry – the win came only three months after the team secured their first women’s rugby sevens World Series title since 2018 – defeating legendary side New Zealand 21-17 in Langford, Canada. It was Australia’s first victory over the Kiwis in more than four years, confirming their return to the red-hot form they’ve long been famous for.  

Australian Diamonds (Netball) 

This has been a golden year for the Australian Diamonds. After a challenging period, the team rebuilt and showed yet again why they’re ranked world number one. They stormed home against long-time rivals, the England Roses, in January to secure the Netball Quad Series trophy with a 58-46 goal win in London. Having remained undefeated during the tournament, the Diamonds trailed at every break in an electrifying final, before surging ahead in the fourth quarter to secure the hard-fought victory.

Led by 25th Diamonds captain Liz Watson, the team’s success continued in Birmingham during August when they won gold with a thrilling 55-51 victory over Jamaica in the netball final at the National Exhibition Centre in front of 8,000 fans. The win was their fourth Commonwealth Games gold medal, but just their second since 2002 as the team claimed redemption for a one-goal loss to England in 2018 on the Gold Coast. The Diamond’s Commonwealth title is the latest addition to their trophy cabinet, which includes 11 World Cups and six Quad series wins, cementing their place as one of Australia’s most successful international sporting teams. 

Australian Women’s Cricket Team (Cricket) 

The Australian Women’s Cricket Team have proved to be an unstoppable force on the international sporting stage. They are currently ranked world number one in all three formats (Test, ODI and T20) assigned by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for the women’s game and have set multiple records over the past two years. In April 2021, they claimed the outright record for longest winning streak in cricket history, with their 22nd consecutive win in a One Day International. The six-wicket win over New Zealand saw the trailblazing team hurtle past Ricky Ponting’s Australian men’s side, who had previously won 21 straight matches back in 2003.

But their run of stunning form didn’t stop there. Having already claimed both the T20 and ODI World Cups – as well as a home Ashes series victory against England – they made history again at the 2022 Commonwealth Games. By defeating India in a thrilling, nine-run win in front of a bumper crowd at Edgbaston, they became the first ever female gold medallists as the T20 format made its debut in Birmingham. As all-rounder Ashleigh Gardner said: “We never thought we’d be part of a Commonwealth Games. We’ve won a lot of medals, but I think this one is pretty special.” 

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Leadership Legend

Chloe McCardel (Marathon Swimming) 

In October 2021, ultra-athlete and Australia’s best marathon swimmer Chloe McCardel officially smashed the world record for the greatest number of crossings of the English Channel. The achievement, 12 years in the making, saw her complete 44 crossings, more than any other person in history, male or female. A total distance of 1,496km (equal to 29,000 laps of a 50-metre pool), it took 450 hours and 1.5 million strokes. But it’s the motivation behind her history-making effort that really matters. McCardel (a survivor of domestic violence) used the sign boards from each swim to raise awareness around one of the most serious issues facing women.

As she wrote during the record attempt: “Research has shown in Australia victims who have been mis-identifed as aggressors have ended up murdered by their abusers. The message on my board from my first swim this season said ‘I will not be silenced’. I am just getting started.” She has spoken about her own experiences in mainstream media outlets over the past two years, and now uses her platform to advocate for change. In February 2021, in a bid to improve police responses to domestic violence, she gave evidence and made a submission to the NSW Government’s Joint Select Committee on Coercive Control in Domestic Relationships, which is set to be criminalised in the state. 

Cate Campbell (Swimming) 

Chosen as our flag bearer in Tokyo, alongside Patty Mills, Cate Campbell is only the third Australian swimmer to have represented her country at four Olympics, winning a total of eight medals. In July 2021, 13 years after winning her first individual medal in Beijing, Campbell demonstrated why she’s considered one of our greatest sportswomen. When she won bronze in the 100-metre freestyle final — with a time of 52.52 seconds — Campbell immediately embraced gold medal winner Emma McKeon, saying “I’m so proud of you”. Campbell also won gold in Tokyo as part of the 4 x 100 metre freestyle relay team — her third consecutive gold medal in the same event.

More recently, in October 2021, she made a powerful statement in the lead-up to World Mental Health Day, opening up about her own diagnosis of depression in July 2020 and seeking medical help just before the Tokyo Games. “Mental health is not a sign of weakness,” she wrote. “It does not discriminate. It is very real, and most of us will face it at some point in our lives. I wish conversations about mental health were more common — if they were, I might have sought out help earlier than I did. So I am sharing my story in the hopes it will prompt a conversation in your household, dispel a stigma or encourage you to be a bit kinder to the person next to you.” 

Chloe Dalton (Rugby Sevens/AFLW) 

As an athlete, Chloe Dalton won gold with the Women’s Rugby Sevens team at the Rio Olympics. Now, she’s advocating for women in sport with a new digital platform, The Female Athlete Project (TFAP). Since it launched, TFAP has grown into a community of almost 39,000 people, and strongly campaigned for causes that champion equality. Dalton has also become a leading voice for female athletes in the media. In August 2021, she created a Go Fund Me page with the aim of raising $100,000 to be split evenly between Australia’s medal winners from the Tokyo Paralympics, after the fact they weren’t financially rewarded – unlike Olympians, who receive $20,000 for winning gold – was widely reported.

The page raised $68,000 in just three days and, within a week, the federal government announced they would boost funding for Paralympic athletes, to ensure they received the same cash medal bonuses as their Olympic counterparts. More recently, TFAP has donated 10 percent of all proceeds from their icons merchandise range to Beat It By Stotty, a charity created by Olympian and five-time W-League Champion Rebekah Stott to support people going through cancer treatment. In December, Stott played her first professional game, for Melbourne City, since being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2020. 

Ali Brigginshaw (NRLW) 

NRLW legend Ali Brigginshaw may have captained the Brisbane Broncos to three successive premiership wins, but it’s her achievements off the field that are just as impressive. In September 2021, she spoke up on behalf of all female NRL players after the women’s season was postponed until 2022 (and just 10 days before pre-season training was due to start), despite the men’s season being allowed to go ahead. Fighting for equality, and to ensure female athletes are able to earn a living from their sport, she said: “When I hear things like ‘We are only part-time athletes’ that hurts. I classify myself as a full-timer. I put in full-time hours to be the best possible athlete and would move heaven and earth to play NRLW in 2021.”

The NRL later signed off on a COVID Relief Payment for every NRLW player, on top of their contracted salaries. In October 2021, the Jillaroo went one step further, launching her own training academy for girls aged 12 to 17 to fill the gap in junior development, giving girls across Queensland a chance to train alongside Brigginshaw and her personal coaching team. “The academy isn’t focussed only on rugby league, it is for girls in all sports,” she said. “Growing up, I had a lot of great men to look up to, and help me get to where I am now. But it may be the case that these girls don’t have a strong female role model to look up to. They have very committed parents, but they don’t have somebody who can show them the ropes and teach them things that I didn’t learn until well into my career.” 

Caroline Buchanan (BMX) 

As a three-time BMX World Champion, five-time mountain bike World Champion and dual Olympian – who represented her country in London and Rio – Caroline Buchanan has already made a huge mark on the Aussie sporting landscape. But her latest initiative is all about inspiring the next generation to embrace her love of action sports. Since launching her mentorship program – now known as Ignite – in 2014, Buchanan has raised more than $100,000 to help young women get involved in a previously male-dominated sport.

Designed to provide the kind of mentorship she never had growing up, Ignite targets girls aged 13 to 19, encouraging them to dream big and pursue a range of cycling disciplines, including BMX, mountain biking and motocross. Through Ignite’s scholarship program, she has assisted 16 girls to compete on the international stage at the BMX World Championships with equipment, support and personal mentorship. As she says of the groundbreaking initiative that aims to increase the visibility of women on two wheels: “It inspires me daily to stay true and strive to continue to be a bit of a rebel role model who does things differently, breaks the sporting mould and helps up-and-coming female athletes into the sports they love.” 

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Women’s Health Athlete 2022

Ash Barty (Tennis) 

When reigning world number one Ash Barty announced her retirement in March 2022 at the age of 25, it capped off one of the most remarkable winning streaks in tennis history. In 2021 alone, she won five WTA titles, including the Yarra Valley Classic, Miami Open, Stuttgart Open and the Cincinnati Open. But the pinnacle came in July, when Barty achieved her childhood dream: becoming the first Australian woman in 41 years to win a Wimbledon singles title. Following in the footsteps of mentor and friend Evonne Goolagong Cawley – and a decade after she won the Junior Wimbledon trophy at the age of 15 – Barty became only the second Indigenous woman in history to lift the prestigious trophy in London.

In January 2022, she won the singles and doubles title at the Adelaide International on the same day. Later that month, Barty rewrote the record books again when she won the 2022 Australian Open in Melbourne, becoming the first Australian to take the title since Chris O’Neil in 1978. The triumph was her third grand slam singles title, which saw her join an elite group of only five players (Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams) to have won a major title on all three surfaces – clay, grass and hard court. Barty ended her professional tennis career having spent a total of 121 weeks at world number one – becoming only the fifth woman in history to end the year on top of the WTA table for the third consecutive time, joining legends Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Serena Williams.  

Jess Fox (Canoe Slalom) 

Jess Fox continues to prove why she’s referred to as the greatest paddler of all time – male or female. In 2021, she won five World Cup gold medals and the overall K1 World Cup title over the course of the year. At the Tokyo Olympic Games in July, she made history by becoming the first female athlete to win gold in the C1 event, blitzing the field a full three seconds faster than her nearest rival. With this unforgettable win, along with her bronze in the K1, she also became the first slalom paddler (male or female) to win an Olympic medal of every colour – gold, silver and bronze – across both canoe and kayak events. Only a month after the Olympic Games, Fox won double gold at the 2021 ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup in Spain, taking out both the K1 and C1 events. She won the women’s C1 final by more than six seconds, in a time fast enough to come seventh in the men’s final.

On September 12, Fox won her third consecutive K1 World Cup in France, claiming the overall series title with a total of 290 points. She rounded out the year by snaring gold in the new extreme slalom event at the 2021 ICF World Championships in Bratislava. In June 2022, Fox collected three consecutive K1 World Cups in Slovenia, overcoming illness and a two-second penalty to win the contests in Ljubljana. In August, Fox continued to break new sporting ground when she collected her ninth individual world title – and defended her extreme slalom title – winning gold in Augsburg, Germany, the same course where her father became world champion in 1985. Fox finished the 2022 World Championships with three medals, including two silvers in the traditional kayak and canoe runs. Holding individual world titles in all three disciplines – canoe, kayak and extreme slalom – and with extreme slalom set to make its Olympic debut in 2024, Fox continues to be a dominant force and one of Australia’s greatest ever athletes. 

Emma McKeon (Swimming) 

In Tokyo, Emma McKeon not only won her first individual gold medal at Olympic level, she also became Australia’s most successful Olympic athlete of all time, having won 11 Olympic medals overall, two more than legends Ian Thorpe and Leisel Jones. The quiet achiever of Aussie swimming, the 28-year-old, who grew up in Wollongong, won a total of seven medals in the pool in Tokyo – four of them gold – along with three bronze medals. The incredible performance made history not just in Australia, but on the world stage. Her seven medals in Tokyo equals the greatest ever medal haul by a female athlete in any sport at a single Olympics, joining Russian gymnast Maria Gorokhovskaya in 1952.

McKeon now matches Thorpe as the only Australians to have won five Olympic gold medals in total over their career. In October 2021, she continued to dominate in the pool, securing the overall title at the FINA Swimming World Cup in Russia with a total of 228.3 points. In Birmingham, McKeon yet again displayed why she’s swimming’s best, becoming the most successful Commonwealth Games athlete in history by winning the 20th medal of her career – and her 14th gold – in the women’s 4 x 100 metre medley relay. The achievement was a record for any competitor from any country and in any sport. In total, McKeon won a total of eight medals at the 2022 Games – six gold, one silver and one bronze – cementing her place in sporting history. 

Tia-Clair Toomey-Orr (CrossFit) 

She’s long been referred to as the GOAT but in August 2022, Tia-Clair Toomey-Orr made it official when she became the most decorated athlete in CrossFit history – claiming the “Fittest On Earth” title for a sixth consecutive time. The victory saw her break the previous record of five wins, set by her former training partner and US athlete Mat Fraser. The 29-year-old from Queensland – who made her CrossFit debut in 2013 – secured the victory after five intense days of competition in Madison, Wisconsin, that included endurance events, gymnastics and lifting objects weighing more than 200 kilograms – three times her own body weight.

Prior to her record-breaking performance, Toomey-Orr made history at the Torian Pro in Brisbane in May 2022, where she became the first athlete to win every event in an in-season competition, in addition to taking the overall women’s title. An Olympian who represented Australia in weightlifting in Rio, Toomey-Orr added another discipline to her already impressive resume when she helped Australia qualify for the team bobsleigh event at the Beijing Winter Games.  

Madison de Rozario (Para Athletics) 

A legend of wheelchair racing, at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, Madison de Rozario took her legacy to the next level. Having first represented Australia in Beijing at the age of 14, at her fourth Games, the three-time world champion won her first Paralympic gold medal in the 800 metre T53 final, setting a new Games record of 1:45.99 in the process. But the gold rush didn’t stop there. On September 5, 2021, de Rozario became the first Australian woman to win gold in the T54 marathon, crossing the line one second ahead of Swiss athlete Manuela Schaer in a nail-biting finish. In addition to securing top spot on the podium, the victory was also a Paralympic marathon record of 1:38.11.

In Tokyo, de Rozario rounded out her medal collection with bronze in the 1,500 metre T54 final. In November 2021, de Rozario made history again, becoming the first Australian woman (in either the wheelchair or open events) to win the New York Marathon. She crossed the line almost three minutes ahead of her nearest competitor – Tatyana McFadden, a five-time winner of the event – in a time of 1:51.01. The Perth-born athlete’s breakout year continued at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, when she took gold on a gruelling course in the women’s T53/54 marathon – and with her race chair held together by zip ties after it was damaged in transit on the way to the event. Just five days later, de Rozario became the first Australian para-athlete to win four Commonwealth Games gold medals, when she successfully defended her crown in the 1,500-metre final. A force for equality and inclusion, she continues to break new ground as one of this country’s most important and successful sporting figures.  

The global accolades just keep coming for football megastar Sam Kerr. In July 2021, the Matildas captain led our national team to their best-ever Olympic placing at the Tokyo Games – finishing fourth – and personally netted six goals in the process. Having joined UK club Chelsea in 2019, Kerr won the 2020/21 Women’s Super League (WSL) Golden Boot with 21 goals in 22 matches, having previously been top scorer in the American NWSL and Australian A-League. As a result, Kerr became the first player to ever win the Golden Boot on all three continents. In December 2021, Kerr was the first Aussie woman to win an FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, scoring two of Chelsea’s three goals in their match against Arsenal.

Kerr is only the third Aussie (of either gender) to lift the coveted trophy, with Harry Kewell and Craig Johnston the only other two Australians to have won the major football prize. Then, in January 2022, history was made again when Kerr became the top international goal-scorer for Australia as the Matildas began their Women’s Asian Cup campaign with an 18-0 win over Indonesia. Kerr notched five goals, including a hat-trick within the first 27 minutes, to bring her total goal tally to 54. The number surpasses Tim Cahill’s previous record of 50 international goals, making her Australia’s all-time leading goal scorer – male or female. In the UK, Kerr finished the 2021/22 WSL season as the top scorer for the second consecutive year, scoring 20 goals for Chelsea.

The 29-year-old also scored two crucial goals against Manchester City in May to win back-to-back FA Cups. In 2022, Kerr was the first Australian footballer in history to be crowned the English Professional Footballers’ Association Players’ Player of the Year. She was also named WSL Player of the Season, voted the Football Writers’ Association’s Footballer of the Year, and won best international athlete in women’s football at the ESPY Awards in the US. In August, Kerr was nominated for the game’s most prestigious individual award – the Ballon d’Or – for a fourth consecutive time. She is just one of four players to be nominated every year since the award was created in 2018 – and the only player from the Asian Football Confederation to be recognised on the 2022 shortlist. 

The Women’s Health Women In Sport Awards 2022 will be broadcast live on Fox Sports on Sunday, October 16 at 7.30pm AEDT. Cast your vote for the shortlisted nominee you’d like to see win, here.

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