2022 will be remembered as the Year of the Sportswoman – now that really is something to celebrate!

As the Christmas festivities get underway, our columnist Laura Lawrence is also raising a glass… or two (but who’s counting?) to Beth Mead, England Women and manager Sarina Wiegman for their clean sweep at BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards in what was another landmark moment for women’s sport this week.

Image: @BBCSport

Watching Beth Mead hobble to the podium to collect the Sports Personality of the Year 2022 trophy, has more significance than it first appears. Much like the Football League Cup, Sports Personality has had a ‘so what?’ attitude for a few years but something felt different this year. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman.

The three main awards of the evening: Coach of the Year, Team of the Year and Personality of the Year all went to women. A historic clean sweep. It’s the first time since the Seventies that women have won the main award two years in a row. Mary Peters and Princess Anne being the last to achieve this.

The fact that the awards were won this year for performances in football makes it all the sweeter to me.

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It’s not unusual for women to win Team of the Year. England’s rugby union, cricket and netball teams have won the award in 2014, 2017 and 2018, respectively. Women’s football, however, has rarely made it onto the nomination ballot. Euro 2022 top scorer Mead is the first women’s footballer to win the SPOTY award and Wiegman’s the first female boss to take home the coaching accolade since its inception in 1999.

Rugby Union and League both held their World Cups this year. In Union, England’s Women made it to the final and in League, England’s Women made it to the semis. The Commonwealth Games showed us the strength in depth of the sports that women are conquering. Weightlifting, diving, gymnastics, triathlon and swimming, add Laura Kenny in there just being her amazing self, and you can see just what happens when stigma begins to erode around the myth that girls are ‘just not that into sport’.

European Championship winner, Golden Boot recipient and Ballon d’Or nominee Mead held her Sports Personality trophy aloft to signify her personal success but her words were all about the collective: the team she belongs to and the women’s game.

Mead said: “Women’s sport is heading in the right direction and that’s where we want it to continue to head. You look at the podium tonight, there are two women there (Eve Muirhead came third). It is incredible how far football has come – cricket, rugby, curling, gymnastics. We want to keep pushing that even more for the next generation.”

It was a reiteration of Sarina Wiegman and Jill Scott’s speeches earlier in the broadcast. This is not the pinnacle; this is proof of what can be achieved and a roadmap for kicking on.

I’ll admit the Lionesses have made me emotional many times this year since their game-changing Euros triumph in the summer. With every victory, every trophy and every speech, they have cemented themselves as icons of the game. Hell, one of them is even a Queen of the Jungle.

It’s satisfying to write this, as we come to the end of 2022, this will be remembered as the Year of the Sportswoman. Now that is something to celebrate.

Follow Laura on Twitter @YICETOR

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