In 2015, 21-year-old Adam Peaty became the first British swimmer to win three gold medals at a world championships when he secured two victories in the breaststroke and one in the mixed medley relay at Kazan in Russia. He also holds the current world records for the 50m and 100m courses, and was the first person to swim 100m in under 58 seconds at the British Swimming Championships in April 2015. Peaty's former mentor Rebecca Adlington said of him, 'He's one of those people who challenges himself all the time … he just amazes everyone, every step of the way'. He has twice been shortlisted for Sports Personality of the Year.
Captain, England Cricket
In 2015 Alastair Cook became England cricket's leading Test run scorer and oversaw his second Ashes victory as captain. Cook's Test career spans a decade: he made his debut against India aged 21, opening the batting with Andrew Strauss in what was to become an enduring opening partnership. In 2015 he achieved his best Test score to, and is the only player to have been involved in 50 Test victories. A talented musician as a youngster, Cook went to St Paul's Cathedral School as a chorister and then on to Bedford School on a scholarship. His passion for cricket was ignited when he was 14 and the MCC came to play against the Bedford XI, drafting Cook in to make up numbers. He scored a century. Cook also competes at county level for Essex, where he grew up.
Tennis Player
Andy Murray attributes his sporting drive to losing at tennis to older brother Jamie as a child, but 2015 saw the siblings team up to secure the first Davis Cup win for Great Britain since the 1930s. Murray was also the first man to win three matches in the final since Pete Sampras in 1995, despite the fact that he had played the ATP World Tour finals the week before. Currently ranked second in the world, the fiercely competitive Scot has boosted the UK's standing on the world tennis circuit, winning his long-fought-for Wimbledon in 2013 having secured gold at the London 2012 Olympics the year before.
Heavyweight boxer Anthony Joshua is the current Commonwealth, British and WBC International champion and has been described as the UK's most promising boxer since the '90s. After winning gold in the Super Heavyweight category at the 2012 Olympics, Joshua turned professional under promoters Matchroom Sport, making his debut against Italian Emanuelue Leo at the O2 Arena in 2013. Joshua grew up in Nigeria and moved to Watford at the age of 11, excelling at sport at school and running the 100m in 11.6 seconds. To date, he is unbeaten as a professional, and former world champion David Haye has expressed his desire to play against him in 2016.
Managing Director, Sky Sport
Barney Francis has been a crucial player in the commercialisation of British sport as managing director of the Sky Sports group of channels since 2009. He is responsible for Sky output across six channels, plus Sky Sports News HD, as well as online and mobile content. Francis has managed the acquisition of rights to the F1 and the Masters, and is credited with Sky's first exclusively live coverage of England's domestic test cricket matches. Though Sky lost its rights to show the Champions League to main rival BT Sport in 2015, the Premier League remains the jewel in Sky's crown, and Francis maintains it is 'seven times bigger' by viewing figures. Sky Sports became the sole broadcaster of England cricket in 2015, and Sky Sports 2 was renamed Sky Sports Ashes to reflect its coverage of the tournament, which included the Women's Ashes. Sky Sports was also the UK's most popular digital sport platform in 2015, seeing a 175% increase in online video views.
England Cricketer
All-rounder Ben Stokes grabbed headlines at the start of the year with an innings against South Africa of 258 runs from 198 balls, which included 30 fours and 11 sixes. Ian Botham described it as 'an innings that will change his life', and Stokes has been compared to former England captain Botham as much for his straight-talking, uncomplicated character as for his prowess on the pitch. Stokes first made an impact on the cricketing world in 2009 when he took the wicket of Mark Ramprakash with only his third delivery of his one-day debut. He went on to make his first Test appearance in the 2013-14 Ashes series. Stokes was born in New Zealand but moved to Cumbria as a child and plays for Durham at county level.
Chris Froome made history in 2015 when he became the first British cyclist to win two Tours de France, having secured his first victory in 2013. Born in Nairobi, Froome competed for Kenya until 2008, transferring to a British licence on the basis of his father's nationality. He won a bronze medal in the men's individual time trial at the 2012 Olympics and finished second to Bradley Wiggins in the Tour de France of the same year, securing a one-two victory for Team Sky. Froome recently extended his contract with Team Sky until 2018 and was appointed OBE in the 2016 New Year Honours for his achievements in cycling.
Television Presenter
Broadcaster, journalist and author Clare Balding is one of the UK's best-loved and most accomplished sports presenters, having fronted five Olympic Games, four Paralympics and three Winter Olympics. She works across the BBC, Channel 4 and BT Sport and has been named RTS Sports Presenter of the Year, Sports Presenter of the Year at the TRIC Awards, and Racing Journalist of the Year. With her father, grandfather, uncle and brother all prominent horse trainers, Balding grew up in a racing yard and was a leading amateur jockey while at school and university. She has written columns for a number of newspapers and magazines and in 2013 her autobiography, My Animals and Other Family, became a Sunday Times bestseller. Balding won a Lifetime Achievement Award at the First Women Awards in 2015.
Retired Footballer and Sports Ambassador
David Beckham's 20-year football career included six as England captain, and he amassed 115 caps for his country, an appearance record for an outfield player. Though he retired in 2013, Beckham remains an influential ambassador for sport, and in 2015 he hosted Match for Children, which featured former football greats such as Ronaldinho, Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira and Ryan Giggs, raising millions of pounds for Unicef. Beckham was born in Leytonstone and his love of football was evident from a young age, with frequent trips made to Old Trafford with his family, all of whom were fanatical about Man U. Beckham played a key role in bringing the 2012 Olympics to London and his plans to create a Major League Soccer team in Miami inched closer in 2015 when MLS approved a site for a stadium.
Managing Director, BT TV and Sport
Delia Bushell became managing director of BT TV and head of BT Sport in 2014, moving from a role as chief commercial officer at Sky Italia. BT has invested large sums of money in recent years in seeing off its competitors – particularly Bushell's former employer, Sky – by securing exclusive rights, and in 2014 notably acquired the rights for the next three years to the UEFA Champions League from ITV and Sky. Despite this, Bushell insists, 'we're not on a trolley dash to take all the sports rights in the marketplace'. BT is also building a partnership with the BBC to strengthen links between paid-for and free-to-air television, with a particular focus on women's football. In 2015 the company signed Gary Lineker as co-presenter for the Champions League on an apparently amicable basis with the BBC, an agreement that followed a similar arrangement with Beeb favourite Clare Balding.
Sprinter Dina Asher-Smith is the fastest British woman in history and the first to run 100 metres in under 11 seconds, clocking a 10.99-second race at the London Anniversary Games in July 2015. In August of the same year, she became the fastest teenager ever when she competed at the World Championships in Beijing, and holds British records for both 200 and 100 metre distances. 20-year-old Asher-Smith was born in Orpington and is studying History at King's College, London, having received her A-Level results on the same day as qualifying for the final of the European Championships in 2014. She was named Young Sportswoman of the Year at the Sunday Times & Sky Sports Sportswomen of the Year Awards in 2015.
Head Coach, England Rugby Union
Australian Eddie Jones was the coach behind Japan's spirited and impressive performance in the 2015 Rugby World Cup which saw the underdogs beat South Africa in the upset of the tournament. He was swiftly signed by England Rugby to replace Stuart Lancaster following the host side's failure to qualify for the World Cup knockout stage. Jones is the first foreign head coach for England, and rugby union fans will be hoping he delivers a more successful Six Nations later in the year. Jones played for New South Wales as a hooker and worked as a teacher and principal before moving into rugby. His extensive coaching experience has seen him work with Australia, South Africa and Saracens as well as Japan.
Sports Presenter
Presenter and pundit Gary Lineker followed a distinguished footballing career with similar success on screen as the face of the BBC's Match of the Day since the late 1990s. In June 2015 it was revealed that Lineker would become BT Sport's lead presenter for the UEFA Champions League, and he also works for NBC Sports Network for its coverage of the Premier League. In 2014 he set up Goalhanger Films Ltd, which produced an hour-long documentary for the BBC in 2015, Gary Lineker on the Road to FA Cup Glory, presented by Lineker. He left school with four O-Levels, and one of his teachers reported that he 'concentrates too much on football' and would 'never make a living' out of such an interest.
Rower Helen Glover's extraordinary 2015 saw her ranked number one female rower in the world, paving the way for success at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Glover and her partner in the coxless pairs Heather Stanning are current World, Olympic and European record holders, as well as reigning World, World Cup, Olympic and European champions – the first British duo to achieve all seven feats simultaneously. Glover won a scholarship to sporting Millfield School where she demonstrated outstanding discipline and commitment in cross country and hockey. Her rowing career was launched after she qualified for Steve Redgrave's Sporting Giants scheme in 2008, despite being technically an inch too short at 5'10 (she stood on tiptoes when she was measured). Four years later, and Glover had secured Team GB's first gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics.
Jamie Vardy's incredible run of goals scored in 11 consecutive matches in 2015 saw his team Leicester City in the unlikely positon of top of the Premier League, having only been promoted the previous year. In May of the same year Vardy was called up to play for England, and was part of the starting line-up for the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying matches, looking set to play in France this year. A comparatively late bloomer by footballing standards, Vardy began his career in the Stocksbridge Park Steels youth system, and the Steels named their main stand after him in late 2015. Admired by teammates and pundits alike for his speed, work ethic and dynamism, in November 2015 Vardy launched his V9 Academy, an annual camp offering coaching and guidance to 60 non-league players, giving them the chance to showcase their talent to scouts from league clubs.
2015 saw Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill make a resounding comeback after giving birth to her son Reggie the previous year. She qualified comfortably for the 2016 Rio Olympics at the Hypo-Meeting in Austria, then went on to win the heptathlon in the World Athletics Championships in Beijing, and remains the British national record holder for the heptathlon. In the post-2012 Olympic glow, Ennis-Hill has been an inspiration and role model to many young girls looking to become the next generation of Olympic champions, and is an ambassador for the Jaguar Academy of Sport and the Barrie Wells Trust.
Vice-Captain, England Cricket
Regarded as the most likely successor to Alastair Cook's captaincy, England vice-captain Joe Root became the world's number one Test batsman for a period in 2015 and currently sits fourth in the ICC's player rankings. Root was instrumental in England's victory in the 2015 Ashes when he scored two centuries, which made him the youngest ever English batsman to have notched up three centuries in Ashes series. Born in Sheffield, Root won a cricket scholarship to Worksop College and went on to play for Sheffield Collegiate Cricket Club where he was mentored by Collegiate alumnus Michael Vaughan. Root has been described by the Guardian as 'a perfect breakout star: brilliant, cheeky, funny, cool' and has played an important role in raising cricket's profile across the UK.
Wheelchair Tennis Player
The most decorated British tennis player of all time, at 23, Jordanne Whiley has won seven grand slams including the singles at the US Open in September 2015. Whiley, who suffers from brittle bone disease, first picked up a tennis racket at the age of three, encouraged by her father who is also a Paralympian and has the same condition. At 14, she became Britain's youngest national women's singles champion in wheelchair tennis. This year she hopes to win gold medals in the singles and doubles at Rio and has her sights set on Wimbledon, which will host a singles event for wheelchair tennis for the first time this year.
Racing Driver
Winning the 2015 Formula 1 World Driver's Championship with three races to go, Lewis Hamilton further cemented his position in British F1 history by becoming the first British driver to win back-to-back World Championships, as well as equalling Sir Jackie Stewart's record of three World Championships won by a British driver. Still only 30 years old, many are tipping Hamilton to challenge Michael Schumacher's record number of seven World Driver's Championships. After he showed early promise with remote-controlled cars, Hamilton's father bought him a go-kart when he was six, and he began winning karting races two years later. Aged ten he approached McLaren team principal Ron Dennis at an awards ceremony and told him he wanted to race for McLaren one day. Less than three years later, McLaren and Mercedes-Benz signed him to their Young Driver Support Programme.
Chief Executive, UK Sport
As chief executive of UK Sport, the body responsible for promoting and supporting sport across the UK, Liz Nicholl plays an integral part in supporting both Olympic and Paralympic sports and athletes to realise success at Paralympic, Olympic and world level. The organisation seeks to capitalise on the success of London 2012 to enhance the performance system further, with the aim of being the first country to win more Olympic and Paralympic medals at the first Games after hosting the event. Nicholl, who was chief executive of England Netball for 16 years, was appointed CBE in 2015 for her services to sport.
Lizzie Armitstead is the current national, Commonwealth and world champion in road racing. 2015 saw her best season to date when she won the UCI World Road Championship in Virginia, USA with 'surgical precision', making her a favourite to triumph at Rio later in the year. Born in West Yorkshire, Armitstead took up cycling after British Cycling's Olympic Talent Team visited her school. She won silver in the road race at London 2012 and was shortlisted for Sports Personality of the Year at the end of last year.
At just 22, Max Whitlock has already won 21 major medals as a gymnast and in 2015 he became the first British man to win a world title, beating fellow Brit Louis Smith on the pommel horse at the World Championships in Glasgow. At the start of last year Whitlock became the face of a campaign for British designer Paul Smith, 'A Suit to Travel In', which saw him performing gymnastic moves in a suit to demonstrate its crease-resistant flexibility. Whitlock was part of the team that won bronze in the gymnastics at London 2012 and has his sights set on a gold medal at Rio.
Executive Chairman, Premier League
Richard Scudamore was appointed executive chairman of the Premier League in 2014, having been its chief executive since 1999. Described as the 'father of the modern game', Scudamore is responsible for negotiating multi-billion pound broadcasting and sponsorship rights to the Premiership, which is broadcast to around 212 territories and 643 million homes, and for all regulatory, legal and political matters. Arguably one of the most influential sports administrators in Britain, Scudamore is also a founding member of the Football Foundation, a grassroots charity that receives over £200 million in Premier League contributions.
Northern Irish golfer Rory McIlroy held the position of world number one for a total of 95 weeks, and has won four majors, becoming the first European to win three different ones. Despite inconsistent form during 2015, which he blamed on mental fatigue, McIlroy won the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship, and the Wells Fargo Championship, at which he achieved a course record. McIlroy was introduced to golf at a young age by his father, himself an accomplished golfer, who acted as his coach. In December 2015 he announced his engagement to PGA America employee Erica Stoll.
Manager, England Football
Roy Hodgson became manager of the England football team in 2012 and his distinguished managing career now spans 40 years. England's footballing fortunes have rarely been predictable, but the team's easy qualification for Euro 2016 in the summer has given fans a rare cause for hope. Former footballer Hodgson played for Crystal Palace's youth team and several non-league clubs. England is the fourth national team he has managed, after spells in charge of Switzerland, Finland and the UAE, and he speaks a number of languages. Paying tribute to his 40-year milestone, FA chairman Greg Dyke praised his encouragement of young players and said, 'Roy is a great example to any aspiring coach that being open to new experiences and cultures can really develop you as a person'.
Ben Ainslie is the most successful sailor in Olympic history and, at 38, his career shows no sign of slowing. Ainslie and his crew take on five heats this year in the run-up to the America's Cup in 2017. Regarded as sailing's top trophy, the Cup has never been won by a British crew in its 165-year history, and gives competing crews the chance to develop their own boat, which in Team Ainslie's case is an £80 million 'Batman boat' with a 71-foot sail. Ainslie became keen on sailing at the age of eight on a family holiday in Cornwall, and won his first Olympic medal at just 19. He has since won medals in five consecutive Olympic games, and golds in four of them.
Captain, England Women's Football
Centre-back Steph Houghton is captain of both Manchester City FC and the England women's team, notching up over 60 caps for her country since her debut in 2007. In 2015 the Lionesses came third in the World Cup, the best result by an England side since the men won it in 1966. Houghton was also part of the national team to win its group at the 2012 Olympics. In 2014, Durham-born Houghton became the first female player to appear on monthly football magazine Shoot, and her onfield successes have done a huge amount to raise the profile of women in the sport. She was appointed MBE in the 2016 New Year Honours.
Chairman, British Olympic Association and President, IAAF
2015 saw Seb Coe elected as president of the International Association of Athletics Federation and almost immediately having to answer questions over blood doping within athletics and the organisation's handling of the World Championships bidding process. Despite such recent challenges, Britain's greatest ever middle distance runner Lord Coe has long been a respected and influential figure within sport, and has twice claimed Olympic glory for Britain: having won four Olympic medals in the 1980s, Coe went on to oversee the London games in 2012. He delivered an event that left a lasting legacy for British sport and transformed the Paralympic vision by aligning it with the Olympics. Coe also remains chairman of the British Olympic Association.
Tom Daley became Britain's youngest ever Olympian when he competed at the Beijing Olympics at the age of 14. He won his first Olympic medal four years later at London, and will hope to build on this success at Rio. In 2015 Daley, currently ranked second in the world, won the 10m platform at the British Championships with a new dive, the Firework, which consisted of three-and-a-half somersaults and a twist. He has described hitting the water at up to 35 miles per hour as feeling like 'a car crash', and his success in the notoriously difficult sport is testament to his courage, patience and discipline. As much of a role model for his personal life as for his sporting prowess, Daley has spoken openly about his sexuality having come out via YouTube two years ago, and announced his engagement to fiancé Lance Black in October 2015.
Footballer, Captain of England and Manchester United
2015 saw Wayne Rooney become England's highest ever goal scorer, surpassing Sir Bobby Charlton's record by scoring his 50th goal for his country. As captain of both Manchester United and England, his influence is as undisputed as his talent, and the striker was recently offered the staggering sum of £75 million to join China's super league – specifically Shanghai SIPG – home of Rooney's former manager Sven Goran Eriksson. He still has three years to run on his deal with Man U, however, and will represent England at UEFA Euro 2016 in France.
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