10 action women of the year... But who will be No 1?

The Independent on Sunday has teamed up with BT Sport for the BT Action Woman Awards to find the sportswoman who produced the outstanding performance of 2013. Here are the 10 nominations.Vote for your favourite at btsport.com Closing date January 19

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The Independent Online

Ellie Simmonds

Twelve races, six events, three gold medals and one world record at the IPC Swimming Championships in Montreal.

The Performance

Simmonds doubted her form and fitness. She was wrong. The teenager swam (unofficially) the second-fastest 100m freestyle of her career and added a third gold medal to her tally.  “I didn’t think I’d be on top form,” she said. “It amazed me how well I did.” It was a measure of her domination of her best events that when she set a world record in the 200m individual medley, she finished 11 seconds ahead of her nearest rival. For a sport that measures itself in milliseconds, that was almost an ‘epoch’. She now aspires to the Rio Paralympics, and Tokoyo after that, by when she will only be 25. “I love being in the team environment and there is lots more to see and do.”

10 Currently held world records (long and short course)

Accolade: Ben Ainslie

Ellie’s amazing. Everyone has been so inspired by her achievements. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her a couple of times and she seems like such a nice, down to earth person despite all of the success she’s had and the amount of training and effort that goes into that.

Heather Knight

Scoring 157 in Ashes Test in the summer to spur England fightback and ultimately series win.

The Performance

Collapse threatened in the Test Match against Australia at Wormsley. The old Ashes enemy had knocked up 330-odd runs before the England dressing room entrance turned into a revolving door with the home side crumbling to 113 for 6. “I tried to stay calm and keep it simple. I felt really relaxed for some reason but I was a bit worried about the amount of wickets we were losing.”

Knight stayed in until tea time the next day, having scored a crucial 157, her highest international total. The match was drawn and Ashes regained 15 days later.

2 cricketing heroes: Marcus Trescothick and Michael Atherton

Accolade: Mike Gatting

To get a hundred in any Ashes contest takes nerve, courage, technique and endurance. To convert that into 150 is very special. Heather says that she had a few quiet swear words in mind as wickets tumbled at the other end. I remember that feeling very clearly...as well as being one of the tumbled.

Sophie Christiansen

Paralympic Dressage Champion

Triple gold medal winner at the European Equestrian Championships 2013 in Denmark.

The Performance

Following up her breath-taking triple gold at London 2012 at the Europeans was no foregone conclusion. Post-Paralympics, Christiansen had been celebrated, decorated and co-opted on to more committees than the ubiquitous Lord Coe. Mayor Boris wanted her (transport) and the Labour Party gave her a standing ovation when she spoke at their conference on welfare issues. Meanwhile, she supports herself as a medical statistician, putting her first class Masters degree in Maths into action.

“I had a lot of pressure on me at the Europeans. So many people now knew I was capable of winning gold. Anything less than gold would have seemed like failure.”

Once again this remarkable partnership rose to the occasion, creating the illusion of being one entity. The crowd in Denmark were astonished. As in London they could only signify their wonder with frantic silent waving as she finished the last of her routines, but once her horse Rio was safely held by her coach, the roars erupted and Christiansen joyfully waved back, three more golds for a groaning cabinet at home.

1 rumour that she works for MI6

Accolade: Seb Coe

Watching Sophie win her triple gold medals at Greenwich Park is one of the enduring images of the London Games. It comes as absolutely no surprise that Sophie repeated her success in the Europeans this year. The power of individual determination cannot be over-stated.

Charley Hull

Part of the first European Team to beat the Americans on home soil in The Solheim Cup in Denver last August. Defeated Paula Creamer in the singles.

The Performance

Turning up at the Solheim Cup six months after turning professional and being the star of the show at just 17 is sensational. “I didn’t really feel nervous,’’ she said even though she was the youngest ever participant in the event. ‘‘I just went out there, smashed some balls and played golf.” She also smashed veteran American Paula Creamer in the singles, winning five and four. Back home the celebration involved a trip to Kettering Golf Club, where Charley was awarded a lifetime membership.

0 The number of days off she has per week. “I play golf every day but because I enjoy it.”

Accolade: Steve Redgrave

I am still amazed by the maturity and nerve of Charley Hull, who looked like a seasoned pro. I haven’t been fortunate enough to meet her yet but when I do I’ll shake her hand and ask her if she fancies teaming up in my next pro-am! I’m not stupid!

Katie Summerhayes

Silver medal winner in the Slopestyle at the 2012-13 FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup in Switzerland.

The Performance

Before March, no female British skier had graced a World Cup podium in 19 years. But the Sheffield-born teenager reurned from six months out with a knee injury to end that hoodoo in her favoured Slopestyle when competitors take on an obstacle-strewn course as judges rate their style and trick difficulty.

Summerhayes scored another first by becoming the only woman in competition to achieve a switch 12 – a complex trick which involves pulling off three and a half spins after approaching a jump backwards. Next stop Sochi Winter Olympics.

1,260 The highest number of degrees in a spin she has executed

Accolade: Lawrence Dallaglio

“Hanging in the air upside-down on a ski-slope is something I’ve done, but not necessarily intentionally. So I have nothing but admiration for Katie. What she does is courageous, spectacular and dangerous — every rugby forward’s dream.

Christine Ohuruogu

Broke the women’s British 400m record at the World Athletic Championships in Moscow, August 2013.

The Performance

The race in Moscow was hard fought. The customary but nonetheless thrilling “Ohuruogu late surge” and photo finish kept spectators on edge. The 2008 Olympic champion was trailing with just 20 metres to go but caught up with Botswana’s Amantle Montsho and dipped ahead of her over the line. The pair finished with the same time but were eventually separated by four-thousandths of a second. “When I watch the race my heart goes crazy, even though I know I’ve won it.”

1 degree in Linguistics from University College London

Accolade: Boris Johnson

Christine proved what a fighter she is by winning the World Championships by sheer guts. When people say there’s no legacy to the Games, I say bosh. Christine has pledged to visit every single school in Newham where she grew up to help bring on the next generation.”

Laura Robson

Reached the last 16 of Wimbledon, beating 10th seed Maria Kirlenko along the way.

The Performance

It wasn’t all Andy Murray at Wimbledon. When Laura Robson beat 10th seed Maria Kirlenko in the opening round, Pat Cash tweeted “Just watched a future Top 5 and I think a Grand Slam winner”. She went on to reach the last 16, losing 7-6 7-5 to Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi. It was “all part of the learning process,” said Robson.

1,146,468 Prize money, in US dollars, to date

Accolade: Judy Murray

That performance showed that she can live with the top players. Some players would crumble under the pressure, but she flourished. She has lethal power on her serve and groundstrokes and it allows her to do some serious damage to higher ranked players. On top of that she’s got a huge personality.

Non Stanford

Became ITU Women’s World Triathlon Champion after winning the Grand Final in London when she overcame a 15-second penalty.

The Performance

Stanford is a relative latecomer to the sport which she took up at university in 2008 after being forced to give up a successful career in long-distance running because of injury. Last year saw her first big win: the under-23 world title in Auckland. This time she had a home crowd to cheer her on in Hyde Park just seven weeks after fracturing her arm when she crashed her bike in a race in Hamburg. “I’m using up my nine lives pretty quickly!” she admits.

2.5 The number of years she was plagued by incessant injury as a track runner before she took up triathlon

Accolade: Brownlee brothers

We’ve known Non for about two years after she moved to train at our base in Leeds. Since then she has improved no end to become the best female triathlete in the world. Her attitude in training is fantastic and she still has a long way to progress in the future.”

Natasha Dowie

Scoring 19 goals in 21 games (League and Cup) to become the FA Women’s Super League Golden Boot winner.

The Performance

Football is in the blood. Her dad, Bob, was a semi-pro and her uncle Iain played in the top league. She is a striker in the Michael Owen mould, instinctive and sharp. “I’m not blessed with great speed but I’m quite a clever player, which gives me half-a-yard on defenders.” Brought into the Liverpool squad last season, her impact has been immediate. Her dream, apart from winning the Champions League, is that goals from Liverpool Ladies are as celebrated as those from Suarez and Sturridge.

7 Latest tattoo count, including her name in Arabic on her neck

Accolade: Michael owen

What has impressed me most, apart from her obvious ability, is the dedication to continually improve and her determination to overcome all obstacles. Golden Boot winner, Women’s Super League champion and now a fully fledged England International...without doubt an action woman.  

Rachel Atherton 

Victory in the elite women’s downhill mountain bike World Championships for a second time in her career and World Cup series  winner.

The Performance

Downhill Mountain biking may sound more like a death wish than a sport but for Atherton, it’s the day job. The finest season in her 15-year career was topped by the World Championship in September. The race in South Africa presented Wales-based Atherton with the most challenging track she had ever faced. “It was horrendous with lots of flat parts. Physically and mentally very demanding.’’ Steely nerves, pedal power, an innate ability to pick lines and negotiate death-defying turns at speed came together to produce a performance she views as “perfect”. 

7 The number of surgeries on her shoulders alone including nerve reconstruction, bone grafts

Accolade: Victoria Pendleton

I am a big fan of Rachel’s and am so pleased that the achievements of GB women cyclists are going on and on. I know how brave, committed and professional you have to be to compete at this level. Rachel deserves a lot more recognition for her success.