The pick of the athletes to watch next year
This time last year Emma Raducanu was languishing outside the world’s top 300 and a 12-year-old called Sky Brown was spouting scarcely believable ambitions of becoming Britain’s youngest Olympic medallist.
Fast forward 12 months and a new set of rising stars, both at home and abroad, are targeting 2022 as the year in which they emulate Raducanu and Brown and announce their arrivals on the world stage.
Here, the PA news agency selects the pick of the athletes to watch in 2022.
Bruce Mouat (curling)
The Edinburgh 27-year-old is set to make history at the Winter Olympics in Beijing when he teams up with Jennifer Dodds in the mixed doubles before leading his men’s team into competition. Having won world mixed gold and team silver in 2021, Mouat could make two trips to the podium.
Christ Tshiunza (rugby union)
The 19-year-old Exeter forward made a major breakthrough in 2021 when he was called up by Wales for their Six Nations campaign, scoring the first try in their final match against Scotland. The 6ft 6in Tshiunza has proven his versatility and is being tipped as one to watch for the future.
Leylah Fernandez (tennis)
Leylah Fernandez was in danger of being rendered an afterthought amid the understandable acclaim for Raducanu in the wake of their historic US Open final. But the Canadian 19-year-old showed just as much potential and it would be no surprise to see her outshine Raducanu in 2022.
Savannah Marshall (boxing)
Marshall’s already successful career is set to achieve lift-off if she fights and beats her amateur rival Claressa Shields in 2022. The pair have not crossed paths since Marshall handed Shields her only defeat en route to winning the world amateur title in 2012, but the signs are they are set to clash next year.
Zhao Xintong (snooker)
Snooker’s predicted Chinese takeover has been long in coming but the manner of Zhao’s march to the UK title in December strongly suggested he was ready to shake up the world rankings. Long touted by the likes of Jimmy White as the sport’s next big thing, Zhao will waste no time adding more titles.
Leona Maguire (golf)
The Irish 27-year-old made a name for herself with a record 4.5 points out of five on her Solheim Cup debut in September. She will now be aiming to secure individual success having yet to win on the Ladies European Tour or LPGA Tour where she recorded five top-10 finishes in 2021.
Conor Gallagher (football)
The 21-year-old midfielder has been earning increasing rave reviews at Crystal Palace, culminating in his match-winning double against Everton in December. Next year will prove crucial for Gallagher’s career trajectory as he returns to his parent club Chelsea to plot his immediate future.
George Russell (Formula One)
The fast-rising Russell underscored his potential by steering his Williams onto the F1 podium at the Belgian Grand Prix in 2021. Further podiums appear a near-certainty for Russell when he moves to Mercedes next year and faces the daunting yet exhilarating prospect of teaming up with Lewis Hamilton.
Keely Hodgkinson (athletics)
Hodgkinson was one of the break-out athletics stars of 2021 as she scooped the Diamond League title as well as 800 metres silver at the Olympics. But there will be no respite for the teenager who is intent on continuing her medal haul through 2022’s hectic schedule including the European and World Championships and the Commonwealth Games.
Alice Capsey (cricket)
The Surrey 17-year-old starred in the inaugural Hundred tournament in 2020 and was crowned the PCA’s Women’s Young Player of the Year. Having been granted her first professional contract, Capsey will be targeting more headline-grabbing antics in the Hundred, as well as cementing her status as one of her country’s brightest prospects.