AS WE celebrated the bells almost a year ago, the sporting forecast seemed somewhat bleak and considerable uncertainty remained over how much sport would even happen over the course of 2021. 

Doubt remained over whether or not the Olympics and Paralympics would go ahead at all and with empty stadiums across the sporting spectrum, even the action that was continuing was hardly atmospheric. 

As it transpired, however, the past year proved to be a thrilling one for Scottish sport, and particularly women’s sport in this country. 

An Olympic year invariably provides a platform for female athletes to shine in a unique manner and this Olympic year was no different. 

However, it was not only Olympic and Paralympic athletes who shone over the past twelve months. 

Here are some of my favourites performances from Scotland’s sportswomen… 

LAURA MUIR

HeraldScotland:

It’s hardly original to say Laura Muir’s silver medal-winning run in the final of the 1500m at the Tokyo Olympics was a highlight, but her second place showed exactly why we all become so absolutely, and at times irrationally, invested in sport. 

After so many near misses in the finals of major championships, a suspicion began to emerge that Muir was perhaps destined to forever be unlucky when it came to getting her hands on a major medal. 

She debunked that theory in outstanding fashion in Tokyo. 

Her personal best run in the final, shattering the British record in the process, won her Scotland’s first individual medal on the track since 1988. 

Few deserve an Olympic medal more than Muir did this summer. 

HANNAH RANKIN 

HeraldScotland:

Hannah Rankin had already written herself into the record books in 2019 by becoming Scotland’s first female boxing champion when she claimed the IBO super welterweight title. 

However, there was always something of an asterisk next to her title as the IBO is not one of the sport’s “big four” belts. 

Any doubt, however, that Rankin deserves her place in history was well and truly obliterated last month when she became WBA and IBO champion. 

The 31-year-old is remarkable; her day job remains as a classical musician and she has blazed a trail by proving that despite a virtually non-existent tradition of women’s boxing in Scotland, success at the very highest level is eminently possible. 

With only 16 pro fights to her name, she does, she freely admits, still have plenty of room for improvement and so further world titles are a distinct possibility. 

BETH POTTER

HeraldScotland:

Beth Potter’s switch from endurance running to triathlon a few years ago was met, in many quarters, with scepticism. 

However, 2021 has been outstanding for the Glaswegian, who turns 30 tomorrow. 

This year, she won back-to-back Triathlon World Cups and rose to 15th in the world rankings but even that didn’t eclipse what she managed earlier in the year. 

In a regional 5k race in England in April, Potter ran faster than the world record. 

It was one of the most remarkable 14 minutes 41 seconds of the year. 

In the end, Potter’s run was deemed ineligible for world record status due to the lack of drug testers but regardless of what the record books say, Potter highlighted quite what an astonishing athlete she is. 

Still something of a novice in triathlon compared to her peers, there is unquestionably more to come. 

KATIE ARCHIBALD 

HeraldScotland:

Few Olympic titles are won in such a stress-free manner as Katie Archibald’s in Tokyo this summer. 

Alongside Laura Kenny, the pair were exceptional in the madison, turning what is usually one of the most nerve-wracking events on the track into a procession. 

The Brits delivered a masterclass, winning 10 of the 12 sprints and finishing with more than double the points of the silver medallists.  

Archibald also won silver in Tokyo, then went on to win three European and one world titles in the months that followed her return from Japan. 

She is, by some distance now, Scotland’s most successful female cyclist ever. 

STEPH DAVIS 

HeraldScotland:

While most of my other highlights involve gold medal-winning performances or record-breaking outings, Steph Davis didn’t quite manage to scale these heights. 

Nevertheless, what she achieved in 2021 was remarkable. Having only begun running competitively in 2018, she proceeded to win the Olympic marathon trials, securing her place in Team GB for the Tokyo Games. 

On her Olympic debut at the age of 30, she finished inside the top 40 in what was utterly sweltering conditions. 

In a world where early specialisation is often deemed king, Davis, in one fell swoop, confounded all believers of this theory. 

EVE MUIRHEAD 

HeraldScotland:

It feels like Eve Muirhead has been around forever. 

Despite still being only 31-years-old, she made her Olympic debut eleven years ago and since then, has collected over a dozen major championships medals. 

However, heading into 2021, she had gone four years since her last major championship win and having undergone career-threatening hip surgery in 2018, there were whispers she was potentially past her peak. 

However, a hugely impressive victory in the European Championships last month, including defeat of the reigning Olympic champions, Sweden, in the final, proved Muirhead is far from done. 

Having secured her place at next year’s Winter Olympics in the qualifying tournament earlier this month, Muirhead will have another chance to win the one major title that has, as yet, eluded her. 

2021 showed write her off at your peril. 

 

On paper, it seems hard to imagine that 2021 could be matched in terms of success for Scotland’s sportswomen. However, the chaos caused by the pandemic on the sporting calendar means 2022 boasts a packed schedule. 

With the Winter Olympics, Commonwealth Games and a plethora of World and European Championships being squeezed into the coming twelve months, there is likely much more to come from these women and their compatriots.