CLARE BALDING believes England have a good chance of besting their Women’s World Cup rivals following their Euros triumph.
And the sports broadcaster praised the ‘fierce competitiveness of the country’s top female athletes.
Hannah Cockroft (pictured with Tokyo Paralympic Games silver medallist Kare Adenegan) is one of six 2022 BT Sport Action Woman nomineesCredit: PA
Beth Mead has also been nominated for this year’s BT Sport Action Woman awardCredit: AP
Tonight, Balding will host the 2022 BT Sport Action Woman of the Year Award, with the event now in its tenth year.
And Winter Olympic curling gold medallist Eve Muirhead, 32, diver Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix, 18, and UFC heroine Molly McCann, 32, make up this year’s other individual nominees.
Balding, 51, who hosts her sports chat show on BT Sport and BBC Two said: “What I’m really pleased about is the breadth of sports that are represented.
“I think it’s the first time we’ve had a UFC fighter on the list, two from athletics, one from football, one from diving, and one from curling.
“It shows you what an extraordinary year we’ve had for women’s sport.
“In the past, we’ve seen such a range of winners.
“It’s lovely to be spoilt for choice as to who you’re going to put on the list and to have some sports that do get a lot of press coverage and others that don’t.
“And that’s where I think it’s still important to celebrate these achievements and to showcase what women are capable of and what they’ve been doing.”
2022 has been a standout year for women’s sports with the triumphs and performances of a number of national teams and individual athletes.
This year saw England’s Red Roses notch up 30 successive wins
And they battled their way to the Rugby World Cup final before falling to defeat to New Zealand’s Black Ferns in front of a record 42,579 crowd at Auckland’s Eden Park.
In football, the Lionesses made history by winning the Euros for the first time with Mead claiming the Golden Boot by finishing as the tournament’s joint-top scorer with five goals in six games.
And England’s 2-1 defeat of Germany at Wembley in July was watched by an 87,192-strong crowd, breaking the attendance record for any European Championship final.
Elsewhere McColgan clinched gold and silver medals in the 10,000 and 5,000-metre races at the Commonwealth Games.
Eilish McColgan won silver in the Commonwealth Games 5000m and emulated her mother Liz by winning gold in the 10,000m raceCredit: PA
And Cockcroft, 30, triumphed in the T33/34 100m race at the Games.
This saw her add to her tally of seven Paralympic gold medal wins, 11 World Championship triumphs, and three European Championship golds.
And Balding believes the success of Cockroft and her fellow nominees has helped to evolve perceptions of femininity in sport.
She added: “These women talk so well about what good teamwork is.
“And for the individual athletes coming to my mind, Hannah Cockcroft has taken wheelchair racing to a whole new level.
“Her training regime, her fierce competitiveness, and the way she talks about that, I think that’s really important for girls to understand we are allowed to be competitive; it is still feminine.
Hannah Cockroft’s win at this year’s Commonwealth Games saw her add to her Paralympic, European, and World Championship triumphsCredit: Alamy
“That understanding of what is feminine is so broadened and enriched by the way these women can talk about what they do.”
This evening awards ceremony which commences at 8:00 pm comes eight months ahead of Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses kicking off their quest to become the first England Women’s side to win a World Cup.
This year saw the Lionesses beat Germany, Japan, and the USA, three nations that have won the tournament in the past thirteen years.
“We know they (the Lionesses) can give the USA a game and they have done recently, so they can beat the best in the world
Balding said: “I think with England the belief and the ability are there. Let’s hope everyone’s face stays fit and healthy.
“We know they can give the USA a game and they have done recently, so they can beat the best in the world.
“In the past at World Cups, it hasn’t quite clicked but I do think Sarina Wiegman is an outstanding coach.
“They believe in her and that carries a lot of weight.
Sarina Wiegman and England will begin their bid to reach the 2023 World Cup final with a group D opener on July 22 in Brisbane, AustraliaCredit: EPA
“She makes the right decisions and explains what she’s doing for them as a team.
“It’s like when you have your favourite teacher at school who will always bring the best out in you
“I think Sarina Wiegman has that as a coach and they will perform up a level for her. That gives them a really good chance.”
Clare Balding is hosting the 2022 BT Sport Action Woman of the Year Awards live on BT Sport tonight at 8:00 pm. For more details visit btsport.com/actionwoman