Rachael Blackmore is the 2021 Irish Times Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year
In an incredible year Blackmore became the first female jockey to win the Aintree Grand National and to claim the leading jockey title at Cheltenham
“To win an award like this, it’s so special, it really is”
This year’s Outstanding Achievement Award goes to Team Ireland Medalists Tokyo 2020
Friday 17th December 2021: Rachael Blackmore, the first female jockey to win the Aintree Grand National has been crowned The Irish Times Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year for 2021.
In what was an outstanding year for sport, but particularly for Irish sportswomen, Blackmore recorded several historic firsts over a three-week period.
In April she steered home 11/1 chance Minella Times to win the world’s most famous steeplechase by six and a half lengths, the first woman to do so in the race’s 172-year history.
Due to Covid, there were no spectators present to witness Blackmore’s historic victory but at the time she told a TV audience of millions: “I don’t feel male or female right now. I don’t even feel human.”
Just a few weeks earlier the 32-year-old had become the first female jockey to claim the leading jockey title at Cheltenham as well as the first woman to win the Champion Hurdle, this time on board Honeysuckle, with whom she has established a winning partnership.
Accepting the award in person at the ceremony in Dublin, which was streamed online, Blackmore described winning the award as being really special.
“It’s been such an incredible year for sport and particularly for women in sport. To be nominated is fantastic but to win an award like this, it’s so special, it really is. When you look at the people you are up against and their achievements. It’s hard to comprehend that you’ve come out on top of that, it’s unbelievable.”
After a bad fall in July at Killarney, Blackmore was out injured for three months. She told awards presenter Des Cahill and Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers, that injuries were part and parcel of jump racing.
“I broke my ankle and my hip on opposite legs, which made it a bit more challenging at the start for sure but that’s the life of a jump jockey and there’s no jump jockey out there who thinks they aren’t going to get injured. That’s probably the only guarantee we have – and you know you’re just hoping it’s never too serious. And look I’m back now, that’s the main thing.”
Olympians and Paralympians honoured with Outstanding Achievement Award
This year’s Outstanding Achievement Award went to Team Ireland medallists Tokyo 2020, the nine women who performed superbly at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, winning seven medals in total.
The nine include Kellie Harrington, who became only the second Irish woman to win a gold medal in boxing, Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty, who won bronze in rowing, the first Irish women to win a team Olympic medal, Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal, who won two gold and one silver Paralympic medals in track and road cycling and swimmers Ellen Keane and Nicole Turner, who won gold and silver medals respectively at the Paralympics.
The trophy was accepted on behalf of Team Ireland medallists Tokyo 2020 by Eimear Lambe and Ellen Keane at the online awards ceremony.
Paying tribute to all the 2021 winners, Sports Editor of The Irish Times Malachy Logan said the unparalleled performances by Irish sportswomen in 2021 captivated the Irish public throughout a year when they needed more than ever to have their spirits lifted.
“The inspiration these outstanding women and teams provide for the next generation of aspiring sports stars is invaluable. Not alone can they compete with the best in their sports, they also handle their success with a humility and modesty that speaks volumes for the coaches, partners, parents, and friends, who are an integral part of their success.”
This is the 18th year of the awards and other recipients of the 12 monthly awards include: golfer Leona Maguire, who excelled as the first Irish woman to represent Europe in the Solheim Cup – she went on win four and a half points; Vikki Wall who was player of the match in Meath’s stunning All-Ireland final victory over a Dublin team seeking their fifth title in a row; cricketer Amy Hunter who turned 16 on the day she scored 121 runs for Ireland against Zimbabwe in Harare, an achievement which made her the youngest player, male or female, to score a one-day international century; boxer Katie Taylor, who picked up her 15th monthly award; and Arsenal and Ireland international soccer star Katie McCabe.
The Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin TD said: “Today we celebrate all that is positive about sport both on and off the playing field as we honour Ireland’s top sporting talent. Each and every award recipient is an excellent ambassador for their sport and their country, and I thank them for their commitment. I would like to acknowledge Sport Ireland and the Irish Times for continuing to recognise the incredible contribution of Irish women in sport. I would like to congratulate all of the monthly winners and also pay tribute to their families and all of the coaches and support teams who have helped them to reach the highest levels of sport.”
The Minister of State for Sport and the Gaeltacht Jack Chambers said: “It’s so important that our young people and especially girls have role models in sport to look up to and to emulate. We are fortunate to have had so many brilliant sportswomen who have excelled across so many different sports this year and I am confident they have inspired a future generation of stars to get involved in sport and physical activity.”
“Congratulations to all the monthly award winners whose incredible feats achieved in 2021 lifted their communities, their counties and their country this year. I want to pay a special tribute to the overall award winner Rachael Blackmore and to the outstanding achievements winners.”
John Treacy, chief executive of Sport Ireland, commented: “To continue this success story of Irish women in sport, Sport Ireland will continue to develop, foster and promote women’s sport through the work of our National Governing Bodies and the network of Local Sports Partnerships. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the many people who work hard on the ground and volunteers who give their time freely to maximise opportunities for women to take part in sport and physical activity.”