Portia Woodman, New Zealand
New Zealand will always be synonymous with rugby, but while it’s often the All Blacks who grab the headlines, there is a rival though. Portia Woodman. The Kiwi flyer is of Maori descent and has lit up the world scene with her blistering pace and all-action performances. She has been clocked at more than 30kmph during games and is the all-time leading scorer in the Sevens World Series – not bad for someone who has been playing the game since 2013 – and that was after calling time on a pro netball career. She’s now facing the toughest challenge of her sporting career as she recovers from a serious Achilles tendon injury. She’s hoping to be back on the field towards the end of 2019.
– Woodman was almost destined to be a rugby player with both her father, and uncle representing the All Blacks.
– She notched eight tries in a single game at the 2017 World Cup – two shy of the world record.
– Portia was named ahead of her All Black counterparts when she was placed in a list of the top-50 most influential rugby players in 2018.
Did you know…
Woodman is already preparing for life outside rugby and is currently using her enforced time out of the game to start work on a building apprenticeship.
“I want you to know that what you can achieve will not be defined by the colour of your skin, by age, who you love, and by being a girl.” – Portia Woodman
Inbee Park, South Korea
Her injury problems have not quite been on the scale of Tiger Woods, but the LPGA’s former all-conquering heroine has suffered more than her unfair share. Before battling back to make the Rio Olympics in 2016, chronic back issues and a painful left thumb had plagued her game for more than a year. The South Korean had even questioned whether she’d return to the sport if she decided to take time out to start a family. For a player who had completed the career Grand Slam of majors shortly after turning 27, the prospect should have been unthinkable. Three years later Inbee’s not only still around, she is an Olympic gold medallist, with the achievement giving her a timely shot in the arm. Having since dialled back the number of events she participates in each year – 14 in 2017, 13 in 2018 – Park has reclaimed control over her career. The 30-year-old returned to world No1 status last year for a brief spell and was so close to clinching her eighth major but for a sudden death play-off defeat – on the eighth hole – to Pernilla Lindberg at the ANA Inspiration. As long as both mind and body hold up, doubtless another major will follow.
– Wrote to the LPGA for permission to qualify for events as a 17-year-old (players are required to be 18) but was denied
– Went on to become the youngest-ever major winner, at 19, after finishing four strokes ahead of the rest of the pack at the US Open.
– Her 19 LPGA wins to date have netted her prize money in the region of $14.5 million
Did you know…
Park only started playing golf at the age of 10 after being inspired by her compatriot Se Ri Pak’s win at the 1998 US Open. She moved to the US to pursue the sport and her studies little more than a year later.
“I feel the happiest when I’m at the golf course. And I feel calm when I’m on the golf course. I think I’m just a much better person when I’m on the golf course.” – Inbee Park
Mikaela Shiffrin, USA
On the day Lindsey Vonn tearfully closed the book on her alpine skiing career, Mikaela Shiffrin remained on trajectory for heights that her superstar predecessor would have thought unreachable. Every time Shiffrin descends from a summit, she remains on top of the world. In Are, Sweden for the 2019 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, the American not only won the slalom – becoming the first skier in history to win four consecutive titles in any event – but clinched the breakneck-fast super-G title as well. Considering the 23-year-old only became a serious super-G racer two years ago, she has the type of preternatural talent that must make her fellow competitors seethe in private. Shiffrin’s success in every World Cup discipline is perhaps her most staggering accomplishment. She may strap on the same skis and hurtle downhill in much the same way, but the technical subtleties of a sport that is often decided by a thousandth or two of a second can hardly be underestimated. Slalom, giant slalom, super-G, combined, parallel slalom and downhill – at some point she has stood on top of the podium for all six. No one else in history has achieved that, either. That’s the thing with Shiffrin. Every report, biography, feature, news item there is to come across about her will contain some combination of the words ‘all-time’, ‘historic’, ‘first’ and ‘records’. It’s what she does. In a new first, she afforded herself a break from the World Cup calendar in February, before finishing up at the World Cup finals in Andorra. Shiffrin, who turned 24 on March 13, spoke of a grumbly back before shelving her skis and won the slalom title in Are despite coming down with a heavy cold. Shiffrin is just 25 World Cup wins away from equalling Vonn’s record and has seen how her compatriot has suffered with injuries throughout her career – which is why it reached its conclusion that day in Sweden. Alpine skiing wracks the body with forces like few other sports and Shiffrin, 11 years Vonn’s junior, is wary of growing old before her time. With luck she will remain both a historical and contemporary figure for years to come.
– Her parents Jeff and Eileen are former professional skiiers, while her brother used to race for the University of Denver.
– Shiffrin made her World Cup debut at 15 years, 363 days and became the youngest American to win a national title at the US National Championships in Colarado – her home state – just a week later.
– Her first World Cup race victory came in December 2012, which made her the second youngest American at 17 (behind Judy Nagel) to achieve the feat.
– She went for history at the Pyeongchang Winter Games in 2018 by competing in four events, but had to settle for giant slalom gold and super combined silver.
– Her slalom win in Semmering, Austria in December 2018 saw him become the first alpine skiier to take 15 World Cup wins in a calendar year.
Did you know…
Shiffrin’s motto has adorned her helmet and skis in acronym from since she was little: ABFTTB – Always Be Faster Than The Boys.
“From the outside, people see the records and stats. Those numbers dehumanise the sport and what every athlete is trying to achieve. What I see is an enormous mixture of work, training, joy, heartache, motivation, laughs, stress, sleepless nights, triumph, pain, doubt, certainty, more doubt, more work, more training, surprises, delayed flights, canceled flights, lost luggage, long drives through the night, expense, more work, adventure, and some races mixed in there.” – Mikaela Shiffrin