2020’s winners: The Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year Awards

The winners of The Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year Awards 2020 have been announced.


  • Hollie Doyle named The Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year
  • Dame Sarah Storey is Disability Sportswoman of the Year
  • Rugby player Zainab Alema voted Vitality Grassroots Sportswoman of the Year
  • Sue Barker OBE received the talkSPORT Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Layla Banaras handed the Young Inspiration Award
  • Alice Liveing wins Influencer Award, which celebrates the influencers who have used their voice to inspire the nation during the lockdown period


The prestigious awards, now in their 33rd year, have led the way in recognising and celebrating the outstanding contribution made to sport by women at all levels, from elite to grassroots and community-wide.


Neville Koopowitz, CEO of Vitality said: “In what has been a very unusual year for sport, these awards recognise the skill, talent, resilience and dedication by some of the very best athletes in the UK, to their respective sports.

“At Vitality, we firmly believe in the power of sport to inspire people to live healthier lives and it is an absolute privilege to be involved with these awards for a fifth year. The sportswomen recognised today will inspire many more women and girls to get active and participate in sport now and for many years to come. Congratulations to the winners and all those nominated.”


Nick Greenslade, deputy sports editor, The Sunday Times said:Despite the huge disruption this year, we are lucky to have had five fantastic names on the sportswoman shortlist, all of whom had great claims to the crown.

“We also wanted to recognise the efforts made at grassroots and community level during lockdown and beyond. Sport or any form of exercise is so important for the physical and mental health of millions of women – and that is why we have brought in the Young Inspiration and Influencer awards. We have also brought back the Lifetime Achievement award which goes to Sue Barker in recognition of her contribution to tennis and broadcasting.

The judging panel of SWOTY included Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, Rebecca Adlington OBE, Dame Kelly Holmes, Ama Agbeze MBE, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Natalie Sawyer, Gabby Logan, Ellie Simmonds OBE and Heather Knight OBE.

Previous winners of the main award include Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, Elise Christie, Sally Gunnell, Tanni Grey-Thompson, Denise Lewis, Dame Kelly Holmes, Zara Tindall, Victoria Pendleton, Christine Ohuruogu and Laura Kenny. Dina Asher-Smith was crowned the 2018 and 2019 Sportswoman of the Year.



The Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year

In keeping with tradition, we will celebrate the elite sportswoman of the year

Hollie Doyle (jockey)

24 year-old Hollie Doyle is a record-breaking jockey. In August she was the first female jockey to ride five winners in a day, beating cumulative odds of 899-1 to make history at Windsor. She already held the record for the most wins for a woman in a flat season, and this year became both the fastest woman to reach 50 wins in a season and the third woman in history to ride a winner at Royal Ascot.

On October 14, she ran her 117th winner, breaking the record she made for winners ridden by a female jockey in 2019. On 17 October 2020, Doyle became the first female jockey to ride a winner on Champions Day at Ascot, when she steered Trueshan to victory in the Long Distance Cup. 

Earlier this year, Frankie Dettori predicted that she could one day become the first woman to be champion jockey.


Disability Sportswoman of the Year

Recognising the outstanding performer in disability sport

Dame Sarah Storey (cycling)

Among the most decorated athletes in British sporting history, Dame Sarah Storey competed as a swimmer  at four Paralympic Games before switching to cycling in 2005, and is now the owner of 14 Paralympic gold medals.

Since making the career move, Storey added to her swimming golds with a further nine cycling titles at the Paralympics of 2008, 2012 and 2016, bettering the record of Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and Dave Roberts among modern British para-athletes who won 11 golds.

Now targeting selection for what would be her eighth Paralympic Games, Storey stands on the brink of British history, needing two further golds to match Mike Kenny’s British Paralympic record of 16.

Her success at world championships is also astonishing – at the 2020 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships – the 20th of her career – Storey took her total across both sports up to 38 world titles and 60 medals overall.


Vitality Grassroots Sportswoman of the Year Award

Those who have made an outstanding contribution to keeping women’s sport alive within their local community

Zainab Alema (rugby)

Zainab Alema is a rugby player for Barnes RFC and a trailblazer, working to encourage more black and Muslim women to follow her lead and take up rugby. She started playing the sport as a teenager and joined Barnes in 2017.

Alema, who is a neonatal nurse for the NHS and mother of three, has been integral in Barnes’ response to the Black Lives Matter movement and recently started the Muslimah Rugby online community to try to connect Muslim women who play rugby, so that no one has to feel as isolated as she says she felt when she first started playing. 

Last year, Alema founded Studs in the Mud, a project supporting grassroots rugby. Her fundraising efforts ensured new boots could be shipped over for dozens of players in Ghana and, more recently, Morocco, where she joined in a training session with a team of Muslim women and supplied 25 new pairs of boots.


Young Inspiration Award

Focusing on the young talent of the future, who have continued to pursue their passion for sport

Layla Banaras (football)

Layla Banaras is a 14-year-old footballer for Birmingham City FC under-16s and has played for the club since the age of eight. As one of very few young Muslim women playing football at her level, Banaras wants to inspire other young Muslim girls to take up the sport and hopes to one day become the first Muslim woman to play for England. 

Banaras was featured on the South Asian Heritage social media page, telling the story of how she fell in love with football. After training during Ramadan, Banaras realised there was no guidance in place for players who were playing while fasting. She is working to develop a healthy eating programme for Muslim footballers who want to train through Ramadan.


Influencer Award

Celebrates the influencers who have used their voice to inspire the nation during the lockdown period

Alice Liveing (fitness)

Alice Liveing spent lockdown running regular livestream Instagram workouts for her 680,000 followers in an effort to keep people active. Liveing, who is a qualified personal trainer, is also an ambassador for Women’s Aid and used her platform to speak about the rise in cases of domestic violence during lockdown. As a survivor of domestic violence herself, she raised awareness of the signs of an abusive relationship and shared helpline details.


Full list of judges is available here.

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