These inspiring men and women are the epic sportspeople that you should be making noise about in 2017 (what half-billion-euro football transfer?). They are the warriors for whom no track is too long, no wave is too great, no opponent too strong and no amount of agent persuasion or transfer fee is too alluring. Yet incredibly they’re still not household names. Yet. Join us as we raise a glass to the 30 most awesome sportspeople of 2017.
In no particular order…
Shauna Coxsey | Bouldering
You know that somebody has an aptitude for their sport when they’ve won all their “home games”. That’s exactly what Shauna Coxsey’s done, she’s won every British Bouldering Championship she’s ever entered. A real-life Lara Croft if we’ve ever seen one, Shauna was even given an MBE as part of the Queen’s 90th Birthday Honours and when an athlete receives the royal stamp of approval, it’s time to sit up and take notice of their achievements.
— The Project Magazine (@theprojectzine) July 26, 2017
Maddie Hinch | Hockey
The girl between the sticks for Team GB and England’s national hockey teams, Maddie Hinch is a fearsome opponent and a passionate teammate. She was a huge part of Team GB’s gold-medal winning success at the Rio Olympics 2016 and was last year named as the world’s best female goalkeeper. She also recently saved a penalty by doing the “Cha Cha Slide”. Silky smooth.
😳🤣When you decide to do the "Cha Cha Slide" mid shootout !!! #totheleft #totheright #crisscross 👉 #realsmooth 🤦🏻♀️#hwl2017🏑 @FIH_Hockey pic.twitter.com/Ur1oMDGtYP— Maddie Hinch (@MaddieHinch) July 21, 2017
Gordon Benson | Triathlon
Gordon Benson’s started at the bottom and now he’s here, one of the top athletes in his sport. He’s come a long way from the pool-swim triathlons in his home county of Yorkshire and today competes internationally at the highest level. His ultimate goal is to win an Olympic gold medal and if he continues at this rate of development, we’ve got no doubts that he’ll achieve it. If you’re going to follow the career of anybody on this list, make it Gordon.
Sam Pilgrim | Mountain Biker
We’re shameless super fans of Sam Pilgrim’s here at StagWeb and in the past two years he’s continued to blow our minds with his extreme riding, taking on some of the toughest freeride mountain biking courses known to man. A constant inspiration with his work rate and ambition to be the best in the game, Sam Pilgrim is a superb advert for mountain biking and following him online is a fantastic way to get the inside track on this unique and addictive extreme sport.
Horacio Llorens | Paragliding
Horacio Lorens is a five-time holder of the paragliding world cup and holds the Guinness World Record for Infinity Tumbling, which he achieved by performing 568 revolutions after leaping from a helicopter at 19,700ft over the Mayan ruins of Takalik Abaj in Guatemala. Most recently he took on the challenge of night flying in freezing temperatures amongst the Aurora Borelais in Norway. Adventure truly knows no bounds for this Spanish daredevil and who knows what he’ll fly over, in or through next.
Geoff “Gully” Gulevich | Mountain Biker
Another mountain biking legend of the trails, Geoff “Gully” Gulevich is a true master of two wheeled off-roading and is well worth following online for the #travelphotoporn alone, not to mention his hair raising POV videos of his attempts at some of the world’s toughest downhill courses. A true veteran of the sport with the battle scars to prove it, Gulevich is still an easy choice for our list of the most awesome sportspeople alive today.
Sam Sunderland | Rally Raid
Sam Sunderland is to Rally Raid what Mad Max is to the apocalyptic wasteland, a lone rider who can carve up the desert without blinking. Sunderland began his journey at just seven years old, starting on the muddy trails of Britain, fast forward 20 years and he’s one of the world’s most accomplished desert riders, competing internationally on some of the harshest courses in the sport. And having won the prestigious Dakar Rally in 2017, he’s walking (but mostly bike riding) proof that you should never give up on your aspirations.
Today we fly to Chile for round 3 of the world championship, the Atacama desert is a pretty gnarly place vast and open perfect for riding🇨🇱🏜 pic.twitter.com/fQefw55Kny
— Sam Sunderland (@Sundersam) August 9, 2017
Andrew Cotton | Surfing
Proving that England’s golden coast has just as much talent as anything the beaches of America are washing up with the riptide, Andrew Cotton is a total surfing legend who’s been taking on the big waves since he was just 7 years old. Cotton came into the public eye after towing US surfer Garrett McNamara into what the Guinness World Records believe to be the biggest wave ever surfed. However, it’s commonly thought that Cotton is the unofficial holder of this accolade himself after years of speculation from fans and press alike.
Bas Keep | BMX
Sebastian “Bas” Keep took what to most of us was a childhood passion and turned it into an international competition-winning career. And while he’s winding down the competitive side of life in 2017, his social media presence suggests he’s far from finished when it comes to blowing your mind with badass tricks and skills that’ll make you want to dust off that BMX in the garage and hit the streets for one last ride.
— Vital BMX (@VitalBMX) July 13, 2017
Billy Morgan | Snowboarding
Commonly known as the world’s first rider to land a 1800 quadruple cork (we don’t even know how many rotations that is!!), Billy Morgan is the UK’s answer to Shaun White. What’s interesting about Morgan however is the fact that his sporting origins are actually in gymnastics. Although once he had his first taste of the slopes, it was snowboarding all the way, but that natural athleticism is still present in each ride and eventually led Morgan to a place on Team GB and the chance to board for Britain at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
— billy morgan (@billymorgan89) January 26, 2017
Bradley Smith | MotoGP
Bradley Smith is the hot prospect in British MotoGP right now, having been called up by the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team to lead its debut season. He’s a fast, furious racer with a background in motocross and that aggressive style translates to the track fantastically. Smith is a brilliantly entertaining rider to watch and has never had a “boring” race in our eyes. He’ll make you want to trade four wheels for two and apologise for ever thinking there was another way of living.
Ashley McKenzie | Judo
A real-life man of steel, Ashley McKenzie is a swiss army knife of judo arm drags and throws once he steps on the mat. McKenzie already has an impressive list of achievements on his CV and yet continues to raise the profile of his sport through high profile television appearances. We’ve got a sneaking suspicion that there’s still more titles to come from this extremely talented judoka.
Jonny Walker | Enduro
One of the true talents in the British Enduro scene, Jonny Walker is a safe bet for the title of “future world champion” and we’d be making our way to the bookies right now if we weren’t so absorbed in videos of Walker taking on some of the biggest, baddest and downright bizarre courses in the world on YouTube. Seriously, whether it’s a woodland run or the back alleys of Portugal, Walker will ride over, under, or if needs be, through it to achieve his goals.
Rachel Atherton | Mountain Biking
There are few athletes on this list that had as successful a 2016 as downhill mountain biking specialist Rachel Atherton. She successfully defended her world championship and continued a winning streak that saw Rachel end the season on a monumental 15 consecutive wins. Something that has never been done before. She’s a bastion for extreme British sportswomen and if you’ve never seen her race before then you owe it to yourself to discover Atherton’s devastating riding style that’s seen her win accolade after accolade.
Joe Clark | Canoe Slalom
What a fairytale Olympics Rio 2016 was for Joe Clark. As a newcomer to the world’s grandest sporting stage, Joe won gold for Great Britain in a brilliant slalom run down an intense white-water course. For most of the nation this was a more than pleasant surprise, but those in the know already sensed Joe’s phenomenal talents from the age of 11, through his promotion to canoeing’s premier division, to his podium place at the Olympics. The future’s bright, the future’s slalom.
— Red Bull UK (@RedBullUK) August 10, 2017
Arnold “Almighty” Allen | Mixed Martial Artist
Following in the footsteps of fellow British fighters Terry Etim, Ross Pearson and Michael Bisping, featherweight talent Arnold “Almighty” Allen may be the hottest young prospect in the UK’s burgeoning MMA scene. He made his UFC debut in 2015 winning a “Performance of the Night” bonus and has yet to lose a fight in the iconic Octagon with a precise and complete style that makes him a nightmare for his opponents.
Marshall Miller | Wing Suit Skydiving
A founding member of the infamous GoPro Bomb Squad, Marshall Miller is fearless. The incredible jumps he makes to show off his wing suit are leaps that would send even James Bond into brown trouser mode and Miller makes it all look so easy. He’s a real inspiration and the scenery that he flies amongst could be straight out of a science fiction movie. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nope. It’s a bonafide badass in a wing suit.
Aaron Hadlow | Kitesurfing
Aaron Hadlow began with a disadvantage in his kitesurfing career growing up on the South Coast of England where the waves are a little too PG rated to train for extreme sports, making the fact that he’d develop into a five-time world champ even more incredible. His first title came when he was just 17 and a decade later, Hadlow’s still a prominent figure in the world of kitesurfing, campaigning and helping to build the image of the sport in Britain. He’s one of our nation’s true unsung sporting heroes and if you ever bump into him you should most certainly order him a pint.
Jon Dibben | Track Cycling
If you want to know what the future of Great British track cycling looks like, then take a look at Jon Dibben, because this man could be the next hot prospect to tear up the Olympic velodrome. Having recently signed for Team Sky, Dibben competes against the very best in the world and has raced alongside legends of cycling like Sir Bradley Wiggins. He’s the real deal and he’s ready to make you feel very guilty indeed for burying your bike at the back of the garage.
Excited to get to Doha to have a crack at the u23 worlds tt and road race, prep underway 💪🏻 pic.twitter.com/PWw7YszgvI
— Jon Dibben (@JonDibben1) September 21, 2016
Ben Proud | Swimming
Ben Proud is quickly earning a reputation for himself as one of British swimming’s brightest Olympic medal hopes. He very recently won gold at the 2017 World Aquatics Championship in the 50m butterfly and, not content with just one medal, earned himself a bronze in the 50m freestyle. At his last Olympic outing Ben only narrowly missed out on a podium place but with a vastly improved skillset, the Tokyo 2020 games could be monumental.
— Ben Proud (@BenProud) April 23, 2017
Joanne Calderwood | Mixed Martial Artist
One of the most successful sportspeople on this list, Joanne Calderwood is currently causing a stir in the UFC’s strawweight division and is impressively ranked in the top 11 fighters at her weight in the world. She’s been competing in combat sports for years but in MMA she has really found her home and has to be the most impressive British female fighter we’ve ever seen grace the Octagon. “JoJo” really is one to keep an eye on.
— SPORF (@Sporf) July 17, 2017
Paddy Graham | Skiing
Known as Britain’s top free skier, Paddy Graham began his journey to powder shredding greatness on a school skiing trip in the USA (best school trip ever?). After that first taste of the slopes, Graham was hooked and he’s been honing his skills in this awesome sport ever since. A multiple-time champion who now resides in Austria (a hotbed of epic skiing action), Paddy’s highlight reels are packed with WTF tricks and OMG moments that’ll have you Googling “extreme skiing breaks” in no time.
Danny MacAskill | Street Trial Biker
An absolute legend of his sport, Danny MacAskill is a street trial biker for whom no obstacle is too great. His biking exploits have been collectively viewed over 300,000,000 times online and if going viral wasn’t enough of a stamp of approval, MacAskill was even asked to carry the Olympic torch through Glasgow for London 2012. A genuine extreme sports superstar, you’d be stupid to miss out on these mind-blowing feats of skill. Stupid we tell you!
Joe Joyce | Boxer
A true artist on the canvas, whether it’s at the end of his paint brush or beneath his feet, fine arts graduate and Olympic boxer Joe Joyce is a superstar in ascendance. He began his athletics career in gymnastics and track and field, but found true success in the ring winning gold in both the Commonwealth and European games, before achieving Olympic greatness winning the super heavyweight silver at Rio 2016. And we dare you to find another athlete who has Picasso and Van Gough alongside Muhammad Ali and Lennox Lewis in their list of role models.
Sally Conway | Judo
We don’t just love Sally Conway because she’s from our neck of the woods in the South West, we love her because she’s a smiling assassin. The kind of girl who would Shake It Off like Taylor Swift one minute and drop an opponent on their back the next. She’s an incredible advert for British Judo as a sport and her inspiring run in the Rio 2016 games gave us genuine chills before she collected a much-deserved bronze medal.
— Sally Conway (@sconway70) July 31, 2017
Amber Hill | Shooting
No wonder Amber Hill is such a happy person. If we knew that we could shoot (and destroy) targets as quickly and as accurately as she does then we’d be that happy too. Alas, we can’t, but we can support this young prodigy as she continues a career that has already seen her reach the Olympic skeet shooting finals and win gold medals at the World, British and Qatar championships.
Paul Drinkhall | Table Tennis
Table tennis. Ping pong. “Whiff whaff”. Whatever you call this awesome sport, we all reckon we’re a dab hand with a paddle. But Paul Drinkhall isn’t just a “dab hand”, he’s a multiple time national champion, a two-time Olympian, a Commonwealth gold, silver and bronze medal holder and an absolute genius on the table. The tricks, spins and skills he can perform are nothing short of mind blowing and if you’re looking to embarrass your mates then you’ll learn a thing or two from watching Paul work his magic.
Hafþór J Björnsson | Europe’s Strongest Man
You may recognise Hafþór Björnsson as “The Mountain” from Game of Thrones, but what you may not know is that when he’s not popping skulls like balloons in the aftermath of a children’s birthday party, he’s usually competing in Pro Strongman events like the Europe’s Strongest Man competition where he crushed the opposition and won his title back earlier this year. Björnsson also once earned the title of Iceland’s Strongest Man FIVE YEARS in a row and today remains a mountain-sized advert for the sport that propelled him to superstardom.
Elfyn Evans | WRC Rally Driver
As the son of former rally champ Gwyndaf Evans, driving it’s fair to say racing is in Elfyn Evans’ blood. He’s got a natural talent for racing that can only come from a lifetime of obsessing over every millisecond of race time and now he’s made it into the upper echelons of the WRC, he’s become one of Britain’s brightest championship hopes. And now that he’s behind the wheel of a brand-new generation of 380bhp rally cars, we get the feeling that Evans’ career is about to accelerate in a big way.
Luke Dillon | Surfer
Picked for greatness by many surfing pundits, Luke Dillon has held every British surfing title possible during his teenage years alone and quickly became captain of Surfing GB’s surf squad back in 2012. Dillon regularly competes internationally and his skills on the back of a board are silky smooth, making the most difficult waves look like a Sunday surf on the beaches of his home town of Newquay, Cornwall. He’s one of the most exciting prospects on this list and definitely one to keep your eyes peeled for in the future.