Stars who could shine brightly as we bid farewell to a golden year
The ups and downs of our local football and cricket teams have been well documented in the Derby Telegraph’s sports pages this year, as they always are. Here, deputy sports editor Colston Crawford takes a personal look back at 2012, picking out those in other, less-heralded sports who made an impact locally – and who, hopefully, could make a bigger one in 2013.
1 MOLLY RENSHAW
Molly Renshaw's was the most emotive story of Derbyshire's Olympic year, as the teenage Ripley swimmer pulled off the performances and results which would have got her selected for London 2012 in almost any other sport.
This newspaper and a lot of other people besides attempted to unravel and explain the complexities of the selection process in British Swimming which 16-year-old Renshaw came so close to fulfilling.
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Repeating the whole saga here would take up more space than we have available. It's sufficient to say that Renshaw beat her rivals and was faster than them on numerous occasions but because she did not swim the right speed at the right event – by mere fractions of a second – British Swimming left a space unused in the Olympic team.
Another long story is the extent to which the governing body have been lambasted for their work in the wake of a hugely disappointing Olympic performance by the team they did select.
Renshaw's experience has at least had a positive effect in that the selection procedure has been radically revised for the coming season. Meanwhile, let us hope that the Derventio eXcel star will not let the setback halt her progress in 2013.
2 PHIL HOGG
Six Paralympic gold medals, six London Marathon wins. David Weir is Britain's legend in wheelchair racing, the best we have ever seen.
So what chance has Heanor's Phil Hogg got of being the new David Weir?
The answer, of course, is not to look at it that way but the comparison is interesting because Hogg has been picked out by Jenny Archer, Weir's coach, as a man with potential.
To be fair, he will be pursuing his targets later than Weir and many others at the age of 43 but it would be a fool who dismissed Hogg's chances of making it on to a plane to the Rio Paralympics in 2016.
Hogg was a cyclist when he sustained the injuries which lost him the use of his legs in an accident 21 year ago. But once he got used to his new way of getting around, he won 13 caps for Great Britain in wheelchair basketball.
His thoughts turned to a return to his love of racing on the road and he broke the two-hour barrier in his first marathon, the London Marathon no less, in 2011.
Hogg, who celebrated his 43rd birthday and his wedding anniversary last month during a trip to Lanzarote, where he came eighth in a marathon there, is a thoroughly likeable bloke and a very determined one. 2013 could be a year of rapid progress.
3 PAUL WESSELINGH
There are not too many sports in which you are a rookie at the age of 50 but Paul Wesselingh ended 2012 as the Rookie of the Year on golf's European Senior Tour.
After a solid but unspectacular career as a well-respected pro, Wesselingh found the senior tour to his liking and the rewards can be eye-opening. He picked up 50,000 Euros, the biggest single prize of his career, when he won the Senior PGA Championship in Northumberland in June and his total earnings for the season, around 200,000 Euros, put him fifth on a list that includes the likes of Bernhard Langer, Sam Torrance, Ian Woosnam and Anders Forsbrand.
Plenty of big-name golfers have found their earning potential scarcely reduced by moving on to the senior circuit but not quite so many have so significantly increased their potential as Wesselingh has.
As a result, he is going to give up his job as pro at Kedleston Park and give the tour his full attention next season.
He began this season aiming for the top 30 but strong finishes in the last two of 15 events cemented him in the top five.
Next season, he will aim for more like 20-25 tournaments but still get to see more of his family. What's not to like?
4 NIKKI HARRIS
Nikki Harris's misfortune is that she excels in one of cycling's Cinderella disciplines. Cyclo-cross is basically about road-style bikes being ridden, or carried, across country, the conditions made worse by the fact that the season runs from September to March.
Essentially a winter sport, it cannot therefore be included in the Olympics – with the financial backing that attracts – yet it is also unsuited to the Winter Olympics.
It is, however, the national sport in Belgium, so that is where Harris, from Draycott, lives most of the year.
She turned 26 on Sunday and, on a personal note, that means I have covered her career for this newspaper for half of her life. I was also at school with her father, Pete, so, my apologies but it is hard to be fully objective. I take delight in her success.
Harris tried track cycling, with some success, and still does a bit of road racing but it is in the mud of a midwinter cyclo-cross race that she loves her sport the best.
She won no senior continental races in 2011 but, after upping her training regime, won her first in 2012 and has added five more wins. Two podium places in the six rounds so far of the Cyclo-Cross World Cup series and a bronze medal in the European Championships ensure she is now one of the world's leading racers and there is no reason to suspect her improvement will not continue in 2013.
5 LUKE GUNN
Derby athlete Luke Gunn knows he would not have won the 3000m steeplechase at the London Olympics, an event dominated by a string of brilliant Kenyans, but he will never know whether or not he was good enough to take part.
In one of the saddest stories of our wonderful Olympic summer, Gunn smashed his knee on a barrier at the European Championships in Helsinki in June, in the race which gave him the best chance of achieving the qualifying time for London. It was the first time he had ever fallen in a steeplechase race.
Briefly, the devastated 27-year-old wondered if he might recover quickly enough to fit in another qualifying race; for a little longer there was the chance that the selectors might exercise their discretion and pick him anyway.
Reality set in. The knee injury ended his season.
What was heartwarming was the good grace and maturity with which Gunn handled his misfortune. He offered his best wishes to the man who was selected, Stuart Stokes, and turned his attention to being cheerleader in chief for his fiancée, 1500m runner Hannah England.
Four times the British champion at his event, Gunn remains a role model and a hero for any young athlete in Derby and there will be Commonwealth Games and European Championships to target yet before he finishes racing.
6 ANNIE LAST
In the end, fully-fledged London Olympians from Derbyshire were few and far between but Annie Last completed a rigorous four-year qualification programme to become the first female mountain-biker to compete in the Olympics for Britain since Sydney 2000.
It is easy to write from the comfort of a seat at a computer but Last's qualification never looked in doubt.
Quiet, modest but utterly focused, she systematically did everything that was asked of her during those four years, a time when she was as completely immersed in the British Cycling training regime overseen by Ilkeston-based supremo Dave Brailsford as were the cyclists more obviously in the public eye, like Victoria Pendleton and Bradley Wiggins.
Whether the 22-year-old from Great Longstone in the Peak District can go on to match the heights reached by those two remains to be seen (and mountain biking will probably never have the glamour of track or road racing) but time is certainly on her side.
Last came eighth in the Olympic race, modest on the face of it, but her improvement in the last couple of years has come in spades and she has only just moved out of the under-23 bracket on the European and World mountain bike circuit.
She is a very long way ahead of any other female British mountain biker but, if it is not a problem that no-one domestically is pushing her out on the course, there is scope for a great deal more improvement.
7 NAOMI REID
After her breakthrough year in 2011, when she piled personal best upon personal best and won her first GB Juniors vest, the 2012 athletics season should have been spectacular for Derby triple-jumper Naomi Reid.
Instead, almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong, not least an operation for appendicitis which set back her season just as it should have been getting going in April.
By her own admission, Reid tried to come back to full training too soon after the operation and set herself back further, so a miserable summer continued and burning her leg with an iron last month has really put the lid on a rubbish year.
The year was not entirely a write-off, since she won the Derbyshire Championships and the Midlands Under-20 Championships outdoors, plus the Midland Indoor Championships but those were without ever approaching the 12.79-metre leap from 2011 which still stands as her best.
She will step up to under-23 for the coming year and, as one of the youngest in that age group, will not find wins easy to come by.
Therefore, 2013 will be a huge test of her resolve and appetite for the sport. Reid believes taking part in the 2016 and 2020 Olympics are both possible, given her age and ranking.
The potential is all still there and it will be one of 2013's better stories if she starts to progress again.
8 JONATHAN JOSEPH
It was a memorable 2012 for Derby-born rugby union rising star Jonathan Joseph.
The highly-rated centre, who only turned 21 in May, made his senior England debut on the summer tour of South Africa on the back of his impressive club form for London Irish.
Joseph, who started out as a junior at Derby RFC before moving south with his family, scored two tries in a "non-cap" pre-tour warm-up match against the Barbarians at Twickenham.
He went on to play in all three Tests against the Springboks, starting two, including the series-ending 14-14 draw in Port Elizabeth.
Stuart Lancaster's youthful and inexperienced England side lost the series 2-0 but emerged with credit for their battling displays.
Joseph, a former Millfield School student, was hampered by injury after being called up for the Autumn home internationals.
However, the man dubbed "the next Jeremy Guscott" recovered in time to come off the bench to earn his fourth cap during England's memorable 38-21 victory over world champions New Zealand at Twickenham.
He ended the year back at Twickenham for a Premiership showdown in front of 82,000 fans, though his London Irish side were beaten 26-15 by Harlequins.
Joseph, reportedly a transfer target for Bath, will be hoping to continue his international education in the upcoming Six Nations tournament, starting in February.
9 SANDY RYAN
Sandy Ryan did not actually have many fights in 2012 but that, to a certain extent, is the nature of women's boxing, which is still battling for a foothold in this country.
However, it was helped hugely by the popularity of its first appearance in the Olympics in London, where the ever-smiling Leeds fighter Nicola Adams and Irish girl Katie Taylor scored memorable gold medals and proved that there is a great deal of skill and speed in women's boxing.
Around the time that was happening, Ryan was missing out on a GB international trip after she broke her ankle while sparring with her brother Dave, the Derby professional.
It was not a bad break and, back in full training, which involves several trips a week up to Sheffield, she is now looking forward to taking part in her latest GB call-up. She will go to Serbia with the squad, along with another Derby fighter, Talia Anthony, next week.
Ryan is a quiet girl, very polite but utterly dedicated to her sport. Those who have seen her box say she is exceptionally quick and skilful. At 19, Ryan still has it all before her. The 2016 Olympics are a genuine target.
10 YASMIN MILLER
Does Yasmin Miller offer Derby the best chance to send a female athlete to the Olympics at some time in the next eight years? It might be unfair to slap such a weight of expectation on a girl who is still only 17 but sprint hurdler Miller is unlikely to have her head turned.
She is a remarkable mixture. On the one hand, a cheery teenager wide-eyed with wonder that she should even be on the track in the same race as Jessica Ennis, as she was last season.
On the other, she is competing with a look of focused determination with the likes of Ennis and was not too far behind Britain's finest female athlete when the two raced.
In her age groups, she has usually been ranked number one or two indoor and out.
She was Britain's all-time quickest under-17 over an 80m hurdles course and while she finished 2012 ranked two among the under-20s over 100m, it was her first year in the higher age group and the first over slightly higher hurdles.
Under the shrewd guidance of coach Jared Deacon, she is not over-worked and not trying to do too much too soon. 2013 will feature another big learning curve but Miller's appetite for learning appears enormous.