Nick Westby – Josh Warrington saves best for last as we salute Yorkshire’s 2018 sporting heroes

YORKSHIRE HEROES: Just three of so many in 2018.
YORKSHIRE HEROES: Just three of so many in 2018.
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FROM Kyle Edmund’s breakthrough to Katie Ormerod’s broken heel, Leeds Rhinos’ downfall to Rotherham United’s revival, 2018 has been a year of highs and lows in Yorkshire sport.

There have been individual achievements aplenty with seasoned champions like Jack Laugher and Nile Wilson joined at the very top of their sport by Josh Warrington.

Plus a rich Yorkshire seam to many a national team triumph, too. The bedrock of the England football team’s run to the World Cup semi-finals in Russia was forged from Yorkshire steel, and let us not forget manager Gareth Southgate lives in Harrogate.

VOTE for your Yorkshire Sports Hero of 2018 i9n our readers’ poll HERE

Plus arguably the golden moment of the sporting year was England’s Red Roses winning the Commonwealth Games gold medal against Australia in their own backyard, an achievement aided by a former Yorkshire Jet Natalie Haythornthwaite.

So, as the final page turns towards 2019 what better time to salute the White Rose heroes of 2018 than the closing day of the year?

England's Nile Wilson wins gold during the Men's Horizontal Bar at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA

England's Nile Wilson wins gold during the Men's Horizontal Bar at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA

It all began Down Under, when Beverley’s Edmund proved there is life in British men’s tennis beyond Andy Murray when he stormed into the semi-finals of the Australian Open.

Around about the time his countymen Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow were heading out of Australia with their tails between their legs after an Ashes humiliation, Edmund defeated Kevin Anderson, Andreas Seppi and then world No 3 Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-finals to underline his hitting power and promise.

Marin Cilic ended his run in the last four, but in a year in which he also won a maiden ATP tour title and climbed into the world’s top 20 the 23-year-old, pictured, may well look back on 2018 as the period in which he announced his arrival.

While he was enjoying the benefits of health and form, Brighouse snowboarder Ormerod found crushing disappointment on the eve of the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.

Marin Cilic ended Kyle Edmund’s run in the last four, but in a year in which he also won a maiden ATP tour title and climbed into the world’s top 20 the 23-year-old, pictured, may well look back on 2018 as the period in which he announced his arrival.

Nick Westby

A much-fancied medal tip in both snowboard slopestyle and Big Air, Ormerod broke her heel in two places during a practice run on the eve of the Games, ending her hopes there and then.

While much of the national attention fell on another luckless Olympian in speed skater Elise Christie, Ormerod is another British athlete who will hope her time will come in four years.

Back in Australia for the Commonwealth Games in April, two of Yorkshire’s most consistent performers had their own personal medal-winning contest as Leeds gymnast Wilson claimed three gold medals and two silvers while Harrogate diver Laugher underlined his status as the best in the world on the 3m springboard with a hat-trick of gold medals.

There was also success for Sheffield swimmer Ellie Faulkner, Wetherby triathlete Jess Learmonth in the company of the Brownlee brothers, and perhaps most poignantly a long-awaited gold medal for Pontefract squash player James Willstrop in the men’s singles.

England's Millie Bright, right, battles with Sweden's Caroline Seger at the New York Stadium. Picture: Tim Goode/PA

England's Millie Bright, right, battles with Sweden's Caroline Seger at the New York Stadium. Picture: Tim Goode/PA

VOTE for your Yorkshire Sports Hero of 2018 i9n our readers’ poll HERE

Spring was also a good time for cycling’s Tanfield brothers of Great Ayton. Track star Charlie, then 21, won a world title alongside team pursuit stalwart Ed Clancy, backed that up with a silver in the Commonwealth Games velodrome and then went and won the individual pursuit title.

A month later elder brother Harry surprised an elite field by breaking away into Doncaster to become the first Yorkshire male winner of a stage of the Tour de Yorkshire.

From a team perspective, Haythornthwaite and the netball stars sparkled on the Gold Coast, while a man in a waistcoat had us believing during that golden summer that England’s footballers could finally end decades of hurt.

Pride was restored at the very least by Southgate’s men thanks largely to the South Yorkshire defensive trio of John Stones, Kyle Walker and Harry Maguire.

Back on home soil Root, Bairstow and England’s cricketers set about repairing the damage of the Ashes, which they did to some extent with convincing Test series victories over India and out in Sri Lanka.

CHAMPION: 'Josh Warrington attacks attacks Carl Frampton during their memorable bout at Manchester Arena earlier this month.

CHAMPION: 'Josh Warrington attacks attacks Carl Frampton during their memorable bout at Manchester Arena earlier this month.

Locally, Headingley played host to England’s women’s cricketers, complete with local lasses Katherine Brunt and Lauren Winfield, while Millie Bright, Rachel Daly and Ellie Roebuck represented football’s Lionesses in front of home crowds at Rotherham’s New York Stadium.

VOTE for your Yorkshire Sports Hero of 2018 i9n our readers’ poll HERE

Talking of New York, the job Paul Warne did in transforming the fortunes of relegated Rotherham into a promoted team in under 12 months was among the top accomplishments of the club football year, bettered only – depending on who you support – by David Wagner’s achievement in keeping Huddersfield Town in the Premier League.

One of the more curious stories of the year was the collapse of Leeds Rhinos from champions to relegation fodder, while 2018 was a difficult summer for Yorkshire County Cricket Club, with their First Division status only secured in the final month.

A return to the winner’s circle for Danny Willett – a former Masters champion seemingly on his knees – was a triumph for inner belief, but it was not the performance of the year.

That came on the penultimate Saturday of 2018 with Warrington’s dismantling of Carl Frampton in defence of the world title he had won in similarly enthralling fashion in front of his beloved Elland Road crowd in May.

Warrington’s elevation was the unexpected highlight of another memorable year for Yorkshire sport.

Smash hit: Kyle Edmund.

Smash hit: Kyle Edmund.