Sporting heroines: British stars choose their idols

Laura Trott, Casey Stoney, Paula Radcliffe and Lizzie Yarnold
Women from across sport share their inspirational heroines with BBC Sport

Britain's top sportswomen have the medals to show for their talent and dedication. But who were the inspirational women who they looked up to in their fledgling careers?

BBC Sport asks some of Britain's most high-profile stars about their sporting heroines.

Casey Stoney - footballer

Marieanne Spacey and Casey Stoney
Marieanne Spacey (l) played in the same team as the woman she inspired, Casey Stoney (r)

The former England women's football captain has selected Marieanne Spacey.

Arsenal striker Spacey played 91 times for England, scoring 28 goals, in a career that spanned two decades in the 1980s and 1990s.

Stoney said: "When I was playing in the girls' little league, she presented me with my first ever winner's medal.

"I remember her turning up in her Arsenal tracksuit and thinking 'I want to be like her' and four years later I was playing in the same team as her.

"She knew I looked up to her. She was a fantastic player and one of the very best I'd seen at the time. We used to share a lot of car journeys to Arsenal so I got to know her very well.

"The game has changed a lot but Marieanne was one of those players who got the ball rolling and put women's football on the map."

Laura Trott - cyclist

Dame Kelly Holmes and Laura Trott
Double Olympic gold for Kelly Holmes inspired a similar achivement from Laura Trott

The double Olympic gold medallist says Victoria Pendleton was her cycling heroine but it was athlete Dame Kelly Holmes, who won gold in the 800m and 1500m at the 2004 Olympics, who really inspired her.

"I will never ever forget when she crossed the finish line and couldn't believe that she'd won her second gold. I guess in a way, I'm following in her footsteps, which is nice, because I really did idolise her at the time.

"The more women's role models we have the better. I was always quite sporty, so was going to be involved in sport.

"But for some young girls who are struggling, and don't know whether to do it or not, to have people like Kelly Holmes, myself, Vicky out there, it's so easy to feel like you can be part of their journey."

Jenny Meadows - athlete

Sally Gunnell and Jennie Meadows
"Girl next door" Sally Gunnell was the inspiration for Jenny Meadows

The 2010 world silver 800m medallist cites hurdler Sally Gunnell as her sporting hero.

"I remember being really young and watching Sally Gunnell in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics when she won the 400m hurdles.

BBC Get Inspired's homage to the Sport England campaign

"She had such a great rivalry with an American athlete and it was so close down the home straight who was going to do it.

"I think it's the personality of Sally. She was the girl next doo. You could really relate to her, she wore her heart on her sleeve and when she crossed that finish line you could see how much it meant to her.

"I remember her going up to her husband afterwards, finding him in the crowd, and you could really appreciate that moment they shared together.

"Whilst Sally was a talented athlete she always said how hard she had to work and how strict she had to be with her diet which she didn't find easy and which every woman can appreciate. I love chocolate so I try to ration myself on that. Those positive female athletes are role models because they are human and you can definitely relate to those sort of athletes.

"I know Sally now and even though I know her as a friend when I see her I still have goosebumps and think 'ooooh Sally Gunnell!'"

Lizzy Yarnold - skeleton slider

Denise Lewis and Lizzie Yarnold
Olympic heptathlete Denise Lewis was the idol of world and Olympic skeleton champion Lizzy Yarnold
Lizzy Yarnold makes history with record run

Yarnold is the world, Olympic and European skeleton champion but when she was younger she wanted to be a heptathlete and follow in the footsteps of Denise Lewis, who won gold in Sydney in 2000.

"I can remember so clearly watching Denise during the 2000 Olympics. She competed in the heptathlon, which was the event I competed in when I was younger, and I was glued to the TV throughout the Sydney Games.

"Denise had this awesome competition suit during the javelin with one arm exposed. She looked so majestic, so strong and powerful - you knew she was at the top of her game and it was so inspiring to watch."

Maggie Alphonsi - rugby player

Denise Lewis and Maggie Alphonsi
Denise Lewis's family situation was relatable to Maggie Alphonsi

Alphonsi won the 2014 Women's World Cup with England and is now aiming to compete in shot put for Team GB. She also cites Denise Lewis as her idol.

"I have to say Denise Lewis was an inspiration to me," Alphonsi said.

"We have similar backgrounds, in that we both came from one-parent families, and I really connected with that.

"She said she owed a lot to her mother and I'm the same with my mum, Rebecca, who gave up a lot for me and has always been so supportive."

Paula Radcliffe - athlete

Grete Waitz and Paula Radcliffe
Paula Radcliffe (right) couldn't choose just one but Grete Waitz was a inspiration on and off the track

Radcliffe is the women's marathon world record holder and won gold at the 2005 World Championships. She has chosen Norwegians Grete Waitz and Ingrid Kristiansen and American Joan Benoit Samuelson.

"My three heroines are Grete Waitz, Ingrid Kristiansen and Joan Benoit Samuelson; Joan because she won the first women's Olympic marathon back in 1984. She really embodies someone who gets the most out of their running and life in general and is a great person.

"Ingrid was my first inspiration of marathon running when I went to watch my dad run in the London Marathon in 1995 and saw her go past en route to setting the world record that day. She was someone I really aspired to be like one day.

"And Grete for the person that she was and for the success that she had on all surfaces, road, cross country and track. And also for the dignified and strong way in which she fought cancer right to the end and continued to be such a great person."

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