2021 in review: How Doncaster's sporting heroes all had one thing in common

Before becoming only the second ever British male athlete to win an Olympic medal in taekwondo, Stainforth’s Bradly Sinden gave a talk to pupils at Atlas Academy and told them never to give up on their dreams.

Friday, 31st December 2021, 5:10 pm
Bradly Sinden won silver in taekwondo at the Tokyo Olympics. Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images

The crux of it was ‘Keep trying your best, even when things don’t go your way’.

And that message rather neatly sums up the connection between each of Doncaster’s star individual performers in 2021 – namely Sinden, fellow Olympian Beth Dobbin and boxing duo Maxi Hughes and Jason Cunningham. Resilience runs through their veins.

Sinden, who was disappointed to win silver and not gold in Tokyo, has shown unwavering dedication and strength of character to reach the top of his sport.

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Beth Dobbin reached the 200m semi-finals in Tokyo. Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

But it hasn’t always been plain sailing for him.

His potential was obvious from a young age but when he wasn’t selected to represent Great Britain at cadet level, after struggling to reproduce his domestic form on the international stage, he might have lost interest or motivation.

He didn’t. Instead he channelled his disappointment into motivation and will do so again now in an attempt to win gold at Paris 2024.

Sprinter Dobbin also achieved her dream of competing at the Olympics and the way she overcame adversity to get there - by beating epilepsy, injuries and funding issues no less - made it all the more special.

Maxi Hughes celebrates beating Jovanni Straffon to win the IBO world lightweight title. Photo by George Wood/Getty Images

Hughes’ unlikely rise to world champion has been one of boxing’s most memorable stories during the pandemic – and the Rossington fighter literally picked himself off the canvas to do it.

He was ready to walk away from the sport after losing to Sam Bowen in 2018 but his memorable win over Mexico’s Jovanni Straffon to land the IBO world lightweight title more than vindicated his decision to fight on.

Woodlands’ Jason Cunningham, another man accustomed to the away corner and doing things the hard way, can also reflect proudly on 2021. His victory over Brad Foster saw him add the British and Commonwealth super bantamweight titles to his European crown.

Emblazoned across Cunningham’s chest is a tattoo ‘The underdog who never lost hope’.

The morale of the story? Never give up.

*While taking a look back at 2021 it would also be remiss not to mention the achievements of two potential stars of the future – motorcycling sensation Scott Ogden and golf starlet Joshua Berry.

Doncaster-born Ogden, 18, became only the fourth British motorcyclist to win a race at the FIM Moto3 Junior World Championship and will step up to the Moto3 World Championship in 2022.

Berry, of Doncaster Golf Club, won the prestigious Yorkshire Amateur Championship at the age of just 16 and will again represent England Boys in 2022.