Top 10 Rising Stars
At the start of the new sporting year, we pick out 10 talents to keep an eye on during 2013.
Last Updated: 11/01/13 3:40pm
At the start of another sporting year, we at skysports.com have put our thinking caps on and come up with 10 emerging talents we expect to produce big things in 2013.
Across a range of sports, from cricket to cycling, we identify a group of young starlets who could well come of age in the next 12 months.
Rugby Union - Kyle Eastmond
Bath's patience and development of the 23-year-old back is finally baring fruit. Eastmond arrived at the The Rec in October 2011 after his high-profile cross-code switch from St Helens, however Bath have refused to rush his progress. They have worked hard on moulding Eastmond into a more rounded player - and although he has played down comparisons with Jason Robinson the similarities are obvious. A wonder try against Wasps in September underlined the X-Factor he brings to the game, while his impressive form has seen him included in the England Saxons squad. The next 12 months, though, could well see Eastmond really come of age on the union stage.
Cricket - Shiv Thakor
Thakor enjoyed a first-class debut to remember for Leicestershire as he made 134 against Loughborough MCCU in April 2011 - becoming the youngest Leicestershire player to score a century and the first county-born player to do so on debut for the club. The 19-year-old continued his rapid progress last season, topping his county's batting averages in both the LV=County Championship and Clydesdale Bank 40, scoring 427 first-class runs at an average of 61 whilst also chipping in with four wickets having only just left school. Thakor has also been announced as England's Under-19 captain for the forthcoming tour of South Africa having already represented his country at at U-15 and U-17 level. With his technique, power and style having drawn comparisons with such luminaries as Viv Richards, Marcus Trescothick and his hero Sachin Tendulkar, the sky looks to be the limit for Thakor.
Tennis - Kei Nishikori
While putting the men's world number 18 in a list of 'ones to watch' may hardly seem inspired, Nishikori's inclusion comes because he still yet to really scratch the surface of his potential. The Japanese right-hander, an aggressive baseliner in the mould of David Ferrer, announced himself to tennis fans in stunning style in 2008 when he won the Delray Beach International in Florida having come through the qualifying rounds at the age of just 19. A serious elbow injury then set back his progress, but last year he began to truly confirm his undoubted promise and claimed his second career title on home soil at the Japan Open in Tokyo. In that final he beat another of the game's great hopes, Milos Raonic, taking the deciding set 6-0. That led the Canadian to hail his opponent as a "superstar" and prompted Nishikori himself to say: "I think winning a grand slam is possible". Watch this space.
Tennis - Sloane Stephens
Stephens is already being anointed as the heiress apparent to the throne of her hero, and fellow American, Serena Williams. The 19-year-old is the highest-ranked teenager in the women's game having climbed to 29 in the world and, despite being far from the finished article, is improving all the time. Like her idol Serena she has obvious weapons with a big serve and forehand especially and has started 2013 in a manner that suggests she is ready to start mixing in elite company on a regular basis. Top-level experience is perhaps all that holding the gifted Floridian back at present, but in the years to come she could well be ready to take on Serena's mantle.
Rugby League - Theo Fages
Providing the Salford City Reds can secure their Super League status in 2013 then head coach Phil Veivers will undoubtedly rely heavily on youth to lay the platform for the future. As a result, this season could see a French teenager make his first-team break-through. His name? Theo Fages. The scrum-half joined the Reds from the junior ranks of the Catalans Dragons in 2011. Salford have high hopes of Fages and they secured his signature on a five-year contract last May. Fages has impressed in pre-season and provided a little teaser of his talent by finishing off a lovely free-flowing more to score a try in the recent friendly success over Swinton Lions.
Golf - Thorbjorn Olesen
With a first win, a bold showing in The Open and a 21st place finish in the Race To Dubai, 2012 was a fine one for the Dane. But 2013 could be a real breakout one. He's got huge talent with a fine temperament and many good judges reckon he'll be on the 2014 Ryder Cup team. By climbing to No.50 in the world, he's also just earned himself a first trip to The Masters while that ranking will also get him into all the other big events in 2013.
Boxing - Kal Yafai
Few could have made a bigger impact on the domestic scene in six months as a professional than the Birmingham bantamweight. Limited but durable Mexican Victor Koh aside, Yafai despatched his overmatched opponents with an impressive mix of power and precision. Promoter Eddie Hearn may look beyond faded veteran Jason Booth in the New Year and head towards Commonwealth champion Stuart Hall. Whichever way Hearn decides to take the 23-year-old he is perfectly poised to bid for domestic titles by the year's end.
Cycling - Nairo Quintana
Quintana is arguably the most talented of a host of young riders which threaten to recreate the golden era of Colombian cycling. The diminutive prospect will not turn 23 until February but has already made a big impact on the WorldTour scene, an impact which can only get bigger this year. Quintana made the cycling world sit up and take notice by winning the queen stage of the Criterium du Dauphine in 2012 before climbing among the elite in the service of Movistar leader Alejandro Valverde at the Vuelta a Espana. In these days of scientific and calculated racing, Quintana is the most likely candidate to revive the idea of the mythical climber.
Athletics - Katarina Johnson-Thompson
One of the brightest stars to come from the London 2012 Olympic Games was British heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson. The Liverpool athlete has been backed by Jessica Ennis to become one of the top prospects in the sport in the near future after showcasing her talent at the home Games last summer. With 13 indoor national titles and 25 national titles overall, the 20-year-old is destined for success on the world stage. She secured her Olympic place in the Czech Republic in June last year, by beating Ennis's British junior record by 338 points. It was then in London that she proved her calibre as a professional athlete, finishing in 15th place with a lifetime best of 6267.
Athletics - Jack Green
Despite the London 2012 Olympics not ending as 400m hurdler Jack Green would have liked, with the athlete hitting a hurdle during the semi-final event, 2013 could well be his pivotal year. The 21-year-old, who is coached by Malcolm Arnold in Bath, enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2011, becoming European U23 Champion, putting his name on the international sporting map. Having been nominated for the European Rising Star Award in 2011, Green has come a long way since winning the England Athletics U17 Championships in 2008. Having learnt valuable lessons from the London Games, the only way is up now for the hurdler as his 2013 season gets underway.