Few people in the mainstream had heard of Conor McGregor, Tyson Fury or Adam Peaty a year ago. Who are the sports stars set to explode in 2016? Loaded picks out five of the hottest new names who might be worth a punt at BBC Sports Personality Of The Year in 12 months’ time…
Michael Conlan – boxing
Drawing inspiration from fellow Irishman Conor McGregor, flyweight Conlan is ready to deliver a gold medal for Ireland at the Olympics in 2016 after scoring a bronze at the London games in 2012.
Marland Yarde – rugby union
After a disappointing 2015 which saw Yarde left out of England’s rugby union World Cup squad, the powerful Quins winger can be the platform for new coach Eddie Jones to build a 2016 Six Nations challenge on. He hasn’t let that World Cup disappointment affect a strong mental state, which is almost as powerful as his pace.
Matthew Fitzpatrick – golf
Fitzpatrick saw off the challenge from the likes of Shane Lowry and Søren Kjeldsen to win the British Masters in 2015 to announce himself on the world stage. A worthy outside shot for any of the majors this year and, unless he loses focus, seemingly a certain bet to join golf’s elite before the decade is out.
Aidan Coleman – horse racing
With the retirement of Sir AP McCoy, Aidan Coleman has picked up the slack on the Jumps circuit. He could easily be one to watch for Cheltenham in 2016 – see the video above of Coleman’s nailbiting triumph at Wincanton to see the sort of daring skill he’s rapidly becoming known for.
Kyle Edmund – tennis
Part of Great Britain’s victorious Davis Cup squad, the South African-born 19-year-old has been given a chance at the Australian Open following Richard Gasquet’s withdrawal. Many thought he deserved to have been in the first round anyway. Unlikely to reach the quarter-finals, perhaps, but there are signs Britain’s number three may come good before long.
Loaded sports writer Pearse Corcoran has covered news, sport and entertainment for several national newspapers and radio stations in Ireland. Follow him on Twitter at @PearseCorcoran