Five breakout sporting stars in 2023

Rachin Ravindra in action for New Zealand. File photo

In 2023, Sha’Carri Richardson finally came good on the global stage, while Victor Wembanyama quickly left his mark on the NBA and Rachin Ravindra lit up the Cricket World Cup.

As eyes turn to a packed 2024 schedule featuring the Paris Olympics and men’s football European Championship, AFP Sport looks at five breakout stars from the last 12 months:

Victor Wembanyama (basketball/FRA)

— The 19-year-old French sensation was selected as the number one pick in this year’s NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs and his performances in the first few months of the season, albeit on a struggling young team, have confirmed predictions he will be one of the biggest future stars in the sport.

Wembanyama, who stands 7ft 4in (2.24m) tall, is expected to be one of the faces of the Olympic Games on French soil next year.

But his first target will be to help turn around the fortunes of the Spurs in the NBA — they are currently rock bottom of the Western Conference. Wembanyama has already impressed, though, averaging more than 18 points and 10 rebounds per game so far in his debut season.

Sha’Carri Richardson (athletics/USA)

— Richardson was long tipped for greatness but had struggled to make her mark on the global stage until her stunning win in the world championship 100m final from lane 9 in Budapest in August.

She was set to go to the Tokyo Olympics two years ago as a medal contender, but controversially missed out after testing positive for cannabis. More heartbreak followed in 2022 as Richardson surprisingly failed to qualify for the worlds on home turf in Eugene.

But her championship record run of 10.65sec to upset Jamaicans Shericka Jackson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in Hungary will see Richardson head to Paris as the USA’s best hope of a women’s individual sprint gold medal.

She also inspired the Americans to gold in the 4x100m relay.

Linda Caicedo (football/COL)

— The teenager burst onto the scene at the women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, helping Colombia reach the quarter-finals for the first time.

Caicedo scored a magnificent individual goal, which was nominated for FIFA’s Puskas award, in Colombia’s shock group-stage victory over two-time champions Germany after also netting against South Korea.

The 18-year-old has since moved from Deportivo Cali to Spanish giants Real Madrid.

Caicedo will be a key player in Colombia’s bid to win a first-ever Olympic football medal in Paris.

Rachin Ravindra (cricket/NZL)

— Batting all-rounder Ravindra only made his one-day international debut in March and would likely have played a back-up role at the World Cup if not for an injury to New Zealand captain Kane Williamson.

But he nailed down his starting place with a remarkable 123 not out in the Black Caps’ nine-wicket thrashing of holders England in the tournament opener in India.

The 24-year-old went on to become the first New Zealander to score three World Cup centuries with tons against Australia and Pakistan as his team reached the semi-finals.

Ravindra will be hoping to make a further impact for the Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League and the T20 World Cup next June in the United States and the Caribbean.

Qin Haiyang (swimming/CHN)

— China had been without a stand-out swimming star since the doping ban of Sun Yang, but Qin Haiyang stepped into the void at the world championships in Fukuoka in July.

The 24-year-old powered to four gold medals including the 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke finals, breaking the world record in the latter.

Qin may have to deal with a returning Adam Peaty in the 2024 Olympics, but will be expected to deliver multiple gold medals for China.

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