Olympic champion, Tokyo Games bronze medal, big boxing breakthrough and from seventh tier to starring for League One Accrington Stanley - the Portsmouth area sportspeople who excelled in 2021

The past 12 months have certainly been memorable for a variety of reasons for some of the leading sports stars with Portsmouth area connections.

By Lewis Mason
Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 12:27 pm
Michael McKinson with the WBO Global welterweight title he collected after defeating Chris Kongo in March. Picture: Mark Robinson/Matchroom
Michael McKinson with the WBO Global welterweight title he collected after defeating Chris Kongo in March. Picture: Mark Robinson/Matchroom

Whether it be winning Olympic gold, finishing on the podium at the Tokyo Games, catapulting yourself onto boxing's big stage or sealing a move from the seventh tier of English football to League One - there have been numerous wonderful moments to saviour for those involved in sport within The News’ patch in 2021.

Here, we've highlighted five sporting figures whose achievements this year will live long in their memory.

Michael McKinson

Hayling Island's Eilidh McIntyre, left, and sailing partner Hannah Mills celebrated their Women's 470 Class Tokyo gold medal win by diving into the Enoshima water. Picture: Clive Mason/Getty Images

The tricky southpaw had long been waiting for his big boxing break - and he certainly seized on those opportunities when they finally arrived in 2021.

Portsmouth-based McKinson, nicknamed The Problem, proved just that as he upset the odds - well, at least as the bookmakers had it - by claiming a unanimous decision points victory to defeat Chris Kongo and take his WBO Global welterweight title in March.

His performance live on Sky Sports in Gibraltar proved so impressive he was signed to Eddie Hearn's Matchroom Boxing label on a promotional deal.

McKinson then extended his professional record to 21-0 by defeating Poland's Przemyslaw Runowski on a Fight Camp 2 show in Hearn's back garden in August.

Portsmouth-born Declan Brooks with his Tokyo Games BMX freestyle bronze medal. Picture: Alex Shute

But this year looks to be just the start of big things for one of Britain's top welterweight hopes.

Ortiz Jr has long been talked about as the next big boxing star in the States and the ferocious fighter has won all 18 of his pro bouts inside the distance.

However, what an opportunity McKinson would have - should the fight come off - to really push himself into the big welterweight leagues with a life-changing victory if he can achieve it.

Eilidh McIntyre

It's fair to say 2021 is certainly a year Hayling Islander Eilidh McIntyre will never forget. Who could fail to remember the year they became Olympic champion? Well, that was the case this summer for McIntyre, who matched the achievement of her father, Michael, from the Seoul 1988 Games to make it just the two Olympic gold medals within the family!

In the process, McIntyre made history by becoming part of the first Team GB parent-child duo to win Olympic gold.

Mickey Parker is jubilant after winning the BKB British cruiserweight crown in August

Declan Brooks

Eilidh McIntyre wasn't the only Team GB Olympian with Portsmouth connections who was celebrating finishing on the podium at Tokyo in the summer.

Brooks, 25, finished third in the BMX freestyle park standings in Tokyo, behind only Australia's gold medal winner Logan Martin and Venezuelan silver medalist Daniel Dhers.

The Portsmouth-born BMX rider honed his skills as a youngster at Southsea skate park, showing those using the venue today that anything is possible within the sport.

Tommy Leigh

Back in the summer, midfielder Tommy Leigh was operating in the seventh tier of English football with Isthmian League Premier Division side Bognor.

But what has followed for the former Baffins Milton Rovers youngster after a surprise switch to League One outfit Accrington in June has been quite remarkable.

During his lower league days - he also turned out for AFC Portchester Reserves in 2017 - the 21-year-old could only have dreamed of making a winning contribution for a Football League side against a former Premier League outfit.

Yet that was exactly the case when Leigh recently got the only goal in Accy's League One win against Bolton, a club who only dropped out of English football's top flight in 2012.

Leigh capped a whirlwind few months by making his Football League bow as a substitute in Accrington's 2-1 third tier win over Cambridge back in August.

Since then, Leigh - whose dad Steve managed him during his Baffins days and currently coaches at Wessex League Premier leaders Horndean - has featured 12 times for John Coleman's men and netted four times.

It's certainly been quite the rise for Leigh, but a year in which he hopes proves just a breakthrough in a successful career.

Mickey Parker

The Leigh Park bare-knuckle boxer showed every ounce of his inner steel and determination to achieve a lifelong sporting aim in 2021.

Not only did he have to defeat the odds during the fight after his injury setback, Parker had seen his British title fight postponed several times because of the pandemic.

Yet despite seeing several scheduled dates come and go, Parker never gave up hope and continued with an almost relentless training camp for the best part of a year.

He will now be hoping to eclipse his 2021 achievements by going one better and becoming BKB cruiserweight world champion next year.

Parker is in line for a shot at Englishman Carl Hobley, who defeated American Eric Olsen in November to claim the vacant world crown, early in 2022 to make his name on the global stage.