Normally there is a shoe-in for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award. Either that, or a dark horse is chosen once in a blue moon, as Ryan Giggs was back in 2009. By definition, the award recognises the sportsperson “whose actions have most captured the public’s imagination”. Created back in 1954, the titular category has rewarded figures from the world of athletics more than any other discipline, with 17 individuals selected in first place having been athletes.
With Team GB having excelled in a variety of areas across the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, this is likely to continue. However, the success of individuals from the home nations leaves what Premier League managers would describe as a “headache”, a conundrum. It is a rather nice problem to have, it must be said.
As capturing the imagination of the public is the key criteria in determining a winner, whichever sportsperson is selected for this prestigious award is almost certain to have played a role at the Games, perhaps on the track, in the pool, in the sea, or maybe on the streets of central London. Anyway, enough preamble, here are the competitors.
1) Andy Murray – made a racket this year
If 2011 was the year of Novak Djokovic then 2012 belongs to Andy Murray. Despite his Wimbledon final heartbreak, the Scot reaching the final signified the start of a new era for Murray. Of course he had fallen at the last hurdle before, in 2008, 2010 and 2011 at the US and Australian Open championships, but this was different. And so he proved when, capping off a tremendous summer for British sport, Murray saw off Roger Federer’s quest for an elusive Olympic gold medal at London 2012.
This was followed by one of the longest Grand Slam finals in history against the aforementioned Serb, which Murray nearly threw away having been two sets up. He didn’t throw the match, however, becoming the first British singles player to win a Grand Slam since 1977, and the first male to pick up a Major since 1936. For a nation, assuming Britain is allowed to lay claim to Murray, utterly starved of tennis success or even mediocrity, his achievements in 2012 are hard to look past.
Latest odds (courtesy of William Hill): 3/1
2) Bradley Wiggins – Tour De France conqueror
Bradley Wiggins, besides single-handedly bringing about a Mod revival and becoming an unintentional style icon, is the odds-on favourite to win BBC SPOTY 2012 and deservedly so. His Tour de France triumph was an extraordinary feat of endeavour, ability and application and a confirmation of the unassailable quality of British cycling. Not only this, but forcing the French to watch a British athlete celebrate along the Champs-Élysées is almost worth a knighthood in itself.
He has won the admiration of politicians, other sporting figures, celebrities and ordinary Brits, many of whom donned stick on sideburns for weeks afterwards in homage to their hero. Wiggins, soon to be Sir Bradley, then went on to win gold at London 2012 to put the icing on a lavish cake we all feel as though we have had a slice of this summer. One can certainly expect to see Paul Weller, sorry “Wiggo”, rewarded in some way for his hard work by his many admirers among the British public.
Latest odds: 4/6 (favourite)
3) Mo Farah – the people’s champion
The story of Mo Farah is somewhat more exotic than that of his fellow Olympians. Born in Somalia, Farah moved to the UK aged eight not speaking a world of English. A few years down the line and “Mo” was crossing the line with his arms outstretched to rapturous applause throughout the Olympic Stadium. On British athletics’ greatest night, the 29 year old was arguably the greatest sight.
Farah has said that he wants to move on to marathon running having won both the 5,000m and 10,000m crowns in London, but it is hard to imagine him being able to just go back to athletics having built up such a cult following through the notorious “Mobot” celebration, created for him by Clare Balding on A League of Their Own. He could well give Murray and Wiggins a run, sorry for this terrible attempt at a pun, for their money.
Latest odds: 9/2
4) Jessica Ennis – British athletics’ poster girl
Jessica Ennis has that most wonderful of combinations: beauty and talent. The Sheffield-born heptathlete is the British record holder for the heptathlon, modern pentathlon, high jump and 100m hurdles. Her score of 6,955 was a British and Commonwealth record and Ennis’ times in the 100m hurdles and 200m would have placed her fourth and seventh in the individual events.
She was one of the most cheered and celebrated at the London 2012 victory parade, and after the Games featured in the Beano comic as “Ennis the Menace”. A stand has also been named after Ennis at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane ground. There isn’t a lot left for this girl to win, but a as fourth favourite for the SPOTY crown, she is not a bad shout as an outside choice.
Latest odds: 12/1
5) David Weir – hero of the Paralympics
London 2012 was somewhat of a vindication for David Weir’s career as a Paralympian. Having retired from competition after the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta, the 33 year old turned two gold medals at Beijing in 2008 into four this time around. 16 years ago these were the views expressed by a teenage Weir: “I had been to the Games in Atlanta in 1996 as a young lad of 17 but when I got there it wasn’t what I had expected. I could count about five people in the crowd at times. It disheartened me a little bit because I had missed my teenage years of growing up and being with my friends to compete at a Paralympics. I fell out of love with the sport and when I got back I just didn’t want to do it any more”.
Upon picking up his final gold at these Games, Weir affirmed that he planned to go on more or less a “lads’ trip” to Ibiza. He more than any other individual shone at London 2012, and showed himself a strong, versatile and determined competitor. Apparently hard as nails, the Weirwolf is not a man to be messed with. But it won’t be any sort of fear factor that determines whether he has a chance of being chosen at SPOTY 2012. It will be the moments Weir gave to the viewing public across two weeks of the Paralympics.
Latest odds: 25/1
6) Sir Chris Hoy – Britain’s most successful gold medal Olympian
What can you say about Sir Chris Hoy? The Scottish cyclist is an eleven time world champion, has seven Olympic medals and was the flag carrier for Team GB at the London 2012 opening ceremony. Picking up two golds this time around, Hoy underlined his status as one of Britain’s all-time great athletes during a masterful fortnight in the Velodrome. The winner of the 2008 BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, Hoy is now very much an outsider with the bookies, but is still king of the track.
Latest odds: 100/1
7) Ellie Simmonds – Our shining light in the pool
During the Olympics, what most struck many observers about the events in the Aquatics Centre was the prominence of extremely young, hungry and talented swimmers, and a clear lack of British medal success. Not so in the Paralympics, however. At least on the second point. 17 year old Ellie Simmonds, winner of the 2008 BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year award, has four golds to her name already and her two during the Games were particularly special. If Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis are the “star names” of the Olympic Games then for the Paralympics it is Simmonds and Weir. Already an MBE, can she add another accolade to her growing collection?
Latest odds: 66/1
8) Greg Rutherford – the greatest thing to come out of Milton Keynes
TAP’s unique sense of humour aside, Greg Rutherford may well be the greatest thing to come out of Milton Keynes. We would certainly like to see roundabouts and grid systems win gold in the long jump in front of a packed Olympic Stadium. For that is what this 25 year old achieved on the same night that Mo Farah picked up his inaugural gold medal of the Games.
After finishing 10th in Beijing and failing to proceed to the final three rounds, Rutherford began by equalling Chris Tomlinson’s British record in California before becoming only the second British male to win gold at the Olympics in the long jump, and the first since Lynn Davies in Tokyo back in 1964. Not quite as long as Andy Murray’s broken record, but if everyone in Milton Keynes were to vote for him, Rutherford may be able to sneak into the top three. Get dialling, Buckinghamshire.
Latest odds: 150/1
9) Ben Ainslie – five Olympic Games, five separate medals
When Ben Ainslie brought home his third consecutive gold medal in the Finn class at Weymouth on the second Saturday of the Olympics he was widely praised as Britain’s greatest ever sailor. Many on Twitter were quick to point to Admiral Horatio Nelson as perhaps being able to challenge the Macclesfield-born Olympian in this regard, but nonetheless, five medals in five different Games says it all.
Only one other individual has collected four golds in sailing, while two others have racked up a total of five medals. This means not only that Ainslie is part of a very exclusive sporting club, but also confirms and explains the esteem in which he is held by the British public. The first person in the UK to carry the Olympic Torch on its relay to the stadium, he was also the flag carrier for Team GB at the closing ceremony.
Latest odds: 150/1
10) Laura Trott – Team GB’s latest cycling sensation
20 year old Laura Trott made her breakthrough in 2010 at the European Track Championships, where she won her first gold. Two years on and the double world and European champion picked up two more gold medals in the team pursuit and omnium disciplines. Told from an early age to take up sport in order to combat asthma, caused by a collapsed lung, Trott has never looked back. With the 2012 European Track Championships coming up in Lithuania next month, Trott will be looking to defend her crowns and cap off an incredible year.
Latest odds: 200/1
There we have it, TAP’s top ten candidates for BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Naturally there are many names that failed to make it onto our illustrious leader board, and it is particularly London 2012-centric. Other competitors such as Rory McIlroy, Jason Kenny, Victoria Pendleton, Sarah Storey and Alistair Brownlee could easily have been included but, well, that’s why you choose the 10 favourites, isn’t it? As for the potential top three, here is the author’s (TAP couldn’t reach an amicable agreement in time for publication) selection:
1) Bradley Wiggins
2) Andy Murray
3) Mo Farah
Have an opinion on who the top three will be? Disagree with our selection? Tell us, tweet @armchairpundit2.
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