Thursday, 13 December 2012

Olympic SPOTY... If You Please!

Sunday sees the annual BBC smug-fest that is Sport’s Personality of the Year.  Unlike in previous years, where there was a problem with the quality of sporting achievements by British Sportsmen & women, this year sees a high standard of contenders for this award.  Most of the contenders were Olympic Champions, the Olympics being the one bright point in the BBC’s year given the continued decline of their Football coverage and the perceived decline in other broadcasting standards.
2011 Sports Personality winner Mark Cavendish flanked by Darren Clarke & Mo Farrah

So, there are no footballers because of England’s failure to get beyond the quarter finals of the European Championships while there is just the one Golfer – Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy – nominated.  There are no professional boxers nominated, while the first female Olympic Champion in boxing – Nicola Adams – is nominated.  You could quibble about the exemption of the likes of Alistair Brownlee, Victoria Pendleton or Greg Rutherford but honestly who would you leave out.  The question is, who will win the award that has tendril like taken over the old “Sports Review of the Year”?

Of the twelve, there are probably four contenders slightly ahead of the rest.  Jessica Ennis has been here before, this time however she is nominated as the Olympic Champion at the Heptathlon.  Having come close when she added the European Championship to her World Championship gold medal, she will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Mary Peters, who won the equivalent event at the Munich Olympics and then became Sports Personality of the year in 1972.

Having also been previously nominated, Mo Farrah was nominated last year for his heroics in winning the 5,000m at the World Championships in Dageu.  Farrah “doubled up” for the Olympics, going for gold in both the 5,000m and the 10,000m.  He won both, becoming only the 7th man to become Olympic champion at both the 5,000m and the 10,000m (Lassie Viren managed the feat twice – in Munich in 1972 and again four years later in Montreal).  Farrah also became the first Brit to win Olympic gold at those events. While these two contenders represent sports that had been in the doldrums recently, the next two contenders represent sports that have had their best year.  For British Cycling and British Tennis, 2012 will go down as their Annus Mirabilis.

The spearhead of British Tennis’ great year has been Andy Murray.  When he was nominated in 2009 and 2011, there were slam sized holes in his CV.  This year the knocking at the door became louder and louder until the door opened at Flushing Meadow’s.  His performance against Djokavic in the Australian Open semi final hinted that Murray was going in the right direction – it took Djokavic just under 5 hours to defeat Murray.  After defeat in the Quarters at Roland Garros, Murray’s season then took off at Wimbledon.  It wasn’t just that Murray became the first Brit to reach the final since 1938 that generated momentum, but that until Federer snatched the second set to level at 1-1 Murray was on top.

Murray’s season then went from strength to strength.  He won Gold at the Olympics, beating both Djokovic and Federer on the way and also picked up a Silver in the mixed doubles partnering Laura Robson.  His high point though was his US Open triumph in September – the first British Slam winner in 35 years and the first male Slam winner in 76 years – reversing the result when he faced Djokavic in Australia.

The last of the main contenders won Olympic gold after their historic victory.   Bradley Wiggins had previously won three Olympic gold’s, but before the Olympics began took part in Le Tour de France.  Justifying the tag of favourite, he finished 3 minutes and 21 seconds ahead of compatriot and team-mate Chris Froome in the annual jaunt across France, becoming the first Brit to win Le Tour.  As an encore, Wiggins won gold in the Olympic Time trial.

Ennis, Farrah, Murray and Wiggins to my mind are the four front runners.  That’s not to say that they are the only contenders, the Golf constituency could easily rally behind McIlroy and see him home – miffed at the exclusion of the Ryder Cup hero Ian Polter, while the status of Ellie Simmonds – at times the face of the Paralympic Games – could enhance her popularity.   I however suspect that Wiggins will prevail out of that group of four, following in the pedals of Tommy Simpson, Chris Hoy and Mark Cavendish as Sports Personality winners from the world of Cycling.  If only the BBC extended their awards-fest to Villain of the year, then I would confidently predict that award would be won jointly by Craig Whyte, David Murray, Stuart Regan and Neil Doncaster.

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