Personality Clash

Mo’s winner

The “BBC Sports Personality of the Year” will be a tough one this year
Edward Cope

This December the British public will vote for, “The sportsman or woman whose actions have most captured the public’s imagination”. We have hardly been starved of inspiration this year. The word “inspirational” has been used so often it seems to have lost its meaning. Frequent British success in the myriad of high profile sporting events throughout this year make even the 10-strong shortlist, prepared by 30 sports journalists, a nightmare.

A re-shake of the awards process is underway following last year’s protest: A group of female MPs declared the lack of females in the shortlist undermined women’s sport. Well, regardless of whether the changes are progressive or not, this year members of the fairer sex will certainly be featuring on the shortlist. Jessica Ennis, Ellie Simmonds, Sarah Storey, Laura Trott and Victoria Pendleton are all expected to make the cut. The bookies top three are men though, and as men go, they’re not bad ones either.

Irony-o-meters around the country will be bursting if Andy Murray picks up an award with the word personality engraved on it. Yes, I know, he’s showed his emotions now, just like a real boy, but I still find it hard to see him as a national icon. Whatever your feelings towards the Scot, you can’t argue with what he’s achieved. Aside from his Olympic heroics, picking up a gold in the singles and a silver in the doubles, Andy became the first British male Grand Slam singles winner in 76 years. Will the failure to win his final at Wimbledon drag him down in the public’s eyes? I don’t dare to predict the whims of the great British public, they are an inscrutable lot.

Mo Farah certainly has a strong claim. Kelly Holmes has set precedence, picking up the public’s vote (and her DBE) in 2004 for her double gold performance at Athens. Mo’s double may be even more impressive than the Dame’s as his East African competition included some of the best runners we’ve seen. The manner in which Farah shouldered the label of a potential Olympic champion after his World Championship win was also admirable. Showing no signs of physical or mental stress, he quietly went away, trained and trained, and then returned to London to demolish the competition in the 5,000m and 10,000m. The most appealing thing about the Somali born Londoner is his demeanour. The man has simply one of the biggest and most readily available smiles in sport (shown above). An asset which has earned him popularity throughout the country.

Most eyes, however, will be on Bradley Wiggins. He was untouchable in the time trails at the Olympics, winning by 42 seconds, adding another medal to his incredible tally (4 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze) and making him the most decorated British Olympian ever. This was his first Olympics on the road instead of the track. Many don’t seem to realise the significance of this conversion, very few cyclists can make the transition successfully. To emphasise his dominance of the road he became the only person in history to win the Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie, Critérium du Dauphiné and Tour de France in one single season, and importantly the first Brit to win the Tour de France. Wiggo is unquestionably not lacking in the personality department either, the photo of him slouching in the throne after winning his latest gold exemplifying his confident but earthy, sometimes introvert character.

I think the cyclist should edge it. I actually think Lizzie should have got down to Hampton Court with her sword and got the knighthood out the way too, but there we are. By no means are these the only horses running. David Weir brought home 4 gold medals in the Paralympics, victorious in 800m, 1,500m, 5,000m and the marathon wheelchair races. The Weirwolf can certainly count on Jeff Adams vote, channel 4’s wheelchair racing pundit, “I want to get this off my chest: David Weir is the greatest athlete ever in wheelchair racing. Bar none.” If anyone saw this comment televised they’ll know that fervor bordering on fanaticism dripped from these words. It’s OK Jeff, we believe you. Also in the running are Ben Ainslie, the highest achieving Olympic sailor ever, Sir Chris Hoy and, of course, all the women named earlier in this post.

It feels good to actually stop and think who deserves the Sports Personality of the Year, usually a fairly clear cut affair. There’s still more to come too! The Ryder Cup could provide some heroes and the F1 season is not decided yet. The odds tables make for fantastic reading, a long list of fine men and women who put on an inspirational (aghh god! there it is again) show this year. Towards the longest odds it grows slightly unsavory:
Salman Butt – 1,000,000/1
Pol Pot – 1,000,000,000,000/1
Kevin Pietersen – odds not available


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