It’s that time again; that once a year celebration where we all come together, sit in front of the tv and get excited. No, not Christmas. But the annual giving of The BBC Sports Personality of the Year Prize.
And, for once, it is worth getting excited about. Too often, the prize has been an award of British sporting mediocrity, with a few standout candidates amongst a shortlist filled up of darts players, world athletic bronze medalists and the token footballer.
Indeed, in some cases, the British world of sporting achievement has been as bleak as winter itself. What else could account for winners such as Zara Philips, in 2006, for her achievements in the mainstream popular sport that is eventing. 2nd place has been good enough to win in other years with both Greg Rusedski and Damon Hill both winning the prestige prize for their runner-up positions. Other times, British sporting success has been so sparse, the prize has been awarded for entire careers, rather than a achievement’s in a calendar year; Tony McCoy and Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor’s 1st and 2nd respectively in 2010 as well as Ryan Giggs the year previously examples of such.[quote align=”left” name=”” role=””]2012 is something altogether different though. In fact, it has the been greatest year in British sport ever. Better than 1966? Yes. Fact.[/quote]
It also shows it has nothing whatsoever to do with personality (well, most of the time it doesn’t). After all, Giggs has the charisma of a damp rag – albeit of a damp rag with a raging libido as we have recently found out.
2012 is something altogether different though. In fact, it has the been greatest year in British sport ever. Better than 1966? Yes. Fact.
In the year that Britian hosted the greatest sporting event in the world with London 2012 – and pulled it off with great style – it’s athletes didn’t disappoint, but matched its spectacular breath-taking brilliance.
Indeed, normally the SPOTY shortlist could probably be dropped down to 5 or 6 candidates. This year, the talking point is more about the people who have missed the cut; Laura Trott, double-gold medal winner; the Brownlee twins, who have dominated triathlons; Victoria Pendleton, the ‘Queen of Cycling’ and Greg Rutherford, the first British Olympic Champion in long jump since 1964, are just a few of the very many who didn’t make the shortlist.
All and any would be worthy winners. So would the 12 shortlisted; Ben Ainslie won his 4th straight gold medal and became the most decorated Olympic Sailor in history. Chris Hoy now has one gold medal more than Steve Redgrave. Perennial loser Katherine Grainger got the title that had evaded her all her life.
Nicola Adams leads the way for the women, winning the first Olympic gold in Women’s boxing; a milestone for sporting gender equality. (Indeed, there is none of the scandal of last year where all the shortlisted were men.) Sarah Stoney, David Weir and Ellie Simmonds show that London 2012 has firmly put the Paralympics – and disabled sport altogether – on the map; ‘Weirwolf’, who won the 800m, 1500m, 5000m and marathon titles deserving particular attention.
Altogether, their achievements are too long to list in full. All deserve acclaim and should be proud of their successes.
And then, there are the four favourites. Andy Murray may have lost the Wimbledon final, but he won Britain’s hearts with his speech afterwards. And he would go on to break the greatest duck in sport, becoming the first British male Grand Slam winner in 76 years. Add that to his Olympic singles gold and doubles silver, and it makes a great year.
And then there is the athletics duo. Jessica Ennis, London 2012 poster girl, didn’t let the pressure get to her, as she stormed to heptathlon gold; whilst Mo Farah won the 5,000m and 10,000m final, with images of sheer joy – reminiscent of Kelly Holmes – when he crossed the finish line. And let’s not forget the head slapping or the Mo-Bot.
Yet, despite this, there is only one winner this year. (I may still prove to be wrong, but).. His name is Bradley Wiggins. While what the other athletes did were incredible, Wiggo’s achievements are truly unprecedented. He became the first British man to win the Tour de France, considered the most gruelling sporting event in the world. He also won the Olympic time trial merely a week later; a combination considered impossible by many.
Better yet, he even has personality.. “It had to be gold today or nothing. What’s the point of seven medals if they’re not the right colour?” he said after the Olympic Time Trail. Arrogance? No, but pure sporting desire and confidence.. You don’t win the Tour de France without that.
Yet, despite this ruthless streak, there wouldn’t be a more down-to-earth winner. His Mod sideburns. His Tour victory speech which began with raffle numbers. You have to be likeable to win the Tour De France, as you need a team support; Wiggo has that in abundance.
Whatever the result, 2012 will go down in British sporting folklore as the greatest ever. In years time, people will remember Murray’s Wimbledon Final. They will ask where you were for the epic opening Ceremony. And who had a dry eye during Ennis’, Farah’s and Rutherford’s Super Saturday? I sure didn’t.
This is forgetting events like Chelsea’s Champion League triumph Europe’s Ryder Cup success, the achievements of Rory Mcllory (also nominated) and the greatest Premier League finish ever to name a few.
Interviewed after his Olympic time trial win, Wiggins said that “I don’t think my sporting career will ever top this now,” “That’s it. It will never, never get better than that. Incredible.”
He may have been speaking for himself, but his message resounds around all of Britain’s 2012 winners. 2012 is Britain’s finest sporting year ever. He has created a host of new sporting icons, enraptured a population and will inspire a generation.