The twelve-strong shortlist was announced yesterday for the annual BBC Sports Personality of the Year award. Two former winners will contest the prestigious prize, as both the current holder Lewis Hamilton and Davis Cup winner Andy Murray feature again on the list. With the likes of world heptathlon champion Jess Ennis-Hill and the newly crowned world heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury on the list, it promises to be an intriguing competition.
Cream of sporting talent
As ever the list features the cream of British sporting talent over the past twelve months. Those nominated are: Ennis-Hill, Murray, Hamilton, Fury, Mo Farah, Chris Froome, Greg Rutherford, Kevin Sinfield, Max Whitlock, Adam Peaty, Lizzie Armitstead and Lucy Bronze.
Tennis superstar Murray and Hamilton after his historic third Formula 1 title will be among the favourites. The bookies seem to favour Ennis-Hill, with Fury’s impromptu singing after his recent victory ticking the boxes as far as ‘personality’ is concerned.
As ever the debate at sports clubs up and down the country will no doubt focus just as much on those not in the final twelve, as those who have made the shortlist. There is no representation for instance from the cricket world, despite England’s success in the Ashes and Joe Root attaining the best batsman in the world tag during the summer.
Also, in football Wayne Rooney misses out after breaking Bobby Charlton’s all-time goal-scoring record for England, as Roy Hodgson’s men maintained a 100% record through Euro 2016 qualification.
Background to the candidates
The England women’s football team battled to third place at the World Cup, delighting the nation and increasing the profile of the game back home as a result. Bronze scored twice in Canada and typified the effort shown by the Lionesses.
Cycling’s ongoing popularity is reflected by the inclusion of both Armitstead and Froome. Kenyan-born Froome regained the Tour de France title after conquering the energy-sapping nature of some of Europe’s highest peaks, while Armitstead sat on top of the pile as world road race champion in 2015. Three of the last seven ‘SPOTY’ winners have been cyclists (Chris Hoy, Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins), indicating strong support.
Athletics may have come under renewed scrutiny after a number of high-profile drug-related stories this year. But the uplifting golden performances at the World Championships in Beijing by Ennis-Hill, Farah and Rutherford have all merited their inclusion. Whether the drug smears will sway the general public, we will wait and see when the votes have been cast.
Fury has gate-crashed the list after his unexpected victory over Wladimir Klitschko, capturing the world heavyweight boxing title in the process. The unbeaten Fury’s timely victory gives him a puncher’s chance in the public vote.
‘King Kev’ Sinfield led Leeds Rhinos to a marvellous treble this season in rugby league. His inclusion is due reward after a stellar 19-year career at Leeds, as he now moves on to join Yorkshire Carnegie in rugby union.
Peaty follows in a long tradition of British breaststroke champions. The 20-year-old heads the revitalisation of the British swimming team and must be a strong favourite for success in the pool at Rio 2016, after three golds at this year’s World Swimming Championships.
Whitlock will also seek Olympic glory in Brazil next summer. The gymnastic star promoted his sport from the front, claiming the first men’s gold medal for a Brit at the World Gymnastics Championships on the pommel horse.